Connecting Authentically When You Have BPD

Connecting Authentically When You Have BPD

Seated in her psychiatrist’s office, Francine clutched her arms around her body, swaying gently as tears streamed down her face. “I need something to make this stop,” she pleaded desperately.
What exactly do you want to stop, Francine?” her psychiatrist inquired, voice steady.
The pain of feeling unloved by others!” she exclaimed.
And who do you feel doesn’t love you in return?” he probed further.
It feels like everyone! It seems like no one can ever love me as much as I love them, and it’s unbearable.

Though Francine’s expression might seem exaggerated, her struggles stem from a deep-seated issue. Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), she represents a segment of the population prone to intense emotional pain that can escalate to crisis levels; indeed, it’s estimated that about 10% of those with BPD might attempt suicide. Research points to a common theme among many with BPD: the phenomenon of insecure attachment in relationships, which, while not directly causing suicidal actions, certainly complicates emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships.

Connecting Authentically When You Have BPD

Varieties of Insecure Attachment

Psychologists categorise insecure attachment into three types: unresolved, preoccupied, and fearful. As noted by Erica Djossa, a person’s attachment style is shaped by their self-perception and their views of others. These attachment styles are crucial in how individuals interact with those closest to them—often family or romantic partners—and can reflect patterns established in early childhood. However, these patterns can also arise from adverse relationships or absent emotional support during those formative years.

For example, a child raised by a distant and emotionally unavailable parent might grow into an adult who struggles with BPD symptoms, constantly seeking validation and affection from those close to them.

Unresolved Attachment: Individuals with this style often have histories of abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) in their childhoods. They might find themselves repeatedly entangled in exploitative relationships, or they might inadvertently perpetuate abuse.

Preoccupied Attachment: Those with this attachment style typically had inconsistently nurturing caregivers. They might grow up to be hypersensitive about their partner’s emotional availability, leading to behaviours like unwarranted suspicion or intrusive actions.

Fearful Attachment: Typically characterised by a negative self-view and distrust of others, these individuals are wary of rejection and may avoid relationships. However, once in a relationship, they can become excessively dependent. This style often originates from parents who were either overly critical or excessively protective.

Understanding and Addressing BPD

The genesis of BPD is believed to be a complex interplay of genetic factors and environmental influences. It’s crucial to recognise that not everyone with BPD has come from a troubled background; many come from nurturing families but still develop BPD, possibly due to inherent predispositions coupled with subtle environmental factors.

The journey from insecure to secure attachment is neither quick nor easy, and even individuals without mental health conditions can find it challenging. For Francine, the path involved turning inward to find the emotional support she sought from others. The process of self-soothing and self-regulation is a powerful one, leading to a more stable and confident individual presence within relationships.

This enhanced stability is not just beneficial for those with BPD; it can improve interpersonal dynamics for anyone. Relationships can become less chaotic and more fulfilling by fostering a stronger sense of self and reducing dependency on others for emotional validation.

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