Content/trigger warning: saneist slurs (censored), discussion of anti-cluster B saneism (as you might have guessed :P)
I’m browsing Facebook. I see a post in a group for writers who attended my alma mater; it’s a Medium piece that the writer is proud of. The Medium piece is about “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse syndrome.”
I’m on YouTube. I’m listening to a rock cover of a well-known pop song. The singer lambasts her ex for being “a g-ddamn s****path.”
I’m on songmeanings.net. I’m looking for the meaning of the lyrics of a punk song I like that sounds like it might be about a toxic relationship. One of the suggested meanings is that the singer suffered abuse at the hands of a borderline partner.
If you’re thinking I should just stay off the Internet, well, I probably do spend too much time watching cat rescue livestreams, but you’re missing the point. I’m talking about anti-cluster B saneism.
Cluster B personality disorders include borderline, histrionic, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders. (Note: I know more about BPD than the other 3 because I myself am borderline. Just to get my bias on the record.) All of these disorders are characterized by intense suffering, but most people–even some ND people–know them as ~scary mental illnesses that are untreatable, involve total lack of empathy, and cause people who have those illnesses to be abusers or worse.
So…whew. Lots to unpack here.
Let’s start with the “untreatable” myth. It’s true that medication is usually pretty ineffective at treating cluster B PDs (although borderlines like me often suffer from depression, and antidepressants can help with that). PDs are also lifelong illnesses because they’re ,well, personality disorders. However, there is a kind of therapy called DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, that can be effective at alleviating the suffering caused by cluster B PDs. If a cluster B person is prone to destructive behaviors due to their PD, DBT can also help with that. The core dialectic of DBT is “you are a person of great worth and you have to change.” (I once saw someone call this “victim-blaming.” I wonder what it’s like on their planet.) Some people with cluster B PDs do act in ways that should be changed due to their illness. DBT is effective at helping with those changes. (Note: I don’t believe for a damn second that PDs are the only illnesses that predispose people to behavior that needs changing. Just look at eating disorders, for example.)
Now on to the empathy…thing. I’ve talked about empathy here (https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/empathy/) and the lack of comprehension of what empathy actually is makes it hard to know what saneists actually mean when they say that people with cluster B disorders have no empathy. What it probably means to saneists is that people with cluster B disorders have no compassion or concept of human suffering. This is, of course, not what “empathy” even fucking means, but that’s not the key point here. The key point is that the idea that people with cluster B PDs have no compassion is totally false. Some cluster B people do have low or no empathy–and I do mean empathy, not compassion–and that’s okay. The ability to think or feel what somebody else is thinking or feeling is not required to be a moral person.
And now we get to my least favorite myth about people with cluster B disorders: that we’re all abusers or worse. Look, that’s just plain not true. As I’ve said before, no mental illness makes a person an abuser (although abusive people’s choice of shitty actions can be informed by a mental illness that they happen to have). So why are people with cluster B disorders considered automatically abusive? Sing along if you know the words: ABLEISM!
Okay, specifically it’s saneism. But just look at the idea of “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse.” According to people who think that’s a thing, it consists of using language to manipulate, harm, and control people. This can take the form of gaslighting, lying, withholding, and/or emotional neglect. As you might have guessed, none of these actions are symptoms of NPD (or ASPD, which also gets blamed for “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse”). All of these things were also done to me by my abusive mother constantly, and she definitely does not have NPD or ASPD. I’ve talked more about how “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse” is not a thing here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/blaming-abuse-on-neurodivergence-and-why-not-to-do-that/, but in case you don’t feel like reading that whole thing and are thinking “Well, what do we call ‘n*rc*ss*st*c abuse,’ then?,” I suggest calling it “self-serving emotional abuse” or just “emotional abuse.”
I also want to mention that it particularly pisses me off when other trauma survivors try to explain their abuse by claiming that their abuser had a cluster B PD, especially since cluster B PDs can be caused by–you guessed it–childhood trauma. Part of me gets it–you want to find an explanation for why you were treated like shit, especially any explanation besides “I deserved it”–but lateral ableism is never okay.
One more thing I wanted to mention briefly: anti-cluster B slurs. You’d honestly have to ask the NPD community when the use of “n*rc*ss*st*c” is considered a slur. I haven’t been able to find a consensus on when it is aside from when used in the phrase “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse,” so I’m censoring it just to be safe. I also don’t know much about anti-HPD slurs (or HPD…I fail, sorry >.<), and there aren’t really any slurs specific to people with BPD, although the phrase “toxic borderline” can get fucked. What I do know is that “s****path” and “p****path” are both slurs used against people with ASPD, and they’re never appropriate to use. Okay, fine, some psych “experts” say that there’s a difference between one or both of those slurs and having ASPD. I don’t fucking care. They’re both slurs that imply that a mental illness makes a person a danger to society or others, and they’re never acceptable.
I think that’s all I have for now. I’m sorry I couldn’t say more about the PDs I don’t have, but I have to be really careful with what resources I can trust about cluster B PDs because of the hermeneutical injustice at play. If you’re interested in learning more about ASPD specifically, I can recommend the YouTuber Jessica Kent: https://www.youtube.com/c/JessicaKent
Thank you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!