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Looking for specific resource

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Looking for specific resource

Postby Empathy » Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:11 am

Does anyone have any literature that discusses how a person with a personality disorder can indeed treat their own children very differently when there is a child they like and another they dislike? Resources on how this may occur in OCPD would be extra helpful as it seems like their efforts to help and care for things and people can mask abuse (and basically make it seem like the abused person isn't grateful).

The context:
There is a situation I'm dealing with where an adult child wants to move out of the home after a year living at home with their parents while finishing a PhD. Both parents got diagnosed with incurable cancers over the past year and the mother's OCPD symptoms have worsened, and the treatment of this less favored child have escalated into abusive/illegal (name calling, blatant lying, recording private conversations, etc.).

The father and older sibling are trying to get this child to stay home and help care for the parents but seem to refuse to recognize/believe the mother would treat this child worse than the way they have been treated by her over the years, and so far have refused to step in and help establish/enforce boundaries to make the home livable. They also do not seem to want to lose their good standing with her as it's quite nice and beneficial to have her favor, and they do not want to rock the boat and be "the bad guy." They are also scared of what she may do as over the past few years, when upset, she has taken to leaving the house, sometimes without her phone, and staying gone for many hours while everybody worries about her (or calls her and tries to coax her to come home if she does take her phone).

Now that this child has actually made plans to move out (got their old job back and put a deposit on an apartment in the state their PhD program is in), the mother is threatening not to continue with her cancer treatment. English is her second language and in her own language she said she was literally going to "curl up and die." It's manipulative and of course these antics to try and stop this child from moving out is making this awful situation even worse. While the child does not want to leave they do not feel comfortable and safe at home and powerless to stop mom's abuse.

But the family is putting a lot of guilt on this child, citing that the family has helped them a lot over the years and claiming that moving out when the parents are ill is "abandonment." The child still insisted they are going to go because they need the change in environment to finish their program and graduate. The family has then offered to listen to some terms to get the child to stay at home, but the child is hesitant to believe they will be taken seriously as long as the rest of the family refuses to believe the mother would actually care for one child less and treat them worse than another, and as long as they generalize the kind of treatment this less favored child is subjected to as equal to the way she has treated them.

The older, favored child keeps saying how the mother has treated them badly too but they just "don't care," however, the older child doesn't live at home and the mother has never treated them with as much disdain. It seems like the mother may actually be trying to sabotage the younger child's efforts to finish their degree. The older sibling has said things like "at least you're not getting a daily beating," and that while they are willing to help enforce some boundaries, to "not expect miracles." This less favored child has been somewhat of a scapegoat over the years and there seems to be an impetus to continue certain interaction styles that maintain this status.

So, any help would be appreciated for:
a) coming up with a list of terms for staying at the parents home while working to graduate in the fall semester
b) best way of actually leaving if it comes to that, if the terms are not honored, without causing too much family drama/being permanently blacklisted (sister-in-law said "don't move out if you have any remaining love for your parents" and that's pretty much how the rest of the family feels)
c) literature/resources that address how people with personality disorders can treat their children extremely differently and maybe provide suggestions on how to address that

Thank you!
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Re: Looking for specific resource

Postby realitycheque » Sun Aug 26, 2018 1:43 pm

Hello Empathy,

I can appreciate your desire to have specific literature to reference when dealing with this situation. Compared to other personality disorders, there is very little literature on OCPD. So I will offer other information that you may find useful.

The first thing I would keep in mind is that it doesn't require a personality disorder to have child favoritism; it is a very common occurrence which despite our most noble intentions, is natural. What I would suggest you consider are Cognitive Distortions (David Burns) and/or Automatic Negative Thoughts (Daniel Amen's ANTs). While all humans experience these, those with personality disorders can be seriously impacted by them, and with extra Anxiety from having terminal cancer makes them worse. The ones I see in play here are emotional reasoning, shoulds/oughts (subjective rules), and maximization/minimization. OCPDers are very judgmental, and the need for control (a dysfunctional coping mechanism for the anxieties) within their world often falls harshly on their Inner Circle.

Since logical reasoning will not work with this mother, unfortunately the best strategic tactic may be using some of the same manipulations back on the mother. Guilt is particularly effective for OCPDers, as they deploy it to others as a modus operandi (and likely where the other family members learned it). But the younger child should not confide in the other family members as to using this tactic, because they are susceptible to the mother's manipulations and may break the confidence thereby compromising the strategy. For instance, when the threat of discontinuing cancer treatment is repeated by the mother, the child could say a variety of things:
- "I'm really sorry to hear you say that you are thinking of stopping the cancer treatment (or alternatively that you need me to live in the house with you even longer). I've always looked up to you as an inspiration and a fighter, so it makes me sad to think that you are not as strong a person as I thought you were. I will still remember my strength, because I will need that to finish my really difficult PhD program with the hundred percent of my attention. I know you will be proud of me when I accomplish this, and will be part of your legacy that I and others will long remember."
- "I know this is been a very difficult experience for you battling cancer, and I would not blame you at all if you were to choose to stop treatment. Quality of life is really important, and I probably would consider the same thing if I felt as miserable as you are describing."

You get the idea - reduce or neutralize the basis (twisted thinking, biased feelings, fallacious arguments) of the mother's coercion. The delivery doesn't have to be totally authentic, just have enough truth in it that it can be sincere and not unreasonable from a third party's perspective.

I hope this provides some other insights on how to handle the situation.
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