Understanding The Contradiction: I Hate You Don't Leave Me
By: Sarah Fader
Updated January 13, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
For people who live with a borderline personality disorder (BPD), the subtle nuances of the world are completely missing. Everything is black and white, right or wrong, all or nothing. The lack of middle ground can make it difficult to have personal relationships. The disorder can create a paradoxical way of life, essentially the "I hate you—don't leave me" response, which is known as splitting.
When splitting is experienced in the extreme, it becomes an integral internal distorted thought process, one that can negatively impact your personal and professional relationships and your health. Essentially, it becomes a mechanism that contributes to your self-destruction, even as you use it to cope.
As humans, we have multiple coping mechanisms that we frequently employ to handle stress, anxiety, or trauma. Without these coping mechanisms, our brains and emotional selves would simply be overwhelmed. But not all coping mechanisms are healthy ones. In fact, some coping mechanisms can have a negative impact, sending our brains into a loop of anxiety, where the coping mechanism provides a "fix," but is unable to address the cause of our anxiety, stress, or trauma.
Borderline personality disorder can be the result of trauma, either emotional or physical, but some who experience this disorder have never dealt with any trauma. Working with a licensed therapist or certified counselor is often the key to addressing the underlying causes. However, for those who are dealing with BPD, it can be difficult to address these negative coping mechanisms, which have become a crutch—one that is draining but believed necessary.
Self-Doubt Plays a Part
Part of the anxiety that fuels contradictory behavior is a sense of self-doubt. Those around you, even friends and family who have been part of your life for years, must deal with your sense of doubt, a constant feeling that those individuals are going to leave.
Why? You believe that you are unlovable, and that leads you to question every thought, action, and word spoken or written. Beautiful moments are ruined before they even happen because the self-doubt has you questioning everything. There is plenty of jumping to conclusions involved as well. Think about the last time you heard from a friend. Had it been a while? What was the reason for the gap from the last time you talked? Someone dealing with excessive amounts of anxiety and self-doubt would assume that the individual is mad, even if that is not the case. There would be a sense that you need to apologize, even if you did nothing wrong.
The voices inside your head are continually focused on the negative, pointing out all of the reasons why you are unlovable or unworthy. Those thoughts become a loop, one that you find yourself unable to break. Your words and actions can be contradictory, constantly fluctuating as you face different circumstances and feelings.
The impact of this coping mechanism is not limited to just relationships with others. It can impact your relationship with yourself. You create a distorted view of yourself, and the impact on your self-identity can be extremely detrimental. How does this play out for individuals daily?
The First Part Of The Contradiction - I Love You
Many individuals who deal with borderline personality disorder are concerned about gaining the approval of others, almost to a fanatical extent, and with little regard for their own needs and emotions. You might become fixated, emotionally attached to one person in particular, and all rational thought can quickly go out the window when they do not respond fast enough or give the right answers.
The automatic response of the brain is to assume the worst and build upon that, essentially creating a mental drama that is emotionally and physically draining. Our thoughts do impact us physically, and if we are in a constant state of anxiety, then it can quickly have a physical impact, as our body puts itself into a flight or fight mode. The constant rush of adrenaline becomes overwhelming and draining on the body, potentially keeping it from handling necessary daily functions.
Part of the conundrum is that you assign your favorite person responsibility for your happiness. You are happy when you are with them and upset when you are not. Those with borderline personality disorder find themselves struggling with issues of abandonment, so if their favorite person appears to be turning away, it can trigger all sorts of anxiety and self-doubt.
You end up dependent on them, and eventually, that relationship can become toxic for you both when they cannot give you enough validation to permanently ease the self-doubt and anxiety that you live with on a daily basis. There is also the risk that you can become dependent on each other in an unhealthy way, leading to the potential for emotional abuse.
Once the relationship starts to falter, your perception of the person may begin to change, leading to the paradoxical contradiction. First, there is the cycle of "don't leave me," that can bring you to pursue a relationship even when it is very unhealthy for you both.
Don't Leave Me
At this point, the relationship may be in trouble. Your favorite person is drained and longing for a break. They find themselves struggling to be reassuring enough, and the negative aspects of the relationship have begun to drag them down. It may be best to break off the relationship, but you find yourself unable to do so. It can almost become emotional stalking, as you try to do anything to repair the relationship, crossing boundaries and creating more tension. Your sense of value is diminished, and you just want to repair the relationship, even if the other party has begun to move on.
"For many [people with] borderline, 'out of sight, out of mind' is an excruciatingly real truism. Panic sets in when [they are] separated from a loved one because the separation feels permanent," said Jerold J. Kreisman, author of I Hate You, Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality. "Although the [person] may not be consciously aware of this dilemma, he frequently places a friend or relation in a no-win situation in which the other person is condemned no matter which way he goes."
The Other Side of the Contradiction – I Hate You
Understanding the “I hate you—don’t leave me” component of the conundrum is a critical part of understanding borderline personality disorder.
When you feel as though your needs are not being met or the person is not living up to your unrealistic expectations, you may find yourself hating the individual. Now you just want them to leave.
Source: yanalya via freepik.com
All of this is a cycle, where the relationship is intense and constantly in flux. There are powerful emotions attached to all phases of the cycle, but when the emotion is simply indifference, that can be the most uncomfortable for someone with a borderline personality disorder. Essentially, they cannot live in the middle ground. The cycle of pushing and pulling away becomes normal, and they find themselves unable to cope with anything but the extremes.
Recognizing Borderline Symptoms
For those who have a borderline personality disorder, several key symptoms are outward signs of the inward struggle with extremes that they deal with on a daily basis.
- These symptoms can include:
- Deep feelings of insecurity
- Low self-esteem
- Contradictory feelings
- Constant need for affirmation
- Idealizing or devaluing people
- Difficulty compromising or seeing reason
- Inability to control emotions or thoughts
These individuals can have extreme contradictory reactions to the same person or situation. Merging positives with the flaws is a task all adults struggle with when they have evolved past the "good guys-bad guys" stage, according to Kreisman. For those with a borderline personality disorder, it can be harder to get to this point, but they can get there.
For those dealing with borderline personality disorder, it can be difficult to maintain relationships. If you know someone who has BPD, it may help to recognize that their responses are not personal. Their ability to process circumstances and their thoughts can be limited at times, as they are stuck in the extremes. Do not argue with them, but step back. Not arguing allows you to stop contributing to the cycle of pushing and pulling that tends to characterize their relationships with others.
At the same time, be willing to listen and hear them out. If they are expressing a determination to hurt themselves, take that seriously. Do not be quick to dismiss it just because they are impulsive. Finally, avoid jumping to conclusions. Understand that borderline personality disorder is still a work in progress, and as the medical community continues to build their knowledge, treatment options through therapy continue to improve. In fact, long-term studies demonstrate that patients can get better, often no longer exhibiting the signs of borderline personality disorder that would satisfy a formal diagnosis.
Research has proven that online therapy is an effective method of treating patients who live with borderline personality disorder. One study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that patients experienced significant improvement across a range of metrics after receiving internet-based treatment for BPD. The study notes that borderline personality disorder is often an undertreated condition, and that internet-based therapy could bridge that gap in treatment. The availability of mobile- and computer-based therapy platforms provides more opportunity for guided treatment. In addition to holding counseling sessions, therapists can lead patients through exercises and lessons that are proven to aid in recognizing triggers when they arise.
Working with a licensed therapist, you can find alternative ways to deal with your triggers effectively, while taking advantage of a wider array of specialists than would be likely available in your area. With online therapy, you have a better chance of finding a therapist who knows exactly how to help you cope with BPD. Online therapy also helps patients avoid the perceived stigma that many people with borderline personality disorder feel when seeking traditional therapy. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Lindsey is very good at putting things in perspective. She is a great listener and offers realistic, loving advice without being judgmental or harsh. I feel like she has helped me to see things in a way that makes me able and willing to change my negative behaviors without feeling like my life is going to end and I'll never get over the loss of my old ways. It's the way she phrases things and makes me see it in a new way that makes me able to have a light flip on that was out before."
"I have been dealing with quite a slew of issues, but after working with Mackenzie, I feel significantly more able to go forward in my life with effective strategies that match my abilities and goals. Mackenzie guided me toward establishing healthier boundaries, being more self-reflective, relying on both emotions and logic when confronting issues, and finding concrete ways to alleviate stress and anger at issues outside of my control. She is an incredibly skilled and valuable resource."
Living with borderline personality disorder can be brutal, but working with an online therapist can help you maintain healthy relationships. No matter what you're experiencing, with the right tools, you can move forward. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is wanting attention a disorder?
It’s normal for people to want attention from time to time. However, when a need for attention begins to interfere with your daily functions and life, this can be a sign of mental illness or a mental health disorder like a borderline personality disorder. If attention-seeking behavior is ruining your life seek professional health and medical advice.
Are trust issues a disorder?
People with mental health issues, or those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, may have trouble forming and keeping relationships based on trust. Due to the nature of their condition, people with mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress syndrome, ADHD, and borderline personality disorders may also have issues with trust.
What causes attention seeking behavior in adults?
There has been much time spent on developing treatment and understanding attention-seeking behavior in adults. Neurobiological, genetic, and developmental studies show that attention-seeking behaviors often have genetic and developmental roots that are related to mental illness and mental health disorders.
What is the most common personality disorder?
According to medical and psychology researchers, obsessive-compulsive disorder is the most common personality disorder. OCD numbers in the US are closely followed by narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline syndrome in the number of cases reported.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be caused be aggravated by abuse, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and emotional trauma.
Why do people with BPD split?
People with borderline syndrome may experience “splitting” episodes that cause them to characterize people, places, or events as either completely “good” or “bad.” Splitting is what causes the “I hate you—don’t leave me” dynamic that often happens when you’re loving someone with borderline personality disorder.
Why are borderlines so angry?
Loving someone with borderline personality disorder can feel emotionally draining, as you wonder when episodes of splitting or the “I hate you—don’t leave me” dynamic will kick in. Life with someone experiencing symptoms of BPD can often feel euphoric one moment and like a disaster the next.
People who live with BPD may often seem angry because of an inability to regulate their emotions. Pharmacological and psychotherapeutic advancements have made it easier for people to cope with the negative symptoms of borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, ADHD, and eating disorders.
People who have BPD may have concurrent mental health conditions that make their symptoms seem even worse.
What triggers a person with borderline personality disorder?
When the cycle of “I hate you—don’t leave me” begins, loving someone with borderline personality disorder can feel overwhelming and confusing. Fear of abandonment or loneliness is a common trigger for people with a borderline personality disorder. This is why people living with the disorder seem to spend a lot of time seeking attention and validation from their loved ones.
Can people with BPD love?
While loving someone with BPD is possible, it’s important to understand the disorder to avoid wasted time and misguided advice in trying to figure out the best treatment techniques to help the one you love. People with BPD can have happy and healthy relationships. Psychotherapeutic advancements point to success in treatment techniques for BPD that use a combination of medication and therapy.
What is emotional hypochondriasis?
Have you ever wondered if there are connections between BPD and emotional hypochondriasis? Emotional hypochondriasis is a condition where people act in dramatic ways to express their emotional pain to others. People with this condition often feel that no one truly understands their pain. As a result, they can act in extreme ways to get their messages across. Psychological and pharmacological advancements point to success in the treatment of both conditions with a combination of medication and therapy.
Are those experiencing BPD aware of their behavior?
In most cases, people with borderline personality disorder are unaware of their behavior. Defense mechanisms can be unconsciously triggered as people with BPD struggle to regulate their emotions. Fear of abandonment or loneliness is the most common triggers for splitting episodes in people with borderline personality disorders.
What are the 10 personality disorders?
According to psychology experts, professional mental health organizations like the American Psychological Association and the DSM-5, there are 10 specific personality disorders. These disorders are as follows: 1. Obsessive-compulsive 2. Narcissistic, 3. Avoidant, 4. Antisocial, 5. Schizotypal, 6. Borderline, 7. Histrionic, 8. Paranoid, 9. Dependent, 10. Schizoid
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