The Borderline Dance and The Non-Borderlines’ Dilemma

A man walking alone on a forest path

I talk about the dance of the borderline and the dilemma of the non-borderline. (person who does not have BPD but has a loved one with BPD) The borderline dance is one of survival for the borderline and the non-borderline’s dilemma is one of survival for the non-borderline.


The Dance of the Borderline can be defined as the projective-identification/transference of their identity to the extent that they do not know it on to someone else. What does this mean? It means that when the borderline in your life is sad, or hurt or afraid, rather than feel those feelings, as the non-borderline would, the borderline will turn on you in an effort to have you hold, act out and be the very feelings that they cannot hold, handle or cope with. It is a sub-conscious way to have mirrored back to self all that one feels but refuses to feel. It is essentially, the borderline trying to put distance between him or herself and his/her own unresolved and abandoned pain. Little do most borderlines realize that in effect what they are really doing when they act out and push people away and erect walls to ‘protect’ them is wall themselves in with the pain. There is no relief from pain to be found in casting it out to those or to the world around you. The walls that a borderline builds will wall that borderline in and threaten to drown him/her in his/her own pain. The non-borderline who does not have any boundaries is at risk of being sealed into that borderline wall of agony.

It is through this dance that the borderline often sets him/herself up to continually re-experience what feels familiar. Because most borderlines have a tremendous fear of abandonment the behavior that they engage in often is the reason why people have to distance and/or disengage or turn away, sooner or later, to maintain their own sanity. Yet when it is reasonable to leave or to take space (to a non-borderline) the borderline (usually not taking any personal responsibility) will blame you and will experience your taking space or your leaving as abandonment.

The borderline is in a very painful world of his or her own. Emotionally, it is a world that exists in parallel to the world of the “averagely healthy”. Despite a usually above average intelligence and an often charming initial presentation most borderlines are emotionally vastly different from how they are intellectually. The discrepancy between a borderline’s general ability to think and his/her emotional capacity is often an internal schism between self-known and self-unknown that is wider than the grand canyon. It is world that is run by terror and fear and often by the triggered-dissociations from the past of the borderline.

The Dance of the Borderline is experienced by the non-borderline when all of sudden, yet again, they have become the focus of the borderline’s pain, rage, anger, unmet needs, wants, demands, helplessness and so on. Question I’ve been asked a lot of late in email is, “How do I not go there? How can I set a boundary? What do I do when he/she starts it all over again? Why is this happening?

So there is the borderline prone to repeatedly engaging in a deceptive dance of demanding devastation and the non-borderline who cannot get into the head (understand the motivation) of the borderline. Herein lies the dilemma of the non-borderline.

The Non-Borderline’s Dilemma is realized when he/she comes to the inevitable conclusion that he/she has to effect some change for themselves. There comes the realization that a choice has to be made. The choice is one that most often feels like, and is, a choice between equally unfavourable and disagreeable alternatives. This is the projected out predicament in which the borderline (to a degree) has lived within all of his/her life without knowing if fully. It is this similar dilemma/dynamic or predicament that is the fuel of the borderline dance in the first place. So you see the borderline and the non-borderline, in some ways, are not so far apart. The experience of each is very painful – often riddled with conflicting emotions. The experience of each is real. What each non-borderline must realize within this dilemma however, is that they have the tools necessary to take care of themselves. The non-borderline has the ability (not limited emotionally by a personality disorder) to responsibly address what is not working for them or to what is hurting them.

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A.J. Mahari lives in Ontario, Canada. She is an Author, Speaker, Counselor, Life Coach, BPD/Loved Ones Coach, NPD/Loved Ones Coach, Mental Health Coach, and Self-Improvement Coach. She has been described by many as an insightful and astute student of life’s ups and downs. A.J. is a Mental Health Professional. A.J. writes from her own life experience, education and over 20 years of experience working with clients with Personality Disorders or the Loved Ones of those with them. You can purchase any of A.J.'s 35+ Ebooks or Written and Narrated 45+ Audio Programs or work with her as a your Counselor or Life Coach. She is a sexual abuse survivor and recovered from Borderline Personality Disorder many years ago. She is also an adult living with (“high functioning”) Asperger's Syndrome.

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