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Separating-Individuating From Borderline Partner

Uploaded 4/1/2023, approx. 16 minute read

Okay, Pascha Shin, look it up.

My name is Sam Vaknin, I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and a former visiting professor of psychology.


So today we are going to discuss how to separate and individuate after, in the wake of, a relationship with the borderline.

It's like asking how to reconstruct your life after a tsunami or a tornado. Yes, it's dead. Bed, ladies and gentlemen. It is dead. Bed and often even much worse.

So let us discuss reconstruction.

Remember that when you break up with a narcissist, or more precisely when the narcissist devalues and discards you, I recommend a three-phased process.

Identify the narcissist's voice and silence it. Separate and then individuate. Each of these three phases has a video dedicated to it.

And if you go down to the description, always go down with me, you can never go up. If you go down to the description, you can find links to videos which are relevant to a breakup with the narcissist.

Don't forget, my whole work is based on the twin concepts of shared fantasy and dual mothership. The narcissist acts as your mother, idealizes you and offers you unconditional love. You act as the narcissist's mother, you idealize him and offer him unconditional love.

And then when you break up, there is triple mourning. You mourn your own idealized self. You mourn the child that you had just abandoned, your narcissist, and you mourn the mother that you have lost in the shape of the narcissist.

None of these dynamics, none of them applies to your relationship with a borderline.

In borderline personality disorder, the shared fantasy does not consist of a reenactment of early childhood. The shared fantasy in borderline is about external regulation and the borderline literally hands over outsources her mind to you as the intimate partner and expects you to regulate her emotions, stabilize her moods, generally render her more peaceful and more functional. You become an external regulator.

Now, of course, consequently, the borderline approaches you and then when you get too close for comfort and when you control too many of her internal functions, she avoids you, approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion, the inevitable or ineluctable, look it up, I love these, the $20 words, the ineluctable outcome of the clash between abandonment, anxiety, separation and insecurity and engulfment or enmeshmentanxiety. All this is all, everything I just said is old news.

What do you have to tell us, Vaknin? Can you just get to the point?

Finally, yes, I can, which in itself is shocking, breaking news. I never get to the point.

Okay, but this time I will because I really, really have mercy on you.

Separating and individuating from the borderline is a mirror image of separating and individuating with a narcissist in the wake of narcissistic abuse.

There is also borderline abuse. It's distinct from narcissistic abuse. It's much more aggressive. It's much more unpredictable. It involves switching between substates and a hefty dose of secondary psychopathy.

So when you separate from the borderline, the experience is utterly different to separating from a narcissistically abusive narcissist.

Remember the following, even though the borderline tends to idealize you, she regards you as her best friend or special friend, as a rock around which she constructs her life and around which her world, her reality, her universe revolves, you're the pivot, the axis, you are her life and her world. So despite all this, the borderline also regards you as an abuser.

She casts you as an abuser.

Now this is known as ambivalence, hate, love, harboring, too conflicting or mutually contradictory, mutually exclusive emotions at the same time.

On one hand, the borderline regards you as a godlike figure, someone who is the custodian of her inner states, over inner peace, over ability to function, over ongoing lifeof someone who guarantees a counterweight to her libinity and her dysregulation. Someone whose presence sort of creates an ambience or an environment within which the borderline feels safe and stable and almost, one could say, normal, but her engulfment anxiety and the resentment that she feels about her dependency on you force her to consider you a malevolent force, a persecutory object, an enemy, a hostile abuser, someone who is out to get her.

The borderline is highly paranoid, exactly like some types of narcissists.

And so you are there not by accident. There is some stratagem, there's some conspiracy, there's something unseemly and untoward going on.

And so this duality, you're my life, you're my enemy. I hate you, don't leave me. I love you, I'm going to get away from you. I'm going to push you away.

This duality is the core and the equity and the essence of our relationship with the borderline.

And what drives the borderline's intimate partner, the borderline's intimate partner is to distraction. It's crazy making. You can make sense of any of it.

And so the borderline regards you as an abuser and you need to take this into account when you separate from her.

Because if you separate from her abruptly and cruelly, if you're heartless, if you are sudden, if she perceives what you're doing as intentional rejection and humiliation, and abandonment, if she firmly believes or develops a conviction that you are out to destroy her, to negate her, to cause her to disintegrate and fall apart.

In other words, if she projects her own hatred and attributes hatred to you, she says, "He hates me."

That momentthe borderline becomes your lifelong enemy.

She bears a grudge, which is essentially never ending.

And so to avoid this unfortunate outcome, you need to micromanage the separation process very delicately and very, very attentively. You need to be sensitive. You need to think before you act. You need to have a lot of perspicacity. You need to be attuned to the borderline's subtle cues.

Separation, abandonment, rejection are the most traumatic things, most traumatic experiencesas far as the borderline is concerned.

And your aim is not to traumatize you, to traumatize her. Your aim is to set yourself free.


So the first thing you should do is to admit your contributions as an intimate partner to the situation.

You must accept your role, your responsibility in the relationship, the demise of the relationship, the unfolding of a relationship, the dynamics of the relationship. You must accept that your mate's selection process is probably flawed. You must recognize your own savior, rescuer complex. You must understand that you inadvertently acted in ways that facilitated a drama triangle, to use Cartman's term.

The borderline provokes in her intimate partner reflexes of protecting effectiveness and provision. She appeals to their vanity, grandiosity, macho instincts if they are men. She casts herself as the helpless damsel in distress.

And so you need to recognize your own pathologies, your own dysfunctions, and your own self-destructive and self-defeating proclivities.

Therefore, your own involvement in the condition of the relationship and its dysfunctional dynamics, owning up to your contributions, accepting responsibility for your role.

These are critical steps towards healing and relatively benign non-acrimonious separation.

You then need to extirpate. You need to cleanse yourself as the borderline infects you with her view of you as an abuser.

She's very convincing. She is the epitome and the quintessence of learned helplessness. She's always at the mercy of someone like Blanche in "Streetcar Named Desire."

So it's very easy for her to convince you and others that you are a predator. You are an abuser. You're a bad person. You're an unworthy, bad object.

In this sense, she fulfills or reenacts maternal voices that told you the same.

So you need to tell yourself repeatedly, "I am not an abuser. These voices that keep telling me that I am, these are not my voices. This is not my authentic voice."

You need to get rid of guilt and shame instilled in you by the borderline. The borderline blackmail you emotionally. The borderline extorts you by pretending to be suicidal, for example, or by claiming that you had pushed her to certain adverse outcomes. So she abrogates her agency. She acts as if she's non-agenic. She says, "I came to rely on you and look what you have done to me. I gave you access to me and you have abused it and misused it. I loved you and you have leveraged my love and taken advantage of it and of me."

She creates a dramatic theater play in which you are the villain. You are the villain and she is the unadulterated, unmitigated victim.

Don't adhere to her script. Don't collaborate with this screenplay. Don't participate in her movie. While you do accept your responsibility for the relationship, core responsibility for the relationship and your contributions to it, you did not abuse the borderline in all likelihood, by the way. It's actually quite the opposite.

In the vast majority of cases, it is a borderline who is abusive.

Get back your authentic voice. Get rid of your guilt and shame.

Realize that you had been manipulated into villainizing yourself. Reclaim and regain your sense of yourself as a relatively good person, someone who is not out to victimize people, who is not out to damage and harm and hurt them, someone who is more a victim of circumstances of the borderline and a victim of his own tendencies to rescue and save and heal and fix than anything else.

I am not an abuser. Keep telling yourself that time and again. Remember that the borderline parentifies you. She forces you to become a parent, a mother or a father if she has daddy issues.

Get rid of these parental functions in the shared fantasy. Refuse to continue to be her mother. Refuse to continue to be his father. Refuse to continue to collaborate in this charade of we are one big happy family. It's us against the world, a cult-like setting where there is an alliance between you and the borderline against the entire universe which conspires to destroy your unity and your love.

This is a counterfactual nonsensical narrative. Don't adhere to it anymore. Reverse the parentifying process. Insist on equality with the borderline. I'm not your father. I'm not your mother. We are two adults and as adults we need to act maturely and we need to love each other and we need to help each other and we need to support each other up to the point that our boundaries are breached, up to the point of self-sacrifice because these are not healthy things and we need not idealize each other and we need not lie to each other or love bomb each other or groom each other.

So you need to refuse to collaborate, to continue to collaborate in the borderline's fantastic narrative, her shared fantasy.

Narcissist has his own shared fantasy which is essentially you are my mother.

The borderline is a similar shared fantasy but her shared fantasy assigns to you a role of an external regulator of her internal environment because you have parental powers.

Get rid of the PG-13 classification. By doing all these things you will be handing over ordership and regulation, handing them back to the borderline.

It's like saying I refuse to participate in this any longer. The role you're assigning me is not true, is not me. You're not allowing me to be who I am. You're coercing me, coercing me into a role which negates my essence, my beliefs, my values, my behaviors and my traits.

I will no longer, no longer act in a way that will make me disappear just to gratify your need to be regulated from the outside.

You, youborderlineneed to own, own your moods, own your emotions, to own your fears, to own your anxieties, to own your insecurities. I will help you to do that because I love you and I'm your partner but I will not do it for you. I will no longer do it for you.

And if she refuses, move on to separation. When we separate from the narcissistthe first phase is to silence the narcissist's voice in your mind. It's not different in the case of the borderline.

When you separate from the borderlinesilence her voice in your mind. This voice is not your friend. It's an enemy voice. There's enmity and hostility in this voice. It's a voice that keeps telling you you're bad, you're unworthy, you failed, you're a traitor, you abandoned me, rejected me, you abused me. You did unspeakable things to me. You're a horrible person. Forget all this. These are all manipulative signals and messagesand eliminate the borderline's voice in your mind.

And by doing soand by refusing to collaborate with her in this commedia del'arte production you will actually be helping her.

Because by taking away your voice, by taking away her voice, in other words by eliminating the intro, she will be left only with her authentic voice.

You are leaving her no choice but to confront herself, to look herself in the mirror and to realize her authenticity. Everything from the borderline in this mature and healthy way is very helpful to her.

Nowof course she will protest this. She will tell you that she is suicidal, that you are driving her to suicide, possibly intentionally, that you are a horrible person, that from the very getgo your intention was to ruin her and destroy her because you're a predatoror a psychopathor God knows what.

Don't listen to any of this. It's nonsense. It's counterfactual and it's intended to manipulate you to the point of re-assuming the role of an external parental regulator.

Never do this again. Never do this again. Silence her voice in your mind, withdraw your voice from her mind, refuse to collaborate anymore, help her to discover her authentic self.

Faced with no outside facilitation, she will have no choice. It undermines her fantasy. The core of it is undermine her fantasy.

So now you are ready to move on to the individuation phase.

Once your voice has been silenced, once you are no longer an external regulator or in her mind an abuser, you are not a saviour, you are not a mother or a father and she is not a child.

Once all these functions are gone, the way of the dodo, the fantasy crumbles, what's left?

Yes, reality. You're both now confronted with reality.

The borderline's voice is now, I mean the only voice in the borderline's mind is now her authentic voice and she needs to go through the classic phases of individuation.


Go to the description and watch the video on how to individuate. It involves embodying mind-body work, owning your voice also by connecting it to your body. It involves reconstituting three lost functions, self-mothering or self-love.

The borderline needs to learn to love herself, self-serving and self-saving, agency. The borderline needs to develop a sense of agency, independence, autonomy and self-efficacy.

And finally choosing and affirming life, negating depression, anxiety, catastrophizing, automatic negative thoughts, writing of suicidal ideation, it's all described at length in the video about how to individuate.

So go down to the description and watch the videos listed there.


Let's summarize.

Separatingindividuating from the narcissist is not the same as separatingindividuating from the borderline.

In both cases you need to silence the voice of your narcissistic or borderline intimate partner. In both cases you need to reclaim your authentic voice.

But there are complications in the case of the borderline which I described in this video. There are special nuances, special variations.

The borderline is not like a narcissist. For example, she has emotions, she has modicum of empathy, warm emotional empathy, she is dysregulated, emotionally dysregulated, she is capable of experiencing positive emotions.

The shared fantasy with the borderline feels much more intense and much more real than the shared fantasy with the narcissist. It's also less self-centered than the narcissist shared fantasy.

So you are much more involved in the borderline shared fantasy and you tend to buy into her narratives much more.

You need to unwind all this. You need to rewind all this. You need to get rid of all this. You need to force both of you, yourself and your borderline intimate partner, to force both of you into authenticity.

Then you need to separate by enhancing her authentic voice, by helping her to love herself, to become agentic and so on. And you need to let go of the functions that cater to your own grandiosity as a saviour or a rescuer or a helper or fixer.

You need to stop regulating her externally. You need to give up on your own grandiose self-perception, your own narcissism in a way.

Reverting to authenticity is a difficult process for both of you. Giving up on the shared fantasy which you have inhabited together and created together is even more difficult.

But if you want to help your borderline partner and above all if you want to help yourself, there is no other choice. You need to go through these painful steps of separating from the borderline and then reclaiming yourself and becoming you once more.

Because you see you have melded, you have become a hive mind, you have become a single organism, you merged, infused to the point of being indistinguishable. You need to amputate yourself away from the borderline and then set firm boundaries and then cleanse, extipate the voices inside you which are not yoursfirst and foremost, your borderline's voice.

Thank you.

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