People suffering from borderline states have experienced profound early relational trauma with primary caretakers /parents. They are continuously at odds with a sense of self and the world, unloved and not wanted, deprived or abused. They feel trapped, unable to change from their installed implicit memories and self-image. They have experienced unbearable anxiety, acute ambivalence and confusion interacting with parents, which leads to emerging ego structures disintegrating. Intense arousal has interfered with the ability to process information, where memories may have no verbal component, narrative, or explanation. These experiences are not integrated or processed into the Personality but feel very real, powerful and current in interpersonal relationships. Early trauma forms “core” beliefs and values, where conditions were impossible to create a coherent self.
They feel flawed, cursed with a “Basic Fault “at the core of their identity, where the void of emptiness is defended against with rage, hostility or violence. Accompanying the client in the darkest places allows the cline to start accepting the self. The process entails a lot of mourning, losing the idealised images of parents and what we hope to be, receive, and experience. The client needs to acknowledge the trauma and understand how they reacted and why and how it has been incorporated within them. The client wishes and fantasises about an ideal conflict-free world with no further possibility of trauma. The client must expand their awareness and ability to encompass and bear their primal bodily reaction to the trauma.
A disturbed thinking and object relations formation, a preponderance of primary processing – with impaired reflective functioning and mentalisation. A narcissistic core sense of self is defended with primitive defences. Ten main features
- Narcissism – Deficiencies in spontaneous maternal affection, affective malnutrition.
- Psychic Bleeding – complete psychic collapse when an individual encounters pain and trauma.
- Inordinate Hypersensitivity
- Rigid Personality – psychic and bodily rigidity
- Negative Therapeutic Reactions – The patient appears to get worse in therapy.
- Masochism and Self-pity
- Deep organic insecurity and anxiety – lead to extreme clinging and dependency.
- Use of Projection – a paranoid experience of a hostile environment
- Difficulties in reality testing – particularly personal relationships
- A rooted feeling of inferiority
Ego pathology and weakness lead to a lack of impulse control and an inability to tolerate anxiety or ambivalence. With little capacity for enjoyment and creative achievement, Their parent could not accept the child as an individual, with early attunement disturbance leading to severe primal splitting, disassociation and fragmentation of the self. The ambivalent experience of their mother leads to fragile foundations, as an ideal image of their mother is constructed with rewarding parts only.
A Thinned Skinned Narcissist
The client may prefer to continue to suffer instead of being cured or relieved of their distress due to unconscious guilt and a wish to keep proving their superiority over the analyst (other). With a repetition compulsion, they remain true to their traumatic experiences and the familiar ways of relating, a failed attempt at mastery. Continued attempts to buy into a sphere of omnipotence, trying o control all forms of humiliation, risk and death. They possess strong tendencies to regress to a preverbal or pre-oedipal level, the level of a primal core. They experience the interrogation or questions as an attack, a demand or an insult with a lack of consideration or care. There is an alternating difference in intensity between the phenomena of satisfaction and frustration, with no container to hold the tension of opposites. Any feelings and validation only matter if they are willing to gratify the needs and desires of the other. Beyond these personal interests and needs, they feel like they do not exist due to a lack of parental mirroring or attunement.
They use the primal form of splitting the other into a good (gratifying ) or all bad ( frustrating ) object, where bad aspects are projected, so the idealised object is preserved and kept intact. These manifest as a poor sense of self, an impoverished identity, and a strong dependence on external approval for their perceived grandiosity due to projected parts. Ego weakness Due to early overwhelm and helplessness, they cannot integrate traumatic experiences into their existence. There is no secure base or attachment to establish an effective cognitive response to the volume of affective and somatic experiences.
They are caught between fleeing from a hostile caregiver, whilst their attachment system motivates them to strive to achieve comforting proximity, “fright without any solution.“ Shifting between rage, hostility, helplessness and compulsive pleasing, caught in the drama triangle without any awareness of roles. A general inhibition of relational needs, where they tend to withdraw from close affective interactions or sacrifice their own needs for the other. They blame others for how they feel as they angrily seek control over them and maintain their idealised image of themself. Actively avoids and deny further difficult situations, continually cut off from their core experience, wishing and searching for a conflict-free relationship and world.
The Moral Defence – mother is good, blame oneself for badness
The borderline is repeatedly triggered by negative invalidating and rejecting experiences of others, which they can’t seem to escape from ( powerless and frozen). Present-day distress and ambiguity are projected onto others, continually tested to pick up the pieces to show they care for them. The borderline tends to be preoccupied with and ruminate over potential threats and catastrophes, where nothing can reassure the events won’t occur. This can result in obsessional physical and mental activity, which is exhausting, where one becomes dejected, burnt out and feel a failure in their lack of control. They have created defences against the most primitive and appalling terrors of annihilation and disintegration. The individual’s back is against the wall, where they will rage, fight, comply and submit to continued vigilance to try and stop re-experiencing these terrors. Reliving these early traumas, including re-experiencing some form of annihilation or death, is often accompanied by the terror of fragmenting, feeling like one is going mad. All of which feel impossible, unbearable and shameful to the client.
Ego Function: Ego-Self Axis
The borderline struggles to form a coherent self-identity, where events cant be remembered (split off) with a subjective experience of disturbance, fragility, repression and vulnerability. A healthy ego helps one adapt to their surroundings and environment, where the core self learns to contain shocks and differences from their external reality without fragmenting. They prefer anticipating the worst and preempting negative experiences to reinforce their familiarity. Their self-image is narrow, rigid and often defensive, where certain parts are overdeveloped, underdeveloped or disowned (Shadow). They have failed to integrate a traumatic childhood full of shame, pain and humiliation, compounded with rage, envy and hatred words the perceived aggressor. The child believes they will not survive the fragmenting experience and generates a false persona with extreme defence mechanisms.
The borderline needs to trust the process of analysis
A shift is needed to relinquish control to become open to the full breadth of their existence and potential. A shift to a new “Centre of Gravity “between ego and the self, where the individual can express themself and be spontaneous and creative in alignment with their life force. A sense of freedom without restraint or compulsion, not constrained by illusion, free to be who you are.