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Personality

Borderline Personality in New Film "Flower"

A new film showcases a character consistent with Borderline Personality.

A new film by director Max Winkler, Flower, is an intensely emotional and unique film. This film is unlike the vast majority of its counterparts in multiplexes in that it involves a deep analysis of personality. At times, the film elicits moments of strict discomfort in the audience. Specifically, the situations that incite discomfort revolve exclusively around close interpersonal relationships. Anyone who enjoys deep character development will feast on the character depiction of the main character, 17-year-old Erica.

Film plot and analysis aside (because film reviewers sufficiently address those elements), what struck me as a clinical psychologist is the way the film depicted a character who has a personality, in real life, that clinicians would diagnose as Borderline Personality Disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Not surprisingly, the lead actress, Zoey Deutch, has shared in interviews that she researched the disorder as it was her belief that the character suffered from it.

This particular personality disorder, like most other mental disorders, exists on a spectrum. (An individual may have some of the characteristics or they may have the full-blown disorder.) Borderline personality reflects a very complex type of personality (more common in women, but still found in men) that includes the following central components: fear of abandonment, experiencing extremely intense emotions, and often behaviors that are self-destructive (ranging from substance abuse problems to promiscuous sex to self-mutilation). Many therapists believe that borderline personality is stigmatized and that people conceptualize these individuals as inherently pathological or beyond the reach of help or treatment, but the disorder can be treated effectively by Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), among other interventions.

If you suffer from borderline personality or if you know someone who may be diagnosed with this disorder, seeing this film can be helpful. One aspect I appreciated: Despite the existing stigma surrounding this complex personality orientation, the film helps the audience see the real person underneath the disorder. The audience sees the clear strengths that come with this personality: the ability to feel different emotions and to identify them quickly in others, as well as a having the human drive for attachments and connections. When you see the main character, you understand that this is an individual who struggles but has good intentions, and the film showcases a relationship with the mother that helps to explain how the borderline character's boundaries and beliefs became so distorted. In other words, borderline personality is likely co-created by the individual and the parent or central authority figure, and the disorder should not be "blamed" on the borderline individual. When framed in this light, the film allows for empathy for the borderline individual which is desperately needed in truly understanding such a complex personality.

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