Those with Borderline Personality Disorder – especially if they aren’t getting treatment – not only often discuss their troubled pasts but they are re-living them more often than not. Troubled aspects of the borderline’s past are triggered in many ways but most commonly and most often through attempts to relate to others. This is the primary basis of so much of the behaviour (and often abuse) that family members or relationships partners of those with BPD (non borderlines) see and often have imposed upon them.
The abandonment trauma that most agree is central to BPD remains (unless and until enough therapy is successfully worked through) unresolved. What is unresolved remains a focus for those with BPD. Borderlines, whether they are aware of it or not, live in a world that is all about avoiding and staying away from their abandonment trauma – the unresolved and dissociated pain of it. There is a strong need to remain in the victim role, often, because in this role one cannot be expected to take personal responsibility for what are essentially their reactions – reactions that are in and of themselves actions. However those with BPD stay focused on the reactions because reactions are "because of" what happened to them in their past (as they rationalize it) and therefore not their fault or responsibility.
On top of this reality then we see that the borderline transfers or projects his or her unresolved past – abandonment trauma – onto the non borderline(s) in their lives in ways that both see them discuss their troubled past and act it out over and over again.
This focus on the unresolved aspects of borderline abandonment trauma is not only discussed but as I’ve said is re-experienced and re-lived in what are known as repetition compulsions. In many ways the need to discuss their troubled past or aspects of it over and over is a part of those compulsions.
When I had BPD I also found that what was then a need for me to discuss my troubled past rather compulsively had all to do with the negative polarized way that I thought about things and experienced life and certainly relationships when I was in the active throes of BPD.
Ironically, when a person with BPD does engage compulsively in discussing their troubled and unresolved past repeatedly he or she really not only keeps it alive but drives the patterns of thought that set up the mindset from which borderlines cognitively distort the here and now into triggered dissociative re-enactments of the very unresolved trauma they so often speak of.
When I had BPD there was nothing to compare to or balance my experience with and until I was ready and learned how to take personal responsibility (in therapy) for my own issues from the past. I perceived (misperceived really) anything and everything from others (that I didn’t want or like – that "felt" invalidating or critical) as being done to me on purpose with intent – in other words as victimizing me as I had been victimized by my parents as a child.
A key thing to remember in all of this is that more often than not, those with BPD, again, who aren’t committed to therapy and really working and making progress in recovery, do not have the same perception of their negative compulsive focus on the past as nons do. They are also often not aware of how much or how often they may discuss it anymore than they are aware of acting it out and re-playing it out in their lives.
Those who are living in the active throes of (especially untreated) Borderline Personality Disorder experience life in a parallel universe. They are locked into the recapitulation of their unresolved abandonment trauma in ways that obliterate both the here and now "shared reality" as non borderlines know it and that essentially leave the non borderline being related to "invisible" to their own projected out intrapsychic and pathologically narcissistic unresolved abandonment trauma.
The degree to which someone with BPD needs to discuss their past, or aspects of it, repetitively can be used by the non borderline as a gauge of where the borderline really is at. If there are cyclical patterns to your relationship with the borderline (whether chosen or unchosen) you can gain insight into what you may need to choose for yourself based upon this observation as opposed to just relying upon what are often unkept promises from the borderline.
If the person in your life who has BPD is often relating to you in ways that you can observe are from a parallel reality and that have more intensity than the average person would bring the situation in the here and now this is a good indicator that you are dealing with someone who has not yet found an understanding of what it means to take personal responsibility for him or herself and his/her issues. This means that you are definitely in for more of the same. You cannot change this pattern that the person with BPD will and must play out until and unless he/she gets skilled professional help in therapy that will help them gain awareness about this dissociation and cognitively distorted way of thinking, acting and relating.
copyright © A.J. Mahari, April 11, 2008