Splitting in Borderline Personality Disorder | The Pedestal Push

When I connect with someone I like and begin to spend time with them, it's not unusual for me to become totally enamored by or even preoccupied with them and how absolutely wonderful they are.
It's also not unusual at some point (due to, perhaps, boredom, feeling slighted, abandoned, or rejected) by that very same person, that I then see them as absolutely reprehensible and no longer want anything to do with them. I push them right off of the pedestal upon which I placed them with my own hands.
As a manifestation of Borderline Personality Disorder, this phenomenon is known as "splitting." It is also a form of "black or white" or "all or nothing" thinking, i.e. "She's perfect," or "she's bad."

My own personal theory about why I experience splitting is that it likely has to do with the unsafe and invalidating environment I grew up in as a child.  My father was not a happy man. He was also quite frightening in that he could go from behaving "normally" to suddenly flying off the handle and into a fit of violent anger.

As a child, I saw my dad, from day to day, as "good" or "bad." Perhaps that's where it started.  In terms of personality development, as an instinctual survival mechanism, I'm sure I closely watched my father's mannerisms, tone of voice, and body language to assess what parts of me were okay to show and share, as I was terrified of setting him off.  Unfortunately, this was not always within my control.

As an adult now, deep down I know that people are not just "all good" or "all bad." This is yet another dialectic. In reality, there is a scale, or a continuum, not just a black or white judgment of good or bad.
My significant other pointed out during lunch today that I keep mentioning my coworker. Let's call her Ellen. "Ellen does this with her books.....Ellen likes this TV show....Ellen doesn't drive down this road, she goes up Broadway....Ellen..Ellen...Ellen."

He remarked that every time I make a connection with someone, I am very keen on all of the things that they do and that I suddenly treat them like a God or a celebrity, only to demote them should they do the slightest thing to upset me. He said, "It's Ellen now. I wonder who it will be next."

As the years have gone on, I admit, I have a pattern of putting people on pedestals, and more often than not, pushing them down from them at some point. I have noticed, though, that since I've been in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I am able to engage my Wise Mind more and to consider shades of grey. 

Just because I like a person, I realize, doesn't mean that she or he is perfect, won't make mistakes, and won't ever let me down.  Also, when they do, I don't have to totally write them off as worthless and cruel and kick them out of my life -- which is what I have done in the past many times.

Perhaps these were preemptive strikes.  We've all heard of the person who broke up with their partner because they felt a breakup coming on and didn't want to be the one who was rejected. It was like that. Maybe I was afraid that I  was no longer worthy...that the person would see me for who I am, with my flaws and shortcomings, and they would reject me. So, to save some emotional face, I would come up with something or pick on something otherwise insignificant and then convince myself that this person should no longer be in my life. And I would reject them.

If this patterns sounds familiar to you, please extend compassion to yourself. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, says that "everything has cause." This means that whether you can speculate what causes your splitting behavior or not, there is a reason for it. 

If this is something you wish to change, bring it up with your therapist.  It's a great step toward creating a life worth living and building on the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills of DBT.

It's something I continue to work on.  I want to know and like Ellen, and I don't want to put her in the unfair position of being my rescuer or my version of the perfect human being. Shades of grey. Shades of grey.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


  1. I could have written this, that's how accurately it describes me. I'd only been diagnosed with BPD in March 2012, but before that, it drove me nuts when I couldn't help reacting to things the way I did. Now that I'm more aware, I can at least consciously change my actions. I'm starting DBT in September too, and I'm SO ready for it. I love reading your blog, Debbie. :)

    1. You are not alone, Ashley, and I love having you as a reader! ♥

  2. SOUNDS LIKE I HAVE SPLITTING and the cause sounds exactly likeyours but with my step father. thanks

    1. You're welcome, Shantelly. You are not alone! ♥

  3. I have experienced splitting as well, with my closest family members (brother, sister, mother and even myself) and especially boys that I had fallen in love with in the past. I have only fallen in love three times, being that I am twenty, and the last boy I was most terribly harsh to. It was a very complicated situation because he has mental health problems, too. Regardless, I put him on a very high pedestal that, in my mind, I couldn't reach because I believed him to be better than I was. I never praise the boys I love because I don't want them to believe their better than me. I think that is because of my brother and who he was when I was growing up, being an egotistal and superfical boy that went steady with countless girls and never committed. So, when the times came that the boy I loved didn't tell me that I was good enough for him and he loved me just as passionately as I did, I told him that he didn't exist, that he might as well be a ghost.

    There's a bit of my story that I thought I would share. I recently got diagnosed with BPD and still await DBT for recovery and care. It's not a fair way to treat those you love, but fear has always been what drove me to it - and I didn't know a thing about "splitting" until now.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story. ♥

  4. For me .. I have fallen in love with my best friends of 7 years ... we are engaged for 3 years ... and we had the greatest love anyone can imagine .. i even proposed to her in front of disney palace ... and it all seemed like a fairy tale
    we had a few argument lately and suddenly i was splitted out in the black .. all the good memories .. the love we share .. the friendship .. didnt matter ...
    we both live in different countries .. so booked a flieght and was at her door step ...crushed in tears and hugged her .. apologising sincerely for any pain and hurt i caused .. and yet she was soo cold as if she was another person ... and said she doesnt it feel it anymore ...
    she crushed my life with that ...i invested all for us ... all time work and life ..
    and now im all alone ... if it wasnt for my family ... i wouldve been long gone .. but im not selfish to take my life and make them suffer ... its just the hardest a person can go through ...
    im not perfect .but tried to be the best lover i can be ... and was let down ... i thought even with splitting .... her heart might move alittle bit ... but noo ..
    its like everything is gone ... i dont know if it will last forever ... or she will wake up and bring me back to the white ... as nothing i can do now will make any difference :(
    it just hurt sooooo bad

    1. Sending you a huge hug. Hoping you find comfort and peace.

  5. I have driven away EVERY family member I have. I am now re-married and have my husbands family to love and care about me and I care about them. I now see and think in colors due to DBT but my family.....won't have anything to do with me.

  6. I have a friend with BPD, we have just had recently what I would see as a small agreement a few days ago. She stopped answering my texts and cut me off. I then received a text saying she couldn't do this anymore, I knew this friendship was too good to be true. Thank you from the bottom of my heart everything you have done for me, I will never forget your kindness. It's best for my mental health. I've tried to talk to her but she won't answer. I know you are the right person to give me advice about this & there must be someone who can give advice out there, please can you help?

  7. I was diagnosed in December 2014 with BPD, I have three grown children. And I live alone..... this website is keeping me alive... thank you xxx



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