Understanding borderline behavior
It is not easy understanding borderline behavior. Those with with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can appear loving or caring and then cut off for no apparent reason. They can react to perceived situations of abandonment. Often they can read into things that are not even there. They can become triggered to feeling unwanted, mistreated or abandoned. This is because they experienced invalidating childhood environments, which distorts the way they see themselves and others.
How to understand borderline behavior
How to understand borderline behaviour. Individuals with BPD often see themselves and others as split, as either all good or all bad. They see others as good (loving, supportive, caring) or bad (uncaring, rejecting or mean). These split positions get in the way of seeing themselves or others accurately. When others are seen to be good, they feel wanted or loved. When others are seen to be bad, they feel abandoned and unloved. They can feel loved (good) and ignore signs of abuse (bad). Splitting prevents them from seeing the good and bad, within themselves or others, at the same time. Therapy helps the person with a borderline personality to see both sides of the coin, so they can see themselves and others more clearly and make the healthier choices.
Just like a child that protests for love, the person with a borderline personality often does the same in relationships. They can be seen to be hostile when they feel abandoned, often pushing away loved ones, who do not understand them. Feeling abandoned when their partner has space away from the relationship, they can test their partners love, to see if they’ll abandon them. Sometimes they will make threats to leave, to see if their partner will put more effort into the relationship. Yet, these behaviours can cause others to feel controlled in the relationship. Those with borderline behavior are not always aware of what triggers them and often believe that others are abandoning them, which may not be true at all. As a result, loved ones can feel pushed away and often end up abandoning them. This propels the person who is borderline to cling to the partner to avoid abandonment.
Essentially they lack a sense of object constancy – knowing that the person will still be there, when there is distance or space in the relationship.
In relationship counselling, those with BPD can get triggered to feel bad when they perceive others are mistreating them or abandoning them, when this may not be the situation. They can see others as uncaring or mean. It is not easy to know what feelings are within them or caused from others. Their partner can feel blamed for how they feel. The borderline person who reacts to their feelings can misjudge situations based on their past childhood experiences, which can distort how they see others and feel about themselves.
It helps when others understand their fear of abandonment and how they may interpret things, and not take their actions personally but see it as a way to defend against their feelings. It is confusing for others when they feel loved and then hated or cut off, by the person with borderline personality.
Many with borderline personality are unaware of what triggers them, so they often believe their feelings are caused by others, not originating in their past. It can be useful for a person who is borderline to know what triggers them, so they can check out their feelings rather than react to get rid of them. Many turn their anger inwards and become destructive towards themselves, without processing the underlying anger in anger management counselling.
Understanding borderline fear of Abandonment
The child who became borderline often tested the parent by pushing the boundaries. The child needed a parent who could be available and strong enough to set limits on them, while respond to their distress. The parent often avoided their own feelings of abandonment and not wanting to upset their child, by giving into them, so the child did not always have limits on their behavior. As a result the child keeps acting out, causing the parent to feel overwhelmed or over react to their behavior, being perceived as angry, attacking or mean. When the child withdrew from the parent, the parent often felt abandoned and withdrew from the child by not being maternally available, at times when the child needed them for refueling their self. So, the child felt abandoned at efforts to explore or when they needed the parent.
The child who was borderline felt rejected at attempts to separate or self activate. In order to avoid separation, they learned to focus on the parent. The child activated their attachment system by giving up their self to focus on the parent.
Relationships with those with borderline personality
Providing relationship counselling, many with borderline personality disorder seem to repeat the parental dynamic. They replay the pattern of giving up their self to please others, to feel loved and not abandoned. So, they do not understand why others do not love them back, when they give up themselves to please them. They often feel abandoned when they accommodate the needs of others, when others do not put the same effort into the relationship. They can feel rejected when others do not put the same effort into the relationship. They can often feel rejected when others live their own separate life, do their own things, away from them.
Often, the individual who is borderline ignores issues within a relationship, by avoiding to express themselves, so that they avoid abandonment. They are often passive to address issues and often comply, and then become angry when their needs have not been met.
They often end up taking on-board on other peoples problems, rather than taking control of their own life. They usually put the relationships ahead of themselves, by losing sight of themselves and then they become upset at others for it. They inevitably give up their self for others, and can blame the relationship. It can be someone’s else’s fault for the problems they incur, by not trusting themselves to make their own decisions and letting others guide them. They simply believe that others know better and seek direction from others, which keeps them helpless. However, they negate how they really feel and push their thoughts down ( real self) by not having a stronger enough conviction in themselves to act according to their real self. Instead they comply to what others want, often feeling controlled in relationships, when their needs do not get met.
They will often be the empathic listener or people pleaser who sacrifices themselves to avoid abandonment. They can give up everything for love and then resent the relationship when they lost everything or lost themselves. They didn’t have support to develop capacities within themselves to take control of their own life.
They can repeat the behavior of putting up with abusive treatment in order to find love. Attracting abusive relationships actually causes them to feel worse about themselves and destroys themselves further.
The person who has borderline personality often avoids focusing on themselves with focusing on others, so they feel good. They do not always have the confidence and can find partners with narcissistic personality disorder who love bomb them so they feel loved. Not always taking care of themselves, by putting up with mistreatment, causes others to rescue them.
Often those who are borderline can get into all kinds of self destructive behaviours and cause worry for many loved ones, who can feel overwhelmed with concern, so they want to intervene. When loved ones end up taking responsibility for them, it enables their dependency and prevents them from taking control of their own lives. Significant others can end up feeling exhausted, by giving a lot of support to the person who has borderline personality. As a result, many end up abandoning them and give up on them on them.
The person who is borderline can feel patronized by people telling them what to do. It does not facilitate them to understand themselves. Often the person who is borderline felt abandoned being themselves or activating themselves, and subsequently need others to believe in them, not ridicule or abandon them when they initiate themselves to improve their life.
Nancy Carbone is a Counselling in Melbourne who specialises in personality disorders from the Psychoanalytic International Masterson Institute in New York. You can visit her at http://www.counsellingservicemelbourne.com.au/, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, http://www.counsellinginperth.com.au/ .
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