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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has two distinct dysfunctional relational styles. The “acting-in” style of many with BPD is known as the quiet borderline. The result of relational style of the quiet borderline often culminates in the silent treatment. The best known and recognized style of many with BPD is that of the “acting out” or raging borderline.

A key thing to note about these two primary relational styles of presentation within Borderline Personality Disorder is that both the quiet borderline and the raging borderline are often experiencing similar aspects of borderline pathology. The only difference between these two relational styles or groups is the method of manifestation of the borderline traits. One style acts in the pathology of BPD and the other acts it out. Both are experiencing the same underlying issues and have the same abandonment issues coupled with emotional dysregulation and an inability to cope with that dysregulation, to soothe it, and to take and hold personal responsibility for it.

There is much more written about the raging borderline relational style. However for both the raging acting out borderline and the quiet borderline – the acting in borderline at the centre of their rage is feeling/perceiving or fearing abandonment, feeling/perceiving invalidation. The acting out borderline whose needs are thwarted or who doesn’t get his or her own way aggressively and often abusively yells, name calls, and screams about how they feel and what they feel others have done to cause how they feel. While the quiet borderline, the acting in borderline, will give you an aloof stone-cold silence when he or she is enraged.

The stone-cold silence of the quite acting in borderline is often also used whenever a non borderline really wants and needs to talk, set boundaries, get some input about what is really going on in a relationship from the borderline. This silence is an abdication of personal responsibility.

Borderlines, whether they are quiet acting in borderline or raging acting out borderlines, often experience what they are actually feeling and/or doing as coming from the other person in an interaction because they essentially are living through other in the absence of a known self.

The “acting-in” borderline, when he or she experiences rage, is frustrated, experiences the thwarting of his or her needs, or simply doesn’t get what he or she wants, more often than not passively-aggressively uses the silent treatment as a means of defense through avoidance and also as a form of punishment.



What many non borderlines might not realize is that the quiet borderline stance of giving you the silent treatment is as abusive as is the abuse of the verbally abusive raging borderline.

The silent treatment is considered by many to be a form of verbal abuse. It is also a form of psychological and/or emotional abuse. It is toxic. It is a betrayal of all that love is meant to be.

The silent treatment as punishment is a total negation of who you are and of what you feel and/or may need. It is the epitome of broken mutuality. It is one of the experiences that most puts non borderlines in touch with the actual truth of much of how they are invisible to the borderline. For the quiet and raging borderline alike the primitive narcissism of the borderline false self living and re-living of all of the borderline’s unresolved abandonment trauma through any close relationship dictates that other must be punished when the borderline isn’t immediately and satisfactorily satiated. If a borderline can ever be satiated it is at best a fleeting satiation that will only be more intense the next time in what will be an escalating coupling of need and want and get-away-closer no-win that will leave the head of many a non borderline spinning in confusion and many a non borderline heart aching.

The silent treatment is punitive.


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Where does the quiet borderline go, emotionally inside, while they are doling out this abusive passive-aggressive silence? Do they forget what’s going on? Do they not think about it? Do they enjoy it? Primarily, at the centre of the silent treatment is a feeling of power. For the quiet borderline this feeling of power comes from knowing just how much the silent treatment hurts. The borderline, on some level does understand what he or she is doing.

The silent treatment is most often a calculated ploy. It is a pull for power. It is the abuse of intimidation too. It negates the existence of other. For many borderlines this plays out the relationship rupture they experienced from the the core wound of abandonment. It is a way of abandoning other to empower self. It is the quentissential split – the quiet borderline (whether aware of this or not) believes that if you feel weakened then he or she is made stronger. After all if you are perceived as strong that makes the borderline’s perception of some fragmented piece of self as being weak.

Silence, in this context, employed by a quiet acting in borderline is emotional violence. It is a weapon. It is abuse. It devalues your humanity. It negates your being. It tears into your soul. This violence of silence is emotional hostage-taking designed to control, manipulate, punish, and intimidate. It is the abdication of personal responsibility and the heart of the betrayal that is the cornerstone of the toxic dysfunctional “love” of the borderline false self.

The silent treatment is like the quiet borderline is saying – if I ignore him or her, I hold the power. I’ll show you. I win – you lose. You’ll learn that you’d better not fail to give me what I want when I want it because I want it. When you are weak I am strong.

The silent treatment is a very narcissistic example of the lack of emotional regulation of the borderline. In fact, by giving you, the non borderline, the silent treatment, and feeling this sense of – really illusion of power – the borderline effectively regulates his or her dysregulated emotions. Punishing you, the non borderline, gives the borderline a sense of being okay – a sense of safety, a sense of control over closeness or distance – again this is an illusion but to the borderline the mere perception of power is soothing.

The silent treatment meted out by the quiet borderline reflects a very immature attempt to protect the essential absence of self from feeling anything remotely connected to the abandonment trauma that was his or her experience of actual loss of self.

It should be noted that to most people with BPD – untreated and/or in the active throes of BPD – love is, among other things, a battlefield upon which a war for control is waged. Control at all costs, rooted in the broken mutuality (Bradshaw) of the core wound of abandonment and its legacy. The quiet borderline is no exception to this.

There is nothing fair or reasonable, healthy or appropriate about the silent treatment. It is abusive. Even if one needs time or space, one can surely say that and take responsibility for that. For the quiet borderline, the “acting in” borderline, in his or her passive-aggressive style of pulling and manipulating for control, the silent treatment is the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility.

Not only is the quiet borderline abdicating his or her responsibility to respect you, the non borderline, but he or she is also holding you hostage to it while blaming you for it.

© A.J. Mahari July 10, 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 – The Quiet Acting In Borderline and The Silent Treatment – Nons