Splitting, Splicing and Projection in BPD Personalities
By Shari Schreiber,
Borderline's desperate need to be seen as 'perfect' physically,
cerebrally and spiritually is what drives a lot of issues within
this personality type. At the very heart of borderline acting-out
is core shame--the leftover if you will, from a childhood fraught
with neglect, confusing messages and abuse, which left them doubting
their lovability and true worth. Any (acknowledged) error makes
a Borderline feel they're a "bad person," which is why
their defenses are so thick, and they're unable to accept/own their
errors or failings.
every Borderline who phones me for help, states: "I've done
a lot of work on myself."
many Borderlines are tireless seekers of insight and truth. There's
often a tenacious will to heal themselves and grow, but no matter
how much therapy they've tried or how many self-help groups they
join, self-loathing remains entrenched. Being hard on themselves
is an extremely common trait. As children they were programmed to
feel unlovable and unworthy of care, so this is how they learned
to regard and treat themselves.
all Borderlines cut their skin, but most of them have become emotional
cutters~ in short, they heap criticism, shame and guilt on themselves
until they're dug so deep into a hole of despair, it might take
days or even weeks before they can climb out of it and rebalance.
shortcomings or deficits can make somebody with BPD believe they
have no right to live, or take up space on the planet. So destructive
is the Borderline's self-reproach for even minor mistakes,
their inner narratives (the mental sense they make of their dreadful,
shameful feelings) can make them want to die--which is key
to why suicidal ideation or attempts usually coexist within borderline
in love with a Borderline means you're trapped in confusion, chaos
and titillation. At the onset, he/she is perfectly delightful, charming
and adoring, but you soon come to find that you can't relate
to their bizarre behaviors.
keep efforting to understand what makes them tick, but you cannot.
In reality, their psychosis is something you shouldn't
be able to relate to, yet you keep trying. This natural reflex to
'get it right' was implanted in you as a small child, when you experienced
difficult and confusing relational dynamics with a parent. You might
also have observed troubling interactions between your folks, who
struggled together a lot like you have with your BPD lover.
may have grown up promising yourself that Your partnership or marriage
would never be like theirs--but that was the only 'blueprint' you
had to work from. If you'd seen playful, loving interplay between
two adults who admired and respected each other, you would be seeking
that relational dynamic for yourself--and you surely wouldn't
be reading this right now.
emulate their parents. They want to dress like them, act like them,
and mimic everything they do. Think of little girls who get into
Mommy's makeup and jewelry, and you have a stellar example of emulation.
Kids are like little sponges. Nothing gets past 'em--and even when
you think they're not paying attention, they absorb and integrate
all of your words and behaviors.
a small child perceives scary traits in the parent, like
histrionics, cruelty or ragefulness, he/she determines never to
grow up to be like Mom or Dad, for fear of becoming that frightening
monster or fragile/pathetic creature. Just the threat of this, has
them amputating important feeling states (like anger) out of their
personality, yet allowing/accepting them in romantic partners, just
as they did with their parents while growing up. There
is always a childhood template for attraction to a borderline
and white thinking, love you/hate you, come here/go away, and push-pull
emotional gymnastics, are hallmarks of intensely unstable relationship
dynamics with individuals who exhibit borderline pathology.
all acquainted with this splitting reflex in Borderlines, but we
usually fail to recognize this tendency within ourselves. The Caregiver,
fixer/rescuer type who frequently attaches to personality disordered
lovers, has virtually split-off all darker feelings, thoughts and
personality features from their own emotional repertoire. They've
discarded dimensions that even hint at what they had observed,
growing up with a weak, impaired or punitive parent. So pitied or
reviled was their mother or father for these facets, the developing
child feels the need to totally rid him/herself of those traits--which
doesn't leave much room for a balanced or multi-dimensional persona
inclination to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' in relation
to our "bad" emotions and sensations in childhood, is
what promotes pathological perfectionism, which can result in suicides,
rageful outbursts, passive-aggression,
and a litany of other health concerns. In short, suppression of
feelings can be deadly to our Self and others.
Borderline splits-off from the less favorable features within him/herself,
and cannot tolerate them in you. The People Pleaser has similarly
split-off from his/her own imperfect or flawed aspects, but somehow
accepts them in their Borderline, way beyond when it makes logical
sense to stick around. So we're talking about two wounded individuals,
who cannot accept themselves fully, or be healthy and whole. This
generally triggers a lot of self-protection and posturing to avoid
abandonment; "if I'm not at ease with
all my parts, how could You be?"
and frantic efforts to avoid rejection are engaged in by
Borderline averts abandonment with his/her perfectly orchestrated
seductions in the hope they can make you forget how dreadfully they
treated you during their latest distancing episode. You on the other
hand, are hyper-fixated on pleasing, loving and giving, to avoid
being dropped on your head as often. It never seems to work incidentally--but
you'll keep wanting it to, despite poor
outcomes--which is kinda like continuing to believe in the Tooth
Fairy, when no money materializes under your pillow for that incisor
you lost as a kid.
is the term I've coined to describe a specific behavioral
pattern which is typical in your dynamic with a Borderline. As with
film, an editor splices out unnecessary scenes from a movie reel,
and then re-attaches the ends of the celluloid to create seamless
continuity. The phenomenon of splicing allows a BPD partner to return
after highly volatile or disturbing/disruptive ruptures in your
relationship, and act as if nothing troubling has previously happened.
In short, they pick up where they left-off prior to this upset,
and you wrestle with whether to confront their bad behavior or avoid
rocking the boat, 'cause everything's nice and sunny again (until
the next monsoon hits)!
problem with this pattern is, the Borderline is never held accountable
for their destructive behavior. Without any accountability or boundary
and limit setting, a child's bad behavior continues to repeat indefinitely--and
so does the Borderline's, because there's no tangible change or
Borderlines and non-Borderlines are proficient at 'splicing,' to
edit-out any negative episodes that have occurred with
their lover, so connection can be retained. For the Borderline,
this is automatic, given they're incapable of sustaining all
types of emotions, for any reasonable duration. You
do it, to remain close to someone you've sensed is destroying you--and
Denial is the bus you throw yourself under, each time you betray
your true feelings.
your partner cheats on you, you'll somehow accommodate and overlook
it, no matter how wounding their behavior is to your self-esteem.
People with even a modicum of self-worth will not tolerate such
abuses nor stay involved with anyone who treats them that way. Your
desire to "forgive and forget" is this 'splicing' reflex
you learned in childhood, when you tried to overcome a parent's
criticism or callous disregard for your feelings and needs, so that
you could stay attached until you were old enough to leave home.
one's head in the sand only works for ostriches. For us humans,
it's called Denial, which can ultimately prove deadly.
Borderline projects their (disowned) negative features onto you.
You are basically the mirror or movie screen, upon which they can
visualize their own unsavory traits. They may even accuse you
of being a Borderline (which is as outrageous as it sounds). Borderlines
are too broken/fractured to claim any less than perfect
characteristics, as the core
shame that's catalyzed, drives feelings of unlovability--and
(consequently) deep despair. These feelings are childhood remnants
from parental neglect and/or abuse, and You can't
repair that for them!
is not exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Nons have this
trait too, when they want to assign their normal/positive facets
to a domineering, cruel BPD partner whom they think really
loves them! Inability/unwillingness to acknowledge and accommodate
their own darkness, derails their capacity to view it in
others! Like Pollyanna, they see the world through rose-colored
glasses, and presume that everybody else is as trustworthy, integrous
and "basically good" as they--but humans are not
all constructed with the same cookie-cutter. To presume they are,
is ignorance--or at best, naivete.
read a magazine interview (in Vanity Fair, September/2011) with
Jennifer Lopez, who demands that her hotel suites be draped with
white sheets, and only allows white flowers and furniture to occupy
all her environments. Aside from any implications of sterility and
lack of color/passion (particularly for a Latin
girl), I view these rigid requirements as fetishistic. This odd
proclivity might also be indicative of someone who fears that she'll
become invisible, if she's not the only blotch of pigment
on an otherwise, blank canvas.
soon to be divorced husband, Marc Anthony is quoted to have said;
"She beats the shit out of me all the time," in response
to being queried about what J-Lo's brought to his life--but instantly
tried to quantify that statement of course, with how she's "driven
him" to succeed professionally. There's no excuse for
abuse, no matter how well-intentioned--but that is not
what we learned about "Love" during childhood, from our
of my clients generously brought this issue to my awareness, as
OCPD perfectly describes his experiences while married to a Borderline.
Like many other diagnoses that (in my view) rest under the BPD umbrella,
this subtype is well worth mentioning.
Personality Disorder is characterized by the following traits: indecisiveness,
emotional rigidity, strict moral standards, depressed mood, need
for extreme order, perfectionism, truth hoarding; "my own truth
is the only truth," isolation, and highly
conflictual relationships. If you wish to peruse a good article
on this topic by Dr. Steven Phillipson, click here.
worked with Borderlines who've adopted a ridiculously pristine self-view,
to compensate for inner loathing. The more religious or 'spiritual'
ones often repeat mantras that entail being "a child of God"
(who loves them), yet they can never manage to believe they're lovable!
Given that the Borderline won't accommodate the darker or imperfect
parts of their own nature, how can You catch a break, if
you disappoint them just one little bit?
matters not, how brilliant, talented or beautiful your Borderline
might be. No amount of reinforcement or affirmation from you or
anyone else for that matter, will alter how they regard themselves.
All their insecurities and self-loathing are projected onto their
veneer when they look in the mirror, and a tiny blemish becomes
a catastrophe! They might tenaciously attack it, until they cause
substantial damage to adjacent tissues and create a much more unsightly
flaw--but at least they were in-control
of that destruction.
similar reflex drives the Borderline to pick fights with
you, especially after an intensely loving, close/harmonious episode.
When their attachment fears flare up, abandonment terror is right
around the corner--so they have to destroy any closeness with you,
before you have a remote opportunity to do it to them! This has
nothing whatsoever to do with You. They'll act-out their anxiety
surrounding attachment, with all their suitors/partners.
the Non-Borderline, projection
becomes an especially sticky wicket, when he or she assigns their
own discarded facets to the ex-BPD partner or lover. The People
Pleaser/rescuer has detached/dissociated from vulnerable/fragile
facets and feelings, which are automatically displaced onto
the Borderline. I can't count how many men and women I've worked
with, who can feel sorry for their Borderline (no matter
how mean, pernicious or crazy-making they've been), but they can't
muster any compassion for themselves!
emotions are not allowed to exist within the Non's personality,
they're foisted onto the BPD lover. If we won't
feel sorry for ourselves, we'll project it onto somebody
else. Thus, debilitating guilt prevents us from responding
to our intrinsic needs, if we believe our Borderline might have
a bad reaction or feeling about it--and time and time again, we're
walking on eggshells, and betraying our own feelings, needs and
do not relate to pain in the same way non's do.
If they did, they could not persistently treat their lovers with
such careless, cruel abandon. A lack of empathy
(due to developmental arrest) is central to this issue.
fact that Borderlines tend to remain far longer with abusive, emotionally
unavailable or pre-attached/married lovers is a paradoxical mystery
to many, but why the heck are You still in this
tormenting, painful relationship??
an old saying, that water seeks its own level, and we are in fact,
attracted to people who match our own level of
emotional development. Someone who is truly emotionally available,
doesn't remain involved with somebody who's not. Wishful thinking
can't make another love you or treat you better. The 'perfect love'
you experienced at the start of a relationship with a Borderline
will never be restored, for once you've been seduced the
challenge of The Chase is over, and they lose interest in you (as
a Non, you must ask yourself if this has also been true in your
own dating experiences). The person we choose to love is a mirror
for us. He/she simply echoes how we feel about ourself,
and what we truly believe we deserve.
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
COULD MY BPD LOVER BE RIGHT ABOUT ME??
may phone for assistance, but I
do not offer online/written therapy. Only emails under
150 words are read, due to time constraints. Please
be clear/concise, and expect a straight answer within four to six