I was recently asked by a friend and colleague to define Borderline Personality Disorder. I answered him simplistically, by saying People with BPD traits are afraid to fully attach, but later felt a need to expound, perhaps to impart greater understanding.

My ADD traits require I be able to make mental pictures of written or auditory information, in order to make cohesive sense of it~ so that's how I write and explain concepts to others, hoping they'll be able to derive maximum clarity from the information I impart. I’s just how I'm built, but I think this element has been the secret to my success, with regard to how people relate to my online materials.

BPD to me (having worked with and written about it for so many years) is a very nuanced and intricate emotional disorder that goes well beyond the understanding of laymen AND therapists. Most people assume the diagnostic criteria are accurate, and form a rather simplistic view of BPD based on this very narrow set of traits~ which is why I believe so much stigma exists about people who have this unfortunate cross to bear.

I've come to regard people with BPD traits as being fearful of fully attaching, and here's why:

When we deeply love someone, we cannot help but NEED them emotionally. The self-contained, fully developed, emotionally sound/healthy individual accepts this fact. The Borderline cannot. 

An emotionally evolved human knows full well, that when he/she invests deeply in an attachment to another, there's going to be excruciating emotional devastation one day, should their partner die first. David Schnarch speaks to the exceptional courage required of one who allows themselves to love fully, within the last couple of chapters of his book, "Passionate Marriage." 

For an emotionally well-integrated, self-actualized human, there's painful grief and mourning within the loss of a beloved, but fears surrounding loss of Self in the absence of that lover or partner, are not part of their emotional experience. In short, one's sense of Self remains intact during and after the loss of a vibrant bond. 

In contrast, the (afraid to bond) Borderline relates to deep loving and the inevitable, correlating emotional need for someone differently. Just the hint of potential loss of someone who is needed emotionally (which is always present within real attachment), is sensed as a serious threat to the Borderline's capacity to survive (much less, thrive) beyond the loss of one who is truly loved.

Example: I worked with a gal years ago, who declared that she loved one of her two sons (who was much like her) SO much, it terrified her to even consider that something might happen to take him away from her. She firmly believed she could not go on living, should she lose this son (the younger of the two) to death. She had both BPD traits and was pathologically Codependent (always compulsively rescuing stray humans).

Parents want to believe they "love all their children the same," but it's never true. They may love their kids equally~ but not the same. The one with whom they can connect most intimately and who mirrors the parent's best, most favored characteristics, is the one with whom they bond the deepest.

I believe this is a transferential issue left over from infancy and childhood, where a close, loving, nourishing and safe/secure bond could never be established with Mother~ and NOW, they have a child who (finally) loves, relates to and bonds with them in a way their BPD mom could not.

Anyhow, abandonment is NOT the Borderline's greatest fear. Attachment is, and they resist it within all relationships, including their therapeutic dynamic. This is WHY, when on those rare occasions they begin to feel deeply, intimately connected to you and experience a deep sense of love for you, they act-out anxious, fearful feelings that inevitably surface within, by distancing, pushing away, finding fault with you, picking fights, etc. 

We don’t generally give Borderlines enough credit. We tend to see them as a disorder, rather than fearful, fragile human souls who’ve always craved a sense of deep connection and attachment, but haven’t been able to trust it not to devastate them emotionally, and kill them.

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  • Borderlines do NOT fear Abandonment. They fear attachment!