Anatomy of a Borderline
By Shari Schreiber,
once a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of
her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good--but when
she was bad, she was horrid.
other articles on Borderline Personality Disorder speak to elements
in the Borderline that seduce you and keep you enraptured, despite
their push-pull emotional gymnastics, disruptive come here/go away
cycles, and confusing, crazy-making behaviors. This piece exposes
the volatile, frightening dark side of this individual who has gotten
you under their spell and won't let you go, but also uncovers the
root cause of these issues. There's a comprehensive list
of features/traits below, which can help you determine if you're
involved with someone who has BPD--or may serve as a self-diagnostic
many BPD people have killer looks, not all Borderlines
are beautiful or handsome--but that doesn't make them any less seductive
or diabolical. It's much easier for a great looking man or woman
to find continuous streams of narcissistic supply via adulation
and romantic pursuit from others, and until this ego fuel
isn't obtainable, they won't consider therapy. Why should they?
Humans don't change, until what they've been doing doesn't
work for them anymore--or they're in enough pain, to re-direct their
energies and efforts toward seeking the help they need to get truly
often asked if borderline disordered individuals can commit murder.
The answer is yes, depending on how deep their pathology runs. They're
capable of acting-out unresolved anger (from childhood)
by inflicting physical harm to anyone who's close--which can include
their child or partner. They are lacking in empathy and impulse
control, which allows these violent acts to happen, and our prison
system houses many Borderlines who've killed during a fit
the midst of mending from these intoxicating but dangerous relationships,
dozens of men have described a terrifying "demonic" influence
that appears to inhabit their beloved when she's confronted with
her lying, manipulations and betrayals--or some sort of (minor)
infraction on their part, has catalyzed the most horrifying change
in her facial expression. Many have reported; "it's like sparks
flew out of her eyes," or "there's such a cold and hideous
mask" that showed up, they couldn't recognize the woman they've
loved so deeply. If looks could kill, they believe they'd
be dead after one of these episodes!
female client recently expressed that her (male)
borderline friend "looked like the Devil himself,"
during vitriolic rages where his terrible verbal abuses were spat
at her, like molten lava spewing from a (suddenly) active volcano.
Other times, she says his demeanor was very peaceful and "cherubic"--a
man you'd never suspect, was capable of such volatility.
But how does this facet of "pure evil" manifest in somebody
we've felt so close and loving with, just minutes or hours earlier?
Would they recognize themselves, if we held up a mirror when this
vile darkness appears? Might they see the distorted face of their
rageful/punitive parent, instead of their own? Could it be that's
what you see in them?
singer/pianist Diana Krall epitomizes this issue in her song, Lost
Mind from the Love Songs album. Take a moment and listen.
duality of a Borderline is perhaps the most confounding issue one
faces at the onset of their courtship, and throughout the remainder
of this dance. Some folks have asked me whether MPD (Multiple Personality
Disorder) is a factor in their experiences with a Borderline, and
while 'dissociative identity' fits under the same BPD canopy that
houses a panoply
of other diagnosable issues, the Borderline vacillates between being
the either all-good or all-bad partner. Basically, there's no 'grey'
area with these individuals--which means they're frequently misdiagnosed
with Bipolar Disorder.
Mood disorders keep someone fluctuating between feeling extremely
depressed or elated (and/or agitated) during manic or hypomanic
episodes. Bipolar disorders frequently coexist with BPD--but
irrational jealousy, physical volatility and abusive or cruel/diminishing
interactions are not part of a bipolar
BPD terminology, 'splitting' isn't just an issue
that Borderlines demonstrate with you--they also experience it within
themselves. At times, they might view themselves as powerful, seductive,
brilliant beings. At other times, they'll feel worthless, unlovable,
invisible and defeated. During these periods, their own
lack of worth and sense of shame is projected
lot of folks apparently want you to believe that Borderlines aren't
capable of "regulating their emotions,"
and that's what causes the splitting reflex (or love you/hate
you stuff). While a Borderline's emotional age echoes that of a
three year old, and emotional dysregulation is a developmentally
sound postulate for very young children, this convenient, presumptive
theory isn't quite accurate. Borderlines
control their emotions during the seduction phase of your
relationship, when 'best foots' are put forward and they're trying
to win you over. Bottom line, infatuation is fleeting, as are all
the Borderline's other feelings, but Love is
an entirely different matter, as it's a sustainable emotion.
Personality Disorder is not a disease!
BPD is spawned by arrested emotional growth, which renders a person
incapable of impulse control, adult reasoning, capacity for empathy
and ability to self-soothe. I'm always asking partners of Borderlines
to think of them like a toddler in an adult body--and when
you're living with a Borderline, setting firm limits and boundaries
is the only way you're gonna survive that relationship.
if Borderlines are capable of loving,
and this appears to be a very central concern during the course
of these relationships--and afterward, when the discarded partner
needs to cling to the ideation that they were in
fact, truly loved. Borderlines felt anguish in relation
to yearning and striving for their parent's affection throughout
childhood--and learned to interpret these
difficult/dramatic feelings as "Love." Chasing after partners
who are emotionally or physically unavailable--or married/attached,
keeps this yearning vibrant, and inhibits them from embracing
a partner who's capable of providing love on a consistent basis.
In short, when you satisfy a Borderline's cravings for
love, those painfully intense feelings associated with loving, instantly
evaporate~ and so does their interest in you.
individual does not understand why they wanted
you five minutes ago--but now you're simply an annoyance, and they
feel suffocated or bored. It's right about now, you're getting dropped
on your head--and thinking, what in the hell just happened?!
can never control a Borderline's feelings of love or hate for you--but
you absolutely must command
their respect! It's truly the only hope you have for sustaining
this relationship (which means you'll be needing help to build self-respect).
personality disturbances have finally gathered more attention
and interest lately--and even the psychological community is speculating
about what spawns this disorder, and how to treat it. In truth,
very few folks who report about this issue have any real experience
it--nor do they have a sense of it's etiology. At its very core,
BPD is not a mental problem--it's an emotional one that
colors and distorts cognition. Mending from this disorder is not
just a function of the mind--it's a matter of healing the heart.
isn't something we're born with--nor is it inherited. It
is not due to an 'innate over-sensitivity'
that leaves us at risk for acquiring it as we grow into adulthood.
While behavioral models of treatment can help curb their volatile
acting-out impulses, Borderline Disorder can't be eliminated with
modalities such as DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that focus
on the here and now--but fail to address/resolve infancy
and childhood abandonment trauma and attachment issues, which drive
a litany of clinical and social concerns.
clinical disorders can be inherited genetically, personality
disorders are sculpted by our earliest relationship experiences.
Those imprints shape how we feel about ourselves, and determine
the extent to which we're able to forge trust in others and Self.
Much of BPD distress occurs within the first year of life, due to
inadequate bonding and emotional attunement with the mother. These
primal deficits influence self-worth and partner selection for a
lifetime, unless solid, core-focused therapeutic help is obtained.
Borderline in treatment, yearns to make sense of their inner turmoil,
as it feels dysfunctional and shameful. Cognitive therapy alone,
can't provide the insights necessary to bring about compassion for
the Self, and help one grow to allow and trust a process that must
provide patient, nourishing, corrective re-parenting, along with
emotional education that fosters self-actualization.
intensely confusing and paradoxical behavior patterns of the Borderline
are simply defenses that were adopted growing up, in order to survive
those kinds of experiences in their childhood home. You might say,
the Borderline is actually showing you, what he or she
had to contend with as a little kid.
types of events are deeply troubling and confounding to a small
child, who is supposed to learn how to make sense of his/her life
experiences from their parents. But if the parents are
screwed-up/inept, and they're constantly sending confusing, conflicting
messages to their child, what chance does this kid have, to grasp
anything that resembles normal, healthy interaction?
Borderline is hyper-sensitive to any form of abandonment, either
real or imagined. When one's foundational belief is that everyone
who has meaning or value will abandon them, they'll
orchestrate their relationships in such a way, that they keep getting
to be right about that!
to a Borderline's abandonment trauma early in life, he/she is compelled
to continually test you, and your love/devotion.
This individual has low self-esteem, and deep-down believes he/she
isn't worthy of receiving love. They usually pick partners
they sense will never leave them, which assuages their abandonment
concerns--but the 'testing phase' never actually ends. If they finally
succeed in making you leave, it's prophesy fulfillment!
If you stick by him/her no matter how poorly they treat you, they'll
continue taking you for granted, and their punishing or abusive
behaviors will never cease.
you're involved with a borderline disordered individual, it's essential
to remember that you're dealing with a three year old
who's trapped inside an adult's body. Struggles throughout infancy
and childhood have stunted their emotional growth--which is why
it's so tough getting them to understand the gravity of important
issues concerning your relationship! You'll explain your perspective
in as many different ways as possible, hoping they'll finally
comprehend why their behaviors trouble you--and it either falls
on deaf ears, or gets distorted by them and turned back on you,
to where you start believing you're the
one who's crazy or at fault.
of frustrated partners/ex-partners of Borderlines have asked how
long it takes for these people to get better. Recovery depends on
the degree of their trauma, their deep commitment
to healing, and the methodology used to get them there. Again, this
is a developmental issue; how long might it take a toddler
to catch up to an adult's chronological emotional age? Hard to say.
a Borderline, Love is a no-win situation. The more you reassure
them of your affection, fidelity and good intentions, the more they'll
try to prove you wrong for it! That's the tormenting paradox
of loving someone with BPD, as they're typically more attracted
to partners who are distant or abusive, than those who are actually
equipped to adore them.
people are damaged and developmentally arrested, which drives a
lot of acting-out behaviors. The following traits are typical
of someone who could be considered to have borderline pathology:
rapidly-shifting patterns of relating; hot/cold, come here/go away,
involvement, premature conversations about living together, marrying
or choosing names for (future) children. Pregnancy
issues; intense, irrational fears/concerns that you'll leave, or
someone will steal you away from them.
critical and rejecting emotionally, psychologically or physically.
to chaos and drama. Serene/harmonious periods are short lived.
issues, Panic Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
fears~ acting-out angrily after periods of closeness.
personality, passive-aggressive, sarcastic.
dysmorphia; seeing oneself as hideous/ugly or disfigured.
distortion or thought disordered. Gives strangely incongruent responses
to your attempts to communicate openly, or problem solve.
phobic, disrupts/runs away from closeness and intimacy.
interactions. Poor comprehension skills, lacks common sense.
desperate need for attention/approval from you and others.
confrontation by crying, raging or projecting
it back on you.
of unsavory, childish behavior. Can't/won't apologize.
disconnected, shut-down, 'checked out' or numb.
alcohol and/or food abuse (eating
cut-off or withdrawal. Withholding affection and/or sex.
you to be a mind-reader or mommy, and intuit his/her needs
(see 'transference' issue below).
jealousy; tries to separate you from all other
attachments (friends, family members, your kids, etc.).
flirtatious with others, even in your presence.
makes you doubt your perceptions, or think you're going crazy.
and shaming you during the relationship, and after it's over; when
anything's gone wrong, it's always (supposedly) "your"
higher-functioning Borderlines become
psychotherapists (yikes!) due to never having resolved
their own core
manipulative and controlling. Your sense
of identity and autonomy is severely compromised in a relationship
with a Borderline.
subtle or obvious attempts to re-engage you, suck you back into
their life, seduce and manipulate you, etc. BPD's use pitiful outcries
for help, or sneaky efforts to reach You through
your kids, your friends or relatives.
or asexuality/non-sexual (especially
a man's persistent inability to achieve orgasm with intercourse,
difficulty maintaining erections, chronic premature ejaculation.
behavior; tantrums, rageful outbursts, persistent baby-talk, etc.
extramarital sexual or emotional affairs, 'cheating' on
sense of self; grandiosity or false sense of entitlement.
during your relational upsets, they bring up everything (but the
kitchen sink) you've ever done 'wrong' and clobber you with it--whether
it was resolved at an earlier time, or not! This makes
of remorse or empathy, unwillingness to own their mistakes/flaws.
and deceitfulness, mixed messages, self-contradicting.
issues (often portrayed/couched
as "father" issues).
clingy or overly dependent. Can't tolerate aloneness.
wanting/loving you when there's distance--or they can't actually
emotional responses; when you love them more, they love you less.
The closer you get, the more they need to distance.
acting it out, rather than talking it
feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or pessimism.
ailments or sickly, pain, allergies, diseases--even when very young.
impulse control. Capable of volatile or violent behaviors &
self-worth, insecurity, low self-esteem, self-loathing.
when they assign their own deficits/faults, to you.
relationships are extremely common (the bed never gets
with interpersonal upsets is virtually impossible. Twisting your
words and distorting the facts is common, and the two of you keep
circling the drain with no end to the problem in sight. Your Borderline
may seem like they're comprehending the immediate concern,
and is on-board what you're trying to put forth--but this same issue
resurfaces next time a similar event occurs, and
you feel like you're replaying the same old broken record.
up until marriage, or the relationship gets solidified
memory or recall of events pertaining to their screw-ups. When it
comes to yours though, his/her mind is like a steel trap,
and they forget nothing!
or self-mutilation; cutting/burning skin, picking at blemishes until
there is significant damage to adjacent tissue, numerous piercings,
tattoos, body ornamentation, etc., poor or distorted physical image.
in personal and/or professional realms.
molestation or incest in childhood (which may not be remembered).
assertive/aggressive. BPD females will usually initiate
romantic or sexual pursuit--unless they're Waifs.
lapses in childhood memory.
idealizing or devaluing behaviors, love you/hate
you, and black or white perceptions/ideations.
following/shadowing you, incessant text or phone messages, etc.
Always checking in with you (and up on you). Suffocating/smothering.
ideation and emotional blackmail; "I don't
want to go on living--I'll kill myself
if you leave me/don't return," etc.
it means your Borderline assigns the same traits/features to you,
that belonged to his/her undermining parent or caregiver as a child.
It's not uncommon therefore, for them to expect you to hurt them,
but needing you to function as a (good) parent or mind-reader and
intuit their needs.
anything/anyone that dilutes the focus on your relationship; getting
a new pet, having an affair, working longer hours, substance abuse,
having a baby, etc.
the ongoing compulsion to pull out facial hair (eyelashes, eyebrows,
etc.) or body hair. Considered a facet of self-mutilation.
painful, spasmodic contracting of the vagina, which prevents sexual
intercourse/penetration. This is a somatic issue, often brought
on by unresolved childhood incest or sexual abuse trauma. At its
core, this is a very deep fear of closeness, and inability to trust
another, or oneself.
always have the feeling you can't please him/her, or have them know
how much you really love or care about them. The Borderline makes
you feel like you're never enough--no matter how
much you give, or do for them.
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
this material; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/web-reader-text-to-speech/id320808874?mt=8
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
MY BPD LOVER BE RIGHT ABOUT ME??