Understanding Splitting with Borderline PD

October 17, 2023 Karen Mae Vister

I've made it my mission to understand splitting and borderline personality disorder, given the profound shame that often follows when I split on my loved ones. If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you might know that splitting is a defense mechanism where we perceive people, including those we deeply care about, as either entirely good or entirely bad.

Understanding Splitting in BPD and Its Influence on Self-Perception

But why does this intense emotional rollercoaster often lead to shame? Here's my take:

  1. Fear of abandonment: To understand splitting, it's important to be aware of the fear of abandonment and BPD. Splitting can trigger an intense fear of abandonment. When we push people away or suddenly vilify them in our minds, it's often because we're trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt. For me, the shame kicks in when I realize I may have pushed someone away who genuinely cares for me. 
  2. Loss of control: When I didn't understand splitting very well, I found it difficult to control my emotions. This is because splitting can feel like an emotional hijacking, leaving us feeling helpless and out of control. The shame comes when we think about how we acted in a way that doesn't align with our true selves.
  3. Identity crisis: Before understanding splitting, I would feel shame because I didn't always know who I was or how I truly felt. Splitting can blur our sense of self. One moment, we may adore someone, and the next, we despise them. This inconsistency can lead to a crisis in our self-identity. 
  4. Impact on relationships: Splitting in borderline PD can cause real damage to our relationships. For example, my loved ones had difficulty understanding splitting and thought my intense reactions came out of nowhere. The aftermath of a major episode would leave me feeling guilty and remorseful for the pain and confusion I've caused. This guilt can quickly turn into shame.

Preventing a Borderline PD Splitting Avalanche: Defusing Trigger Points

So, what can we do to cope with post-splitting shame? Recognizing that shame is part of our experience is a crucial first step. Instead of nose-diving into a shame spiral, I picture it like I am keeping little snowballs from rolling down a hill to prevent a full-blown avalanche (read: major episode). I then do a little detective work and ask myself some questions: "When did your perception of someone shift?" "What exactly stung?" "Did you have an unmet need that was not communicated?" "Was it a fear of rejection from reading into something negatively?"

I've learned that to understand splitting, I need to see those trigger points as snowballs I can defuse by checking the facts until I'm ready to cool down. After that, I'll be in a good place to chat with the person. However, most times, a solo cool-down session reveals it was just a misconception or miscommunication. 

Finally, I recommend practicing self-compassion. It's okay to make mistakes, to feel intense emotions, and to experience shame. With time and effort, we can learn to understand our splitting episodes and reduce the shame that often accompanies them.

APA Reference
Mae, K. (2023, October 17). Understanding Splitting with Borderline PD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Karen Mae Vister

Karen Mae Vister, author of her blog, Over the Borderline, dedicates her work to providing valuable content and support for individuals on the path to recovery from borderline personality disorder. Find Karen Mae on Instagram and her blog.

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