The 'I Love You, I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me' Cycle
I confused myself writing this
I’ve spent the past week on a downward spiral into “typical” borderline personality disorder (BPD) habits. The only good that comes out of these, is that I’m inspired to write.
One of these habits repeatedly comes up in therapy — “Isn’t that a polarized view?” – a black and white, all or nothing, all good or all bad, way of looking at things. There is no middle ground. No grey. There is simply “splitting.”
Splitting is a coping mechanism. A natural one for humans in response to anxiety and complex feelings or situations, but when experienced to an extreme, whereby it is an integral internal distorted thought process, it is detrimental to health and relationships. I wish I could explain the intensity of the emotions within interpersonal relationships that arise from splitting, but unless you have experienced this, to such a significant extent that it affects every day of your life, then I don’t think it is possible to entirely understand. It is only to be empathized with. It becomes a mechanism of self-destruction, as well as coping. A mechanism that has, for some of us, resulted from some form of abandonment as a child. The subconscious mind has control over thoughts and behaviors. There is a little child inside, who still does not know how to cope.
However, it is often not just interpersonal relationships that are polarized. There may also be a personal, polarized view of one’s self, leading to an entirely distorted sense of self identity.
It could be likened to having a short-term memory.
It is often described as, “I love you. I hate you. Please don’t leave me.” A factor that leads to words and actions being entirely contradictory, fluctuating over time.
I agree with this to some extent, however, I think indifference must be added to the extremes.
I Love You. Many people with BPD are deeply concerned with gaining the approval of others, with very little regard for their own emotions and needs. Again, this is sometimes a result of previous abandonment, whether real or perceived. Often, a “favorite person” – an attachment to a particular person, is formed. This is tortuous. It typically arises from kindness, extra attentiveness, a sense of being “looked after” more, regardless of how ,such care you currently get, and regardless of whether you require that care (being an adult). The result is dependency, the “favorite person” is idolized and put on a pedestal on which no one rightfully belongs. This has the opportunity to become even more toxic, if the relationship is codependent (both parties are dependent upon each other in some way, to meet their own, differing needs). This can leave opportunity for emotional abuse. However, if this relationship starts to falter, as a result of needs not being “met,” a lack of reassurance, or invalidation, the perception of that person rapidly devalues, they are no longer all good.
I Hate You. This may cycle, returning to a loving and idealized relationship…
Please Don’t Leave Me. Or it may be irreversible, with no hope of a relationship reforming, healthy or not. This is a state of either indifference or ambivalence. Regardless of the latter, said person in the relationship is devalued.
This is all too real as of late. Splitting (and other BPD traits) have a massive influence on my relationships, romantic or not.
The “love you – hate you – don’t leave me” cycle is addictive.
I need the intensity of these relationships, I need to feel the powerful emotions, negative or positive, that accompany them. I need to feel internally conflicted. It makes me feel alive. For this reason, I find the indifferent/ambivalent phase incredibly difficult, more so the ambivalence. It usually ends in me pushing a person away, and I repeat it, over and over again. A cycle of pushing and pulling and just utter confusion and frustration. I’m getting pretty good at finding my “middle” with extremes in situations and with though processes, but I’m not sure how to find the middle with interpersonal relationships. In fact, I have no fucking clue.
What makes all of this worse is the feeling of being engulfed. I need control. When someone gets closer to me, I feel overwhelmed (because I am not sure what I think of my feelings towards them immediately), and so I push them away… because in a warped sense, they are removing my control. If they won’t leave, I will push harder.
“You’re hitting the emergency button the way you know how: pushing me away.”
I got angry at this. How dare they bring my mental state into this. But looking back… maybe it was true. In the moment, I am so confused over what I think, that I say, and do things, that I do not mean.
“It’s the opposite of conversations we’ve had.”
OK, honestly, I felt even more out of control because my thoughts were being unpicked and understood, and in that moment, they were my subconscious, and I wasn’t aware of them, so did not believe them. It’s strange, you find yourself in an episode of not knowing what is “real” and what isn’t.
All of this scared me, because someone appeared to have just accepted all of this. They still wanted in. I cannot understand it. How do they like me? Why would a “normal” (healthy) person accept this, accept the confusion of thoughts and emotions, and essentially, the emotional abuse/hurt that I am placing on them?
Fundamentally, all of this comes down to uncertainty and need for control.
“You couldn’t handle me if I came with instructions”
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Thinkstock photo via AlexandraPlamadeala