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What is splitting and why do people with BPD do it?

December 8th

What is splitting and why do people with BPD do it?

 

One of the most common aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder is something called splitting. Splitting occurs when a person is unable to thoughts and/or feeling that are in opposition with each other. They are unable to see the positive AND negative aspects of another person and/or event. Most people with BPD do it in order to keep their feelings of being hurt and/or rejected at bay. Splitting is one of the characteristic nine symptoms which define Borderline Personality Disorder as outlined by the DSM-5. Most people with Borderline Personality Disorder engage in this behaviour because they tend to think in black and white terms and are unable to see the grey that exists in the world. People with BPD have difficulty seeing and appreciating that people are flawed individuals and are just trying to do their best. For them, the world is either all or nothing. People with BPD who are also depressed also tend to engage in black and white thinking because, for them, there is no escape from their pain.

Splitting ultimately leads to serious interpersonal difficulties because the person who loves a person with BPD usually feels confused and frustrated about not being seen with a spirit of understanding or forgiveness. Splitting is also one of the primary causes of workplace disruption as well.

Examples are when someone is fighting with their partner and they say, “You always leave the toilet seat up!” This is a good example because no person will always perform the same behaviour. This is classic black and white thinking.

Another example would be a young woman who falls in love with a guy she can only describe as 100%  perfect match. Again, this is a classic example of splitting because we all know that there is no such thing as a perfect person. Everyone has faults and being able to see both the good and the bad is something to which we we should all aspire.

A small list of words which are indicative of splitting is as follows:

  1. Impossible

  2. Terrible

  3. Horrible

  4. Never

  5. Always

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The $64 Million Dollar BPD Question: Who Am I?

If you have BPD chances are you wrestle with this question a lot. Figuring out who you are can be a major hurdle for many people whether they have BPD or not. But for those of us with BPD, this is something that literally quite often stops us right in our tracks. I say all this while knowing full well that a true BPD recovery depends on knowing who you are. In my opinion, people who do not have a good handle on who they are  become people pleasers and drift along aimlessly through life. When I used to think about who I was and try to figure it out I always used to get tripped up by this, would get lost in a circle of existential thinking about such things as “What is my purpose in life?” “Where am I going?” and “What is the role of God play in this mess?”

Because humans are highly social creatures, we tend to care an awful lot about the people around us and what they think about us. Many of us allow these thoughts to completely dictate our actions and feelings. Figuring out who we are is difficult at best.We don’t want to offend anyone or cause them to not like us so it is easier to live in the shadows and not assert ourselves.

Why is it so difficult to see the bigger picture?

The human brain is programmed to see things in certain ways so as to make sense of the world in which we live. This is why people have both physical and emotional  blind spots. If you are seeing something and you’re looking at your blind spot, your brain is programmed to fill in the blanks and put order into that blank space. This happens outside our field of cognition. It happens automatically without us even being aware it is going on. In the same way, the human brain is programmed to perceive patterns even where they do not exist. This causes people to infer certain meanings with regard to completely random events.So, we see patterns in such things as sports statistics even though a football player’s ability to kick a field goal though based on skill is not based in probability. What does this mean? It means, for the in general, most people are incapable seeing the truths about themselves without bias and without making things up about themselves. This kind of thinking is evident when you think about the way people are influenced to purchase certain products over another.Most people are totally ill-prepared to make rational judgements and choose their best behaviour.

When people engage in the activity of trying to figure themselves out, they experience something called the “measurement effect”. In one study, subjects who were asked whether or not they were likely to donate blood in the coming year turned out to be much likelier to donate blood than people who were not asked the same question. This leads one to suspect that the mere suggestion is enough to influence future behaviour. Researchers concluded that people who are embarking on a journey of self-discovery were more likely to experience feelings based on the kinds of questions they asked themselves: Am I a generous person? they might be more apt to donate more money to charity during the course of a year after asking themselves that kind of self-reaching question.

Ergo, just the act of trying to discover who you are will lead you to a deeper understanding of just who you are.

YOUR OWN SELFNESS MAY BE TOO COMPLEX FOR YOUR MIND TO PERCEIVE

Is it possible that humans, like reality, are too complicated to be truly understood by simple human brains? It is simple to make certain declarations about oneself such as “I know I like to eat Tex-Mex food” or “I am afraid of spiders.” But when it comes to the deeper, more fundamental questions about who we are, that’s when things get really dicey and complicated.

SOME TIPS ON HOW TO FINALLY START TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION

For me, it started with me taking an inventory of some very basic things: I am a Chinese woman. Answer number one. I am a Catholic. Answer number two. I believe in x, y and z: answers number three, four and five. I have x number of children. I was born in this place. I love to x and y. Eventually, the picture of who I was began to take shape. The harder answers were much more difficult to come by, though. Why am I here?

It took me a long time to be able to figure that one out. The answer was that I am here because this is where I am. Why am I  here, really though? I guess that for me a person’s purpose in life is what they choose to make it. I don’t believe that any one individual has been imbued with any great cosmic purpose. We all exist in order to bring happiness and joy to others through the sharing of experiences and the sharing of laughter.

AND THE ANSWER TO MY $64,000 BPD QUESTION IS….

I am a 55 year old Catholic Chinese woman who was born in Hong Kong. I love to ski and throw pots on a pottery wheel. I have three children. I believe in everyone’s right to choose their own destiny and shape it as they see fit. I am against capital punishment. I am a vegetarian because I believe killing animals is cruel and unnecessary in order to survive. I believe in global warming and actively work to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible given the confines of my life circumstances. I am apolitical and do not support any political party but believe very strongly in democracy. I enjoy reading and am committed to expanding my education through books. I dislike drinking beer and do not like to go to bars. I prefer to think as creatively as possible and strive to find solutions whenever possible. I am a strong communicator and believe that every problem can be solved with dialogue. I have created a life space for myself that is chaos free and as stress-free as possible and I relish it and am grateful for it every single day.

AND THIS IS WHO I AM. WHO ARE YOU?

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The $64 Million Dollar BPD Question: Who Am I?

If you have BPD chances are you wrestle with this question a lot. Figuring out who you are can be a major hurdle for many people whether they have BPD or not. But for those of us with BPD, this is something that literally quite often stops us right in our tracks. I say all this while knowing full well that a true BPD recovery depends on knowing who you are. In my opinion, people who do not have a good handle on who they are  become people pleasers and drift along aimlessly through life. When I used to think about who I was and try to figure it out I always used to get tripped up by this, would get lost in a circle of existential thinking about such things as “What is my purpose in life?” “Where am I going?” and “What is the role of God play in this mess?”

Because humans are highly social creatures, we tend to care an awful lot about the people around us and what they think about us. Many of us allow these thoughts to completely dictate our actions and feelings. Figuring out who we are is difficult at best.We don’t want to offend anyone or cause them to not like us so it is easier to live in the shadows and not assert ourselves.

Why is it so difficult to see the bigger picture?

The human brain is programmed to see things in certain ways so as to make sense of the world in which we live. This is why people have both physical and emotional  blind spots. If you are seeing something and you’re looking at your blind spot, your brain is programmed to fill in the blanks and put order into that blank space. This happens outside our field of cognition. It happens automatically without us even being aware it is going on. In the same way, the human brain is programmed to perceive patterns even where they do not exist. This causes people to infer certain meanings with regard to completely random events.So, we see patterns in such things as sports statistics even though a football player’s ability to kick a field goal though based on skill is not based in probability. What does this mean? It means, for the in general, most people are incapable seeing the truths about themselves without bias and without making things up about themselves. This kind of thinking is evident when you think about the way people are influenced to purchase certain products over another.Most people are totally ill-prepared to make rational judgements and choose their best behaviour.

When people engage in the activity of trying to figure themselves out, they experience something called the “measurement effect”. In one study, subjects who were asked whether or not they were likely to donate blood in the coming year turned out to be much likelier to donate blood than people who were not asked the same question. This leads one to suspect that the mere suggestion is enough to influence future behaviour. Researchers concluded that people who are embarking on a journey of self-discovery were more likely to experience feelings based on the kinds of questions they asked themselves: Am I a generous person? they might be more apt to donate more money to charity during the course of a year after asking themselves that kind of self-reaching question.

Ergo, just the act of trying to discover who you are will lead you to a deeper understanding of just who you are.

YOUR OWN SELFNESS MAY BE TOO COMPLEX FOR YOUR MIND TO PERCEIVE

Is it possible that humans, like reality, are too complicated to be truly understood by simple human brains? It is simple to make certain declarations about oneself such as “I know I like to eat Tex-Mex food” or “I am afraid of spiders.” But when it comes to the deeper, more fundamental questions about who we are, that’s when things get really dicey and complicated.

SOME TIPS ON HOW TO FINALLY START TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION

For me, it started with me taking an inventory of some very basic things: I am a Chinese woman. Answer number one. I am a Catholic. Answer number two. I believe in x, y and z: answers number three, four and five. I have x number of children. I was born in this place. I love to x and y. Eventually, the picture of who I was began to take shape. The harder answers were much more difficult to come by, though. Why am I here?

It took me a long time to be able to figure that one out. The answer was that I am here because this is where I am. Why am I  here, really though? I guess that for me a person’s purpose in life is what they choose to make it. I don’t believe that any one individual has been imbued with any great cosmic purpose. We all exist in order to bring happiness and joy to others through the sharing of experiences and the sharing of laughter.

AND THE ANSWER TO MY $64,000 BPD QUESTION IS….

I am a 55 year old Catholic Chinese woman who was born in Hong Kong. I love to ski and throw pots on a pottery wheel. I have three children. I believe in everyone’s right to choose their own destiny and shape it as they see fit. I am against capital punishment. I am a vegetarian because I believe killing animals is cruel and unnecessary in order to survive. I believe in global warming and actively work to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible given the confines of my life circumstances. I am apolitical and do not support any political party but believe very strongly in democracy. I enjoy reading and am committed to expanding my education through books. I dislike drinking beer and do not like to go to bars. I prefer to think as creatively as possible and strive to find solutions whenever possible. I am a strong communicator and believe that every problem can be solved with dialogue. I have created a life space for myself that is chaos free and as stress-free as possible and I relish it and am grateful for it every single day.

AND THIS IS WHO I AM. WHO ARE YOU?

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Secondary and tertiary gain and the dysfunctional family

Sometimes people who have BPD endure a process called Secondary gain. Secondary gain is something that motivates a person externally to engage in specific types of behaviour. It is usually resorted to when a person wants to avoid something, i.e. having to go out to a job, or having to do chores around the house. So, for example the person might say they can’t walk and therefore can not get up and out to go and take the bus to get to work, or they have a severe stomach ache and therefore can not do their assigned chores. For people with BPD this can also be referred to as something called a secondary handicap and this can lead to something called learned helplessness.

People who have BPD are made not born. No one is born with Borderline Personality Disorder. They learn the characteristics and take on the characteristics of the illness through learned behaviour. My opinion is that BPD starts to percolate very early on, sometimes as early as the age of two when a child has a tantrum which is not addressed properly by his or her parents. The child learns essentially that kicking their legs and screaming will get their parents to give in. Their parents reward this bad behaviour and set up a lifetime of tantrums which only grow worse over time. Of course, Borderline Personality Disorder is not that simple but I believe its roots are in childhood tantrums.

Though parents may scapegoat their child with Borderline Personality Disorder, this is very much a family problem and a family issue. Even though BPD affects the person profoundly it also needs to be addressed as a family issue with family therapy.

Dysfunctional families operate with very complex rules. Each person in the family has a role or a function. One person might be designated as the “problem” person or the “sick” person, the mother might take on the role of “caretaker”, the father might have the role of “disciplinarian”. If you think of this family unit as a mobile like you might see above a baby’s crib, you will see that they circle round and round each other but never interact directly with each other.

A mother who acts in the role of the “caretaker” might be deriving what is called tertiary gain because she earns the sympathy of friends and other family members for having to look after that poor, sick girl. My husband basked in the warmth of tertiary gain for years because he “took care of poor, sick me”. The people in my community regarded him a Saint George because of how he looked after me. He had a lot invested in that role and so it was in his best interest to make sure that I stayed sick.

Going back to the analogy of the mobile, when the person with BPD starts to get better with therapy and other interventional efforts, it is as if a hand has reached out and given the mobile a tweak. All the other parts start to shake and gyrate as it tries desperately to regain its equilibrium. This settles over time as long as the tweaking stops. This shaking and gyrating in families is what can sometimes lead a person with BPD to abandon their therapy. They have too much invested in their family unit remaining the same because even something negative is worth keeping if it is familiar.

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BPD and Anxiety

I have stated many times that I am not a psychiatrist or medical doctor but I have been thinking a lot about how anxiety affects people with BPD and have come to the conclusion that BPD is deeply connected to anxiety. Why do I say this? Because I think nearly every symptom of BPD is engendered by a person’s anxiety. For example:

Fear of being alone

When you think about being left alone as a child what do you remember? Panic, right? Panic strongly spurs a fight or flight reaction. It floods the body with adrenaline. People who are experiencing an anxiety attack know the symptoms all too well: the hammering heart, the sweaty palms, the inability to focus. For people with BPD, the symptoms go hand-in-hand with fear of abandonment and loss. Feeling stressed out certainly contributes to anxiety attacks. People with BPD are acutely susceptible to feeling stress and it only follows that they are also susceptible to anxiety. I myself suffered from anxiety for many years but it went undiagnosed until about 2000.

Anxiety Attacks

It is thought that as many as half of all people who have Borderline Personality Disorder also suffer from anxiety disorder. These feelings of sheer panic and terror can last anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour. If you have ever suffered a panic attack I don’t have to tell you how awful the feeling of being short of breath, shaking or trembling, the fear of dying and the often tingling feelings and numbness can be.When I had my first anxiety attack I thought I was having a heart attack.

An anxiety attack can happen suddenly and most people are completely caught off guard the first time it happens. There is often little to no warning the first time it happens. If you continue to suffer from anxiety attacks you will eventually learn to recognize the symptoms of the onset of an attack.

The best news about anxiety is that there are ways to address it. For many people practicing mindfulness meditation helps a great deal. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the “founder” of mindfulness meditation has helped many people throughout his career.

In addition to practicing mindfulness meditation some people find low doses of anti-depressant medication helpful.Be wary of taking benzodiazepines, however because they are extremely addictive. If you have BPD, the last thing you need on top of that is an addiction issue. If your psychiatrist prescribes a benzodiazepine, question him about it closely before taking it.

Treatment will depend on severity

Not everyone with BPD who has anxiety needs treatment for it. Some can manage their symptoms through meditation once per day, doing life affirmations and spending time with friends

Anxiety is a disorder, not a symptom

 

Though your anxiety may present itself as a symptom, it is in fact, a disorder. People who have anxiety are able to live complete, happy and healthy lives. The disorder simply needs to be managed, sometimes aggressively but always managed.

For many people struggling with mental health issues, anxiety is a disorder, not a symptom. Anxiety is specifically what needs to be cured, and then the person can live an emotionally healthy life. Though the reason people who have BPD develop anxiety is not very well-understood I see the two as a revolving door. I have anxiety, therefore I do not want you to separate from me. You separating from me causes me anxiety. It becomes self-perpetuating. As well, because BPD is all about shifting moods, that alone can cause great anxiety because the person does not know from one moment to the next how they will feel and how those feelings may or may not manifest themselves.

 

Fighting BPD Anxiety

In my opinion, the person suffering from BPD will never get their condition under control until they begin to address the underlying anxiety issues: what starts the ball rolling, what can I do to self-soothe and comfort myself, how can I learn to recognize it before it happens.

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Practicing Patience When You Have BPD -- a game changer

How many times have you been standing on line in the grocery store waiting for the cashier to just hurry up with the person in front of you already! Why is she going so slowly? Doesn’t she know you are already late? Well, of course not. How could she know?

Practicing Patience is not complicated

Practicing patience means more than just taking a deep breath and counting to ten. It means looking outside of yourself and assessing the situation in a way that does not relate to yourself. It means doing something over and over again until it is right. It means repeating what you just said to your husband a hundred times until he finally hears what you are saying.  Learning to be patient means learning to put your desire for instant gratification on hold while you wait for something you need or want.

Practicing patience with children can be especially difficult and that often requires counting to ten but it can be achieved in other ways as well.

Slow down and remove as many stressors from your life as possible

If you find yourself being generally impatient try removing as many external stressors in your life as possible. Slow down and try not to be ruled by your wristwatch for a day, if possible. Weigh and measure your words carefully before speaking them. This will go a long way toward giving you some time to reflect on your goals and how you want to go about achieving them.

There are many benefits derived from practicing patience. The most important benefit you will probably see right away is the way your blood pressure goes down. You will also see small improvements to your mental health. Studies have shown that patient people experience less depression and who wouldn’t want that?

Being patient benefits others as well

Being a more patient person also benefits those around you. It makes you a better, more understanding friend and allows other people to relax when in your presence because you are more relaxed.

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