Please Note: The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and are communicated without reference to supporting documentation in most cases. Other inspiration and influence for the writing came through consultation with other mental health professionals but the writer “Peter Quintano” is also fully qualified in DBT making him qualified to talk about the things discussed in this article.
Having struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) myself, I can say with absolute certainty that issues with insecurity played a big role in the challenge to make improvements to my condition. For instance, problems with becoming easily jealous or fearing that my partner would suddenly abandon me were, more or less, a continuous issue prior to developing the knowledge that I suffered from BPD.
I honestly believed that every time my partner was irritated or frustrated with me, it meant she was ready to make a move to end the relationship. As a result, my anxiety and emotions would regularly escalate, and I would end up saying or doing things to seek reassurance and/or make the relationship worse (e.g., asking too many unnecessary questions, getting angry over small things, becoming controlling, etc.).
The unfortunate consequence of following this BPD behavioural pattern (instead of adopting a skilful way to work through emotions) is that my partner would sincerely want to be away from me instead of just being irritated or frustrated about something. So in effect, I was making my most feared reality (abandonment) a reality through the personality-disordered approach I was taking to the relationship.
Indeed, one of the tragedies of Borderline Personality Disorder is that the suffering person does not want to hurt people or relationships, but nonetheless ends up contributing to these unfortunate outcomes anyways through the lack of awareness and emotional skill!
Intense feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, rejection, worthlessness, and intensifying fears of abandonment end up plaguing the suffering person as it becomes apparent, over and over again, that things are not going well in relationships (e.g., too much fighting), and that there is no doubt he plays a role in how things are happening. But instead of taking real responsibility for these emotions, the suffering person just digs a deeper and deeper hole by engaging in more relationship-damaging behaviours (mentioned above).
Sadder yet, when a person with BPD doesn’t yet realize he has BPD, he may believe that the people around him are trying to induce the awful feelings he experiences. And when it seems like people are trying to cause intentional hurt in these ways, it can result in becoming unnecessarily and extremely angry, thus damaging relationships even further.
Having no insight, a person may also believe that his relationship-damaging behaviours make perfect sense and that they are absolutely necessary at the time of use. This is when everything going wrong might be expressed as being “everyone else’s fault”. Sometimes partners and others even fall prey to this faulty logic and reinforce the unhealthy pattern through their giving in/becoming passive instead of remaining assertive.
When things actually fall apart and people give up on the stress and drama of trying to make things work, the confusion about why things are going so poorly reigns supreme!! When this happens enough times, a person with BPD may start to consider suicide as a possible way out of the apparently endless confusion and emotional suffering.
In order for a person with BPD to escape the vicious circle depicted above, and to finally experience consistent harmony in relationships, he needs to come to terms with what has been happening all along. He needs to grasp the reality that he has no idea how to manage the difficult parts of his emotional experience, and that his relationships will continually remain unhealthy (or fail) unless he learns how to take proper responsibility.
Luckily, it is in fact possible to learn how to make these improvements, but it does require consistent seriousness, willingness, and determination to follow through with taking real responsibility for emotional management. I believe it speaks to the character of a human when he is willing to face himself like this… to take real emotional responsibility.
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