Splitting or black and white thinking is something that we all struggle with to a certain degree. It’s a common ‘symptom’ of borderline personality disorder but it can be something that we all do from time to time as a coping mechanism. It’s when it starts to ruin our lives that it becomes a problem, and ruin lives it does.
My experience with splitting
I’ve never been diagnosed with borderline personality but my addictive behaviours have meant that I can identify with a lot of the traits that sufferers have to endure. And splitting is the one that has caused the most destruction in my life.
I have probably done this throughout my whole life but it really became obvious to me that it was a problem when I was in my late twenties and I was struggling to deal with bosses; particularly female bosses.
I would start a job and invariably the general manager of the site would be a woman. I would start to befriend her as much as I could and I would try to get myself in line for any kind of promotion I could lay my grubby hands on. I’m a straight woman but I would almost find myself falling in love with this person and my whole life would revolve around being noticed by her and being praised by her. In short, she was being idolised and put up on a really high pedestal.
And the story would always follow the same narrative. Once this woman was firmly in place on her pedestal she would do something to shake my faith in her. She would call me into the office because I’d done something wrong or she would overlook me for a promotion and then our love affair would be over. She was suddenly the worst person I could think of in the entire world and I wouldn’t have one good word to say about her. Eventually I’d hate her so much I’d have to leave my job and the whole charade would start again.
How big a problem can splitting become?
When my drinking was at its worst and I was in a place where I knew that I needed help, it was this problem that drove me to the doctor. I was convinced that the female boss that I had at the time was plotting to kill me or have me put in jail. Just a year earlier I had been pining for her attention; the process was swift and brutal.
Splitting caused me to end up missing work and hiding while I was at work because I was so terrified. I started self harming and at one point I took an overdose just so that I could stay in the hospital and be away from this woman. It was crazy behaviour but it still makes me feel anxious thinking back to that time so I know how real it was to me.
Some people will only fall out with a succession of people and then move onto the next. This is obviously not as frightening for the person but it’s equally as destructive as they are leaving a trail of broken relationships in their wake. These don’t have to me within the sphere of employment either, that just seemed to be prominent in my life. Many people have a string of friendships and romantic relationships that end in such a way.
So how do I stop splitting?
It might be worth seeing a doctor in the first instance because you may have something like borderline personality disorder and they will be able to help. Counselling is the best treatment if it’s a really serious problem for you because there are obviously some underlying issues that can be resolved by talking.
Here are a few other tips and tricks that I have learnt during my years in recovery and that have helped me stop this really damaging behaviour:
- Don’t get over friendly with management at work. They are there to look after the business, not pander to your ego.
- If you like somebody romantically, tell them. At least you can find out if they feel the same and move on if they don’t. I would make up stories in my mind about how we would get married and have babies and then they would get a girlfriend and I’d get angry at them. It would just trash a good friendship and leave everybody feeling angry and confused.
- Remember that nobody is perfect. The person who you are putting up on that pedestal is going to make a mistake but that doesn’t make them nasty or evil, it makes them human.
- Try to find your part in arguments. We sometimes forget that for something to go wrong in a relationship of any kind, we need to have played a part in it somewhere along the line. If we can accept our part it makes it easier to accept where the other person was coming from.
As I have said, this behaviour almost killed me so it’s important to seek help if you are getting worried for your own safety. But always keep in mind that people are complex and come to you with baggage of their own. Most of the time they don’t even realise they’ve done anything to hurt you so don’t let one slip up ruin something that could be beautiful with just a little bit of work and understanding.
Remember to show everyone the compassion that you would like to receive yourself. And have the most amazing day, you beautiful people.