What is “splitting”?
Splitting is a coping defense mechanism people with BPD use to avoid rejection or being hurt. It means that someone is either good or they are bad. There are no good people who make mistakes. There are no bad people who are nice sometimes. It is black and white, good or bad…
It’s a reaction to the fear of abandonment, the rejection and hurt that I cannot face. The idea of being rejected is so abhorrent to me, it’s easier to just tell myself that person was evil, and everything they ever did was part of some sick plot to humiliate, hurt or upset me.
Though “splitting” is most often associated with BPD (it’s one of the nine classic symptoms of BPD, after all) it’s important to mention not all people with BPD experience it, and not all people who “split” have BPD. Others who may split include people who grew up with childhood trauma and people with other mental illnesses.
If you’re struggling with “splitting,” you’re not alone. We are so grateful you’re here and in our community. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.
Here’s what our community shared with us.
- “I am a quiet borderline, and when I split on someone, I will ignore them and stop talking to them.” — Samantha P.
- “I’m the quiet type, but I get so passive aggressive and act like a child. So immature and insecure. If someone close to me offends me, all the negative things about the person just takes control and removes everything positive and I end up hating them. But if they treat me right again and apologize, it’s like they’re the best person in the world and I don’t even deserve them. All the negative stuff goes away and it’s like it was never there. Well… until I get offended again.” — Linda K.
- “When I split, I internalize it all. It can either internalize to [the point where] I shut down and stop communicating, or I’ll internalize and project it onto myself, blaming myself for whatever caused it and getting angry at myself for ever thinking badly about the person. It’ll turn into a cycle of self-hatred…” — Cameron H.
- “My rage takes over, and I’m livid from seemingly out of nowhere. I feel like I get pulled into the back of my brain and I’m watching myself and my life through a sheet of glass, and no matter how hard I try to break through, I can’t. I’ll say things I don’t even recognize as me saying them until after it’s already said.” — Akira S.
- “I split every month when PMS hits. I feel like I’m worthless, and no one loves me. So I push away everyone I love. I push them to the point of hating me. I walk around with tears running down my face, like I just lost someone I loved. Extremely emotional outbursts over the smallest things, like being late for work, or my pants not fitting.” — Kat S.
- “I become heated and will impulsively cause an argument. Usually the argument is more about me and something within myself that I am projecting onto the other person. If I split on someone, I go straight to ‘black and white thinking’ and all the anger I have repressed is directed onto them even if they don’t deserve it.” — Sarah F.
- “I often dissociate when I split, so I have a hard time remembering what happened. Even if the splitting is me feeling like nothing can bring me down because I’m so happy.” — Holly B.
- “When I start to devalue, which I call ‘shittify,’ I will often withdraw from the close friend until I am regulated again. But if it happens with the person present, I will try to move away from them as quickly as possible. If that is not possible then I just avoid eye contact and try and change the subject. Often, these behaviors are not interpreted as devaluing by my nearest and dearest which means I effectively mask the pain I’m experiencing. Of course sometimes I explode and no one is in doubt, but mostly it is internalized.” — Andrew L.
- “I change my outfits a lot. Sometimes I don’t realize it, but I can change from two to six times just to try and feel OK.” — Samantha D.
- “When I recognize I’m going to split on someone, I internalize it and split on myself instead. It normally ends with me trying to resist self-harming.” — Jason B.
- “I can be so close-minded. I won’t be able to hear any defense until I’m on the other side of it.” — Hailey R.
- “I melt down, I act ‘crazy’ and paranoid, I avoid socializing and I drag one of the few people I’m not splitting on aside to question them intensely about the people I am splitting on. Or, I just shut down because it’s easier to not feel anything than it is to feel suspicious and guilty about feeling suspicious all at once.” — Leo A.
- “I get sneaky and spiteful.” — Brittany R.
Do you experience this? Let us know what helps you cope with splitting in the comments below.