Tag Archives: Splitting

‘Splitting’ – What BPD Sufferers And 18 – 36 Month Old Infants Have In Common

splitting

splitting andBPD

Infants and toddlers (aged from approximately eighteen months to thirty-six months old) find it extremely hard to tolerate ambiguity and ambivalence. For this reason, their perception of features of the external world become polarized, or, as it is often, informally and metaphorically put, ‘black and white’.

For the infant / toddler (18 – 36 months, approx.) then, what we might call ‘grey areas’ are effectively eliminated as everything including, most significantly, the infant’s / toddler’s mother (or primary carer) is CATEGORIZED AS EITHER ‘GOOD’ OR ‘BAD’, depending upon how she is behaving in relation to him/her at any given point in time.

When the mother fails to satisfy adequately the infant’s needs, s/he perceives her as ‘all bad’. And, in stark contrast, when the mother DOES satisfy the infant’s needs (e.g. with a satisfying feed or by providing appropriate physical comfort) s/he perceives her as ‘all good’.It is only as the child gets older and develops and his/her understanding of the world and of those who inhabit it becomes increasingly sophisticated that s/he is able to integrate such contrasting perceptions and come to realize that both good and bad elements can exist in the same person simultaneously.

 

However, the adult sufferer of borderline personality disorder (BPD) becomes stuck in this toddler-like state of seeing others as either all good or all bad and, as a result, forms extremely unstable relationships with others, particularly significant others, perpetually vacillating and between idealizing them and demonising them ; this phenomenon is known as SPLITTING and, in essence, is a defense mechanism serving to protect  the individual with BPD from  feelings of potentially overwhelming anxiety.

 

splitting

The concept of ‘SPLITTING’ was initially developed by Ronald Fairbairn and was a component of his psychoanalytic theory known as ‘object relations theory’.

 

Finally, it is worth pointing out that it is not just people with BPD who employ the defense mechanism of ‘splitting’ ; for example, adolescents tend to do so quite a lot. Adults who do have have BPD and who are not mentally ill use it too. However, in the case of those suffering from BPD, the defense mechanism of ‘splitting’ is used abnormally frequently in comparison to the average individual and the extremes in which they perceive others vacillate more dramatically. (NB Although I employ the term ‘used’, defense mechanisms are UNCONSCIOUS processes i.e. the BPD sufferer does not deliberately choose to exercise the psychological response of ‘splitting’).

 

A leading treatment for BPD is, currently, dialectical behavior therapy which you can learn more about by clicking here.

 

RETURN TO BPD AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA MAIN ARTICLE

 

eBook :
bpd_ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here further details.

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

Splitting, Denial And Flooding : The Inter-relationship

childhood trauma, splitting, denial and flooding

childhood trauma, splitting, denial, flooding

‘SPLITTING’ :

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.

‘DENIAL’ : A PREREQUISITE OF ‘SPLITTING’ :

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).

Do BPD Sufferers Have A ‘Split Personality’?

do BPD sufferers have a split personality?

do people with BPD have a split personality?

Do BPD Sufferers Have A ‘Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde’ Personality?

In terms of symptoms, there exists a clear overlap between the psychiatric conditions of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and dissociative identity disorder (DID). DID used to be referred to multiple-personality disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder And ‘Splitting’

‘Splitting’ is a psychological defense mechanism in which one ‘part’ of the personality becomes separated / un-integrated with / isolated from another ‘part’ of the personality. In the case of individuals suffering from BPD, these two parts can, in simple terms, be described as PART ONE and PART TWO, where :

PART ONE represents the part of the person’s personality which is relatively accepting of him/herself and others

whereas :

PART TWO represents the part of the person’s personality which is full of self-hatred, as well as anger and hostility (and, underlying the latter two emotions, fear of being psychologically harmed) in relation to others.

When PART ONE is ‘operational’, it tends to enter a state of denial about the existence of PART TWO.

This may be because when PART ONE is ‘in charge’, the individual develops a state of mind similar to amnesia regarding  the existence PART TWO ; alternatively, the denial may be underpinned by feelings of profound shame. However, more research needs to be conducted in relation to these possibilities.

‘Splitting’ and amnesia (when one part of the personality is unaware of how another part of the personality has manifested itself) are also symptoms of dissociative identity disorder.

do BPD sufferers have a split personality?

Borderline Personality Disorder And ‘Switching’ Between ‘Part One’ And ‘Part Two’

As stated above, ‘PART ONE’ and ‘PART TWO’ have become un-intergrated in the personality of individuals suffering from BPD (the BPD sufferers personality, in this respect, may be described as having ‘disintegrated’). A more formal way to put this would be to describe the BPD sufferer as having an un-integrated ego-state (in contrast to the relatively integrated ego-state that psychologically ‘healthy’ individuals enjoy).

Those with BPD ‘switch’ between ‘PART ONE’ and ‘PART TWO’ and this can occur quite suddenly (but is not usually dramatically instantaneous).

Furthermore, these un-integrated ego-states interfere with each other (because they are not completely separate from one another) and this may cause symptoms such as the following :

 

How ‘Splitting’ Affects The BPD Sufferer’s Relationships With Others :

When ‘PART ONE’ is ‘in charge’, the BPD sufferer desires emotional attachments with others. However, when ‘PART TWO’ is dominant, s/he becomes hostile towards others and withdraws from them – this leads to the classic ‘love-hate’ scenario.

 

Why Does This Unintegrated Ego-State Arise In Those Suffering From BPD?

The two separate parts can develop in a person who has suffered severe and prolonged abuse as a child.

When the abused child becomes an adult, PART TWO (hostility etc) can be kept in abeyance for much of the time to allow daily social functioning. However, PART ONE makes itself apparent when the BPD sufferer is reminded of the abuse s/he suffered as a child (such a reminder is called a ‘trigger’).

This reminder/trigger may be detected by the BPD sufferer consciously or unconsciously and occurs as a defense mechanism against real or perceived psychological threat (especially the treat of betrayal, rejection or abandonment as occurred in the individual’s childhood).

If the individual had not developed this defense mechanism as a child, s/he faced what may reasonably be termed as ‘psychological destruction.’ In other words, the development of the ‘splitting’ defense mechanism makes complete evolutionary sense as it allowed the individual to survive childhood – it is a normal, predictable, adaptive response to childhood loss, fear, distress and betrayal.

 

Conclusion ;

There is an overlap between symptoms of borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder in as far as they both involve ‘splitting’ and ‘dissociating‘. However, in the case of DID, the separation between the different PARTS of personality are MORE DISTINCT AND CLEAR CUT THAN THEY ARE IN THE CASE BPD. Those suffering from DID may have more than two un-integrated / separate PARTS of their personality / ego-state ; however, arguably, this can also be the case in those suffering from BPD (although this is beyond the scope of this article).

In conclusion, though, we can say, with some confidence, that BPD sufferers do have a ‘split personality’, but the division between these two parts is more nebulous than in the case of DID sufferers.

RETURN TO BPD AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA MAIN ARTICLE

eBook :

BPD ebook

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

 

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

Structural Dissociation Theory

structural dissociation theory

Structural dissociation theory was developed by Van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele (2006).

 

Essentially, this theory relates to the idea that many of the behaviors that you may feel uncomfortable about, ashamed of, guilty about, or hate are likely to be the behaviors you unconsciously learned as a child to survive in an environment which was hostile, unpredictable, threatening and unsafe. In the present, these behaviors are likely to be triggered by any occurrences or events which, even remotely, resemble the events which once threatened your safety (psychological or physical) as a child.

In other words, the vulnerable, frightened child continues to live within you, trapped in the past, and responding to events now as if they (or, rather, what these events symbolize) were happening then (during your traumatic childhood).

These behaviors, then, can be seen as adaptations : behaviors that allowed you, as a child, to survive; I repeat : they are the legacy of the child within you that, under extreme circumstances, managed to survive and, as such, should cause neither guilt nor shame. THE BEHAVIORS WERE ESSENTIAL AS A MEANS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SELF-PROTECTION.

 

Structural Dissociation Theory In Terms Of Neurobiology :

In terms of neurobiology (the physical/biological workings of the brain) the theory states that when events occur that we find threatening (on either a conscious or unconscious level) because they trigger implicit memories of our traumatic childhood :

the right half (hemisphere) of the brain and the left half (hemisphere) of the brain become disconnected to a degree that they no longer communicate with one another in an effective manner.

 

What Are The Functions Of The Left And Right Hemispheres Of The Brain ?

For the sake of simplicity,we can confine ourselves to the functions most pertinent to the theory :

  • The brain’s left hemisphere is involved with day-to-day functioning and is relatively logical, permitting us to struggle on despite internal, mental conflict.
  • The brain’s right hemisphere ‘contains’ the responses that you were forced, by extreme and hostile circumstance, to learn as a child in order to ensure psychological survival, including hypervigilance for imminent danger and perpetual readiness for fight/flight/freezing/fawning – whatever was necessary to avert danger (real or perceived).

structural dissociation theory

Splitting / Fragmentation :

The personality of the individual who has experienced severe childhood trauma can become split / fragmented so that when events occur that cause stress / fear / make the individual feel threatened / remind the individual, however tenuously (on a conscious or unconscious level), of their childhood trauma the responses stored in the brain’s right hemisphere are triggered (fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses) whereas the brain’s left hemisphere guides ‘normal’ everyday behavior, allowing the person, to some degree at least, to function. To simplify :

  • Stress, threat, fear etc / implicit reminders of childhood trauma = right hemisphere dominant
  • Everyday functioning = left hemisphere dominant

Compartmentalization and Self-Alienation :

Whilst such compartmentalization may allow our day-to-day functioning to continue under one guise or another, there is, however, a price to be paid : the individual can suffer from intense feelings of self-alienation, self-loathing,  shame (that s/he is ‘concealing’ a ‘secret, bad,’ self) and a sense of being a ‘fake’ and ‘fraudulent’ person.

My next article (Part Two) will look at how we might best overcome this problem.

eBooks:

.  

Above ebooks now available from Amazon for instant download. Other titles by same author available. Click here for further information.

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

 

 

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

BUT

  • 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).

SPLITTING :

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.

THIS PHENOMENON IS KNOWN AS ‘SPLITTING’ AND OPERATES ON AN UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL.

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).