Nothing is more painful than the borderline's avoidance.
One day you are her world, her biggest love, her greatest infatuation, the center of her life.
No, correct this. You are her life.
One day she can't survive without you, not even for a minute. She is all over you.
And the next, she wants your gun, she hates your guts, she wants to break up, or a divorce, or worse still, she cheats on you. Or she becomes aggressive, violent even.
These cycles of approach and avoidance constitute intermittent reinforcement, hot and cold, and they are definitely abusive.
Clinically speaking, this is an instance of what is known as diaphysis in Adlerian terms or repetition compulsion in Freudian terms.
It's a behavior that is out of control. It is motivated by unconscious dynamic processes.
The etiology has harks back to early childhood.
In short, in human speak, the borderline cannot help it.
But it's corrosive to the body. It's heartbreaking. It's soul-wrenching. It's utterly destructive.
How to cope with this? What to say? What to say to the borderline when she is like that?
When you see the hate in her eyes, you see her defensive body posture as if you are about to beat her or kill her or something.
And before I proceed, I'm using female pronouns for historical reasons.
Today, 50% of all diagnoses of borderline personality disorder are granted to men. It's an equal gender distribution.
Men are as likely to contract borderline personality disorder as women are.
The same with narcissism.
My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and your great and disheveled professor of psychology here to edify you and educate you on the vagaries and vicissitudes and tinting abulations.
Look it up.
Of the borderline condition and everyone that is swept into the borderline's black hole and whirlpool because that's what the borderline is. A vortex.
And so before I proceed into giving you advice as to what to say to the borderline when she's in this kind of state of mind, let me remind you the three phases.
There's a whole video dedicated to this.
When the borderline's intimate partner is enmeshed and immersed in her shared fantasy, when she allocates to him the function of external regulation, his job is to stabilize her dysregulated emotions and her labile moods.
At this stage, the partner is likely to internalize the borderline's inner turmoil. She ends up amplifying it and somehow becoming a part of it. He's swept along into her chaotic inner landscape.
But once the partner gets disenchanted with the borderline, she is likely to mirror image, is newly gained, unperturbed equilibrium by reacting with dysregulation to his perceived indifference and rejection.
In short, when the partner wakes up to reality and realizes that the borderline is approach avoidant, a hopeless case, there's nothing he can do about it.
These are internal processes. There's nothing the borderline can do about it.
Many, many partners become indifferent or less, less amenable to the borderline's charms and whims, more immune and impermeable to her condition.
At this point, the borderline perceives this as abandonment, as rejection, and she reacts with extreme dysregulated emotions.
Finally, the dyad, the couple, settles into a transactional regulatory valley when the borderline re-idealizes her partner within a new halcyon fantasy.
Or some borderlines withdraw into a nostalgic state coupled with desperate attempts to hoover erstwhile partners. Or when the borderline descends into promiscuity, promiscuous world, dervish world of six.
So these are the three reactions when the couple, the borderline, and her intimate partner settle into some kind of regulatory plateau.
The borderline reacts in one of three ways.
She re-idealizes the partner with a new fantasy. She revisits her past with erstwhile partners, exes, and/or she becomes exceedingly, totally uncontrollably promiscuous.
So what to do when you are faced with the borderline's incessant and injurious avoidance?
I suggest to say the following four sentences, and only these sentences.
One, I'm always here for you. I'm a rock. I'm a stable presence. I'm not going away.
This is to assuage her abandonment anxiety.
Sentence number two, you are, and you will always be, dear to me. This is to provide the equivalent of love, holding, we call it a holding environment, a containing environment.
Sentence number three, I do place boundaries. You are right about this.
But I place boundaries not only for my own self-protection. I place boundaries also in order to be strong enough for both of us.
These boundaries keep me alive, keep me functioning for your own sake as well.
Number four, I will accept and respect any decision you make.
You want to walk away, you want to divorce, you want to break up, you want some time to yourself, you want separation. I will accept and respect any decision you make.
Now, these four sentences combined are unlikely to provoke engulfment anxiety in the borderline. They are also likely to reduce or ameliorate and mitigate an abandonment anxiety, the twin anxieties that are the fuel in the borderline's engine.
Say these four sentences repeatedlymorning, afternoon, evening and nighttimeuntil they sink in.
The borderline realizes that you actually minute. You are setting boundaries. You are strong. You are there, but you love her and you are there for her and you will accept and respect any decision she makes.
Remember that the borderline or the borderline personality organization is the outcome of four inexorable, extremely painful internal processes. It's a confluence, the confluence outcome of five pathologies coupled with subclinical psychopathy, factor two psychopathy in many cases.
Let's review these dynamics for you to understand better the borderline's avoidance.
May I remind you that the borderline's avoidance is often coupled with decompensation, the collapse of her defenses and acting outbehaviors which are essentially psychopathic.
When she acts out, you are not in her mind. The partner is not in her mind. She is actually out of her mind when she acts out. She is no longer herself.
A psychopathic self state takes over. She forgets about her partnerout of sight, out of mind, in project, in constancy.
So then she acts out. Acting out could take any shape, any number of behaviors. Most of these behaviors are reckless. Acting out could involve, for example, promiscuity, sex with strangers, total strangers or relative strangers. Acting out could involve shopaholism, depleting the family's finances and resources. It could involve even workaholism. It could involve substance abuse and addictions.
Acting out is simply the way the borderline protects herself, protects herself from overwhelming emotions and moods that are labile and all-consuming.
She becomes a heartless psychopath who doesn't care about her partner because he is no longer in her mind. And so all this, clinical psychopathy and everything else I mentioned, are motivated and driven by five processes.
And these five processes are at the heart of the borderline's avoidance. And you need to understand them if you are to cope with an avoidant borderline.
Number one, introject or object in constancy. As I said, out of sight, out of mind, the inability to maintain introjects of significant others, the inability to maintain internal representations, internal objects, avatars, snapshots of meaningful significant others, the incapacity to trust the permanence of meaningful others in one's life, introject or object in constancy, provoke abandonment, anxiety or separation insecurity in clinical terms.
The second process that motivates avoidant behaviors, transitional or comfort objectifying, the failure to attach or to bond with or to affect, to emotionally invest in other people.
The borderline is actually attachment impaired. She has extreme difficulty to form long- term bonds which are stable, cathartic, emotionally invested in and involve secure attachment because her attachment style is insecure in the extreme.
So there's a failure to bond, to attach, to affect other people, become failed projects.
So the borderline uses other people's bodies, for example, the way small kids use teddy bears or favorite blankets. She uses other people's bodies and other people's presence and other people's minds and other people's love and emotions and cognition. She uses other people as comfort object or transitional objects.
Again, small children cuddle with teddy bears. They carry with them a favorite blanket wherever they go. This is a transitional phase from narcissistic libido, investment in oneself as an object of love to other directed libido, object relations.
And the borderline is stuck in the limbo between narcissistic and other libido.
The third process is identity disturbance. Identity disturbance is fluctuating between mutually exclusive, incompatible beliefs, values, behavior patterns, cognitions and emotions.
In other words, mutually exclusive schema owing to the absence of a core identity. The borderline has no core identity. She's not there. There's nobody there. Exactly like the narcissist. It's a black hole. It's a void. It's an impermanence.
The borderline is the reification of absence, precisely like the narcissist.
That's why many scholars don't make, don't split hairs between narcissism and borderline. They think essentially it's the same condition.
There's a schizo-id core, which is essentially empty.
Consequently, the borderline's identity, who she is, her essence fluctuate wildly. One day she can be faithful and loyal and decry, for example, cheating. It's an unacceptable behavior. And the next day she will cheat. One day she can believe in God. The next day she could be an atheist. One day she could be A. The next day she would be minus A. The exact glaring opposite of what she had claimed to be the day before. And yes, it could fluctuate from day to day. This is known as identity disturbance, and it has a lot to do with the fourth dynamic process, psychodynamic process.
And that is pervasive dissociation. The borderline suffers from bouts of amnesia, derealization and depersonalization. She feels empty and unreal. For example, borderlines feel empty and unreal when they are alone. They have a very low threshold for tolerating loneliness. They also feel unreal. They also feel unautopilote. And they also feel denuded of any inner content when they're having sex, especially acting out sex.
For example, cheating or promiscuity. The borderline then absents herself. It's like she's saying, "I'm observing my body doing this, but it's not me. I'm not there. I'm not inside."
Depersonalization. Or, "This is not real. It's like a dream. It's like a nightmare. It's going to be over soon." Derealization. Or, "I'd better forget that this had happened." Amnesia.
These are the borderline's defenses against her own psychopathic misconduct and misbehavior, especially during the acting out phase.
And finally, and possibly most importantly, the reason for the borderline's avoidant behaviors is the bad object.
The borderline perceives herself to be unworthy, to be deficient somehow, to be sick, to be toxic, dangerous to others, to be unlovable. She perceives herself as a bad object.
These are the voices of the introjects inside her. These are the voices of internalized parents, for example, or teachers or peers.
So she believes herself to be some kind of venomous emanation.
She doesn't want to inflict herself on her loved ones. She avoids her nearest and dearest because she convinces herself that she's bad for them.
She's wrong for them. She's going to hurt them somehow.
That's one dynamic.
But inside the bad object realm, inside this kingdom, because the bad object is all-encompassing, all-pervasive, the bad object is everywhere, in every corner of the borderline psyche.
So it has numerous manifestations. Whenever something happens, anything from a speech act to a sex act, the bad object manifests.
So another way the bad object affects the borderline's avoidant behaviors is that she is coerced by the bad object to punish herself, to degrade and denigrate herself.
Promiscuity, for example, is the punishment and denigration of an internalized bad object, egged on by punitive and sadistic introjects and a harsh inner critic.
The borderline actually tells herself, "I'm a whore and I should sexually trash myself to punish this whore." The whore part is the bad object.
Put together, these five dynamics, these mutually reinforcing processes, result in, on the one hand, compulsive attention-seeking and acquisition, for example, sexual conquest.
And this is to the point of indiscriminate people-pleasing. So one outcome of these four dynamics, five dynamics, when they are combined, is people-pleasing, compulsive charming, compulsive giving, forced altruism, sexual promiscuity, which is a form of giving, attention-seeking, addiction to attention, at any cost. Never mind how ego-dystonic it is, never mind the shame and the regret and the remorse and the guilt afterwards.
The attention trumps, the need for attention trumps anything and everything. So this is one outcome of these five dynamics.
And the other outcome is actually predatory behaviors, psychopathic behaviors involved in acting out at the compensatory stage.
So the borderline may appear sometimes to be nice, kind, generous, loving, compassionate, caring, pleasing, to the point of self-sacrifice. This is also an outcome of these five dynamics.
And then she switches, like in multiple personality disorder, like in dissociative identity disorder, she switches abruptly into a psychopathic self-state where she becomes a predator and dangerous to herself and to others.
Sex is used as a currency with which to purchase a temporary reprieve from this internal inferno.
But sex is only one form of addiction.
Baudelians develop multiple addictions, most notably substance abuse.
Baudelians also develop depression disorders, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.
Because if you have a bad object inside you that keeps informing you that you're corrupt, that you're hopeless, that you're doomed, that you are venomous and toxic to others, that you are poisoned on two legs, if you have such a bad objectthat tells you you're not lovable, you should avoid people, you should not inflict yourself on others. If you have such a bad object that tells you a whore, this creates a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression.
If you keep forgetting things because you dissociate, it's very unsettling. It could create a lot of anxiety if you have identity disorders.
The same. If you treat people as objects and you have a problem with object constancy, you'll be terrified all the time of abandonment. You'll be heartbroken over people disappearing from your life.
You are not able to maintain an inner internal representation of these people in your mind because of interjecting constancy.
This is not a life. This is an improv, an improvisation. It's not a life. It's a modern art, you know, an abstract.
You can read anything into it. The borderline is a constant pursuit of an internal core, an identity, and she never makes it. She always fails.
Everything... I've come across a borderline who compared her thoughts to snowflakes, and she's running around with her tongue out trying to capture the snowflakes.
I thought it was a beautiful metaphor.
And so this is the borderline's condition, state of mind.
Of course, she feels threatened by love. If you offer borderline love and intimacy, you're telling her that her bad object is fallacious and lying.
And she perceives the bad object. She perceives her denigrating, degrading, hateful interjects as an integral part of who she is.
She doesn't realize that these voices are alien to her. She thinks it's her voices.
And so when you confront these voices and say, you know, they're wrong, you're actually a good person, you're a loving person, you are capable of love.
I mean, she feels under attack. She develops dissonance, and she's likely to be subject to engagement, anxiety, and run away from you.
Ironically, the more you try to love the borderline truly and unconditionally and offer her intimacy and be a good and nice partner and so on, the more you're pushing her away.
Definitely, the fewer boundaries you have, the more you're pushing her away.
She cannot give up on the bad object because if you look inside her, she's empty. The only thing there is the bad object. And you're trying to take it away from her.
She will never let you. She will affirm and prove to you that the bad object is right by behaving badly. That's her way of communicating to you.
You were wrong about you. I tricked you. It's all a lie. I'm actually a very bad person. And you are stupid and naive and gullible for having thought otherwise. I'm angry at you because you've misled me for a minute into believing that I may be better than I am.
But I'm looking inward and I'm seeing the bad object. I know the bad object is right because it's the only object I have.