SPLITTING, Part II
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Hello and welcome to “The World in Black and White”My name is Michelle and I’m the narrator and creator of this podcast.
Vision for the podcast:
My vision for this podcast is that it will bring hope to all individuals that may be overwhelmed by the challenges mental illness can create as a person attempts to navigate life in a positive and successful way. I hope to help others by teaching forgiveness & self-awareness.
I want to also make listeners aware of help that is available Call one of these numbers or text them to find help. I pray you always find someone there to pull you up.
You can call or text 988.
Another helpline available through the National Alliance for Mental Illness is 800-950-6264 or text “HelpLine” to 62640
I am very excited to share some news with you all about an exceptional individual that I have just recently booked to be my first guest on our podcast. Her name is Imi Lo, she is an author, psychotherapist, and life coach. I have only recently discovered her while doing research over Borderline Personality Disorder. She first caught my attention with a long essay she wrote called “Positive Traits of BPD | Therapy and Coaching BPD (eggshelltherapy.com)
I am halfway through her audiobook, it is looking at Borderline as an emotional gift rather than a disorder. The title of that audiobook is “Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity: How to manage intense emotions as a highly sensitive person” You should definitely look her up and check out her other books and youtube videos. She is for sure an impressive guest and we feel so blessed to have her scheduled as our 1st guest speaker on our podcast. Thank you Imi Lo, I can’t wait to get your feedback on a few questions. I will announce the date as soon as we have one confirmed.
I have recently reached out to become a partner with NAMI, or the National Alliance for Mental Illness, to establish our school campus as one that will show compassion for those dealing with mental illness. I went to the NAMI website and requested that information and I am now awaiting details to get that going. I will be an advocate for anyone dealing with mental health issues.
Splitting Part 2:
Last week, I began discussing splitting and what that might mean to any person, especially a person dealing with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. This week, I will continue to dive into what defense mechanisms may look like in real life, and I will provide a few personal examples from my own life wherein splitting occurred. I will end with my thoughts on splitting and how it affects the BPD.. I did first want to acknowledge that splitting often occurs when the person dealing with BPD senses a relationship loss or that fear of abandonment. Any relationship is important for the borderline. Even the relationships that aren’t part of their daily life. Any event that activates the fear of abandonment for the person with BPD will trigger splitting.
First I want to look back at the results of my defense mechanism quiz I’ll take a closer look at the ones where I received a higher score. If you listened to my previous episodes, I shared the results of my defense mechanism quiz, and the one I scored the highest on was regression, with 80. AHHHHHHH! That surprised me…This one is categorized as a primitive defense mechanism. Coming in 2nd was repression at 40, and then tied for third, three ways are displacement, reaction formation, and compensation. I was initially thinking that I used a lot of healthy defense mechanisms, like humor or assertiveness. It appears my subconscious has held onto more than a handful of not so healthy defense mechanisms to use as weapons in the moments where I feel threatened.
Ok, so it sounds as though more times than not, I find myself in a state of regression, this happens when being confronted with a situation or person that doesn’t align with my expectations of that person or event. The person I find that fails to meet my expectations the most… is me. When I fail to meet my own expectations, I don’t focus on how to correct mistakes and get better. I focus on how my inability to meet those expectations validates my feelings of being a failure. I don’t know how true this is, but this might explain my constant need to find something I am good at. During that process of “trying new things” I will no doubt discover a lot of disappointment, especially when I haven’t given myself appropriate or realistic expectations for learning this new skill. An example of not setting realistic expectations for myself can be clearly seen by how I behaved and performed at a recent Co-Ed softball game.
When I talked about my lack of skills with my husband after the game…and after he shook his head several times at me in disbelief, he calmly said “It is for fun, and if you aren’t having fun, you need to quit.” He wasn’t wrong, but at the time… I felt he wanted me to quit. That he didn’t understand all that was upsetting me and that he was being insensitive to me during my time of perceived failure. Of course, after giving myself time to calm down, I could see that he didn’t say that he wanted me to quit. I also know now that he did in fact just wanted me to have some fun, and that he was just looking out for my mental health.
It is crazy how different I see things when I am not looking at them through the eyes of emotional dysfunction. I can clearly see now that I was asking my body to perform at a level I haven’t ever trained for and expecting this from a much older body, at 40 years old. Why would I put those types of expectations on myself? The simple answer: It is my desire to be pleasing. Even though my wise mind or logical mind realizes that it is quite impossible to be pleasing at all times to everyone. Ok, so we have discussed regression along with a personal example. I am sure there are a million other ways I express regression throughout my life, but this one was fresh and it explicitly shows my child-like response to an event where I didn’t perform to my expectations.
In 2nd place, repression with 40. I know I repress a lot. I assume I do this a lot, basically because I don’t have a very good memory of my life. This defense mechanism is categorized as less primitive.
The definition of repression is unconsciously keeping feelings, thoughts, or memories out of your awareness. It is done to protect ourselves from the anxiety or fear related to those memories. Because it’s done without our intention, the person has little control over the blocking of the memories. The blocked memories remain in our subconscious minds and continue to influence our feelings and behavior.
Repression is done without my control so if this happens at a score of 40 it means that my brain is doing this in some form or fashion to keep me feeling safe so i guess my brain is thinking it is helping me but in the long run I wish I could just remember stuff.
Now that I am more informed of the inner workings of my brain, realizing that my reactions are a direct result of a chemical response that occurs when I have been threatened with abandonment, I’m not just some girl living with a disorder. I choose to push my mental and emotional capacities to fight this disorder with the intent being on mindfulness and a hyper-focused awareness of my brain’s ability to express these natural and sometimes destructive responses.
I have recognized my brain’s primitive ability to use maladaptive coping strategies or defense mechanisms automatically. My brain was reacting to events without consideration of the outcomes . I can see the error in the ways I have tried to handle relationship issues in the past. I have moments now where I acknowledge my emotional response to an overwhelming event. Instead of trying to control the situation or let my fear override my ability to just talk calmly and express my feelings. I acknowledge that this response is not the response I want my body to produce. I let the chemicals that are being dispersed by the command center (my brain) to course through my veins. When my head finally returns to a more calm & clear headspace I try to address the “overwhelming event” that sent me into an emotional spiral. When I can’t recall things now and have no working memory of it or feel overly emotional, I just say “My brain is being mean to me!” it is, and it is doing it without my permission. So…Thanks chemicals
Tied for 3rd is compensation, reaction formation and displacement… to put them all in one mean little basket. I tend to be an “asshole bully that will highlight my good qualities to hide my flaws” when pushed to my limits. Compensation means I have a tendency to overcompensate in situations where I feel either unfamiliar or incompetent. For reaction formation I will redirect attention to what I have done correctly, to divert attention from my mistakes. Lastly, displacement. I really hate that I have a tendency to do this when I feel attacked or threatened, because this means I am dishing out to some poor undeserving soul. This defense mechanism makes me kind of sound like a bully. Where you take out your emotional baggage on someone that is not as frightening as the one that made you feel threatened. The situation that came to mind instantly was of a kid getting beat at home and then taking that rage out on the runt at school. I don’t condone bullying, so I will have to be hypervigilant about this tendency.
I will end with my thoughts on splitting and how it affects the BPD, The BPD person is categorizing every action. Sorting people and events as they happen to the BPD. The BPD compares the responses and interactions to their desired expectation for the person or event. The only acceptable reaction from a person in a relationship with the BPD is one that will not make the BPD look or feel unwanted or undesirable. If this desired expectation isn’t met, one may still be categorized as ok or good, but if this behavior happens repetitively, where the involved person consistently doesn’t meet this expectation for the BPD or completely lets the BPD down or intentionally hurts the BPD. I have no doubt that splitting will occur, the BPD will paint the perceived perpetrator as a pure negative or even an all evil individual, only capable of hating the person with BPD. The BPD is not in control when this delegation of evil occurs. The splitting and painting black will continue to occur for the person dealing with BPD unless they try to logically understand what is taking place in the moment of emotional dysregulation. I can honestly tell you that this is a very very difficult thing to do. I have found that once a person has been painted black, it is very difficult to remove the label the BPD has given them, but it is not impossible. The person that they had previously adored, loved and placed on a pedestal can still become their loving partner once again, however it is a long and difficult journey for the person involved with a BPD.
First the person with BPD becomes avoidant of their feelings for their partner. Then they must convince themselves that they were right to divert their trust, love and attention from that person. They become foreign to their actual feelings for their partner because to stay and feel their true feelings about the emotional situation is too overwhelming for their brain to handle in the conscious, so it suppresses their feelings. I am speaking honestly about how this has played out in my life over and over again and have not conducted any studies to make my statements move from my personal hypothesis to fact, but what I can assure you is that if the perceived perpetrator stays in the relationship long enough to prove their unconditional love and commitment to their partner the stronger the likelihood that the BPD can acknowledge their actual reality and start to make progress & to better understand the parts of their disorder they have no control over and focus more on the ones that they can control. I now know that when I am upset with my partner because he didn’t say or do what I expected them to say or do to provide some sort of positive message to me is not anything to get overly emotional about or to log in the “bad bank” as evidence that they will eventually grow to hate you and leave you. It happens first with splitting, painting them as bad, the BPD will cut off all feelings of emotion and discard the entire relationship.
The constant labeling and categorizing isn’t fun for the BPD; it is something the brain is doing with expert level automaticity. Once someone is painted black or compartmentalized as a “bad thing” it is up to the BPD to remove that label and work at a realistic observation of the person. It is very much due to the dichotomous thinking of the BPD and it is very hard to have lasting relationships and friendships while dealing with this type of brain disorder. It makes those around you walk on eggshells especially if they are aware of your tendencies because they don’t want to be labeled as bad. The irony in all of this is I really don’t judge people by their mistakes, I guess I only judge them by met or unmet expectations.
Next week, we will talk about some of the strategies I have used to help me move beyond some of the hurdles splitting caused in my life, and hopefully some of those strategies will be of some use to you as well.
Challenge for the week:Last week’s challenge was taking the defense mechanism quiz, that link is added in the description for easier access for listeners. If you weren’t able to take that quiz last week, you should take it now. It doesn’t take long and you might learn something about yourself. The challenge for this week is to move outside of your comfort zone in at least one area of your life. Challenge yourself to confront something you might be uncomfortable with, and see if the results you need to achieve are achieved. To give you some examples I will tell you a few things I have done lately that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I went out with a group of friends that asked me to a group dinner spontaneously, we had an awesome time and became instant friends with that group. I am assuming they feel the same way right now, but I did get a very warm and inviting feeling from each of them. That was out of the norm for me. New people make me anxious. The other things that I have decided to do that have pushed me out of my comfort zone is starting kickboxing and playing on a co-ed softball team with my husband and his co-workers. What I have learned time and time again is that you can either catastrophize any event before it actually occurs or you can just give it your best and find out something interesting about your ability to move beyond that which is comfortable. SO DO SOMETHING GOOD FOR YOUR SPIRIT THAT IS OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE! You may surprise yourself.
CLOSING: Thanks so much for tuning in… We have come to the end of the podcast. What did you learn? Who can you share this podcast with? If this resonates with your spirit or makes you think of a certain someone that has experienced similar issues in their life, please share this with them. I believe mental health is something we are overlooking on a massive scale, and in order for people to heal we need to be able to speak about this openly and honestly.
…Until next time… Choose truth, goodness and love!
Want more understanding about living with Borderline Personality Disorder…
A Brief Look at My Life with Borderline Personality Disorder | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health Myth Busters: Borderline Personality Disorder | NAMI