Borderline Personality and abuse
borderline personality disorder (BPD) is highly associated with the verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and/or domestic violence often suffered by those who are non borderline. The propensity for abusiveness in those with BPD is instigated by the narcissistic injury that is at the heart of the core wound of abandonment
Those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or those with BPD who may not even know they have it, are more likely than the general population to be verbally, emotionally/psychologically, physically abusive. But what is behind the connection between Borderline Personality and abuse?
The reality of this is such because borderlines lack a known consistent self and they struggle with abandonment fears and abandonment depression that stem directly from a primal core wound of abandonment that arrests their emotional and psychological development in the very first few months of life.
This arrested development impacts most, if not all, areas of relating and leaves borderlines unable to interact in age-appropriate healthy ways. Ways of relating that unfold in the present and that aren’t layered with deep intra-psychic pain – pain that is unresolved.
The roots of abuse in BPD, particularly in intimate significant other relationships with Non Borderlines have their genesis in the borderline’s re-living of this deep intra-psychic pain. Pain that is triggered through attempts to be emotionally intimate with someone else. The intimacy that non-personality-disordered people enjoy is stressful and overwhelming to the borderline. It enlivens the borderline’s worst nightmare – the unresolved pain of the core wound of abandonment. It arouses all the maladaptive defenses of the borderline because he/she re-experiences the terror and panic of either his/her past experience of feeling annihilated or engulfed and/or his/her fear of being annihilated or engulfed, often alternately, when trying to be close to someone one else.
This sets up an approach-avoidance conflict, a “get-away-closer” style of trying to relate that has its roots in the “I hate-you-don’t-leave-me” struggle of the borderline who experiences any withdrawal of intense, close, (albeit also threatening) intimacy, attachment or bond as a threat to his or her safety at best, and entire existence (psychologically) at worst. Add to this that when there is any distancing or break in the intensity and symbiotic-like closeness (if in fact closeness is ultimately achieved) the borderline then fears, and/or feels abandoned.
This conflict of fearing or re-experiencing annihilation versus engulfment and then the re-experiencing of the fear of or actual feelings of abandonment that the borderline experiences, often subconsciously, in trying to be in relationship to other, causes the borderline to be triggered back to his/her original core wound of abandonment feelings in such a way as to trigger the primal feelings of helplessness, loss of control, needs equaling survival, thwarted needs being akin with the death of the lost self. This whirlwind of unregulated emotion meeting with fear and distrust generates the original feelings of rage that this core wound of abandonment aroused in the first place.
The core wound of abandonment, when one is very young and experiences it, is the experience of psychological death. It is intense and arouses the borderline to fight for survival while they experience the sheer terror of feeling like they might actually just die or be killed by what they are feeling. This heightened state of arousal is both psychological and biological – it is physiological. It is a strong drive to survive and rage is at its core. Rage is the most primal feeling generated and the most protective defense that a young infant can muster to try to have the caregiver return to once again provide some sense of being for the infant.
Feelings and reactions of rage are experienced by those who go on to develop BPD so early in life that they precede cognitive and verbal development. This is what makes borderline rage so primal, so intense, and in the case of the borderline so raw and unmanageable in terms of often triggered dysregulated emotion of those with BPD.