How to Heal from Borderline Personality Disorder Splitting
Sunday, April 15 2018 Whitney Easton
Borderline personality disorder splitting (BPD), in its simplest form, is seeing the world through extremes (Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis). It’s a highly polarized way of perceiving the world around us. It’s a rigid way of perceiving things. It means someone always has to be "good" and another has to be "bad." In the video below, I’ll explain what borderline personality disorder splitting looks like for me and within this post, will explain ways I’ve learned not to split and to have a more realistic and balanced view of the world around me.
What Is 'Splitting' in Borderline Personality Disorder?
Recovery from borderline personality disorder reminds me of the movie Pleasantville. If you haven’t seen it, the movie starts out in black and white. But as it progresses, color returns scene by scene, moment by moment and suddenly there’s a whole new world available to the characters. A beautiful color palette returns and they gain a new perspective on these previously black and white scenes. That’s what healing from BPD looks like. Allow me to illustrate.
The Thoughts and Paradigms of Borderline Personality Disorder Splitting
A few examples of statements and behaviors that reflect borderline personality disorder splitting include:
- "I hate you," and "I love you" in the same breath
- You are perfect, therefore I must be evil
- Idealization and rapid devaluation
- Angel vs. devil view of the world
- "Good girl, bad girl" complex
- Quickly shifting from hating another person to hating oneself
In order to heal from borderline personality disorder splitting, we must begin to see alternative explanations and ways of explaining the situations in front of us that do not fall into one of the above paradigms. This is done through consistent and ongoing therapy for borderline, wherein a trusted individual (or group) can help you see the reality of a situation not clouded by the paradigms above. It means beginning to see neither "this" nor "that," but, rather, a middle ground.
I have had therapists call this "reality testing." When situations pop up that trigger black or white thinking and splitting, individuals, like my therapist, can help me understand the situation through a different lens. I'll give some examples below.
Learning to Cope with Black-and-White Thinking
Sometimes when I get into this mode of perception, I’ll write down my distorted thought and rewrite a different way of perceiving the situation. Here are some examples of reimagining these beliefs in a new way.
"I hate you, I love you" can be instead: "I love you and sometimes you really frustrate me. I dislike your behavior right now, it’s hurtful to me. I can be frustrated and dislike what you're doing but still love you." There's room for all of this.
"You are perfect I must be evil" becomes: "No one is perfect. No one is evil. I’m doing my best and so are you. We’re having a disagreement right now and that’s okay. No one is ‘bad’ here. We’re just not seeing eye to eye right now and that’s part of life."
The Angel vs Devil Complex: This is really just a twist on all things, situations, and people as either all good (perfect) or all bad (evil). My therapist always reminds me: “No one is all good or all bad. There’s no such thing. You have good parts and bad parts; you’re a human being.”
Saying these things aloud to another person, writing them down, and pausing to re-examine my thought process allows me to gain a more balanced, nuanced perspective. And I also try to remind myself, just because I still have these thoughts sometimes, doesn't mean I have to act on them.
The greatest challenge for any sufferer of borderline personality disorder is to begin to see the world with shades of gray and a whole beautiful color palette. It’s not that I’m evil. I’m also not perfect. I have strengths, I have shortcomings. These are all a part of me and this is normal. It is also our challenge to see other human beings in this way. It's about holding space for the good and bad parts that exist within all of us.