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: