Borderline personalities

Last week I promised to start a short series of articles focussing on four categories of personality types who can display difficult behaviour. Please remember, the context is that despite the efforts of experienced facilitators and mediators, there are a small percentage of people for whom settlement of a dispute never appears to be an option. Here is the first category – Borderline Personalities (BP)

People displaying traits associated with BP are often in fear of being abandoned. To prevent themselves feeling abandoned, they attempt to control and manipulate, or get angry with those they believe have abandoned them. They are commonly identified as difficult.

Borderlines have frequent mood swings and can easily switch between positive feelings to anger and hate. They can often put people into two extreme categories: extremely wonderful and extremely terrible.

However, until you get to know this person or observe one in a crisis situation, on the surface they often appear normal, even appealing. Problems can frequently occur in intimate relationships and there may be a split between their frequently angry private behaviour and their friendly public image.

Borderlines may remain absorbed for years in trying to get a loved one back or to get revenge for abandonment. As a colleague or professional advisor they may comment on how special and competent you are. Be careful though. It can change. I speak from experience. They can become demanding and enraged, in an effort to make the relationship fit a perceived fantasy. The praise unpredictably turns to blame and criticism. Often, just when you thought it was safe to settle back into the relationship, you will receive a new blast of anger at some perceived failure or abandonment.

To the bewilderment of many, Borderlines often do not understand why their actions get negative responses. Although they may be intelligent, there can be gaps in their perceptions and a lack of common sense.

Borderline personalities – a summary:

  • They normally have a big fear of abandonment
  • They often have frequent anger and mood swings
  • Their behaviour can be controlling, clinging and manipulative
  • They may have a tendency to lodge a grievance or go to Tribunal

Tips when working with someone displaying Borderline symptoms:

  • Try and be matter-of-fact
  • Show that you are listening
  • Don’t ignore them
  • Set undisputable SMART objectives

Next week: Narcissists

For further reading please see: Marsha Lineham 1993, Donald Dutton 1998, Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus 1989, Mason & Kreger 1998, Dr. Charles Ford 1996.