Stop Walking on Eggshells

When someone in your life has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder

On Splitting, Anger, and Getting Stuck

Black and white thinking gets you into trouble

Splitting, splitting, splitting. It refers to thinking in terms of black and white, good and bad, awful or wonderful. Everybody does it, although it's a hallmark of people with borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. Even therapists and others professionals do it, although they  should know better.

Here are some examples of splitting from myself and the book "The One Way Relationship Workbook" by Lavender and Cavaiola:

  • The person with the disorder either loves or hates you; there is no middle ground.
  • He has a long list of people he now despises, and tells you involved tales about how terrible his ex-partners were and how he was victimized.
  • At the start of your relationship she idealized you; now you're what the dog brought in.
  • The relationship has high highs and low lows
  • She says truly hateful things when she's mad.
  • Your therapist always assumes one gender is at fault and the other is a victim of the other gender (either a man or woman)

The BPD world itself contains a lot of splitting: 

  • People assume all people with BPD are either low-functioning, suicidal BPs or high-functioning persuasive blamers (high conflict personalities). Some therapists I know have never encountered a person with BPD who thinks their problems are everyone else's fault. Some family members have no idea that there is a large population that is desperate for treatment. In this movement, we must come to understand that different subgroups exist.
  • Some people think all family members have the same needs. In truth, partners, adult children, parents, siblings, coworkers, and others all have different issues and bring different things to the relationship. When professionals do seminars for "family members," each audience should be targeted and addressed, or there should be separate seminars for different types of relationships.
  • Some people online--bloggers, web owners, people on online family groups and others have a very narrow view of problems and solutions. Some are very "staying" or "leaving" oriented, assuming people with BPD (and family members and their issues) are all the same. Some have been victimized-or feel so victimized--that they absolve family members of any responsibility and paint high conflict personalities and vipers, devils, and vampires out to seek blood.  

Some of the most angry people out there are those who never chose the relationship (such as second wives and adult children). Their concerns are valid and real, and they shouldn't feel invalidated. However, as they say, some of my best friends truly are people with BPD who work very hard in recovery (see the two categories above) and are no monsters.They take the stigma against BPD very personally. I see them hurt, and it bothers me terribly. 

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

We all tend to view things based on our personal experience. If you're a therapist who specializes in sexual abuse, you will probably believe that all BPs have been abused. If you're a man and had a terrible experience with a high conflict woman and the court system, you might decide that all women are shrews and marriage is the same as enslavement. (Actual advice I saw online: "try to see women as disgusting as you would homosexual men.") 

Human nature takes us into some pretty predictable areas. It takes work to see that people are individuals, that our experience may not mirror everyone else's, and that in chosen relationships we usually bear some responsibility for the way the relationship turned out, even if it's only sticking around so long that by the time we wake up to the abuse we never get out of the victimization phase. It's healthy to be angry-for awhile. But getting stuck there doesn't hurt the other person--it only hurts you. 

We need to feel in control of our lives to be happy--this has been shown in studies again and again. Elders in nursing homes do better when they choose which activities they want to do, when, and for how long. Take control of your life and open your heart to the good in people again. Just be more choosy in whom you place your trust. Learn from the experience, find a great support system, seek therapy, and find someone who deserves you.

 

PSYCHOLOGY TODAY COMMENTS POLICY: These are my opinions. Yours may differ. "[Blog posts or comments may not] violate or infringe in any way upon the rights of others; be unlawful, threatening, abusive, defamatory, or invade privacy or publicity rights; be vulgar, obscene, profane or otherwise objectionable; encourage conduct that would constitute a criminal offense that might give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any law; or contain advertising or any solicitation for products or services."

I am required to delete any comments that violate that policy.

Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.

more...

Subscribe to Stop Walking on Eggshells

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?