The different facets of people with Borderline Personality Disorders

If you come across people with Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD), you may find them very unpredictable.  Their mood and behaviors shift quickly and it is difficult for you to understand what is going on in their mind.  This sudden shift in feeling, thinking and behavior contributes to the multiple facets of people with BPD.  For instance, a client of mine suddenly burst into tears while she was riding the bus with her boyfriend.  When her boyfriend asked her why she cried suddenly, she told him that she felt upset about him not initiating to treat her meal on that day.  She thought her boyfriend did not love her enough and would leave her in any moment given that he had lots of female friends at work.  This client thought in black-and-white term in this scenario and suddenly turned into a child-like state, in which she felt alone and everyone will abuse and abandon her.

To understand why people with BPD are so unpredictable, we may try to understand their different facets.  In general, the client of mine is calm and mature at workplace and in social situations.  She managed to complete her work tasks well and on time.  She was also sensitive and empathetic to her friend’s emotional needs.  However, it is common for people with BPD suppressing their feelings or desires in front of others in order to please them and avoid danger.  They tend to detach from their inner feelings and desires because they worry about losing control of their feelings.  This also may be one of the ways for them to avoid being abandoned by others.  Furthermore, they also worry about threats of being humiliated or punished if they show their weaknesses.  As a result, they try very hard not to be their true self.

Sometimes, people with BPD shift to a state of being very angry and impulsive.  As they frequently try to please others and do not know how to set healthy boundaries with others, they may experience anger towards others for not being treated fairly after them being very accommodating.  For example, the client of mine frequently offered to pay for the meal while dating with her boyfriend.  As her boyfriend worried that she might get angry if he did not allow her to pay the bill, he let her to treat him as she wished.  As a result, the client felt being treated unfairly by her boyfriend as he did not initiate to treat her meal while riding the bus.  She started to verbally abuse him by saying that he was not a responsible male who did not know how to take care of female. 

In another facet, people with BPD shift to become sad and desperate.  They worry about being abandoned and feel very lonely and not being cared by anyone in the world.  In this state, people with BPD usually seek immediately reassurance from their significant others and feel that one is not capable of being alone and handling her own emotional fluctuation.  The client of mine frequently asked for an urgent phone chat with me whenever she had an emotional outburst after having conflicts with her boyfriend.  If an immediate solution was unavailable to her at the critical moment of her ourburst, she would keep calling me until attention was paid to her.  In this state, the client was acting like a child trying to seek immediate attention and care desperately.

It is also common for people with BPD to criticize themselves frequently whenever one does not achieve one’s unrealistic expectations.  In fact, they think that they are bad and deserve punishment for not meeting the standard. In this state, people with BPD sometimes punish themselves by not allowing self to enjoy pleasurable activities and by hurting themselves.  For instance, after the bus ride with her boyfriend, the client of mine went home and felt very shameful for her emotional outburst and verbal abuse towards her boyfriend.  She cut herself with a cutter in her arm to punish herself as she felt herself as a bad person and deserved being punished.

Given these different facets of people with BPD, it is understandable for them to be so unpredictable.  However, it is not hopeless for people with BPD to shift between these states.  It is important for them to have the opportunity to cultivate a healthy state inside themselves.  In this healthy state, they can manage their emotions and maintain a healthy boundaries with others.  As a result, they can observe their shifting and be more mindful of choosing their behaviors and regulating their emotions.  With therapy, it is hopeful for people with BPD to develop such a healthy state.

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