They're drowning. It's a murky, inky ocean of their disability and pain and sadness and disorientation and fear and depersonalization and forgetfulness, amnesia. They're drowning in all this, this ocean of misery. And their eyes lock into yours and their arms are extended in a silent plea for help, a cry stifled, silent, absent. And you feel the urge to just walk to the waterfront, just stand there and extend a hand and grab their hands and draw them out of the churning vortex that threatens to swallow them whole.
The closer you get to them, the more their eyes shine bright with hope. They regard you as a savior, a messiah, a fixer of all ailments, the one.
And somewhere in some recess or corner of your mind, it is gratifying. It is gratifying to help another human being, to reduce anxiety, to ameliorate hurt and agony, to stop this inexorable spiral to the bottom that these people are clearly experiencing and encountering.
It's also a bit grandiose to feel like a savior or a fixer or a rescuer.
There is this too. But much more than this, this simple pity, compassion, the wish to not witness another human being disintegrating, self-destructing, self-loathing, self-defeating, and finally self-less, without a self altogether, transforming incrementally, gradually from a presence, with a promise, with a potential, with life, transforming from existence to an absence, to a howling void.
Then you want to prevent this. You just want it to stop. You want it to not happen. You don't want to make, you don't want this to occur.
And the more they are distraught, the more they are afraid, like little children in the dark, the more they cry out for your help, the more they incentivize you and they motivate you to just wade into the water, never mind the depth, never mind the waves, never mind anything. Just wade into the water and drag them out with all your force and might and possibilities.
And you do that and when you clasp their hands, they try to drag you down with them, to this kingdom, under the water, that is their mind.
They want you to inhabit this netherworld which they do, to wander with them, this cursed land which is the mental illness. It's almost biblical.
They want you to eat of the fruit and then be expelled from paradise. They want you to share, to share in their pain. They want you to understand in depth and first hand what they are going through.
They want, in other words, to infect you and that's why vampiric analogies are pretty apt and true.
It is a normal human reflex to help others.
There is empathy, there is compassion, there is the wish to spread good and these are irresistible urges and drives, possibly biological, definitely social from a very early age, formative years, months actually, up to age six.
You have been socialized, you have been conditioned to be essentially charitable, altruistic, loving, caring, giving, of course, up to a point.
But still, that is the default option. People give, people help, people care, majority of people, not talking about narcissists and psychopaths, talking about mentally healthy people.
So when you come across anyone with a disability, physical or mental, you want to make their lives better and easier. You want to introduce some joy and cheer and a ray of light into the darkness that they roam and reside in despite their will.
Instinctively you feel that they are hostages, that they are not there voluntarily, wherever they may be, that this dreamscape, nightmarish dreamscape that they constantly wander in is not of their own making, that they are victims.
And in most cases, you would be absolutely right to think this way.
And so there's a lot of pity, a lot of commiseration and a fount of compassion that is uncontrollable in the overwhelming vast majority of people.
And even among mental health practitioners and professionals who should know better.
But here's my advice to you, harden your heart, harden your heart, walk away. No, run away. Save yourself. These people cannot be helped.
Help, they don't want to be helped. They want you to become like them. They don't want to become like you. They have strong resistances and defenses against healing, or they would have been healed by now. They want contagion. They want you to experience with them their illness, their debilitation, their paralysis. They want you to become as mentally quadriplegic as they are, confined to a psychological wheelchair. They want you disabled. They want to cripple you, to bring you to their level, because only then can they feel that they belong, that they are accepted. Only then, they don't experience abandonment anxiety.
What motivates people like you, who are otherwise healthy, to engage mental illness in a way which could infect you? An infestation that could penetrate your mind and snatch it? What tempts you to play with this cold fire?
The first thing is emotional blackmail.
Mentally ill people, definitely borderline personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, also known as codependency. Mentally ill people, people with mood disorders, with anxiety disorders, with other personality disorders, such as paranoia. They blackmail you. Emotional extortion. They don't do it. Many of them don't do it malevolently, cunningly, and schemingly, as a psychopath would do. Many of them do it because the only way they know to survive is to push your buttons. And they do it in a bewildering variety of ways.
They can guilt rape you. They can say, I sacrificed my life for you. You owe me. Or they can express their dependency and communicate to you that you are indispensable for their functioning and even life. I need you. I cannot cope without you. I'll fall apart without you. I'll commit suicide without you.
And then there's the goal driven variety of emotional blackmail.
We have a common goal. We must achieve this thing together. We are in this together. We are one. We are a unity. We are twin flames. I don't know. We are soulmates. It's a form of emotional blackmail, of course.
And finally, there's the explicit variety. If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology, religion, or any other set of values, if you don't obey my instructions, if you don't give me your time, all of it, without exception, if you don't make me the pinnacle and the pivot and the axis and the exclusive asset of your life and existence, I will impose sanctions on you.
And the list is long.
Emotional blackmail is a gambit in the chess game that mentally disabled people play with you. They have to play this game. Don't be angry at them. Don't castigate and chastise them. There's no place for a tired tribe or a vitriolic attack on these people. They know no better.
This is the survival strategy that had evolved as children. These are tactics and strategies of the weak, including, among other things, passive aggression, deceptiveness.
Weak people do this. Lying.
Emotional blackmail draws you in. That's debate. It reels you into the hallucinatory, phantasmagoric, paracosm of the mentally ill.
And then when you're there already introduced into the simulation that passes for a life in their habitation, it's too late. It's too late to turn your back on them and just walk out, walk out of this delusional space.
In the case of the narcissists, for example, the shared fantasy. Once you had allowed yourself to be blackmailed emotionally, once you had succumbed to the extortionist, you're in trouble.
As we all know, kidnappers, extortionists, blackmailers, they're never sated. There's never enough. They always come with new demands.
Victims of mental illness had learned one thing, helplessness. They have learned helplessness and they leverage their helplessness. They use it as a bludgeon, as a blunt instrument. They control you from the bottom. Their submissiveness is a polished weapon which they wield against you mercilessly. They communicate to you. I'm helpless. I'm submissive. I'm obedient. You owe me because of this. You owe it as a human being with minimum ethics and morality. You owe it to help me because I'm another human being in trouble and in dire straits and in distress.
You have an obligation, moral and ethical and religious maybe, to help me out.
Learned helplessness is a coping mechanism. It's a survival strategy. It's a positive adaptation. It's not the absence of something. It's the presence of helplessness.
Helplessness is used and abused by mentally ill people. Then having entered their emotional blackmail space and encountered their aimlessness, their impotence, their weakness and frailty and brokenness, you are hooked. You are hooked on trying to make things better, to make them better, to endow them with a minimum feeling of content and happiness.
It becomes a project from which you cannot extricate yourself because you emotionally invest in the task of making them happier and different.
I call this learned parenting or acquired parenting.
Mental ill try to force upon you a parental role. They parentify you. This role is learned and acquired.
It's not you. It's artificial. It's like a shell or like a wrap. It's like a spider wrapping his prey with cobwebs.
This is learned parenting or acquired parenting. It's the complement, the other side of the coin, of learned helplessness.
Their learned helplessness provokes in you your learned or acquired parenting.
Cartman described it in the famous drama triangle.
The abuser, the victim and the rescuer in internal family system.
We have internal voices, inner voices, the kind of introjects which play these roles.
It's a universal alignment of forces, a power play between human beings.
As her learned helplessness resonates with your learned or acquired parenting, you bond like every parent and child.
The narcissist, for example, coerces you into the role of a mother and gradually you develop maternal feelings towards the narcissist. You begin to see him as a child.
And so acquired parenting is the first step towards intimacy that generates or fosters bonding and attachment, which are exceedingly powerful, very difficult to break.
And when you do succeed to unravel these invisible threads that bond you, the feeling is horrendous. When you do abandon the mentally ill person finally as a last resort and a tactic for self survival, when you have to walk away, when it's too much, even for you, you feel horrible. You feel that you had betrayed the mentally ill person. You feel that you had abandoned your child to the atrocities of the world, to use a phrase by Richard Grannon.
So this combination is addictive.
And like every addiction, the minute you win yourself of this drug, this cold turkey, you go through a period of withdrawal, which is indescribably painful and challenges the very integrity of your personality, constructs and structures. It decompensates you in clinical terms.
In this sense, the mentally ill person exports his mental illness onto you. And you absorb it lock, stock and barrel.
It's a process of osmotic permeation. You become one inhabiting a single space of mutually enhancing insanity.
And in this space, the mentally ill person is a child and you are the parent.
And how can you let go of your child? How can you leave her behind crying, threatening suicide on the verge of falling apart or falling apart? How can you witness what is happening to her?
You immediately take responsibility or attribute to yourself all these outcomes, not realizing that whatever it is that's happening to her once you had left, has nothing to do with you.
These dynamics are inherent in her. And with or without you, they would have come out to play. These dynamics would have played out themselves. They would have unfolded, even in your absence.
You are just a trigger in the worst case, but you're definitely never the cause.
Once you find yourself enmeshed in the blackmailed space of learned helplessness and acquired parenting or learned parenting, you develop something which I call dysfunctional responsibility. Over the top responsibility.
Being responsible for things and dynamics and emotions and cognitions and processes in the other person when you should never be responsible for anyone's state of mind.
Remember this, I'm going to repeat it. You are never ever responsible for another person's state of mind. You are never ever responsible for another person's decisions and choices. You are never ever responsible for another person's happiness. You are never ever responsible to maintain another person.
These are not your responsibilities. And if you feel that they are, you are in the throes.
You have developed dysfunctional responsibility. It's a kind of parentifying role, parent role.
You feel that it's up to you to make things better. It's up to you to make people around you happy. It's up to you to serve them and service them. It's up to you to make sure that all their needs are met and catered to. It's up to you.
It's not up to you. It's sick. It's pathological. It's part of the contamination of the infection. It's a symptom.
At that stage, you transition from asymptomatic to symptomatic.
The minute you feel thus counterfactually responsible. The mentally ill person has an external locus of control. He attributes everything that's happening to him to outside forces which are beyond his grasp and beyond his ability to manipulate or to control.
This is called external locus of control.
The most mentally ill people never take responsibility for their actions. They are never held accountable by themselves. They don't consider that they have ever done anything wrong. Everything they did was right and proper.
It is outside forces that are misbehaving somehow, outside agencies, institutions, other people, you.
You are responsible for everything that's happening to them because by the mere fact that you are external, they have alloplastic defenses. They blame their misery, their pain, their agony and hurt, their wrong decisions and wrong choices. They're acting out their misbehavior, their misconduct, their recklessness and the outcomes and consequences of all these. They attribute this to you. You made it happen. You made them behave this way or misbehave this way.
It's always you, always up to you. Nothing would have happened without you. You set this train in motion.
Had you not been there, she would have been happy. She would have been content. She would have been resilient. He would have been loyal, faithful. It's all because of you.
Alloplastic defenses and external locus of control collaborate with emotional blackmail. They make you feel guilty. You buy into this version, this narrative of reality because it caters to your grandiosity.
You want to feel that you are the mover and shaker in the first cause of everything. You want to feel good life. It's intoxicating to have so much power over another person, even for healthy people.
So, the mentally ill persongives you hands over this illusion that he is or she is just so much clay, so much clay in your hands that you shape, you're shaping and molding them, that the mentally ill person communicates to you that you are the maker, you are the creator, you are godlike in her world and you are able to shape and mold her and lead her and into any state of mind that you wish. You regulate her. You're responsible for the regulation of her moods, her effects, even her cognitions.
She would tell you, you brainwash me. I think the same way you do.
Your voice is in my mind. You're in control of my thoughts.
Don't buy into any of this.
Mental illness is an autonomous phenomenon that has very, very little to do with externalities and with reality.
Reality does not impinge or match and does not affect much mental illness.
It unfolds and unfurls in the innermost chambers of the mind of the mentally ill person almost inexorably, almost without stopping.
Whether you came into her life or not, she would have still been in exactly the same spot she is today. Whether you had abandoned her or not, same. Whether you have treated her well or abused her, same.
Mental illness is a one-way ticket with a very clear destination.
You can hasten the process of course. You can hasten the process by abusing the mentally ill person, which of course is of course a cruel and horrible thing to do.
But you're only hastening the inevitable. You are only a catalyst. You're never a reason for anything.
Do not impute to yourself this grandiose, divine-like power to affect the mentally ill person's life and her inner landscape.
Do not acquire parenting. Do not have learned parenting and do not develop dysfunctional responsibility.
Realize that the mentally ill person in your life is clutching at straws, hanging to you for dear life because she's drowning. And she's drowning very, very often because she refuses to exit the water, although she definitely can very often with your help.
She doesn't want help.
The mentally ill person does not want help. Never mind how much she protests, that she does want help. Never mind how much she says that she wants to get better, that she wants things to change, that she will never repeat her mistakes. That with your help she will be a different person.
Don't buy into any of this nonsense. She may even believe these things, but it doesn't make them true.
The will power of mentally ill people is impaired. Their reality testing is short. They don't know what they're doing. They're no longer with us. They're gone. So let them go.