Splitting, Splicing and Projection in BPD Personalities
By Shari Schreiber,
Borderline personality's desperate need to be regarded as 'perfect'
physically, cerebrally and spiritually is what drives a lot of issues
within this type of individual. At the very heart of a borderline's
acting-out behaviors is core shame--the leftover if you will, from
a childhood fraught with confusing messages, neglect and abuse,
which left them doubting their lovability and true worth from infancy
onward. Any self-acknowledged error makes a Borderline think they're
a "bad person," which is why their defenses are so thick,
and they're unable to accept or own their shortcomings and failings.
features are most readily seen in the Borderline Queen. If you even
hint that she's made a mistake, she's highly offended and indignant.
The BPD Queen has harshly judged and dissociated from all darker
or 'negative' emotions, because she believes them to be unacceptable
and "wrong," so she sure as hell won't make any room for
yours! If she feels reprimanded or criticized, her overt anger may
get submerged, but it'll likely be replaced with an imperious, judgmental
and shaming tone. The Queenly Borderline might not rage like the
BPD Witch~ but you will definitely feel her piercing disdain for
Queen must always occupy the one-up position in all her relationships,
which means she's looking down on you from atop her throned pedestal.
This is extremely common with borderline disordered psychotherapists~
and if you're ever unlucky enough to get involved with one, you
won't be permitted to have your own feelings and needs, unless they're
simultaneously shared by and identical with your Borderline's. Due
to her narcissism, there's only enough space in this relationship
for one personality to exist~ never two.
every Borderline who phones me for help, states: "I've done
a lot of work on myself!" I always smile to
myself, because it's a dead giveaway that I'm hearing from someone
who at the very least, has significant BPD traits and has searched
lifelong for answers and explanations pertaining to their inner
pain and failed relationship attempts.
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 books they
read or support groups they joined, self-loathing remains entrenched
and implacable. Being hard on themselves is a self-defeating, typical
trait. As children they were programmed to feel unlovable and undeserving
of affection or care, so this is how they've learned to regard and
all Borderlines mutilate 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 deeply into a dark,
cavernous hole of despair, it could take days or even weeks before
they can emotionally reconstitutes themselves and start climbing
out of it.
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
involved with a Borderline lover 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 some of his/her 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 very 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, so you assume this chaos is normal.
may have grown up promising yourself that your own partnership or
marriage would never be like theirs--but that was the only 'blueprint'
you had to draw from, so you accepted it as 'normal.' If you had
seen playful, loving interplay between two adults who admired and
respected each other, you would surely be seeking that
relational dynamic for yourself--and you would not be reading this
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~ it's a big part of why Borderlines
spawn children with BPD traits.
a small child perceives frightening traits in the parent,
like anxiety/worry, emotional instability/histrionics, ragefulness
or cruelty, he/she determines never to grow up to be like Mom or
Dad, for fear of becoming that fragile/pathetic creature or scary
monster they saw and accepted as their example of adulthood.
mere threat of this, has partners of Borderlines amputating
important feeling states (like anger) out of their personality,
yet allowing and accepting them in their lovers, just as they did
with their parents while growing up. There is always a
childhood template for attraction to a borderline disordered individual,
and in twenty four years of practice, I've seen no exceptions.
crucial to understand that the partner or friend of a BPD individual
is typically core-damaged in precisely the same ways a Borderline
is. They share the same vibrational frequency. That's what initially
magnitizes them to each other, and keeps them trying to 'get it
right' with each other, against all odds.
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 "negative"
traits--which doesn't leave much room for a balanced or multi-dimensional
persona to unfold.
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
is the term I've coined to describe a specific behavioral
pattern which is typical in your dynamic with a Borderline. As with
film production, an editor's job is to splice out unnecessary scenes
from a movie reel, then re-attach the ends of his 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 just avoid rocking the boat, 'cause everything's
nice and sunny again (until the next monsoon hits)!
explain this further, the 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.
problem with this pattern is, the Borderline is never held accountable
for their hurtful, destructive behavior. Without any accountability
or boundary and limit setting, a child's unsavory behavior continues
to repeat indefinitely--and so does the Borderline's, because there
can be no tangible change or growth.
Borderlines and non-Borderlines are proficient at 'splicing,' to
edit-out any negative episodes that have occurred with
their lover, so that 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, every time you betray
your true feelings. Forgiving is one thing~ forgetting
is quite another.
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 badly. 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 to them until you were old enough to leave
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 unfavorable traits. They may even accuse you
of being a Borderline (which can be 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 cannot
repair this for them!
is not exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Nons have this
trait too, when they feel a need to assign their own 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 capaity to recognize
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 routinely 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
'well-meaning' parental units.
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's need to pick fights
with you, especially after an intensely loving, close and 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 and close friends.
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 cannot
seem to muster any sympathy or 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
allow ourselves to feel and express anger, we'll readily react to
(yet accommodate) it in our lover.
we refuse to feel sympathy for ourselves, we'll project
our disowned sympathetic feelings onto others. Thus, debilitating
guilt prevents us from responding to our own intrinsic
needs, if we believe our Borderline might have a difficult emotions
about our expressing them, and time and time again, we're walking
on eggshells, and betraying ourselves for the sake of another.
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. The Borderline's 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
undersatisfying, tormenting, painful relationship??
an old saying, that water seeks its own level, and we are in fact,
attracted to people who precisely match our own
level of emotional development. Someone who is truly emotionally
available, doesn't remain involved with somebody who is 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 you choose to love is a mirror
for you. He/she simply echoes how you feel about you, and
what you've grown up believing you 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