Borderline’s Good Object, Bad Behaviors

Uploaded 2/28/2024, approx. 25 minute read

A good object is a constellation of voices that inform you that you are good, that you are worthy, that you are attractive, that you are intelligent, that you are adequate, and that you are likely to succeed.

When someone has a good object, they are reasonably, mentally healthy, self-confident. They are able to regulate their own sense of self-worth, to set boundaries, to defend themselves and to promote themselves.

So a good object is, not surprisingly, a good thing to have.

And yet, I keep insisting throughout my videos that the borderline, the patient with borderline personality disorder, actually is in possession of a good object.

And in the same breath, I keep informing you that people with borderline personality disorder are prone to suicidal ideation, self-destruction, self-harm and self-defeat.

How can I reconcile these two apparently, on the surface, contradictory statements?

Have I been finally caught at an egregious mistake?


The infallible Sam Buckne, author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, the great granddaddy of the narcissistic abuse field, and a former visiting professor of psychology currently on the faculty of CEAPs.

Now, I am sorry to let you down.

It's not a mistake.

Both statements are true in the case of the borderline.

And the explanation for this apparent contradiction is what is known as compensation and compensatory structures, the topic of today's video.

So I'm going to explain to you how the borderline's dynamic, as well as the narcissist, revolve around the principle of compensation.

And then the second part of the video, I'm going to discuss compensation as a positive thing in the wake of work by Jung and by Kohut, among others.

It's important to understand that the borderline's good object is compensatory.

Now this is very, this is rare, this is strange.

Normally, compensation is a process that operates outside the self.

It's a kind of an attempt to recast yourself as someone you are not to deny, avoid or evade your own identity or at least parts of your identity that you reject, that you don't accept, that you feel ashamed of, that you would rather not have.

So compensation is the way you reframe and reshape yourself so as to avoid the part of you that sits ill with who you consider yourself to be.

You have a self-image, you have a self-perception, and then there's reality and they don't fit together.

And in order to make them, to force them to fit together, you compensate.

So this is compensation.

But in the case of the borderline, her very identity is compensatory.

The good object inside the borderline compensates for something.

The voices inside the borderline that keep informing the borderline that she is super attractive, drop dead gorgeous, amazingly intelligent, irresistible, these voices inside the borderline do not reflect any kind of reality.

Sometimes they're even delusional.

These voices put together do constitute a good object, but it's not a real or a reality-based good object.

It's not a good object founded on the reality principle.

It's a delusional compensatory good object.

What is the borderline compensating for?

What is it that she cannot accept about herself?

What causes her egotistonic, discomfort, self-directed anger and aggression, hatred of herself, self-loathing?

What in her she finds utterly unacceptable?

What in her she rejects her misbehaviors?

The variety of ways in which she acts out and misbehaves and goes haywire and crazy makes and the dysregulation that underlie these misbehaviors, the dysregulation, emotional dysregulation, moodal ability that lead to decompensation, a collapse of her defenses and then defiance, recklessness and crazy making, dramatic, egregious misconduct.

The typical borderline resents the fact that she's like this.

She experiences frequently remorse, regret and shame about her choices, decisions and actions.

She doesn't like herself.

Borderlines are egotistonic.

She doesn't like herself.

She feels uncomfortable with who she is, with how she has behaved and how she has impacted other people.

She resents and rejects and attempts to put distance between herself and her misconduct, her misbehaviors, her acting out and this distance is known as dissociation.

She dissociates these parts of her life.

So there's a lot that the borderline feels she would rather not have.

There's a lot of baggage she would like to get rid of, to forget about and this baggage, her behavioral baggage is what she's attempting to compensate for.

It's as if the borderline is saying I may have acted precipitously. I may be defiant. I may have done something that I regret. I may have misbehaved. I may have compromised myself. I may have been reckless. I may have been cruel. I may even have been sadistic. I may have done things that I feel shame and remorse about.

All this is true but deep inside I'm a good person. I'ma good object.

The borderline cannot reconcile the way other people perceive her and the way she perceives herself. She perceives herself as all good and she believes that other people perceive her as all bad, owing to her consistent and extreme misconduct. The way she hurts people, the way she damages people, the way she breaks people, people's spirits and people's hopes.

So the borderline's bad impact on other people causes her to become hypervigilant and a bit paranoid and to say probably everyone hates me, probably they consider me to be a bad person, probably they distrust me because of the way I misbehave.

But in reality, I'm exactly the opposite. I'm a good object.

I'm a good object.

The borderline is afraid to let other people get too close to her, too intimate with her because she believes that they will not be able to pierce through the veil of misconduct.

They will not be able to see her as she truly is, but they will form an opinion of her which is based on the way she hurt them, on the way she damaged them or others, on the way she misbehaves, on her crazy making, on her drama, on her recklessness.

So she doesn't give credit to other people. She says I'm a good object, but it is an imperceptible good object, non-communicable good object, unobservable good object.

Only I know that I'm a good object. There's no way on earth I can convince other people of my essential goodness.

And of course, this is a solipsistic view and a bit grandiose, but it's mainly solipsistic.

It's as if the borderline exists in a bubble and she's alone in the entire universe because no one can ever get to know her as she truly is. No one can ever get to touch her quiddity, her essence, her true self.

And this situation creates enormous dissonance.

On the one hand, the borderline knows that she's good. She has a good object which keeps involving her, how good she is in a variety of ways, physically, mentally, intellectually and so on and so forth.

On the one hand, she's convinced of her essential perfection and superiority, morality, goodness.

And on the other hand, there's no way she could convince others of this. There's no way she could communicate to them who she is. And they're liable and very likely to keep misjudging her, hating her, loathing her, attacking her, disparaging her.

And so this creates enormous dissonance.

And what the borderline does, she uses external regulation and fantasy to avoid the ego-distonic misbehaviors and affirm or confirm the good object.

Let me explain this.

The borderline says, "If I were to be regulated and controlled from the outside, then my internal dysregulation would not lead me astray.

My internal dysregulation would not result in egregious, reckless, hateful misconduct.

If I were to hand over, to outsource control over myself, to my intimate partner, for example, to my special friend, to a rock, someone stable, someone safe, if I were to place myself in a safe pair of hands, then this would guarantee that I would no longer act out, no longer crazy make, no longer be dramatic, no longer hurt people, no longer self-destruct, no longer self-trash.

All these things which are the outcomes of my internal dysregulation, all these misbehaviors which are the derivative which I yielded by in the results of the mayhem and tumult inside me, my emptiness coupled with my inability to somehow regulate and control myself.

So if I were to hand over control to someone else, all this will vanish, will disappear.

That someone else, my intimate partner, my special friend, they will take care not only of me, but they will also take care of my internal environment.

They will put my house in order.

They will restore some kind of regularity, predictability, safety, stability, not only externally for me, but also internally.

Interaction will be minimized or mitigated and my misbehaviors which are very often egregious and very harmful to others, my misbehaviors will be under control.

So this is external regulation.

Fantasy is another defense.

When the borderline results in fantasy, she no longer has to cope with reality.

It is reality that dysregulates her.

It is reality that provokes the emotions that overwhelm her.

It is reality that causes her mood to cycle up and down, this ups and downs, this lability.

It's all caused by reality, giving up on reality and withdrawing into fantasy the way analysis is done.

This is also a form of external regulation.

So fantasy and external regulation put together are the solutions that the borderline comes up with in order to reconcile her good object, the voices inside her that keep informing her that she is good and perfect.

She attempts to reconcile this good object with the way she behaves.

It's as if she says, "I'm going to find someone, an intimate partner, special friend.

He's going to provide me with a secure base, a safe ambience, a semblance of stability.

This is going to calm me down.

This is going to reduce my anxiety.

And then I will behave normally.

I will not hurt people anymore.

I will not hurt myself anymore.

And then I would be able to believe that I'm a good object and to communicate it to others.

They will finally be able to see me as I am."

So the borderline becomes extremely dependent, radically dependent on the intimate partner or the good friend or the special friend because they not only guarantee or engender an environment within which the borderline doesn't get into trouble, doesn't compromise herself, doesn't hurt herself.

That's not the only function.

The other function is that this intimate partner or this special friend, they allow the borderline to begin to behave normally and this way to align herself, to conform to the good object, good internal or the good object that she has internally.

It's as if the borderline says, "Now that I have an intimate partner, now that I have a special friend, I am not misbehaving anymore.

I'm behaving normally.

I'm not hurting people.

I'm not hurting myself.

I'm not harming myself.

So now I'm a good person, behaviorally speaking, externally.

I'm a good person."

And so this sits well with my view of myself as a good person known as a good object.

So this is the borderline side.

The narcissist is a mirror image of the borderline.

Whereas in the borderline, the good object, the internal good object is compensatory and the real borderline is the behavioral borderline, the borderline who hurts herself, the borderline who harms people, damages, causes mayhem and chaos and so on and so forth.

This is the real borderline.

She compensates for this because she finds this unacceptable.

She is very ashamed of herself.

She is enraged at herself.

She hates herself.

She rejects herself.

Compensate for this, she creates an internal good object.

The narcissist is exactly the opposite.

He has an internal bad object.

The narcissist's object keeps informing the narcissist that he is unworthy, inferior, inadequate, loser, stupid, ugly, etc.

And the narcissist uses his behaviors to compensate for the object.

So the borderline uses a good object to compensate for bad behaviors and the narcissist uses behaviors to compensate for a bad object.

So it's a mirror, they are mirror images of each other.

Similar to the borderline, the narcissist uses external regulation also known as narcissistic supply, feedback and input from other people.

Narcissistic supply helps the narcissist to regulate his sense of self-worth.

Narcissistic supply enhances the validity and empowers the narcissist, the validity of the narcissist's behaviors and empowers the narcissist.

And by doing so, narcissistic supply serves to deny the bad object.

It's as if the more self-efficacious the narcissist is, the more successful he is.

The more his behaviors garner accolades, affirmation, adulation, admiration, the more he succeeds to convert people to the cause, the more he can deny his bad object.

Bad object says you're a failure, you're a loser and the narcissist says really?

Look at how many subscribers I have on my YouTube channel.

For example, so narcissists use external regulation and the external regulation is supposed to buttress or enhance the goodness or the validity or the reach or the power of the behaviors of the narcissist so as to negate and undermine and challenge and contradict the voices within the bad object.

The borderline uses the voices within her good object in order to reassert herself in the face of undeniably bad behavior.

And she's looking for someone to help her to do this, someone to help her to curtail and control her misconduct in order to allow her to truly believe in the good object, to convince others that the good object is real and true and that she is a good person.

This is an analogy.

Now compensation nowadays, when we say compensation nowadays in psychology, we usually, this kind of negative connotation to it.

Like if you're compensating, you're not real.

If you're compensating, you're pretending, you're faking, you're misleading.

Compensation is a bad rep.

But ironically, when compensation was first proposed as a psychological mechanism, it was described or cast as a very positive process, something that leads to the formation and functioning of the self.

Compensation was first described in analytical psychology, not by Freud, but by Jung.

In 1907, Carl Gustav Jung coined the word compensation and he said that compensation is the capacity of the unconscious to influence consciousness.

He said that the ego identifies with a preferred set of adaptive strategies and behaviors.

And so the ego tends to restrict the range of adaptive response and in this way the ego retards or obstructs or hampers or even prevents individuation.

In an essay he wrote, the importance of the unconscious in psychopathology in 1914, Jung introduced the idea of compensation.

He said that the principal function of the unconscious is to affect a compensation and to produce a balance.

All extreme conscious tendencies are softened and toned down through counter impulse in the unconscious.

So it's a bit of a mirror image of Freud.

According to Jung, it is the unconscious that compensates for the excesses and the exaggerations and the rigidity of the conscious.

The conscious or consciousness is so limited in its repertory of adaptive strategies, so rigidly committed to specific behaviors, that if consciousness were left alone to its own devices, it would have prevented any growth, any personal development, including individuation.

So the unconscious compensates for this rigidity and tyrannical nature of consciousness.

This is the role of the unconscious, this counter impulse, which is known as compensation.

So unconscious dynamics in analytical psychology, they have a different role.

It's a purposive role, purpose goal oriented role, directed goal, a role, intelligent role, not restricted only to repressed wishes, as it is the case with Freudian psychology.

In Jung's theories, the unconscious is a vast territory replete with numerous processes and mechanisms and so on and so forth, all of them working to shape consciousness and to yield positive outcomes.

In 1917, Jung expanded the notion of an intelligent and unconscious.

He suggested the existence of a superordinate unconscious, a kind of common human inheritance, a source of compensatory activity.

Later on, it came to be known as collective conscious.

Jung referred to compensation as an inherent self-regulation in the psychic apparatus.

He asserted that the intelligent unconscious culminates in the self.

In 1928, he actually explained that the self is the creation of the unconscious, not of consciousness.

This is a pretty amazing thing.

There's a reversal of roles in analytical psychology.

It is the unconscious, which is responsible for in many ways, what Freud called the ego functions.

Jung said that the personality's central organizing agency that instigates and guides individuation is the unconscious.

He paired the unconscious, he connected it to the concept of self, as I just said.

Compensation was the core process in realizing selfhood.

We acquire a self, we develop a self, we become our selves by compensating for conscious processes.

So it's a positive thing.

Compensation is a very positive thing.

Jung believed that the individual seeks to maximize the efficiency and benefits of compensation.

He therefore suggested that compensation is a kind of transcendent function, joining of opposite tendencies of conscious and unconscious, that produces a synthesis in the form of a uniting symbol in order to release compensatory contents of the unconscious.

And this unitary or uniting symbol is a close approximation of the self.

The transcendent function facilitates a transition from one attitude to another and holds the person skilled with understanding of conscious and unconscious interaction and its symbolic products and this accelerates individuation.

Now, part of this insight is embedded in my theory of IPAM, intrapsychic activation model, which you can find on this channel.

There's a book I'm about to publish about IPAM, but in the meantime, the video should do.

Much later, Heinz Kohut, the father of eco-psychology and so on, came up with the concept of compensatory structures.

These are complex psychological configurations that are an integral part of the overall self or the personality of an individual.

Compensatory structures compensate for certain primary structural deficits in the self and they do this by activating other structures.

So Kohut's view of compensation is much closer to the modern view of compensation.

So according to Kohut, there are three kind of poles.

There's a mirroring pole, idealizing pole, twin-sheep, alter-ego pole.

I'm not going to all this.

I did go into all this in videos that I've made, other videos that I've made.

So whenever these three kind of processes are deficient or underdeveloped, one of the other three becomes the dominant force in the functioning of the self, of the person in question.

So according to Kohut, compensation is an intra-psychic balancing.

When one of the processes is deficient, the other one is overemphasized in order to compensate.

It's very similar to a blind person who compensates for his blindness by developing a much more astute and acute sense of smell, olfactory compensation or sense of hearing.

So the deficiencies in Kohut's work, I mean the deficiencies as described in Kohut's work, come from the developmental failures of early childhood concerning self-object experiences.

And so the development of the self is interacting and this calls for compensatory structures.

These structures derive from more optimal self-object relations.

But we should make a very fine distinction here, which many scholars fail to make actually.

Compensatory structures are not the same as defensive structures.

The role of defensive structures in Kohut's work is to protect the self from any further wounding, pain, injury or notification.

While compensatory structures, what they do, they optimize performance by shifting load from deficient processes to efficient processes.

They optimize performance.

They go beyond protection.

They become more or less independent of any protective purpose.

They intervene in a gratifying, vitalizing way.

Compensatory structures are the self's main way of orientating itself.

The self acquires purpose and direction, vision and unfolds within the compensatory structures.

They transcend, these structures transcend the fragility of the original structural deficiency and then become resistant to any intervention from the outside.

Compensatory structures make up for deficits.

Defensive structures cover up for deficits.

Pretend that there is no deficit.

So defensive structures can and must be analyzed in order to induce therapeutic change or some healing and so on and so forth.

There is a need to pierce the protective wall, the firewall.

There is a need to gaze beyond, to gain entrance to the structural deficits for which the defenses are meant to kind of hide or bury or repress.

In order to heal, we need to in effect disable or dismantle defenses to some extent.

But compensatory structures must never be interfered with because they allow the self to function at all.

They allocate loads.

They optimize.

This is a mechanism of allocation of resources.

We must not tamper with this.

It's very dangerous.

In the restoration of the self, Kogut said, Kogut wrote that a successful analysis is one that enables a compensatory structure to be fully developed and consolidated.

One neither can nor should try to determine or direct the course of such an analysis insofar as the development of the self remains a multi-potential process that draws on and chooses from the stock of available self-objects.

Instead of deciding that all defenses should be analyzed, it might well be that analytical activity is not intended or not indicated for the compensatory structure.

So as we see, the role of compensation in the formation of the self according to Jung or the functioning of the self according to Kogut, the role of compensation cannot be overestimated.

It's crucial, certainly crucial.

The borderline and the narcissists make the same use of compensation that normal people, healthy people do, exactly the same use to somehow maintain the self.

But because the borderline doesn't have a self, the narcissist, I'm sorry, doesn't have a self, and the borderline has a compromise, they replace the self with a good or bad object.

It's as if the borderline says, "Myself is highly defective, highly deficient, cannot be trusted, is dysfunctional."

So I'm going to replace it with a good object.

The good object is a set of voices, set of introjects that keeps informing the borderline that she's a good person, a worthy person.

And so this good object compensates for the borderline's misbehavior, self-rejection, self-loathing, self-hatred, remorse, regret, and shame.

The good object is the only thing that stands between the borderline and total disintegration, possibly into psychosis. The borderline distances herself from her bad choices, misconduct, recklessness, she distances herself via dissociation. But dissociation is a short-term solution. You can't dissociate all the time. You need to maintain some continuity even as a borderline. So dissociation is not a long-term solution. It is not a way to resolve this dissonance and the anxiety that arises from the dissonance, the dissonance between bad behavior, egregious misconduct, and the feeling that you're a good person. How to resolve this? You hand control to someone else. And that someone else, the intimate partner or the special friend, makes sure that you do not misbehave, controls your behavior. That way you can finally reconcile who you are, who you perceive yourself to be, the good object, with the way you act, the way you behave, which is also good. That's a borderline solution. The last easy solution is to compensate with behaviors that are perceived as godlike, as perfect, as amazingly moral, as unimpeachable behaviors which are good. So to compensate with behaviors which are perceived as good for the existence of a bad object, an unrelenting, sadistic, hateful, harsh bad object. The borderline compensates for horrible behavior with an imaginary good object. The narcissist compensates with behaviors that he considers to be very good for the existence of an imaginary, no less imaginary, bad object. They are mirror images of each other, which explains why they are inexorably attracted to each other. ###

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