The Rapprochement stage is crucial to the Borderline (BPD) immersion and the inability to resolve it. There are two parts to the crisis, the abandonment and engulfment not in continuity, alternating between passive-aggressive clinging and distancing, forging together the true self and self-assertion with no access to aggression.

Narcissism happens before the rapprochement stage, where the deflation or inflation of infantile grandiosity and omnipotence preserves a link to the omnipotent object. The fused unit minimises depression and fear of abandonment and separation, risking rejection and loss of omnipotence. The BPD are hypersensitive to real or imagined slights, withdrawing and clinging from a distance. They always deny their own destructiveness via unconscious defence adaptations and behaviours. Both have a brittle, vulnerable, self-deprecating and erratic sense of self compounded by irrational bursts of rage and hostility. The hidden depression beneath the narcissism is heavily coloured with outrage to avoid feelings of humiliation and shame. They can either appear with an unrelatedness, cold demeanour, or the most outrageous flamboyant charisma, depending on whether the exhibitionism was encouraged or forbidden. The Narcissist (NPD) is obsessed with accumulating power, wealth and beauty, but the aggressive, self-assertive fused aspect has been split off in the borderline.

The intense feelings of envy and resentment are sometimes subordinated to depression and anger as they experience the loss of wished for narcissistic supplies.

The Borderline always seeks any acknowledgement of existence, creating the fantasy of idealised supplies /people. They cannot perceive the harm they perpetuate onto themself and others, as the bad part has been split off from conscious awareness. The disordered individual creates a god-like mother figure (idealised parent), creating a fantasy image of safety, with relief from separation, panic and anxiety, always feeling good and loved. The impaired parent creates a helpless, compliant child who cannot tolerate the vengeful, attacking punishment being enacted. The parent believes the child’s individuality may kill her or deny her of her narcissistic drug and supply. This creates intense rage, fear and depression within the child, as they can only blame themselves for such an unloving mother, believing something must be wrong with them. The forced parental reunion means the arrested development of any self-assertion and activation, where the BPD is separate but clinging and needy, dependent and helpless. The NPD stays fused, omnipotent and all-powerful, where any separation will result in the total collapse of the false grandiose identity or the unbearable loss of the idealised parent.

The child removes all emotional investment after a certain level of depreciation and manufactures narcissistic gratification, fused with a pathological ego using defences of avoidance, denial and splitting with an extreme need to be mirrored/admired. The NPD is seeking and yearning for an omnipotent object for mirroring (supply) where they can assert their exhibitionism and grandiose self onto. Underneath the false façade, they are eager to please and comply with their own or others’ subjective reality to garnish supply, where intellectualisation alleviates anxiety. The Fused true self-representation is one of being small and empty, passive without any conscious awareness and affect. A well-developed and defined ability to rationalise their unconscious projections and act out their omnipotent demands on the object, always looking outwards and at the exterior to solve or deny problems. An impaired mother withdraws just as the child expresses their own unique self via grandiose exhibitionism; this self-expression frustrates and conflicts with the mother’s projection and needs for idealisation and supply.

The mother has forced a set of fixed behaviours and beliefs to maintain intrapsychic equilibrium without re-experiencing her childhood separation anxiety. The mother rewards these repressed behaviours that fulfil her projection, creating clinging and relieving her separation anxiety. Any fixation at this point results in an ego developed at infantile gratification with a push/pull reward for repression and withdrawal: separation and individuation. The false self is the source of self-esteem and is vigilantly defended. Ambition meeting mirroring and idealisation meeting idealising. Neurotic symptoms of anxiety, depression, procrastination and worthlessness.

The parent may shame, humiliate the child if they can’t control or compete with the child.

The BPD is also caught in the Phallic oedipal stage conflict between seducing the father to get revenge on the mother or by sexually acting out. The behaviour induces intense feelings of guilt as the child seeks revenge against their mother and expresses forbidden oedipal feelings towards their father.

  • Upper level – abandonment/clinging.
  • Lower level – engulfment and distancing. Temp psychotic attacks, unreality and paranoia.
  • NPD has firmer ego boundaries and defence functions developed at the expense of experiencing abandonment depression.
  • Three stages of dysfunctional and impaired separation
    • Protest
    • Reunion with
    • Despair if mother reunion not restored.

The disordered person is hypersensitive to real or imagined failures in empathy (perfect mirroring), and unable to acknowledge any differences in real or imagined perceptions. Any break in mirroring and trust may evaporate into a narcissistic rage and rapid disappointment, leading to a total discard and disintegration of the relationship. Unable to live with their true self, they have great difficulty with living alone, constantly seeking attention, drama and company (all forms of supply) to avoid anxiety or any inner introspection. Any awareness is submerged in psychological behaviours as they can’t activate individuality and cannot process their own thoughts and ideas and regulate self-esteem. Three common traits

  1. Self-image disturbance
  2. Difficulty in expressing wishes and feelings in connection to one’s own thoughts and feelings
  3. No self-assertion, regulation and self-esteem. Need to cling to object to suppress individuation. They become the Caretakers of their mother’s feelings and cannot develop their true self.

The BPD has an ambivalent relationship with their inner child and a loss of spirit with a constant search for both. They envy never having emotional sustenance and are fuelled by unconscious fantasies. Their spirit is given to the parental figure in the hope of regenerating that figure and not taking power. The creation and maintenance of the delusion of parental god image serve the purpose of splitting off the preverbal helpless self, which, therefore, does not have to be reexperienced and felt.

BPD/NPD Recovery

3 Stage Process

  1. Testing period -resistance and defence
  2. Working through – anger and depression
  3. Separation – repressive defence against autonomy

With the help of an empathic bond, the idea is the therapist can create an environment of being the good enough mother who can help mature drives, develop the experience of pleasure as a mother and create new ego functions creation. With matching and mirroring, the client can help self soothe and regulate emotions, learning to discern between the good self/bad self, leading to integration.

The Bad object also becomes a good object, establishing an alliance with the rewarding object (mother) to defend against abandonment and adaption to the new environment. A gradual consolidation and improvement of trust in instincts can be more creative whilst experiencing a range of emotions and feelings and not losing their integrity. This helps the false self defend against anxiety and objective reality that has been suspended from retaining the previously dysfunctional relationship, avoiding engulfment and reinforcing the symbiotic trauma bond. The therapist must contain and hold the intense anger, which is used to avoid facing the truth and any self-assertion, allowing the client to find and express the forbidden negative feelings without repercussions and fear of annihilation. An unobtrusive, private, attached, and protective other (therapist) simultaneously allows the client to tolerate and dissect the confusion and ambivalence generated as a child. The therapist must be alert and aware that the NPD may attempt to create an idealisation or twinship transference to merge with the therapist to avoid the fear of separation.

The false self is unable to feel for self and others and has an easily wounded pride and feeble identity.

Four types of transference

  1. Merger – looking for security and the ability to work through a fusion
  2. Idealisation – self cohesion/esteem by being perfect in one or more aspects + serving as a source of emulation.
  3. Twin ship – enhanced identity, assuming exaggeration of similarity between self and others
  4. Mirroring – others as one who enhances self-esteem by serving as a prizing, understanding part-object.

The true self is created through the continuous destruction of childlike fantasies and the associated objects that survived. We can start to examine separation and survival guilt, explore and liberate the symbiotic character, and incorporate others via idealisation and identification. They have been unable to develop the internalisation of images. They need permission to express the natural aggression and hostility they harbour due to being blocked in self-expression. Self-expression was “not enough “or “too much “for the parents, and they were repeatedly put down and injured in ambition and self-expression.

5 stage process

  • Extermination of responsibility (blocking others)
  • Disavowal of negative attributes
  • Denial of negative input
  • Development of positive contributions by others
  • Identification with idealised others/objects

Increased reality testing will develop after the self and object images have differentiated with defined and protected ego boundaries. The original sacrifice of a union to develop an inner structure can be transformed as one can accept the reality of evil and one’s own destructive nature, allowing the true self to incarnate. A functioning self emerges relating to the true self. The client may seek to achieve self-expressive goals via creativity and imagination instead of those around power, money and beauty. Only extreme frustration or collapse can lead back to regression and loss of reality into fantasy. The disordered person can now regulate their reactions to criticism, failure and blame, allowing admiration and love with simultaneous expression of gratitude without any show of frustration or withdrawal. Normal stages of child ego and self-development

  1. Fused symbiotic self-object. Mother/child dyad
  2. Symbiotic phase – 3-18 months
  3. Individuation- 18-36 months
  4. Object constancy – 36 months
Schwartz-Salant, N., 1982. Narcissism And Character Transformation. Toronto: Inner City Books.