Crazymaking Relationships and Borderline Personality Disorder

By Carla Black, MFT

Have you ever had a conversation with a relative or friend where you were questioning your own sanity? If you have, you might have been dealing with a person who either has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or at the minimum , has some characteristics of the disorder.

Men and women with this disorder have unstable relationships, their mood swings appear to come out of left field and you are left wondering what happened. One moment you can be having a wonderful and loving time, and the next moment, they are raging, or making wild accusations.

Men and women with BPD see things in very black and white terms. In their minds, someone is either all good or all bad. This stems from not being able to integrate both positive and negative characteristics in a parent when they were very young.

You may have noticed that in some relationships you were idealized by someone, only to be degraded in what seemed like the next moment. This is incredibly crazymaking for someone who is on the receiving end of this behavior.

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Additionally, people with Borderline Personality Disorder do what is called Projection. They can’t handle negative feelings about themselves. Therefore, they project them onto someone else. I literally knew someone who would accuse me of being angry when I was in a really good mood. Of course, this was really crazymaking for me. I later came to realize that he was projecting his feelings of anger onto me, because they were too difficult for him to handle.

There is a perpetual state of emptiness in the psyche of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. A colleague of mine described it by saying, “It’s as though they’re made of chicken wire and everything just falls through.” You can discuss issues with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder , and if you catch him/her on a good day, he/she can seem to take your thoughts, relationship issues, etc. in. You’re excited because you feel you finally got through to him or her. Hooray! You finally made headway! Sadly, it doesn’t stick, and it’s as though you never had the discussion in the first place.

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People with this disorder are impulsive, paranoid, and often suicidal. Because they feel so empty inside, they are the people who often self-mutilate in order to feel, to release their tension . They are often narcissistic and lack boundaries . They can be incredibly unthinking and cruel , but if you commit the smallest of slights against them, they are deeply, deeply wounded . One doesn’t expect this kind of extreme sensitivity from someone who has no trouble saying extremely hurtful things to another person.

At their core BPD people feel unlovable, and they constantly struggle with both feelings of abandonment and engulfment. A title of a book I read summed it up nicely, “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me”. There is always that underlying feeling of ambivalence in the person with BPD. As a result, they always have one foot in and one foot out of the door.  If you are in a relationship with a person who sounds like this, I suggest you end it as soon as possible or get help for them ((if they’re your child) or yourself. Otherwise you will never feel at peace.

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