BORDERLINE PERFECT
Splitting, Splicing and Projection in BPD Personalities

By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
www.GettinBetter.com

 

The 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.

Simple, trivial 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 with borderline pathology.

Being 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.

You 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.)

You 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.

Kids 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.

If 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 a 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 disordered individual.

SPLITTING

Black 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.

We're 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 to unfold.

Our 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, panic disorder, rageful outbursts, passive-aggression, obesity, cancer and a litany of other health concerns. In short, suppression of feelings can be deadly to our Self and others.

The 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 both partners.

The Borderline averts rejection 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.

SPLICING

This 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)!

The 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 can be no tangible change or growth.

Both 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.

If 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).

Sticking one's head in the sand only works for ostriches. For us humans, it's called Denial, which can ultimately prove deadly.

PROJECTION

The 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!

Projection is not exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Nons have this 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.

I'd 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.

Her 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 'well-meaning' parents.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE PERSONALITY DISORDER

One 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.

Obsessive-Compulsive 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.

I've 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?

It 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.

A 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.

For 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!

When 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 senses.

Borderlines 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.

The 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??

There's 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.

 

If 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


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