Understanding The Contradiction: I Hate You Don't Leave Me
By Sarah Fader
Updated March 20, 2020
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
For those who suffer from borderline personality disorder, the subtle nuances of the world are completely missing. Everything is black and white; right or wrong; and all or nothing. The lack of middle ground can make it difficult to have personal relationships, as this 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 suffer from this disorder who have never dealt with any trauma. Working with a licensed therapist or certified counselor is often the key to addressing the underlying causes, but for those who are dealing with the disorder, it can be difficult to address these negative coping mechanisms, because they have become a crutch, one that is draining but believed necessary.
Self-Doubt Plays A Part
Part of the anxiety that fuels the 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 excessing 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, unworthy, and those around you are going to leave at any time. Those thoughts become a loop, one that you find yourself unable to break. Your words and actions can be contradictory, and that can fluctuate, 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 if 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, as well as keeping it from handling necessary daily functions.
Part of the conundrum is that you assign your favorite person the 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, because 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, as is the case because they eventually run out of the energy to meet all of your emotional needs, 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 leave you pursuing 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 borderline 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."
I Hate You - The Other Side of The Contradiction
On the other hand, as 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. Your sense of their value seems to disappear, and now they are not the "good" individual that you thought they were.
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 there is simply indifference, that can be the most uncomfortable for someone with 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 suffer from 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 see the 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 borderline personality disorder, it can be harder to get to this point, but they can get there.
For those dealing with this disorder, it can be difficult to maintain relationships. If you know someone who has this disorder, you need 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. As understanding borderline personality disorder is still a work in progress, and as the medical community continues to build their knowledge, the options through therapy continue to improve. In fact, long-term studies demonstrate that patients can get better, often not exhibiting the signs of borderline personality disorder that would satisfy a formal diagnosis. If you suffer from this disorder, it is important to recognize your triggers, which can lead to destructive impulsivity. Working with a licensed therapist, like those at Betterhelp, you can work to find alternatives to deal with your triggers effectively.
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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.