From as far back as I can remember, I have been in-tune with other people's body language. I can read a person from a mile away, and person's body language says more to me than what they are actually saying. I am also very aware of eye contact, which eye contact or lack-thereof is very telling about a person. And in regard to what others are saying, I listen intently to what is being related and place significance on tone-of-voice. And depending on with whom I am speaking and what we are speaking about, I may assess / analyze statements.
So, are any of you like this? Do you sense things before others or when others don't, such as:
- Specifics of body language
- When and how eye contact is made
- The speaker's tone of voice
- What verbiage is utilized
- Analyze the meaning behind words / statements
- Detect faint sounds or sounds in the distance / background before others or when others don't (ie: quiet sounds from a room in the other end of the house).
- Feel sensitive, irritated, uneasy, or uncomfortable in crowds
- Smell things before others or when others don't (ie: stinky smells; something burning)
- Taste the nuances that others can't or don't (ie: detect when a food has started to turn; find flavors of various spices)
Since a child, I have seemed to have an acute awareness of my surroundings and have always been particularly sensitive to it. I just figured that I am simply more perceptive or observant that others. After talking with some of my friends who also have BPD mothers, we all have the same antidotes pertaining to this very subject. Each one of us assesses situations similarly: analyzing body language, the environment around, words spoken, and more. We all seem to be highly perceptive about the same types of input around us. Our common denominator is a BPD parent with confusing interactions, unstable sense of self, emotional instability, inappropriate / intense anger, and transient / paranoid thoughts which add-up to very confusing behavior for a child to interpret. Compound these confusing behaviors with an environment where the child is constantly walking on eggshells in order to not ignite the BPD.The result is a child who becomes hyperaware of the BPD's moods, behaviors, and idiosyncrasies.
With the survivors of trauma and abuse, this hyperawareness is a defense mechanism. "A nearly universal characteristic of survivors is excessive emotional hypersensitivity... hyperawareness of body language, moods, and 'the meanings behind the words' is a highly functional defense mechanism" p 166 Evans / Sullivan. In regard to the BPD parent:
- One must be on defense for the next attack, so keeping a vigilant eye on her behavior is vital: She has that look in her eye again; I need to stay away. Her body language is saying she's in a 'witch' mood, I better hide. She is becoming more and more aggressive with her language today; she is probably going to verbally attack me today.
- Trying to sort-out the confusing and twisted behavior creates a need to collect as much information as possible to try to figure out her behavior (past, present, future). Seemingly, every action or word spoken is another piece of the puzzle.
With these observations of body language, eye contact, verbal communication, many times the child of the BPD questions their own perception of that is transpiring. Is the BPD really that bad? Perhaps the meaning behind the actions / words is being misread? Maybe the BPD doesn't really mean to act or say those things, and maybe I am the one who has the problem? "Children of borderlines may spend their entire lives trying to understand their mother and themselves. They are preoccupied with sorting out the meanings of interactions, studying their own perceptions, and questioning the intentions of others" Lawson p 302
Not only are the children of BPD parents trying to figure out what makes their parent tick and why, but they are 'walking on eggshells' in the process. The children feel as if their behavior is provoking the abuse or cause the BPD to get upset so they tip-toe around the BPD as not to provoke. This 'walking on eggshells' can be very stressful, and in combination with being hyperaware of the BPD's mood, behavior, body language, eye contact, and more, the child is on a constant state of heightened alert. This hyperawareness and state of alertness can continue into adulthood if the relationship dynamics with the BPD remain the same.
The children of BPD view the world around through these same glasses: being very aware of body language, eye contact, small nuances, being sensitive to changes and actions around self, etc. Additionally, since the child of the BPD tries to understand why the parent behaves the way she does, the child also tries to constantly unscramble mixed messages from the BPD. Since the BPD isn't direct or candid with her emotions, actions, or needs, the child must uncode. After lifetime of unscrambling and decoding, the child of the BPD may apply this same methodology to other relationships (friends, work colleagues, school colleagues, general interactions with public). "The borderline's children become experts at deciphering emotional messages that often have hidden significance. As adults, these children may become preoccupied with discovering hidden motives behind actions of others" Lawson p 157
With hyperawareness continuing into adulthood, children of BPD often seem 'psychic' or aware of minor details that no one else does. With this observation of details, hypersensitivity enables many to write vivid and descriptive stories and develop artwork in amazing detail. Further, children of BPD often can sense when someone is angry or in a bad mood. Alternately, they may also become agitated with people over small incidents - don't look at me like that; I get nervous when you breathe like that.
Trying to simply 'turn off' a defense mechanism so deeply engrained is challenging. Being wired to notice slight changes, behaviors, and verbiage about one's own BPD parent for an entire childhood and onward is a learned process. Using the hyperawareness in a positive, perceptive, and intuitive manner is a healthy alternative rather than creating unease and staying on-guard. Being able to 'read' people is a valuable trait, and being able to notice intricate details is also a favorable attribute. Enjoy the ability to sense beyond what others may and take enjoyment of the heightened senses-- stop and smell the roses.