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Borderline Woman: Partner Devaluation, Self-harm, Alcoholism

Uploaded 3/17/2020, approx. 22 minute read

Good day, everyone. Following my series on the mind of the borderline woman, the psychology of the borderline woman, three parts, may I remind you, recently, and another part on the borderline histrionic voices, you can look them up by using the search box on my YouTube channel.

So these four videos put together generated a storm of questions. And having gone through the questions, I isolated the most frequently asked questions, and they fall into three broad groups.

The first group is about splitting, the second group is about self-destructive behaviors, and the third group is about alcohol and substance abuse.

So let's take them one by one.

Start with splitting.

Many people wrote to educate me that I was wrong. The borderline woman's behavior has to do with idealization and devaluation, not with splitting. Actually, idealization and devaluation is the behavioral manifestation of splitting.

Idealization, devaluation is like the car, and splitting is like the engine.

Splitting is an infantile primitive defense mechanism. It usually operates in children up to the age of two years. And it has to do with a child's inability to integrate the bad aspects of mother. For example, if she's absent, if she's withholding, if she's selfish, if she's narcissistic, and the good aspects of mother, if she is nourishing, if she is nurturing, if she is loving, if she is caring.

The child cannot create a single image of mother, an imago, a single inner representation of mother, which would incorporate both aspects, the good and the bad.

So what the child does, he splits these aspects. There's an all-bad mother and an all-good mother, or as Melanie Klein illustriously called it, the good breast and the bad breast. Sorry for the pornographic allusion.

And so when the child fails to integrate these aspects of mother, what he does, he essentially attributes the bad aspects of mother to himself or to herself. And then mother remains all good. So there's an all-good object, which is mother, and an all-bad object for a while, which is the child.

Gradually as the child matures and grows up, he begins to integrate these features, and he begins to have a more nuanced, more gray area picture of mother. He doesn't anymore divide the world into black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, with me or against me, threatening or promising, evil and good. He begins to see the world as it is, shades of gray, much more than 50.

So this is splitting.

Some people get stuck at this stage of personal development. They don't progress. They are unable to integrate.

And for the rest of their lives, even as adults, they split.

When they come across someone, and especially a significant other, someone they get attached to, someone they bond with, someone they fall in love with or develop emotions towards, when they have such a person in their lives, he takes the place of mother.

And so the borderline woman and the narcissistic man, by the way, narcissists and borderlines, they still maintain the primitive infantile defense mechanism of splitting.

They are unable to see the other as a very complex, multifaceted, multidimensional being or creature.

They tend to idealize the other and then he can do no wrong.

He is perfect. He is brilliant. He is all good. He never makes mistakes, infallible, etc, or they devalue the other.

So idealize or devalue.

And when they devalue the other, it's exactly the opposite. It's a dark figure. All bad. It's a persecutory object. The person can do no right. No good deed goes unpunished.

There's anticipation of hurt and pain, which would emanate from this extremely evil figure.

And so the borderline woman pendulates, fluctuates between these two poles.

If she has a lover or a spouse or an intimate partner, with her own children, even with colleagues at work, one day she would idealize and the next day or sometimes the next minute she devalues.

The transition between idealization and devaluation sometimes has to do with external factors known as triggers. But sometimes has to do with inner processes, for example, mood lability.

So sometimes people around the borderline or the narcissists, they are shocked by the sudden transition. It's very reminiscent of switching between alters, between alternative personalities in dissociative identity disorder, in multiple personality disorder.

And this is the reason many scholars actually think that borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are subspecies. They are variants of multiple personality disorder, of dissociative identity disorder, because the switching between self-states is so abrupt, so unbelievable, and the changing personality and behavior is so marked in some cases, not always, but in some cases in the changing mood and so on, then it's like another person took over, another personality took over.

So idealization and evaluation are actually fueled by splitting

But while the narcissist idealizes and devalues because of lack of narcissistic supply or abundance of narcissistic supply.

So if the narcissist has a source of narcissistic supply, and this source is a reliable, predictable source, and gives the narcissist high quality, high octane narcissistic supply, the narcissist would idealize that source, would idealize that person, person who adulates the narcissist, admires the narcissist, applauds, follows the narcissist everywhere, says that the narcissist can do no wrong, his perfection is the best thing since sliced bread. Well, the narcissist would tend to idealize such person

And then if there's another person, that person is critical, disagrees with the narcissist, or doesn't give the narcissist the narcissistic supply that he seeks, refuses to be coerced or shoehorned into the role of a supply source, insists to maintain an autonomous and independent existence, has her own priorities, needs, preferences, and so on, maintains independent activities, etc. If she refuses to become an extension of the narcissist, then the narcissist would devalue her.

In the case of the borderline, devaluation and idealization do not depend on narcissistic supply, although the borderline does have a false self.

In the case of the borderline, idealization and devaluation has to do with hypervigilance.

As the narcissist scans all the time for narcissistic injuries, when the narcissist sees other people, he scans them. Are they going to insult me? Are they going to humiliate me? Are they going to criticize me? Are they going to disagree with me? Are they going to dislike me? And he anticipates this, and this creates anxiety, and to reduce the anxiety, he engages in narcissistic rage.

So narcissist has hypervigilance, but it's, again, directed at narcissistic supply and the maintenance of grandiosity.

With the borderline, hypervigilance has to do with abandonment and rejection. So the borderline scans other people, and the scanning has to do with, are they going to abandon me, or is he going to abandon me? Is he going to reject me? Doesn't he love me anymore? Doesn't he like me anymore? Is he avoiding my company?

So these are the scanning operations that take place in the borderline's mind, in her brain.

And whenever she anticipates rejection and abandonment, she instantly devalues. And after she devalues, she preemptively abandons and rejects the anticipated source of pain and hurt.

Because there's nothing more painful to the borderline woman than being rejected and abandoned in every which way, by the way, sexually, emotionally, and so on.

Well, I hope I clarified this part.

Now let's talk about self-harm.

I was asked if cutting and self-mutilation, physical cutting and self-mutilation are an ineluctable and integral part of borderline personality disorder, whether all borderlines do it.

Well, the answer is, of course, no. There are many borderlines who do not self-mutilate, do not self-harm, do not cut. And even there are quite a few borderlines who have no suicidal ideation and do not attempt suicide.

So this is only one of a few, nine diagnostic criteria in the DSM Edition 4. These criteria were largely preserved in the DSM 5, although the DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 5, published in 2013, this edition already proposes an alternate model for borderline personality disorder, which we will not discuss right now.

So not all borderlines cut and mutilate, but I would say that all borderlines are self-destructive. And maybe in this way of looking at things, all borderlines do self-harm. There are many ways to self-destruct, and I will mention just three of them, three of dozens, by the way.

Borderlines are very creative and very inventive in engineering situations and placing themselves in predicaments and conundrums, which lead to utter self-annihilation. It's a manifestation of self-hatred, self-punishment, and self-perception as a bad object.

The borderline internalized, introjects internalized voices, which had told her when she was a child, that she's bad, she's unworthy, she's defective, she's dysfunctional, she deserves love only if she performs.

And in this sense, the object relations background of borderlines is pretty similar to the object relations landscape of narcissists. In other words, they both go the same developmental trajectory, through the same path.

Only as Grotstein noted, borderlines are failed narcissists. So borderlines attempt to be narcissists, but they're children, they fail, and so they become borderline. I dealt with it in another video, and I, of course, advise you to see it because it gives me more views and narcissistic supply.

Now, I promised to describe three ways in which the borderline is self-destructive, without cutting, without physical mutilation, without anything.

There are many ways to self-harm.

For example, one way is self-trashing via sex. So the borderline would tend to choose, frankly, scum. And I don't know, junkies, ex-con, convicts, serial killers.

The borderline has a radar for these kind of people. And she would tend to choose scum. And then she would engineer a situation where she's, for example, totally drunk. And then she would give him the sex of his life. She would realize all these fantasies, engage in extremely kinky and even sadomasochistic sex, and very often dangerous and unprotected sex.

That's a way to self-harm. It's self-trashing. It's a way to humiliate herself, to damage her sense of self-worth, to punish herself, because she's very angry at herself.

When the borderline anticipates rejection or abandonment, not to mention when the borderline is really rejected and abandoned, because this does happen, you know.

So when this happens to the borderline, she's very angry at herself. She's furious that she had let herself trust, that she led herself to yet another emotional interpersonal trap of a relationship, because she knows she's a bad and worthy object. She could have anticipated, she could have predicted that she will be abandoned and rejected, because who would want her?

So why put herself in this situation? Why does she keep falling in love with men who reject and abuse and humiliate her? And she's very angry at herself.

And one way to punish herself is via this kind of sex, a sexual, unprotected adventure with, you know, inappropriate partners in very dangerous settings, where she fulfills fantasies which are degrading and humiliating, and very often painful and physically dangerous. It's an example.

Another example is, of course, reckless behavior. I mentioned unprotected sex, but I don't know, the borderline can suddenly go on a shopping spree and burn through her savings, all of the savings, in one evening. Or she can drive a car in a way which would guarantee, drive under the influence of something, a way that would guarantee an accident. Or she can gamble, enter a casino and go, leave the casino with nothing to her name. And numerous reckless behavior, shopping, gambling, this, that.

So this is another way of damaging the self. It's another way of self-harming.

And then there's, of course, what we call reactance. Reactance is much more typical of psychopaths. But as we said in another video, today we are beginning to reconceive of borderline personality disorder as psychopathy for females.

And so borderline women with borderline personality disorder, when they are subjected or exposed to possible rejection and humiliation and abuse and abandonment, they develop a kind of psychopathic overlay. They become psychopaths.

And one of the things that psychopaths do, they're defiant. They become reactive. They are defiant. They lose impulse control. They can't control their impulse system, become very defiant, very aggressive and very antisocial, which of course brings upon the borderline, the wrath of society, sometimes the wrath of peers, for example, peer judgment, or she gets fired from her job. But sometimes she gets in trouble with the law and the agents of society, the enforcement agents of society end up punishing her.

And that's another example of self-harming that doesn't involve anything physical. It doesn't involve cutting or burning any of the other million ways that borderlines self mutilate.

And finally, there's a question of substance abuse. Substance abuse is a very complex issue.

Because alcoholism, for example, mimics narcissism. In alcoholism, we have something called alcohol myopia, which is actually the alcoholics grandiosity provoked by the alcohol.

And after a certain amount of ingestion, after imbibing a certain level, alcohol blood level climbs to a certain point, the alcoholic person, the drunk, becomes very grandiose. We all know that, we all witnessed it.

And not only he becomes grandiose, but he develops very pronounced traits and behaviors, which are typical of narcissists and more precisely, malignant narcissists, psychopathic narcissists.

So it's very difficult to tell where the effects of the substance begin and the effects of the personality giveaway and where it's a mixture or where it's actually the personality using or leveraging the substances as an alibi or as an excuse.

And so we know that in the case of the borderline woman, when she decompensates, when her defense mechanisms are down, and she is no longer able to separate herself from reality by, for example, reframing reality.

So when she gets in direct touch with reality, without the benefit of the firewall, without the benefit of defense mechanisms, which allow her to alter reality so that it becomes palatable. So when she gets in touch with reality, without defense mechanisms, she acts out, she decompensates and acts out.

Now acting out very often in the case of the borderline woman, borderline personality, involves substance abuse.

So one of the first steps such a woman would do, she would get drunk, or she would get stoned on weed, or she would consume other illicit substances.

And the reason she does this, because she needs to obtain several effects simultaneously.

Remember that the motivation of a borderline woman after she had been rejected or humiliated or abused or abandoned, or after she had anticipated such things, such behavior on the part of her intimate partner.

So her main motivation is to escape, to flee the source of frustration and pain. So she splits, she devalues her intimate partner, he becomes a villain, he becomes Darth Vader, he becomes an enemy, he becomes a hate figure, he becomes a persecutory object.

She splits. Then she leaves him physically, so that he is out of sight, out of mind, object in constancy.

But all this is done in order to palliate, in order for her to forget her pain. And also in order to punish him.

These are two motivations. The main motivation is to avoid pain aversion, is to avoid the pain.

But there's a secondary small motivation of hurting, hurting her intimate partner the way he had hurt her. It's kind of retribution or settling of the accounts.

And so to do this, she needs to act egregiously. So for example, she needs to sleep with a stranger. Or she needs to get so drunk that she causes damage to property. Or she needs to do something to make her intimate partner lose his job. I mean, she needs to do something really bad, seriously bad. She needs to misbehave in a way that is utterly destructive to the relationship, irrevocably. She needs to finish the relationship once and for all, because it had become a source of agony that she can no longer tolerate, unbearable.

So to do all this, she needs to disinhibit. She needs to lose her inhibitions. She needs to reach a point where she no longer cares, no longer cares what she's doing.

And in the case of sex, for example, if her decision is to have sex with a third party, a stranger, she picks up in a bar or something, a restaurant. So she would also need alcohol's effects on perceptions of attractiveness. So beer goggles. She would need to drink so much alcohol that an unattractive man would look attractive.

And today we know that alcohol affects the brain's perception of symmetry in faces and attractiveness of other people. So it's founded on neuroscience. It's not an imagined effect. Alcohol does influence us in a way that we perceive people of the opposite sex, if we are heterosexual, as attractive, as more attractive than we would find them without alcohol.

So she needs this too. She needs disinhibition. She needs to feel that the potential target, let's call him, is attractive.

And then she needs to become grandiose. She needs to misevaluate, appraise inappropriately, risk. She needs to have a risk misperception so that she can allow herself to enter reckless, risky, dangerous situations without fear. This is alcohol myopia, aforementioned.

And then she needs to develop fake intimacy. Fake intimacy could be with a man. She picks up a stranger. So it needs to be with a man.

So the alcohol helps to create this feeling of growing empathy, support, attentiveness, caring, affection, comfort, compassion, etc. All of them utterly fake because they are founded on the alcohol's impacts.

But still they are felt this way. They are perceived this way. And even though they are ersatz, even though they are fake, they make do. I mean, they work.

And so she feels growing closeness.

And we know that alcohol changes empathy, has effects on empathy. Alcohol, ironically, makes us more empathic towards strangers than towards people we love. So it fulfills this effect as well.

Now, when I say intimacy, when I say empathy, it doesn't have to be with a stranger with whom she's about to have sex. If she goes shopping, she wants to feel good. She wants to feel warm. She wants to feel accepted by this saleswoman or the salesman. If she is going to gamble, she goes to gamble in a casino. She wants to feel accepted and wanted and desired and what have you by the casino stuff, by the crew.

It's a general feeling of warmth, general feeling of acceptance, general feeling of I am a part of the world. The world wants me. The world desired me. I'm finally integrated.

Alcohol has this effect. I'm actually in alcohol, by the way, but weed has some of these effects. Ecstasy has some, MDMA has some of these effects. And I mean, there are quite a few drugs that have some of these effects. Cocaineof courseincreases, enhances grandiosity.

And then finally, and perhaps the most important function of such of this initial phase of misbehavior, which is the phase of substance abuse, it happens in like nine out of 10 cases, in nine out of 10 cases. When the borderline feels rejected, abandoned, humiliated, and about to be abused by her intimate partner, or when she is actually, the first thing she does, she resorts or reverts to some addictive behavior.

Now, in the majority of cases, the addictive behavior has to do with a substance. By the way, when I say substance, it doesn't have to be an illicit substance. For example, overeating is such a thing, because food is a substance. So it's an example of substance abuse in a way.

So now we come to the last thing.

When she consumes alcohol or drugs, she can engage in misattribution. She can attribute her misbehavior and her dissociation to the drug.

So she would say, yes, I had sex, but I don't remember anything about it because I was drunk. Or I had sex because I was drunk. I didn't mean to, but I was drunk. Or I crashed yourexpensive car, because, you know, I was drunk. So I didn't mean to get drunk. It just happened. There was a lot of company there, and it was fun, it was nice, and I was in such pain, and I was so depressed. And I drank, I didn't even count how many, you know, glasses I had. And so at the end, I got wasted.

So it's like a passive voice. The borderline would become the passive recipient or the passive receptacle of the alcohol.

It's the alcohol that did everything. The alcohol is the active agent.

She transfers agency. She is no longer self efficacious. She doesn't act upon the world. The world acts upon her.

And this is, of course, as many of you know, an example of an external locus of control.

And so many borderline women, when they engage in sex, they go through dissociation, at the minimum, they depersonalize, they feel that they are on autopilot. They feel that they are observing themselves in some kind of movie, where they are, you know, an actress, going through the motions of sex.

So they did depersonalize.

Also, some of them derealize, they feel that the whole thing is unreal, as I said, like a movie, or like a nightmare, or it's about to end, or they don't know how they found themselves in this situation.

And in the most extreme cases, we have dissociative amnesia. They cut off, they completely forget the whole sex scenes in the sexual partner, sometimes minutes after the sex.

And so they would be in great pains or difficulties to explain what had happened, what had actually happened, because they keep saying I had a blackout. And of course, they would attribute it to the alcohol, they would say, the alcohol gave me a blackout. I drank too much.

They won't admit that it's part of their pathology, that the dissociation is there to protect them against egodystony, that they feel shame, that they feel guilt, that they know they had missbehaved. And they don't know how to make up for it, because they also realized that they had reacted disproportionately.

And that in some of the cases, the trigger was all imaginary, it was all in their heads. They were not about to be rejected. They were not being abandoned. They were not being abused. Their intimate partner had to go to a business meeting, or had to go on a business trip.

This is not something against them. His lack of availability was not because he didn't want to see them anymore, didn't like them anymore, didn't love them anymore, but because he had to.

And so post facto, after the acting out, after decompensation, the borderline goes through a horrible phase where she realizes what she had done.

And in many, many cases, she loses the partner, the intimate partner, the very intimate partner that she was so terrified to lose. She brings about her own abandonment, the very abandonment and rejection, that she was so terrified.

And she can't cope with this. And this leads to another cycle of decompensation and acting out. And of course, she immediately finds a substitute. Even the same night, she finds a substitute, and even the partner of casual sex becomes a substitute.

She cathects, she invests emotional energy in a new intimate partner, even if it's a short-term intimate partner for a few hours. But she needs to cathect that intimate partner in order not to feel the self-inflicted harm and damage that she had lost her previous partner unnecessarily. There was no cause for it. And she had damaged herself beyond measure.

And so to compensate for that, she falls in love, so to speak. She becomes emotionally attached and invested and bonded, even if it's someone she sees only for a few hours, even if it's someone who is just a partner for casual sex. She needs this kind of substitution or replacement of the previous primary intimate object.

And so generally speaking, we know from studies that alcohol serves several psychological functions and purposes quite effectively.

And this is why alcoholism is so intractable. It's difficult to get rid of it. It's difficult to treat. The recidivism rate after one year of rehab, that means if someone goes to rehab, spends three months inpatient rehab, and then leaves rehab. And even if he has a support network in place, the recidivism rate is enormous. Almost 80% of people who go through relapse within the first year.

Alcohol works. It provides solutions for much needed inner conflicts and dissonances and problems.

I'm sorry, the rate is 60%, not 80.

And so the first function of alcohol is palliative. It helps the alcoholic person to cope with dissonance, frustration, anxiety, anger, stress, sadness, panic, and other negative emotions or mood disorders.

And of course, in the case of a borderline, there's only negative emotions and mood disorders. This is her personality. There's nothing else there. She's totally dysregulated, chaotic, and her personality is diffuse and disorganized. Even her identity is diffuse.

And then the second function of alcohol is restorative. It helps the alcoholic to restore his or her self-confidence and self-esteem, also as a man, also as a woman, especially when coupled with a body image issue.

So if the person has a body image issue, the alcohol helps to solve this, as I mentioned before.

Alcohol, for example, distorts our perception of symmetry in others. And so we are attracted to them, but we very often interpret our attraction to them as their attraction to us. We kind of project and of course, borderline, project all the time, everything onto others.

And then there's the issue of disinhibition, as I mentioned.

Alcohol is disinhibitory. By lowering inhibitions, alcohol legitimizes narcissistic traits and behaviors like a lack of empathy, extreme selfishnessor a sense of entitlement. The alcohol did it. The alcohol made me like this. I have an alcoholic personality, addictive personality, which comes out when I drink, but otherwise I'm a nice girl.

Alcohol allows the alcoholic to express his or her repressed promiscuity for example, or aggression. Traits that he or she find egodystonic, traits that she or he dislikes in themselves, traits that they find denigrating or unacceptable. Alcohol renders the alcoholic much more sociable, much more grandiose, much more sociopathic.

The alcoholic becomes volubly defiant, for example, hates authority figures, feels in control or in charge of others. And also in charge of the situation, there is a kind of omnipotence, omnipotence aura. Like I'm, leave it to me. I'm in control. Everything will be okay. Nothing bad will ever happen to me. There's immunity, kind of personal immunity.

The alcohol makes people believe that they are capable of anything, anything that they set their minds to.

They can become suddenly irresistibly attractive, charming or charismatic and unfettered by rules or social mores. I can do whatever the hell I want to. No one will tell me what to do. I'm independent.

As a result of all these cognitive and emotional changes, the drunk person engages in reckless behaviors like unprotected sex with a stranger or compulsive shopping, compulsive gambling.

Finally, there's an instrumental aspect to alcohol. It allows the alcoholic to accomplish goals.

The alcoholic becomes psychopathic, becomes goal oriented. Goals that he would never countenance or consider or try when he's sober.

Put all of these together and this is an irresistible package for someone so distraught and so disharmonic and so disorganized and chaotic, such as the borderline, especially in situations of extreme stress with perceived abandonment and rejection.

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