The following material was written for individuals trying to recover from a relationship that's had toxic consequences for them, and is not intended as a support resource for Borderlines or anyone with BPD traits. If you suspect that you have these traits, please leave this website and redirect your attention to alternative web content, which might feel more congruent with your personal views and needs.
If you've found your way to this article, you're probably in a whole lot of pain because of a Borderline. Maybe a few of my other pieces on this topic helped you make sense of some of your experiences with a BPD person, but if that relationship has ended, you could be left with painful yearning, deep regret and shame. It is these aspects that we're needing to heal, because it's not enough that your mind tells you he or she is toxic--these damaged parts of you are still remembering, and holding this hurt on a cellular level.
Every emotional/psychic injury you have ever incurred is stored in the body's memory, which is why unresolved trauma eventually manifests as physical pain or disease (dis-ease). The body, mind and spirit are inseparable--and if you don't believe me, think about the depression you felt last time you had a serious physical setback that limited your activities.
Someone who has a genuinely healthy, confident sense of Self does not get mixed up with a Borderline. Anyone who does, has unresolved core pain and shame left over from childhood. The Borderline reactivates early wounding to your sense of lovability and worth, which is why you're here.
In a sense, this traumatic event you're struggling with is a wake-up call. It's the Borderline's job to bring your childhood anguish to the surface, so that it can be healed and resolved, and you can make healthier choices.
It's unfortunate, that no amount of written material in the world, can resolve or mend the awful injuries a Borderline leaves in his/her wake. Your lifelong self-reliance works against you in this case, by making it difficult to trust someone to help you get past this trauma. My other articles dismantle the tormenting confusion that's a factor in these relationships. This one helps you comprehend the nature of your pain, so you can decide whether to hang onto it, or not. Call it an informed choice, if you will.
My father (the carpenter) was a very wise man. He used to say; "sometimes you've gotta hit a man between the eyes with a 2 x 4, to get his attention." I have come to think of The Borderline, as that two by four. He or she gets your attention like nothing/nobody else can--and leaves you in such agony, guilt and torment, that you can't ignore it--or make it not matter.
SHOW ME WHERE YOU ARE, AND I'LL KNOW WHERE YOU'VE BEEN.
Relational patterning from early childhood stays with us for a lifetime. If our parents told us they loved us (or presumed we knew it), without consistent acts of affection, nurturance and support that backed-up those words, we were left with mixed messages that made us doubt our lovability and worth.
Maybe our dad was critical and abusive, and Mom's notion of comforting us was to state; "he really does love you," or explain Dad's harsh/stern manner to mean that he cares. This skews a kid's sense of what Love is, and totally fucks with his head. It's an emotional betrayal of the worst kind, yet this is where we started accepting that love meant pain, and vice-versa.
The incongruency between what we heard versus what we felt, programmed us to feel confusion, insecurity and longing, in reference to attachment. This defective pattern will always show up in your relationship with a borderline disordered individual. It can seem a bit like "coming home," as it's familiar.
The Borderline's gift, is he/she brings old, buried pain into awareness, so it can be dealt with, and resolved. You may be aware of having struggled with self-worth issues as a kid, but never understood why. We seldom remember early injuries to our sense of Self, because repression and denial help us live with whatever's too troubling/painful to confront. You might feel the need to defend your parents, having convinced yourself that they did a "great job" of raising you, but there always exists a template for one's relationship choices in adulthood--no matter how healthy or dysfunctional they may be. For now, let's refer to this template as your Attraction Strategy.
You cannot heal what you're unable or unwilling to feel. Think of it this way; let's say you've broken your wrist, and it needs attending to medically--but you're not feeling (or registering) much pain, so you fail to have it treated. Since these bones haven't been reset or protected with a cast, this arm can't mend properly--or become useful and powerful again. Hence, you now have a painful, disfigured wrist joint that inhibits many of your activities, 'cause you bypassed the discomfort that alerted you to fix it! Is this getting through to you? The Borderline reawakens difficult/dramatic feeling states, you began burying early in life--and brings all your childhood pain right to the surface.
Surviving your Borderline, is much like that poor, broken wrist. She/he leaves you with scar tissue (both psychically and emotionally) that can readily turn into serious physical disorders. The reason this woman or man had so much power over you, is due to your attraction strategy, which got cemented when you were very young. You can't fully recognize their behaviors or interactions as aberrant, because they're replicating experiences from your childhood that you'd accepted as "normal." How could you not? You had no other frame of reference to draw from! Whatever feels familiar, feels normal. Some children spend a lot of time in movie theaters or at a friend's house, to gain a sense of reality that contrasts what they've seen and heard at home. It saves their lives. Could this have been true for you?
WE LEARNED HOW TO LOVE, AND WHO TO LOVE FROM OUR PARENTS.
Your mind is your thinking organ. Your heart is your feeling organ. Healing, is a matter of the Heart. When your spirit is wounded, it causes damage to this organ, which impacts you on all sorts of levels that are incredibly tough to recover from. You might feel empty, broken, depressed--or even, like it's not worth going on. The parts within you that worked so long at feeling good enough about yourself, have taken a devastating hit. You aren't accustomed to these sensations, because you've devoted so much effort toward growing stronger, and feeling more powerful and in-control. You've done a terrific job with that, but now you're back at square one--at least, it feels that way.
How is it, that after all the therapy you've done, you're here now? Why is it, that the insights you've gained, aren't helping you with this pain? Maybe it's time you start to mend. Integrated Recovery work transcends psychotherapy.
Children learn from example. Every child who grows up with constant fighting and tension between his parents, has to survive living in a war zone. This is grossly unfair to kids at any age--but it's only the tip of this iceberg; mean-spirited, disrespectful interplay between spouses becomes a kid's definition for what 'marriage' means. As an adult, he/she will unwittingly choose lovers or partners with whom to replicate this familiar drama--or may never marry at all.
When you're with a Borderline, there's no sense of stability or comfort that's lasting. As a child, you found 'foxholes' that sheltered you a bit from chaos or destruction, and this became natural/reflexive--even if that meant taking refuge in a closet, or hiding under your bed. You hoped for an ongoing sense of calm/peace at home--but at best, it was fleeting. This lack of emotional safety in childhood could have been subtle, and you adapted--but it's helped you accept the lack of it now, in your present relationship. The inconsistent patterns of affection or attention that you experienced as a kid, set you up to accommodate these inconsistencies as an adult. Hence, you've kept this 'attraction strategy' in place with Borderlines! This can be resolved.
WE'RE PROGRAMMED AS KIDS, HOW TO FEEL ABOUT OURSELVES.
My dad grew up with an abusive father, and mentally unsound mother. Still, he only reminisced about occasional meals at his little friend's house, where he noticed a very different type of interaction between this child's parents, than he saw at home! During those brief boyhood visits, my father observed playful affection, flirting, mutual respect and consideration between the two adults, and this alternate perspective remained into his eighties. He'd report that his buddy consistently expressed his joyful eagerness to grow up--and have that experience for himself. His friend's excitement/enthusiasm was so palpable, and he retained such vivid mental snapshots of this desire, I must presume he was successful in manifesting his aim. My father had self-worth issues his entire life, which inescapably shaped partner selection.
Observing loving, caring interactions between grown-ups is one of the finest gifts you can bestow on a child, as he/she will look forward to having these pleasurable experiences in adulthood--and know how to create them!
A child's depression is a really serious matter. Far too many children commit suicide to escape their pain, as they have no way to express these feelings to anyone who might understand them, or be able/willing to offer comfort or soothing. This child may come to regard himself as an alien in his family, for he cannot recognize his inner turmoil in the faces of other members, who are wearing smiles or rage on them to mask their own turmoil and pain! Adding insult to injury, he can't make rational sense of his experiences, which traps him in tormenting confusion. Is this sounding at all familiar??
The problem with not resolving childhood trauma issues, is that they're still driving the romantic choices and coping strategies (addictions/compulsions) you had before this fall from grace with your Borderline. In other words, you will be highly susceptible to engaging another Borderline, to compensate for self-esteem deficits and ego wounds that are still alive in you! A new condo, car or lover, can be part of your frantic attempts to feel better, but these are just Bandaids that temporarily mask your anguish, they don't mend it. Sadly, these endeavors can land you in even more trouble, than you had before.
Healing from your traumatic dance with a Borderline, means you can learn to recognize and create healthier attachments, and love again--really love, and have it returned. This may sound like an abstract concept that seems pretty implausible or scary right now--but anything's possible if you really want it, so spare no effort to get yourself there.