Those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have an underlying fear of abandonment and often misinterpret interpersonal situations where they end up feeling worthless or mistreated. They can have a distorted sense of self and view of others. The see themselves and others as split, as either “all good” or “all bad”. They will either project that others are “all good” (loving, supportive, caring); and then when they are triggered they will project that others are “all bad” (uncaring, abandoning or mean). These internal positions prevent them seeing themselves or others clearly. When others are “all good”, they feel good or loved. when others are “all bad”, they feel worthless, abandoned and unloved. The borderline remains stuck in these split positions, so they do not have to face the underlying abandonment feelings. It prevents them making healthy decisions for themselves, often choosing abusive relationships because they feel “all good’, at the start, and then alternate to being “all bad”. Therapy helps the borderline person integrate these two split positions, so they can see themselves and others more clearly, in make the right decisions for themselves.

Like an angry toddler that provokes the parent for attention, the borderline does the same with their partner. They become outraged when they perceive situations of abandonment, often pushing away significant others, who misunderstand them. Feeling not good enough, they’re constantly testing their partners love, to see if they will leave them. They are wanting to check if others care. When being triggered to feelings of rejection, they can come across hostile when they are seeking affection, so loved ones withdraw from them, misreading them. They are not aware of their triggers and displace their fears onto others, who may not be treating them this way. It can become self-fulling that they become rejected, by pushing away those they love.

BPD individuals are easily triggered into feeling bad and will often project others as putting them down or rejecting them, even though this may not be the case at all. They often project others to be bad, uncaring or mean. It is hard to determine what feelings belong inside of them or caused by others. Their partner is often wrongly accused of things, such as not caring. The borderline who reacts to their feelings, can make misguided judgements, based on the past internalisation of care givers, which distort how they see others and how they feel about themselves. Essentially, the borderline will see everyone as either “all good” or “all bad”.

It is important for others to understand their pervasive fear of abandonment, to become sensitive to how they may perceive things, and not take their reactions personally. It is important to see their reactions, as a way to protect them from feelings of abandonment and feelings of unworthiness. Borderlines do not intentionally want to sabotage those they love. Being unaware of their triggers, they often attribute their feelings to be caused by the person who triggered them. It is helpful for the borderline to understand what triggers them, so they can check out their feelings and not react to them.

As a child, the borderline tested the parent by pushing the boundaries to see how much they could get away with. The toddler needed a parent who could withstand their temper tantrums, to be strong enough to not give into their wants or demands by setting limits on their behavior, while regulate their affect at the same time. Avoiding her own feelings of abandonment and not wanting to upset her child, the mother often gave into them, so the child didn’t learn limits on their behavior. By giving in to their testing behaviours, the parent ended up losing control over the child’s behavior, who keeps acting out, causing the parent to over react by being aggressive, attacking or mean. When the child withdrew from the parent, the parent felt abandoned and withdrew her libidinal support for the child’s growing self to develop.

The borderline became rejected or abused, unless they met the parent’s needs. So, eventually the child learned to give up their self to focus on the parent’s needs, otherwise they were attacked or abandoned. So, they repeat this pattern of giving up their ‘self’ to please others, so they can feel loved and not abandoned.

Often, the borderline does not focus on themselves, to form healthy boundaries or set limits on others, to take care of themselves. To feel good, they let issues slide in a relationship, to avoid abandonment. They usually put up with too much, until they snap and react. They fear expressing themselves will lead to abandonment or cause trouble, so they’re either complying or angry. They often do not want to hurt others and cannot say no, to avoid abandonment. They end up taking on board other people’s problems, rather than focusing on sorting out their life. The problem is usually putting the relationship above themselves, by losing grip on themselves and becoming angry at others for it. When they feel upset at losing their self, they blame the relationship, the other is at fault or seen as “all bad”. The borderline does not often see the part they play in recreating these dynamics.

Those with BPD can often end up in situations that are abusive, since they do not trust themselves, when they notice warning signs in a relationship. The borderline will put up with abuse, because they attach abuse with the love they received. They will often sacrifice their self to feel loved, to avoid abandonment. They repeat their pattern of putting up with abuse to feel loved, by hoping to recreate the love they’re longing for. Finding abusive or unavailable partners does not actually offer them what they are looking for and does not fix the past.

The borderline often depended on others to do things for them or take care of them. Other times they never had parents to support their self-discovery. They replace the focus on themselves with focusing on others, to feel good about themselves. The borderline does not have confidence in themselves, and clings to destructive relationships to feel love. So, others feel worried about them and want to help. However, they often didn't develop the capacity to help themselves, so others feel pulled into rescuing them.
When others give unwanted advice, it can feel controlling or belittling. When the borderline takes on the advice of others, it prevents them from working things out for themselves. They will stay dependent on others to take control of their life, so they do not have to take responsibility. It enables them to remain dependent. Others feel frustrated at their efforts to help, that seem to go nowhere, so people give up on them, when they’ve had enough, abandoning them when they're most vulnerable. Friends will eventually give up, when a woman will not leave a domestic violent situation and goes back. The biggest problem is how the borderline clings to relationships in order to avoid abandonment, often not thinking clearly about themselves, hoping others will give them what they need, rather than take responsibly for themselves.

The borderline can feel patronized by people telling them what to do. It does not allow the space to understand themselves. It doesn't help them to take responsibility for themselves, but reminds them of how stupid they feel.

Ways to deal with a borderline person

Do not judge the person but address the behavior that you want to set limits on.

Do not give into their wants or demands, and avoid rescuing.

Encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and offer them the space to be heard, so they can sort things out for themselves.

Do not take on board their problems or you will be dealing with them.

Try to not react to the behavior but understand what is underneath, which they have trouble communicating, and respond to the feelings.

Do not take their angry actions personally or react. Let them know how their behavior impacts you, to set limits on how they treat you. Let them know it pushes you away.
Like a toddler, setting limits on the behavior will minimise it. If you ignore it, you will collude in letting them get away with it.

Do not take their words seriously if they're reactive. But let them know how it affects you, once things are calm. Often, they're not aware of how they come across to others, and they respect when others tell them, so they can understand themselves.

Set limits or boundaries on acting out behaviours. Do not give in or put up with it, otherwise you enable them to continue acting out. If you do nothing or say nothing, you will enable the behavior to continue. Speak with conviction and be firm that the behavior is destructive, not the person. Be like the strong, calm parent who lets the toddler know when they’re out of line, to set them straight. It is said with conviction, so it’s taken seriously. Otherwise, they will continue to walk on you.

How should the borderline person deal with their emotions?

Firstly, do not react to your feelings. Determine if what you are feeling is warranted or if you are being triggered.
Recognize your triggers and situations that trigger you.
If you are triggered, step away from the situation to process the feelings, to understand them, rather than react in the heat of the moment. Getting in touch with your feelings will help you to manage situations calmly and help organise your feelings.

Recognise that the feelings of worthlessness or abandonment are caused by your past, so do not let them affect the way you see yourself or others. Talk yourself out of it, to overcome these negative beliefs or fears. No one thinks you are as bad as you think. Learn to deal with the feelings and let it go. Be aware of what belongs to the past and what belongs to the present. Therapy can help address the past so that it doesn’t distort one’s perception of reality.
Be aware that the wish to get support from others, can push loved ones away and not help you sort your life out. People do not want to be responsible for taking care of others, all the time.

Learn to say no, focus on yourself, set limits on others, so that you do not take on board everyone else’s problems, so that you can sort out your own life. You will not be present in your own life, if you’re dealing with everyone else but yourself.

If you feel abandoned, by not focusing on everyone else, it is not true. Focusing on others (e.g parent) was a way to prevent abandonment, but it got in the way of self-activating. The borderline will get better when they focus on themselves, not others.

Do not avoid the areas in your life that cause unhappiness; avoidance or denial will further hold you back. Listen to yourself and put faith in yourself. Facing the problems helps you to sort your own life out. Avoid beating yourself up or giving up, if things do not work out straight away. It takes time for change or reaching one’s goals; the more you do it, the more confidence you will gain.

If the borderline can become centred and focus on themselves, they can develop clear goals and develop a clear pathway for themselves, rather than focus on others to avoid abandonment or feel good. This will allow them to make the right decisions for them, and not based on others. When they develop a clear sense of self, they can say no, set boundaries and not get drawn into situations that are destructive for them.

Nancy Carbone is a Counselor and Couples Therapist. She specializes in the treatment of personality disorders from the Psychoanalytic International Masterson Institute in New York. You can visit her at ,

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Carbone is a Counselor and Couples Therapist. She specializes in the treatment of personality disorders from the Psychoanalytic International Masterson Institute in New York. You can visit her at ,