The DSM IV criteria states that a pattern of unstable relationships is a feature of BPD. This is the criteria that can be portrayed especially cruelly in films as it is the element whereby one can appear to veer from idolising stalker like to dangerous bunny boiler (Fatal Attraction anyone?). But, the reality of this criteria is that fears of abandonment (Criteria 1) have a huge role to play in the ‘switch’ from idolization to demonization.
It is also the case that this problem is not limited to intimate relationships, it can occur in all levels of friendship and relationships, from lovers to family members, friends and colleagues. As with all BPD criteria it can be pervasive throughout all areas of your life – such that ANY and all relationships can be fraught with difficulties and patterns of intense closeness to damaging distance.
I guess this is also where the difficulties with the ‘one-night stand who becomes obsessed with you’ situations can arise (ohh boy have I been there – sorry guys!). The thing is having BPD and all these issues related to it can mean that the attention given in that ‘one’ night may lead to the unsuspecting guy (or gal) becoming the unwitting receiver of the ‘idol’ crown. The person with BPD idolizes this individual and becomes intimately attached to some fantasy ideal. The recipient of these unwarranted feelings may then be subjected to constant pestering by text, email etcetera for a ‘repeat performance’ or a ‘relationship’ as the person with BPD is unable to stop themselves – mistaking lust and pleasant attention for something more, love?
Having been there, done that I can say it is horrible to feel so drawn to someone in this way. Moments of clarity and reality tell you clearly that this was a ‘one-off’ thing and while it may have been awesome that doesn’t mean anything more will occur, heck you may not even ‘want’ anything more yourself but you just can’t resist. You sit and dream, fantasize, idolize and an urge, compulsion to let your feelings and desire to see this person again take over, so you message them, return to places you know they will be in the hope of seeing them again and maybe, just maybe re-enacting that previous encounter. You realise and know that your behaviour is wrong, stalker like and may be scary and off putting for this other person, but still you can’t resist – it’s like an addiction. Worse, this can occur whilst you (the BP) are actually in another relationship yourself and your partner may have no idea anything is going on! Why? because you are most likely in a impulsive, manic phase; you may also be in a phase where you have devalued your current relationship – for real or perceived failings on the part of your ‘non-the-wiser’ partner. You may have switched – a frantic effort to avoid abandonment that may actually lead to forcing the end of a relationship, due to you cheating on your partner.
Just as quickly as you can fall for and idealize another person you can switch to devaluing and demonizing that same person. Feeling that they do not care enough, that they have ‘wronged’ you. They do not ‘give’ enough, are not ‘there’ enough. But most of all – fearing that they will inevitably abandon you (because EVERYONE eventually does – so you believe if you have BPD).
Sometimes these feelings of devaluation of the non-BP can be justified, some partners are not attentive they do not attach the same value to closeness and intimacy that a BP does, that a BP showers upon them the only expectation being that the get the same in return. Some partners will cheat themselves, some partners will be violent, abusive or any number of ‘justified’ reasons for the BP to end up feeling that this person is no longer deserving of the ‘worship’ they once held. More often though the devaluation will not be justified, but instead based on perceived and imagined failings on the part of the non-BP – you know; for example having their ‘own-life’ and friends who they want to spend time with, a job to go to, family to visit. But to the BP all these things that mean not spending time with ‘you’ are demonstrations that you are not loved enough, that you will be abandoned and so on – until all of a sudden the person you loved and valued so highly is the devil incarnate who can do no right; and you have no qualms in telling the whole world how dreadful this person is to you – you don’t lie, but you do portray your non-BP as being a very unkind, uncaring person who has (possibly) in some-way entrapped you in a situation you cannot escape from.
In psychological terms this switch is known as ‘splitting’. The BP looks to others to supply that which they cannot achieve for themselves – identity, value, purpose, a life worth living, self-esteem and approval. When a person is felt to be fulfilling these needs they are held in high regard, valued, idealized; but as described above, if or when it is felt by the BP that the other is no-longer meeting these needs the person is devalued and demonized. The BP can drive away the very thing they want the most (intimacy and closeness) by the things the do to try and get it – ironic :/
Splitting is one of the elements of black and white thinking that lead to the persistent fears and panic that people with BPD have to live with 24 hours a day. For non-BP’s such feelings can be reduced or escaped from by every day actions such as going for a walk or reading a book, however,there are no distractions that work for the BP. Black and white thinking and splitting mean there are no grey areas in life for a person with BPD. Everything is all or nothing.
The typical example of this has been given to the the title of a book ‘I hate you don’t leave me’
There is only ever one solution to any problem, and never any turning back. For me this can be seen in how when I have been wronged or have ended a relationship or friendship I close the door on it and never go back. Some people are able to be friends again with someone who upset them, a temporary glitch, friends fall out, not me – I don’t fall out with people, if it’s over it’s over, it is as though they never existed, were never part of my life; and they certainly never will be again…
A person is either all good or all bad – such is splitting. It is a child-like way of seeing the world.
Can you imagine how difficult it is for the BP, to be an adult and all that goes with that role yet to suffer this childish, immature way of viewing the world at the same time?
No wonder, we spend so much time berating ourselves!
Splitting is like not having a short-term memory. Your interactions with others are based on your last encounter with them – such that if this was negative, that person is bad, if it was positive this person is good – there is no in between and you cannot reconcile the inconsistencies and ambiguities of human nature is get a consistent coherent whole. People are either friends or enemies, lovers or platonic relations, acquaintances or strangers.
And when (as is often inevitable due to such overbearing behaviour) the BP succeeds in pushing a person away, they are then doomed to repeat the pattern all over again 🙁
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- The Buddha and the Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, and Online Dating ( )
- Paranoia, Delusions and Dissociation in Borderline Personality Disorder(showard76. )
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- Abandonment and the Borderline Personality (showard76. )
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- Reinventing self… The BPD unstable sense of self and identity rears its ugly head again(showard76. )
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