Before I begin I think it important to note that many, many people with BPD are just attractive people. If it weren’t for the emotional baggage, we are often intelligent, articulate, fun loving, caring, creative people. Like any human there’s plenty of possibility that we’re just cool people and fun to be around, unfortunately there’s the pesky emotional volatility to contend with.
That being said, there is another aspect that often accompanies Borderline Personality Disorder that adds a little something to the attraction and allows others to look past what could be those little red flags that creep into consciousness.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Right? But how much flattery is too much flattery?
Mirroring is the psychological term for the behavior in which one person copies another person usually while in some kind of social interaction with them. This is usually subtle and almost every single person does this to some extent (especially if you’re in love!) but I think the frequency is amplified with BPD. This can include mimicking gestures, movements, displaying the same body language, using the same expressions, vocal tones, eye movements, breathing, accent, attitude, choice of words/metaphors, or other aspects of similar communication.
Have you ever been talking to a guy or girl you like and found yourself smiling just because they’re smiling? Or moving a hand to fix your hair when they run a hand through theirs? Yeah, that’s mirroring. What it does is create sort of a subconscious connection between two people that demonstrates that you’re in sync, and therefore well matched.
This is pretty common with couples and close friends. It is in fact, a natural human behavior and a component of attraction. Smiling when the story teller is smiling, frowning when they frown. Since people usually accept their mirror image easily, mirroring the person whom your speaking too can make them feel more relaxed and encourages them to open up. There’s also the aspect that mimicry is often flattering and when someone mirrors your behavior it provides a sense of validation for the person you are. Who doesn’t want and need validation of the person they are?
So if it’s natural than why are you mentioning it? Because BPD is a disorder of relationships and extremes. The behavior is pretty normal, but in someone with BPD the frequency and depth of the mirroring often surpasses what would be considered normal and healthy.
Just look how much you have in common! I find with BPD this can go a little further to the point where we often emphasize the knowledge and interest with have concerning the subject material of the person we’re interested in as well. I’ll mention things he/she has shown an interest in far more often then I’ll mention things that I’m interested in but they know little about (I’m actually getting much better about not doing this.)
Like issues with a flexible sense of self, this is never something I do on purpose. I don’t set out to mirror someone to purposely manipulate them into feeling more comfortable with me. No. I just get caught up in conversation or being with them in a way that exaggerates feeling how they’re feeling. Like an experience of uber empathy and I’ll catch myself acting like them. It’s strange.
To this day I still have quirks that I’ve acquired from exes. For example, when I’m stressed out, I’ve often found myself pinching the bridge of my nose.
It sort of allows us to become more of a chameleon in relationships. Letting us blend with the person we’re interested in and create a faster familiarity. I’m often told that I’m very comfortable to be around, and I wonder if it’s because I display mirroring.
I think this happens in therapy with me. Therapist is always very calm. So when I’m around her I also feel very calm. It’s hard for me to get worked up about things that a few minutes prior had really bothered me, because it just seems silly at this point. When my environmental context changes, often my attitude and emotions do to. They mirror the situation that I’m in. I’ve always just thought this was “being appropriate for the environment”, and honestly I still do, but I can also see where mirroring comes into play.
However, it can be taken too far. To the point where too many of your actions or communication stylings become aligned with how our partner speaks and acts. It’s so easy to pick up on the quirks of another person that we often lose our own way of doing or saying things. This can be taken to the point where even the things we used to hope and dream about become subverted without us even realizing and replaced with the hopes and dreams of our partner. What you want becomes what we want and we can’t even pin point when it happened because it happens so gradually.
I think it’s really important to try and recognize when this happens. There’s a difference between supporting and appreciating the goals of your significant other or sharing new mutual interests, and actually acquiring them as something you yourself are striving for. Especially when you do eventually realize that these things were never a part of the person you are. I found this happening a lot of Evil-Ex and his silly schemes and desires. I was happy to do whatever it was that he was up to, but some part of it always felt hollow. I was involved but something was a bit detached. I was more interested in the fact that having this mutual interest allowed us to spend more time together than actually doing the thing itself. Of course I didn’t realize that at the time, but in retrospect I can see that’s what I was doing. I was acquiring things he liked so we would have more in common and therefore more opportunities to be together. After a while though it began to feel like we only did things his way, or things he wanted to do. I’d remember things I was interested in and become very resentful that he’d never give my interests any time when I dedicated SO MUCH energy to his.
Being hypersensitive to the way that people around me speak and act, I constantly analyze and overanalyze the things they say and do in relation to me. It’s so natural for me to pick up on the things that make someone happy or sad, angry or annoyed. I think mirroring actually aids this, because you’re putting yourself in that persons’ shoes. It makes it easier for me to predict what a person is thinking or feeling if I skew up my eyes or lips the way they do. Hell sometimes it’s easier for me to figure out what I’m feeling if I look in the mirror and actually look at my own expression.
It’s strange. I have little connection to the image I see in my mirror. She often seems foreign to me. I’m so detached from who I am much of the time, maybe it’s natural to try to find myself in the people around me.
On some level I do believe that you are who you choose to be. If I see someone with traits or characteristics that I value, but don’t currently embody, I will make a conscious effort to try and incorporate those things into my life. To me this is just working to make myself a better person though. The person I want to be.
I’m rambling and unfocused today. My apologies.
In conclusions, mirroring the actions and behaviors of other people is normal and provides an easy connection and familiarity but someone with BPD will often do this to an extreme without even realizing they’re doing it. At least not right away.