I have often felt like a walking contradiction. Living this way has my mind and heart oscillating between two extreme but opposite realities. This inconsistency of my personality has me questioning my very sense of self; who I am? Who do I want to be?
My inner voice at time cheers me on one day, raises doubts the next. Not knowing what I am going to feel like (who I’m going to be) the next day, has me feeling exhausted, confused and frustrated.
The two extremes in perception and emotion that I experience in the ‘borderline’ part of my personality, is due to an ingrained way of thinking, called splitting.
I aim to explore the contrast of behaviours involved in splitting through relating some of my personal experiences.
Firstly, what is splitting?
Splitting (All Good – All Bad)
(Also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) is a defense mechanism commonly found in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It is the failure of merging together both positive and negative aspects of the self and others into one cohesive, realistic whole.
Splitting, for me, has been based on a fundamentally flawed belief system that includes:
I am not lovable
I am not good enough
People will abandon me/forget me/reject me
Fear of those beliefs above becoming a reality, and the emotional distress following its manifestation, fuels the mechanism of splitting which acts as a means to self preserve/protect one from the emotional pain. The pain threatens my sense of self and the one thing I so desperately need––love. It’s like a symbolic death.
Idealization – Devaluation (Love – Hate or I need you – Get away from me)
I have often thought, “I have so much love to give but no one to give it to”. The deep love that I can experience is a love that hadn’t ever been reciprocated. Feeling quite unloved most of my life, and having a horrible track record of relationships, I searched for love and worked hard to achieve it. I served my need for love as if it were some sort of false god, bowing down to it, and to those who would offer me a small measure of it. The love I strived to gain and the love I yearned to give, was so powerful, and yet, there were times when those positive feelings were replaced by a deeply repelling disgust and hate.
It was bewildering how I could feel so positive (for myself, others, and the world) one day and than despise it all the next? I could overwhelm a person with smothering affection and than experience a complete withdrawn indifference. I placed people on a pedestal one day, only to tear them down the next.
Incompatibility of feelings: I love you so much, you are perfect, I can’t get enough – I could just eat you! or you do nothing right, everything you do irritates me I can’t stand to be in the same room as you – don’t even breath near me!
I had a recent experience I will relate to this phenomenon. I was growing in affection and becoming quite comfortable with someone, so that I texted this individual and said “you are the mother I never had”. Her response took me by surprise and it quickly snapped me into a place of self exploration. She responded:
“Don’t put me too high sweetie, I couldn’t bear the fall”.
Meaning, that if I placed her too high that the fall would be too great to recover from, thereby damaging, or even ending the relationship. It taught me my language might be a warning I was heading into the ‘splitting zone’.
Fear – Rage (from victim to perpetrator)
For a long time, life (childhood) consisted of an endless search to be loved; a chronic state of feeling frightened, powerless and at the mercy of others, lacking control over my own environment. Splitting allowed me to avoid feeling that pain again. Unconsciously, I feared being left again, so I’d get angry first, end it first – be in control. It was completely irrational. but allowed me to go from being a victim to an “ill show you” attitude. I found something else in the anger it brought. Power. Power over the pain of abandonment. Anger was like an addictive drug where I was getting a dose/ hit of power. Fear fueled the rage, and power over pain was the reward (although very fleeting).
Today my fear looks more like over-thinking, over-analyzing, causing me to hold back my inner thoughts and feelings, until my unmet needs become too much to hide, the nagging voice turns into a loud scream and anger spews forth demanding my needs to met – now trying to get accomplished in the wrong ways. Both roles – that of victim and perpetrator, were ways to avoid pain.
Euphoria – Dysphoria (On top of the world- optimistic / Deep grief & despair – pessimistic)
This is where my days collide unexpectedly. One day Having a positive outlook, feeling on top of the world; successful and happy with my life and the direction it is taking. A way of feeling and being, that I can only describe as likened to a type of mania, or hypo mania. Days where I am flooded with ideas, possibilities, blogging content and productivity – to days where I am blank, scattered, defeated and unproductive – lethargic and apathetic, questioning everything in my life; wanting to scrap everything I have.
I can move from days where I have it all together, and find myself able to give a speech in front of hundreds or even a few thousand people, to not being able even to leave my house, cancelling plans and not answering the phone.
Empathy – Apathy (Feeling everything –Feeling nothing/numbness)
I experience feelings on such a grand scale that I can dwell on someone else’s unfortunate experiences as if they were my own and am unable to get them out of my head, being taken captive by their pain. The empathy motivates me to serve and help others, to fix, above and beyond – often to a degree where I can lose sight of myself and my own needs. On the other hand, I have experienced times where no matter how hard I try, trying to force myself to feel, something, I can’t. For example, I remember a time when I, my husband and first born, went to a beautiful tulip festival one sunny day. I couldn’t absorb anything in my environment to make me enjoy what should have been lovely moments. The metaphoric dark cloud above me was so thick that nothing permeated through.
The Emotional Roller Coaster (highs & lows – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t)
For someone who frequently operates in these extremes, it feels like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster. A ride that, which at first may seem fun and exciting, turns highs into lows and starts to take its toll, leaving one feeling dizzy, wanting to get off the ride – to end the relationship.
Whatever the cause of my borderline Splitting:
negative belief about the self/others
The inconsistency may very well be stemming from any one or all of these. More often than not they all cohabit together and feed off one another.
A skill worthy to be learned is to be able to identify the answer to these questions:
Is this a splitting thought? Or, is this legitimate?
Awareness of the clues that you’re having “splitting type” thoughts and feelings, may not make them go away, but can help you to not be overtaken by them – thinking they’re factual and reacting to them. It can prevent you from getting on the rollercoaster.
Keep healing, keep growing, keep finding your truth