IF LOOKS COULD KILL
Anatomy of a Borderline
Anatomy of a Borderline
By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
My other articles on Borderline Personality Disorder speak to elements in the Borderline that seduce you and keep you enraptured, despite their push-pull emotional gymnastics, disruptive come here/go away cycles, and confusing, crazy-making behaviors. This piece exposes the volatile, frightening dark side of this individual who has gotten you under their spell and won't let you go, but also uncovers the root cause of these issues. There's a comprehensive list of features/traits at the bottom, which can help you determine if you're involved with someone who has BPD--or it may serve as a self-diagnostic tool.
While many BPD people have killer looks, not all Borderlines are beautiful or handsome--but that doesn't make them any less seductive or diabolical. It's much easier for a great looking man or woman to find continuous streams of narcissistic supply via adulation and romantic pursuit from others, and until this ego fuel isn't obtainable, they won't consider therapy. Why should they? Humans don't change, until what they've been doing doesn't work for them anymore--or they're in enough pain, to re-direct their energies and efforts toward seeking the help they need to get truly Well.
I'm often asked if borderline disordered individuals can commit murder. The answer is yes, depending on how deep their pathology runs. They're capable of acting-out unresolved anger (from childhood) by inflicting physical harm to anyone who's close--which can include their child or partner. They are lacking in empathy and impulse control, which allows these violent acts to happen, and our prison system houses many Borderlines who've killed during a fit of rage.
In the midst of mending from these intoxicating but dangerous relationships, hundreds of men have described a terrifying "demonic" influence that appears to inhabit their beloved when she's confronted with her lying, manipulations and betrayals--or some sort of (minor) infraction on their part, has catalyzed the most horrifying change in her facial expression. Many have reported; "it's like sparks flew out of her eyes," or "there's such a cold and hideous mask" that showed up, they couldn't recognize the woman they've loved so deeply. If looks could kill, they believe they'd be dead after one of these episodes!
A female client recently expressed that her (male) borderline friend "looked like the Devil himself," during vitriolic rages where his terrible verbal abuses were spat at her, like molten lava spewing from a suddenly active volcano. Other times, she says his demeanor was very peaceful and "cherubic"--a man you'd never suspect, was capable of such volatility. But how does this facet of "pure evil" manifest in somebody we've felt so close and loving with, just minutes or hours earlier? Would they recognize themselves, if we held up a mirror when this vile darkness descends on them? Might they see the distorted face of their rageful/punitive parent, instead of their own? Could it be that's what you have seen in them??
Jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall epitomizes this issue in her song, Lost Mind from the Love Songs album. Take a moment and listen (if this You-tube link is still active).
The duality of a Borderline is perhaps the most confounding issue one faces at the onset of their courtship, and throughout the remainder of this dance. Some folks have asked me whether MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) is a factor in their experiences with a Borderline, and while 'dissociative identity' fits under the same BPD canopy that houses a panoply of other diagnosable issues, the Borderline vacillates between being the either all-good or all-bad partner. Basically, there's no 'grey' area with these individuals--which means they're frequently misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Mood disorders keep someone fluctuating between feeling extremely depressed or elated (and/or agitated) during manic or hypomanic episodes. Bipolar disorders frequently coexist with BPD--but irrational jealousy, physical volatility and abusive or cruel/diminishing interactions are not part of a bipolar diagnostic picture!
Some spouses or long-term partners of Borderlines prefer to think that the darker aspects in their lover are an aberration, and not an integral, real part of their personality. This is untrue. Even if that facet only emerges when they've consumed alcohol or they're under a lot of stress, it's the other side of who they truly are, and you must allow yourself to accept that.
As for clinical BPD terminology, 'splitting' isn't just an issue that Borderlines demonstrate with you--they also experience it within themselves. At times, they might view themselves as powerful, seductive, brilliant beings. At other times, they'll feel worthless, unlovable, invisible and defeated. During these periods, their own lack of worth and sense they're defective is projected onto you, because the shame these feelings invoke in them, is literally unbearable.
A lot of folks apparently want you to believe that Borderlines are incapable of "regulating their emotions," and that's what causes the splitting reflex (or the love you/hate you stuff). While a Borderline's emotional age echoes that of a three year old, and emotional dysregulation is a developmentally sound postulate for very young children, this convenient, presumptive theory isn't accurate. Borderlines can and do control and modulate their emotions during the seduction phase of your dance, when 'best foots' are put forward and they're trying to win you over. During this time, you're treated like you walk on water, and you can do no wrong. This infatuation phase is fleeting, as are all the Borderline's other feelings~ but real Love is a totally different matter, as it's a sustainable emotion.
Borderline Personality Disorder is not a mental illness or disease! BPD is spawned by arrested emotional growth, which renders a person incapable of impulse control, adult reasoning, capacity for empathy or ability to self-soothe. I'm always asking partners of Borderlines to think of them like a toddler in an adult body--and when you're living with a Borderline, setting firm limits and boundaries is the only way you're gonna survive that relationship.