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Pete Davidson Gives an Inside Look to the 'Manipulation' Associated With BPD

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During an intimate conversation on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson revealed he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) — an often misunderstood disorder that affects your mood, relationships and how you see the world.

Davidson had some genuine (and some funny) things to say about what it’s like living with BPD, from how he’s in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) — “It’s steps, it’s thought processing, you have these thoughts, you have these feelings, you have these urges, you’re going to freak out. Try waiting it out 10 minutes. Try going for a walk.” — to his fear of abandonment — “When people say they’re leaving and coming back, I get a really big fear that they’re not coming back.”

He also hit on a more touchy aspect associated with BPD: manipulation.

“I think the manipulation thing I definitely had, where I would try to make someone feel a certain type of way. If they felt that way I would feel good, and then if they didn’t feel that way, I would think something’s wrong and that they’re mad at me,” he said.

When someone with BPD is described as “manipulative,” it’s often assumed they have bad intentions or are trying to hurt another person. While it’s unfair to assume everyone with BPD has this characteristic and demonize someone just because they have it, Davidson described his “manipulative behaviors” in a way we don’t often hear — he doesn’t do what he describes as manipulation to hurt someone else, he does it because he needs reassurance for himself.

For example, he said he sometimes tries to sway people into saying the exact thing he “needs to hear.”

“It’s like, ‘You hate me, don’t you?’” he explained. “Whatever question I ask, I’m expecting the opposite answer. That can be pretty fucking frustrating for the other person. They’re just so strung out and tired of answering the same exact fucking question… And then as soon as they break down, you go, ‘See, I knew it!’”

Out of the FOG, a site that provides information and support to the family members and loved ones of people who have personality disorders, explained that what is commonly seen as “manipulative” behavior is often internally motivated — a way to self-soothe or cope with any contradicting feelings they may be experiencing:

People with Personality Disorders often engage in behaviors which appear manipulative and controlling to those around them. While these manipulative acts may be deliberate and conscious on the part of the Personality Disordered individual, their focus is often not so much on the person they are controlling as it is on themselves. In many cases, the person is attempting to soothe internal feelings or fears by creating a focal point in a close relationship, rather than attempting to produce certain feelings in others – a bit like the way a puppeteer seeks an audience response through the puppet’s antics.

This is why it’s important for people with borderline personality disorder to tell their own stories — and to describe their own behaviors. From the outside looking in, it can be easy to judge why someone with BPD is acting the way they are. This does not mean we should accept behaviors that hurt others, but as Davidson describes, there can be more to the story when it comes to BPD  — and treatment and help is available.

“Being in a relationship with someone like myself is difficult… but it’s exciting,” he said. “There’s always something new, that’s for sure.”

You can listen to the whole interview here.

Originally published: September 28, 2017
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