I Hate You, Don't Leave Me

Inside the mind of a borderline.

BPD: Borderline Political Discourse

Borderline Politics Has a Borderline Personaltiy!

With the acceleration of political ads, we are entering the hurricane season of electioneering.  As candidates gnaw and devour their opponents in these “Hunger Games” of competition, we may wonder at the vitriol deposited on opposing candidates. Many studies demonstrate that most people abhor negative campaign ads, yet other investigations confirm that demonizing the opponent is very effective at the polls.

This practice of presenting extreme black-or-white choices is emblematic of patterns observed in individuals who display symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (the other BPD). The lack of gray-zone nuance makes choices much easier. In the world of the borderline, others are experienced as all-good or all-bad. Likewise, political opponents, though often similar in ideals, portray adversaries in the harshest light. For the borderline, if a loved figure displays an inconsistent flaw, he may be relegated to the depths of abhorrence. Similarly, politicians who change their position on an issue (not unreasonable in the face of changing socio-economic dynamics) are vilified as inconsistent “flip-floppers.”

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Opinions and decisions are so much simpler in a black-or-white world. Unadorned with fussy, gray ambiguity, the world is maneuvered more easily. Perhaps this striving for simplicity is a remnant of childhood, when simple good vs evil fairy tales informed development. Don’t confuse the child (or constituent, or individual plagued with borderline symptoms) with inconsistency. The evil queen is just plain bad. And Snow White is pure as, well, the driven snow. We don’t wish to hear that perhaps the evil queen’s dyspepsia understandably derives from an unloving, abusive childhood. And don’t you go on questioning about any hanky-panky with Snow living with the seven short guys.

The political season is now rife with borderline posturing, enveloping the landscape in preposterous choices of the ideal against evil. These candidate ads appeal to the child and the primitive in all of us. I am Jesus Christ and I approved this message!

Jerold Kreisman, M.D., is a psychiatrist and best-selling author of numerous books.

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