Burying Monsters: Surviving Paranoia in Personality Disorder

If you have Borderline Personality Disorder everything feels like a threat. In order to bury monsters, you must first go back and bring the inner child up for air

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For those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder, we were all be familiar with the feeling of being out of control. One of the reason’s it feels so bad is we are unable to conjure a Soothing Introject in times of distress. In other words, we can’t create in our minds the image of someone who loves us, and are therefore unable to create the feeling of love even for ourselves.

Feeling unloved and unworthy of love is a terrible experience. In order to cope, we may resort to self-harm. If our attempts at communication fall on deaf ears, we may become paranoid and dissociated. One of the most negative ways to bypass the need for the Soothing Introject is the creation of the Malevolent Other. If you have BPD you’ll anticipate threat before it even arrives. You’ll be hyper-vigilant to danger and watching others closely for clues about their intentions. The blessing of exquisite sensitivity is being highly empathetic to those around us, the curse is that our perceptions can be wrong. We may create the feeling of persecution even if it doesn’t exist, or is much more benign in nature.

It happens unconsciously: When feeling of fear or distress become overwhelming we create a ‘Malevolent Other’ to help us understand the situation. Usually it will be a symbol that by transference we place on someone we know — a parent, partner or friend: They suddenly become an enemy. It may appear as if they are out to get us.

Many parents feel stigmatised by us survivors of Borderline Personality Disorder. They feel that we’ve unfairly scapegoated them as being bad parents and even child-abusers. We know that while BPD is highly correlated with childhood trauma, some individuals with the diagnosis grew up in relatively mild family environments and go into adulthood unscathed. How do we account for the discrepancy? The answer lies in the failure of the Soothing Introject and the creation of the Malevolent Other. Now we’re treading on a very controversial subject here, because it appears to say survivors are prone to fabrication. This could potentially stop them speaking out.

One of the first principles of recovering from trauma is establishing safety. Usually that means creating distance from others, so the body and mind has a chance to heal. When we’ve done this, symptoms will go into remission. It’s now time to to create new symbols. We can all get in touch with the inner child, and regain that sense of spontaneity and freedom we had in youth.

Burying the malevolent other is hard work! Conjuring a soothing introject is harder. In real terms it means we have to let go of the past and embrace the future. It won’t be without challenges; stigma, discrimination, loneliness, and depression may lie in wait. But that’s better than being borderline. You will be out of the unrelenting crisis, and working towards a life worth living. New symbols or images of love replace emptiness, calm reflection on the negativity of some people will replace the feeling of paranoid persecution. We’ll be able to rediscover life once again.

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Freelance journalist writing on mental health and disability. Words have the power to shine a light on realities otherwise missed.

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