I have been studying the families-of-origin of patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) since the the late 1970’s. As readers of this blog already know, I discovered that the biggest and most common emotional conflict in the parents who produce offspring with the disorder is a conflict over the very act of becoming and being a parent. As I described in a previous post, the parents think being great parents and taking care of children is the end all and be all of human existence, but secretly they wish, for a variety of different reasons, that they could be spending most of their time doing something else entirely.
But in today's world, one must try. Some people insist that observations of subtexts are just “anecdotal.” They can therefore just dismiss it as an object of scientific study. To get around this just a wee bit, we chose 9 of the most common themes in the families of those with BPD that I had observed over the years, and asked four different groups to rate their parents’ ongoing, current communication in these 9 “domains.”
The four groups were patients with the disorder, those who were subthreshold for the disorder (that is, who met 3 or 4 of the criteria for BPD rather than the required 5), non-psychotic patients being treated in our clinic who did not have BPD, and normal controls who exibited no psychiatric disorders at all.
In reading the items below, you should be able to easily figure out which item corresponds to which response pattern.
These figures had to have served in the parental role when the subjects were between the ages of 5 and 15. We provided the following list:
When we examined the FIS by domains, the most commonly endorsed domain in which either contradictory response was endorsed by BPDs for person A was domain 1, with 40%. The corresponding percentages were domain 2, 27.5%; domain 3, 25%; domain 4, 20%; domain 5, 32.5%; domain 6, 22.5%; domain 7, 20%; domain 8, 27.5%; and domain 9, 20%.
So readers, go ahead and use the FIS to rate your own families on how often they drive you to distraction with double messages. You don't have to share the results with anyone unless you want to. But please feel free to share your general reactions to the FIS items in the comments section.