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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), regardless of what is thought to cause it, manifests as a relational disorder. Those with BPD often have unrealistic expectations. This disorder of relating is largely driven by distorted thoughts and unrealistic expectations.

The expectations of those with BPD can often be unrealistic based upon negative core beliefs that originated in childhood and that are subconsciously adhered to in polarized black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. Borderlines continue to act out and/or act in the wounds of the inner child in ways that alienate further from the lost authentic self (and others) in their adult lives. It is this inability to emotionally mature beyond the original core wound of abandonment and its legacy that leads to the cognitive distortions that produce and support continued unrealistic expectations of those with BPD. The core wound of abandonment and the subsequent and very wounding shame of abandonment that so many unrealistic expectations are created. Lacking a known self those with BPD also lack a sense of identity. This affects everything to do with how you will experience relating to others. Without a known and developed healthy authentic self the borderline cannot relate to him or her self literally. When one cannot relate to self, one cannot have a healthy foundation from which to relate in a healthy way to and with others.

Expectations are a big part of what define both our actual experiences and our perception of those experiences. What we expect can be like a predictor of what is to come in the sense that expectations can take on a life of their own as self-fulfilling prophecy.

In Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) it is not uncommon to have life experience dictated and distorted by unrealistic expectations.

What constitutes unrealistic expectations can vary widely with each individual borderline and his or her core issues and past experience in terms of unmet needs that he or she still is unable to meet. If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, not only are your expectations molded a lack of known self and the lostness that produces within you relationally but your expectations are often unrealistic in turn because you do not have the ability – the inter-personal (emotional maturity) to tolerate the distress of the needs of yours that have remained unmet. Needs that you may well still have no idea how to meet. In fact, for many with BPD, there is a disconnect between what one’s actual needs are and how to appropriately meet needs generally.

It is important to first take a long hard look at what your core beliefs are. It is these core beliefs that are the foundation of your expectations and that define your thoughts, affect your feelings and end up being expressed or manifested as "borderline behaviour".

It is from the loss of the authentic self to the core wound of abandonment and its subsequent shame that those with BPD find themselves bound to these self-defeating and unrealistic expectations of their negative core beliefs.

Borderlines need to find their way to the process of recovery in order to address the unrealistic expectations of the borderline way of thinking. Central to this process of recovery is the journey From False Self To Authentic Self – the journey that is the getting in touch with the wounded and dissociated from inner child.

Often we, as human beings, act on, act in, and/or act out our core beliefs (whether we are borderline or non borderline) without having much if any conscious awareness of this. An example of a core belief might be, "I am unlovable" The origin of this belief may well be an original wound (Bradshaw). This belief may be the result of not bonding (securely) with or feeling attached to a parent.

This experience leads many a child to conclude that he/she is the reason that the bond was not formed. Children, being egocentric, feeling that they are the centre of the universe, not yet having acquired a mature understanding of the distinction between "self" and "other", take the actions of the parent to mean that he/she is, in fact, unlovable. Children learn what they live.

This flawed logic, or distorted thinking, leads many to believe that if a parent didn’t love them, nobody can, and that they can’t love themselves either because that parent’s lack of love means that he/she is unlovable. This is an example of a core belief. It is an example of how a negative core belief gets distorted in the case of borderline thinking. There is a distorted and negative association made between not being or not feeling loved and taking that on as something that is wrong with self. And then having that "wrongness" come to be experienced and thought of as an actual truth.

Borderlines in the experience of their original loss – the core wound of abandonment – emotionally fuse together the experience of being wronged with being a person who is wrong. At the centre of borderline abandonment trauma is this fusion of having experienced a break in connection as having been broken that lays the foundation for the self-defeating and repeating patterns of distorted thinking that fuels the unrealistic expectations of Borderline Personality Disorder. These unrealistic expectations are the expectations of a young wounded and abandoned and re-abandoned child whose pain cannot be tolerated and whose pain must be avoided at all costs because it feels so terrifying to those with BPD that it feels like to feel it would kill them.



This core belief, that being wronged or this break in connection equals being broken – and broken beyond repair – that originated in childhood, based upon a negative and painful experience in which needs were not met, is what John Bradshaw theorizes is carried into adult in the ego state of a damaged and wounded inner child. This part of self perpetuates the core belief which arrests the emotional maturation of the individual beyond this schema (Schema Therapy- Jeffery Young) or life script (Eric Berne, M.D.) the originator of "Transactional Analysis" The life script is then played out over and over again in attempt after attempt to meet the unmet need. The problem is that the individual acting on this core belief, as we see in borderline behaviour, among other things, is an adult trying to meet the needs of an inner child through behaviour that is not situationally-appropriate or age-appropriate.

This is the key reason why the attempts to meet these needs in what many would describe as unhealthy or pathological ways repeatedly fail leaving the borderline individual frustrated, alienated, and often depressed. It is the re-playing out of this life script that is a direct result of the core belief being "acted out" and is the foundation of the set of expectations (no matter how cognitively-distorted) that many borderlines hold steadfast too in spite of any and all evidence that may be presented to the contrary.

Thus is the self-defeating nature of Borderline Personality Disorder. The protect against pain at all costs mentality that essentially is the re-abandonment of the dissociated from inner child and continues to add to the borderline’s abandoned pain.

This is the point at which self-awareness must meet with active decision-making to CHOOSE to break this negative and cyclical life script or schema. Each borderline needs to heal his or her core wound of abandonment and resolve it in ways that support emotional maturation beyond the behaviour that they keep regressing to in frantic efforts to avoid the pain of their abandonment trauma.

Examples of some unrealistic expectations that the core belief of "I am unlovable" may fuel and or support are; "you owe me", "it’s not my fault", "it’s not my responsibility", "it’s up to you", "I can’t meet my own needs", feeling like a victim, feeling helpless, not being in touch with one’s excruciating pain of loss and instead being very quick to rage at the first sign of closeness, distancing behaviour, martyr behaviour, co-dependent enmeshment (Melody Beattie), and expecting to be rescued by others because it was you expect and what you believe you need.



Those who are diagnosed with BPD have not had their attachment and bonding needs met in childhood (for whatever reason or combination of reasons). This means that those with BPD, for example, are driven to repeat negative behaviour based upon past negative experience, all of which contributes to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy of attitude, behaviour, the reactions of others, feeling re-abandoned and still being left with the very painful reality of unmet need after unmet need. This is the result of having lost one’s self, literally, to the core wound of abandonment and of having this rupture with (and of) self then play itself out in each and every effort to relate to other.

Believing, as in this example, that one is unlovable leads one to interact with others from distorted perception of reality to begin with. It also leads the borderline to unrealistically expect others to meet his or her unmet needs. The unrealistic expectations that borderlines have of others flow from this foundation of loss and need. The distorted expectation in tandem with the distorted thoughts produces very powerful feelings of need and want which are enacted repeatedly by the inner child of the borderline (in regressive child-like ways) that perpetuate borderline behaviour and continue to support and reinforce the unrealistic expectations and the original core belief itself. It is a cycle of self-defeat and unmet needs, re-abandonment which only serves to leave the borderline feeling angrier (more hurt at base) more isolated, more needy, more unloved than they did in the first place – over and over again and often, to the non borderline, seemingly out of the blue.

This borderline behaviour then is a regression to past pain that results from being triggered in the present by something that threatens or arouses a core belief that enacts a want or desire or need in the borderline in such a way as to set up the self-defeating quest to try to meet unmet needs through others.

In order to address borderline "reality" and borderline behaviour you must be willing to identify, feel and accept and then resolve (in therapy) your own "original wounds" (Bradshaw). This requires a tremendous amount of grieving. It is only through this very deep resolving and the healthy expression of the issues associated with the negative core beliefs that formed as a direct result of your unmet needs that you can truly extinct the cycle of distorted thoughts, feelings, borderline behaviour and unrealistic expectations that lead to more distorted thinking, feeling, acting, and increase exponentially your need to feel soothed, rescued, and validated – your need to have someone else essentially manage and tolerate the dysregulated emotion of your abandonment trauma for you.

And because this is not possible, the mere expectation that someone else can really help you with how you feel generally or help you out of dysregulated emotion or all that you experience as a result of having BPD, the cycle of unrealistic expectation – unmet need – fear of and/or experience of abandonment – dysregulated emotion = distress = need for rescue – the set up of the apex of the cycle happens over and over ad infinitum.

If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, only you can set yourself free from this very painful and self-defeating cycle. And to set your self free from this cycle of abandonment trauma you must first actually find and re-parent your lost authentic self.

© A.J. Mahari, July 7, 2008 – All rights reserved.


A.J. Mahari is a Life Coach who, among other things, specializes in working with those with BPD and non borderlines. A.J. has 5 years experience as a life coach and has worked with hundreds of clients from all over the world.


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Borderline Personality Disorder and Unrealistic Expectations