Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Last Psychiatrist: Borderline & Narcissism Identity

I found an interesting article on Borderline and Narcissism and potential for Borderline to become Narcissism. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the article says, but on the other hand it makes some interesting point.  Take a look.

January 5, 2007

Narcissism- what I believe to be the primary disease of our times-- is one side of a coin.  The other side-- the narcissist's enabler-- is the borderline.

If the analogy for narcissism is "being the main character in their own movie," then the analogy for borderline is being an actress.

Note the difference: the narcissist is a character: an invented but well scripted, complete with backstory, identity.  The narcissist is trying to be something-- which already has a model.  Perhaps he thinks himself an artist type, or a tough guy, or the type interested in spiritualism, or like the guy in the Matrix.  Types, characters.  The borderline is no one: the borderline waits for the script to define her.

Her?  Yes.  Narcissists are mostly hes, and borderlines hers.  (Not always, sure.) 

The classic description includes: intense, unstable relationships; emotional lability; fear of abandonment.  The borderline has no true sense of self.

Ironically, the borderline is a borderline only in relationship to other people.  The borderline has a problem with identity only because other people in the world have stronger identities.  Your Dad wants you to be one way, so you do it.  Your boyfriend wants a different woman; so you do it.  Your husband wants something else; so you do it.  Who the hell are you, really?  You have no idea, because you are always molding yourself based on the dominant personality in your life.

I don’t necessarily believe that it’s because others have stronger identities. I've always had a very strong personality, even a strong identity at times, especially when alone, even when I’m with people in relationships, which is why things become so volatile… however my need to not risk abandonment and my desire to make the loved ones in my life happy, to please them, so they’ll stay, not leave, not reject me, so that I take more of an interest in their needs often takes more of a precedence… then when those things eventually clash for tooooooo long and some resentment at having neglected my strong will has gone on, that’s when sparks often start to fly.

This is done mostly out of fear of abandonment: if you don't "be" the person they want, then they'll leave you, and then what?  (Borderlines don't end relationships-- they end relationships for another relationship.)

The narcissist creates an identity, then tries to force everyone else to buy into it.  The borderline waits to meet someone, and then constructs a personality suitable to that person.

If a borderline is dating a guy who loves the Dallas Cowboys, then for sure, she will love the Dallas Cowboys.  If, however, she breaks up with him, and then dates a guy who loves the Giants, then she'll love the Giants.  But here's what makes her a borderline:  she will actually believe the Giants are better.  She's not lying, and she's not doing it for him; she actually thinks she thinks it's true.  (Note: This I totally agree with.) Everyone else on the outside sees that it is obviously a function of whom she's dating, but she is sure she came up with it on her own. And she's not play acting: at that moment that she believes, with every fiber of her being, that the Giants are better.

Here's the ironic part: if a borderline was shipwrecked on a desert island with no one around, she'd develop a real identity, of her own, not a reaction to other people.  Sorry, that's not the ironic part, this is: she'd become a narcissist.

I’m not sure I agree with this at all part that says just because she finds herself she's now a narcissist? How so? This doesn’t make sense to me. I think she just develops her own identity free from the influence of others. However when others are reintroduced into the equation she will probably begin to notice problems again. This is still where I struggle.

The borderline has external markings of identity: tattoos, changing hair colors, clothes.  You may recall I said almost the same thing about the narcissist: the difference is, of course, the borderline changes her image as she changes her identity-- in other words, as she changes the dominant personality in her life; but the narcissist crafts a look, an identity, which he then defends at all costs:  "I would sooner eat fire ants than shave my mustache."  Of course. Of course.

All those silly movies about a woman moving away, or to the big city, and she "finds herself:" that's a borderline becoming a narcissist. 

Is it though? I guess if she goes to the city and BAM, there she is a whole new person without any whole process of self discovery and work and self-awareness. Otherwise, no.

If you look back on past long term relationships you've had, and are completely perplexed as to what on earth you ever saw in each of those people that kept you with them for a year; well, there you go. 

This is why narcissists marry borderlines, and not other narcissists.  Two narcissists simply can't get along: who is the main character?  Meanwhile, two borderlines can't be with each other-- who supplies the identity?  The narcissist thrives with the borderline because she provides for him the validation that he is, in fact, the lead; the borderline thrives with the narcissist because he defines her.  And, as she will tell you every single time, without fail: "you don't know him like I do." Everyone else judges his behavior; but the borderline is judging his version of himself that she has accepted.  

Go back to my white high heel shoes example.  The narcissist demands his woman wear white high heel pumps not because hem ay like them himself-- he might or might not-- but because he is the type of man that would be with the type of woman who wears white pumps.  He thinks he's the sophisticated, masculine man of the 1980s, so she damn well better be Kim Bassinger from 9 1/2 Weeks.  Blonde hair, white pumps.  She could weight 400lbs, that's not the point (though it will become one later.)  So she wears the shoes, and starts to believe she likes them, starts to believe that she isthat woman.  He reinforces this with certain behaviors or language towards her (he'll open the door for her, push her chair in, etc.  You say, "well, what's wrong with that?  Nothing, except that he ALSO beats her when she doesn't wear the shoes.)

It's almost battered-wife syndrome: what keeps her with tat maniac is that when he's not beating her, it seems like he is actually being kind to her, so great is the difference between being beaten and simply not being beaten.  Meanwhile everything he does wrong has an external explanation: it was the alcohol, he's under stress, etc.  And she's doing this rationalizing for herself, not for him, because it is vital to her own psychological survival that he actually be who he says he is, that he actually have a stable identity that things happen to, because her identity depends on his being a foundation.

I found myself rationalizing a lot with my Evil-Ex, who btw, was a classic malevolent Narcissist.

That's why the therapist has to maintain such neutrality, consistency in the sessions.  It's not just to avoid conflicts; by being the most dominant (read: consistent) personality, the borderline can begin to construct one for herself using the blueprints of yours as a guide.

Oddly I don’t feel like I have much of an identity at all when I see my Therapist. 

If the borderline sounds like a 15 year old girl, that's because that's what she is.  The difference, of course, is the actual 15 year old girl is supposed to be flaky, testing identities and philosophies and looks until she finally lands on the one that's "her."  But if you're 30 and doing that, well...


(BTW, if you want to understand the mystery of women's addiction to shoes, here's my take: shoes are the article of clothing that represent possibility.  Each shoe is a different look, a different character, and she can select "who" she wants to be that day.  You might not notice the difference, but she feels it.  This is not borderline-- it's normal, but it's normal because the shoe changes and the rest of her doesn't.) 

I think the one thing this article completely misses is that it’s discussing organic identity discovery from nothing to narcissism in an unhealthy way. That’s how to go from BPD to NPD. My Therapist would never in a million years tell you I’m going from Borderline to Narcissist even though my sense of identity is becoming more firm, because I’m doing it in a healthy way. I’m discovering things that I like and maintaining those things and incorporating those things in my life in a consistent way. I’m not just DECLAIRING that something is me, and making it so. True self-discovery takes time and listening to yourself to ensure that it’s really something that is right for you. 


  1. This research is kinda odd. It's like it's saying that if you have a secure identity then that makes you a narcissist, which is ridiculous!

    But I loved the thing it said about Borderlines not being aware of themselves modelling their identities after someone else's. Because that totally hit home, it's like they truly are convinced that this is their idea and it's genuine, but it obviously isn't...
    Perhaps you're not like that but some people definitely are.

    1. I've definitely had times of this. I see it happening now that I'm aware of it, but in the past I wasn't and it definitely just happened organically.

  2. I agree that developing an identity in a healthy way, over time, with guidance, is legitimate identity development. I think you hit it on the head when you talked about the girl going to the city and suddenly developing an identity. She's obviously basing an identity on things external to herself, becoming Carrie Bradshaw or whatever.

    It makes sense to me that a person with BPD who develops a "strong" identity in the absence of personal growth (even the girl on the desert island) becomes a "character" and not really a person with a strong, core, and unshakeable identity. I know that as much as I have latched onto people, I also latched onto behaviors at a very early age - both basically positive and terribly negative - that helped me feel less alone in the world. Those things - doing well in school and having career success, getting sexual attention from men, being the life of the party,(and I'm sure there are others) became the main facets of my identity. But they were really survival mechanisms. I have no idea who I am, really. I know that I'm intelligent, but is having career success (as typically defined) really important to me or is that just a familiar emotional buffer? I have no freaking idea, but I've sure latched onto it. I know for sure that my "identity" as the life of the party and a sexy bitch were not really good things around which to form an identity. In fact, those things become pretty untenable if you want to get married and have kids. Also, who really cares if you're the hottest girl at the nursing home? But this makes me both a borderline and a narcissist (which my therapist has noted). I didn't know who I was, so I formed my identity around those things that provided the strongest emotional "fixes" at the time and helped numb the pain of abandonment and feelings of worthlessness.

    I hate admitting that I have narcissistic traits because, to me, the connotation is even more negative than having BPD. I don't WANT to be a narcissist. It does not fit into my humble-yet-both-naughty-and-assertive identity. But this way of explaining it makes a lot of sense to me and makes me feel just a teeny bit better about it.

    Sorry this is so long. I just found this really resonated with me. thanks for the post!

    1. I agree with everything you say. I'm a different person with everyone I'm around. I don't even have a consistent style of handwriting. I have no clue who I am? Now I feel I have no clue if all my current beliefs are just mirroring my partners. I feel like a fraud. I too identify with some narcassistic traits and that is worse than he bpd stigma/shame. I feel like I'm going round and round in circles of how much I hate myself and wish I wasn't me. I don't really wish I was't me, but why the fuck do I have to be such a twat!

      : (

  3. Shoes & handbags, no matter how much your size changes they will pretty much always fit!


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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