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Splitting, Denial And Flooding : The Inter-relationship

childhood trauma, splitting, denial, flooding


This is an unconscious defense mechanism that involves us seeing things in extreme and exaggerated ways, either as ALL GOOD or ALL BAD ; this unconscious strategy is often seen in people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

For example, those suffering from this disorder frequently vacillate between, at times, perceiving a friend or partner in an idealized way and then, at other times, often as a result of perceived rejection (which may frequently be a false perception), ‘demonizing’ this same individual.


However, in order for ‘splitting’ to take place, ‘denial’ must take place first. This is because, in reality, in order to see things (and, especially people) as ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’, or, to put it another way, in ‘black or white’, the grey areas must be kept out of conscious awareness – this process, which also occurs on an unconscious level, is known as ‘denial’ and causes our view of things to be skewed and distorted. In essence, denial prevents salient information about whatever (or whoever) it is that we are making a judgment about from permeating our consciousness ; this, in turn, prevents us from considering or taking into account factors that contradict our (unknown to us) biased view, often leading to dysfunctional decisions and reactions.

childhood trauma, splitting, denial and flooding

How ‘Splitting’ And ‘Denial’ Can Lead To ‘Flooding’ :

Paradoxically, although ‘splitting’ and ‘denial’ are, technically speaking, defense mechanisms, their combined effect can be to cause FLOODING, I explain what is meant by ‘flooding’, and how this happens, below :

When ‘splitting’ and ‘denial’ operate together our emotional experience is intensified and and this reaction, in turn, can trigger related, intense memories. This can lead to a sense of our consciousness being ‘flooded’ with copious intense emotions and recollections.

Research conducted by the psychologist Siegel suggests that this overwhelming process of splitting/denial/flooding can be triggered in less than half a minute ; in effect then, it can be like a lightning fast ‘hijack’ of our mental faculties.

If our views are skewed negatively, this can lead to irrational verbal outbursts and behaviors which we are likely to later regret. On the other hand, if they are skewed positively (e.g. idealizing an abusive partner) we are prone to making poor decisions (e.g. remaining in a relationship with an abusive partner).

Link :

Splitting : Effects Of The BPD Parent Seeing The Child In Terms Of ‘All Good’ Or ‘All Bad.’

eBook :

BPD eBook

Above eBook now available for instant download. Click here for further details.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2018 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

BPD, Object Relations Theory And Splitting.


object relations theory

The OBJECTS RELATIONS THEORY of borderline personality disorder was proposed by Kohut at the beginning of the 1970s and is a modern psychoanalytic theory.

Object Relations Theory states that BPD can be traced back to an individual’s early (from the age of approximately 18 months to 36 months) dysfunctional relationship with his/her mother.

What Is The Nature Of This Dysfunctional Relationship Between The Infant And The Mother?

According to Kohut, the problem lies in how the mother relates to the infant :

  • she reinforces the infant’s ‘clingy’, ‘dependent’ and ‘regressive’ behaviour


  • withdraws love and affection when the child attempts to assert his/her individuality and separate personality

The result of this dysfunctional interaction between the mother and child is that the child develops a confusion about where the psychological boundary lies between him/herself and his/her mother.

This confusion, in turn, leads to yet more confusion in that the child goes on to have problems identifying the psychological boundaries that lie between him/her and others in general.

Abandonment Depression :

The mother’s tendency to withdraw her love from the child when s/he attempts to assert his/her separate personality and individuality causes the child to experience ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION and s/he is likely to be plagued by this depression throughout his/her life (Masterson, 1981).


Such early experiences contribute towards the individual developing a perception of other people as being either ALL GOOD or ALL BAD (Kernberg); in other words, s/he sees others in terms of black and white – there are no shades of grey.

‘GOOD’ people are seen as people who will keep the individual ‘safe’, whereas ‘BAD’ people are seen as ones who will re-trigger his/her early experience of ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION.


However, whether s/he perceives another as ‘ALL GOOD’ or ‘ALL BAD’ does not stay constant; his/her perception of others FLUCTUATES FROM ONE POLAR OPPOSITE TO THE OTHER (this is technically known as lacking ‘object constancy’).

Thus, an individual suffering from BPD may, at times, behave as if s/he ‘loves and adores’ another but, then, suddenly and dramatically, switch to behaving as if s/he ‘hates and despises’ this same individual, without objective reason.

Needless to say, this can be highly confusing and bewildering from the perspective of the person on the receiving end of such wildly and unpredictably vacillating emotions.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery
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