Quick disclaimer: I’m neither a psychiatrist nor a neurologist, but I am a psychologist and the more I read about borderline personality disorder (BPD) the more I feel the need to write my thoughts down in some coherent order. Don’t take them as conclusions, but as an invitation to expand some perspectives.

Most of us associate borderline personality disorder with its most extreme version: raging, physical violence, self harm, promiscuity etc. But those are only the cases that are so damaging for the person and their environment that seeking professional help is difficult to avoid. Most mental health conditions range from mild to extreme, so it makes sense to presume there are plenty of people with mild symptoms of BPD around. I can think, off the top of my head, of at least 7-8 people I know where I didn’t recognize some of the possible symptoms because the rest of their behavior was fairly normal – and that number includes a member of my own family. I’m not claiming I’m correct in my „diagnosis”, but some of the irrational behavior those people were showing would certainly make sense from this perspective.

Remember how you feel when your deepest pain and insecurities are triggered. Usually it’s the emotions from the childhood memories, the oversimplified, overly intense emotions that come out, together with exaggerated childish beliefs about our own inadequacy (this is described in detail in the article: What Is Age Regression?). Many „normal” or „neurotypical” people, even if they normally have a well adapted adult personality that moderates those feelings, can sometimes try to protect themselves from those feelings by getting angry at somebody. Some time after, the emotions from childhood subside, are repressed again, and we are able to recognize we were overreacting.

What if you had no or little ability to suppress or moderate childish trauma-related feelings? Imagine living in such painful emotions all or most of the time, spending all or most of the time in age regression, feeling like a lost, rejected, unloved child. Like your emotional “skin” is not just very thin, but burnt, so every touch can cause pain. This is how I suspect people with BPD might feel. It’s like their minds do not manage to suppress the emotions from childhood, like in most people, so those old, extreme emotions are much closer to the surface. It’s not easy to detach from them and observe them from outside, so they feel like reality. Lack of ability to suppress painful feelings might make a person resort more intensely to other coping strategies, such as projection, dissociation, denial and defensive rage.

„Mental disease is exaggerated reality” is a quote I heard once and it stays imprinted in my memory. Where does health start, and borderline syndrome begin? What is even psychological health? If we define lack of it as any mental and emotional issue that regularly reduces our ability to function in a balanced and constructive way, in the way we wish to function, how many people are truly healthy? 5% maybe, or even less?

The more I read about borderline personality disorder, the more it feels like most of the behavior associated with BPD is actually considered fairly normal for a toddler. Intense fear of abandonment, rapid mood swings, impulsiveness, unclear sense of identity, temper tantrums, wanting instant gratification, unclear sense of boundaries, oversimplified „all or nothing” perspective… nobody would blink an eye if it was a 2 or 3 year old acting like that.

I have no idea what could happen on a neurological level to prevent the emotional development to integrate with the rest of the body and the mind, but it sounds like an exhausting way to live, especially if based more on painful than pleasant emotions. (This makes me wonder, can there be a person with BPD who is mostly functioning from „positive” childhood emotions? They probably wouldn’t be diagnosed, I imagine, and it’s presumed that childhood trauma often – but not always – instigates the activation of the genetic potential for BPD. But everything is possible, I guess.)

Pleasant feelings are usually also unregulated – the person can seem a bit like a child in their expression of joy, enthusiasm, or love. This can be very attractive and make us expect such positivity to be stable, especially if we ourselves tend to long for the joy and carelessness from our childhood. Unfortunately, it seems that every lack of balance has its price, even when it feels wonderful.

People with borderline personality disorder seem to perceive the world, their own selves, and you, through either rose- or black-colored glasses, with very little if anything in between. When they see you with pink glasses on, everything about you seems wonderful, lovable, or at least worthy of compassion, but when they see you through the black glasses, everything about you might irritate them and be interpreted in the worst ways. The glasses often switch without warning, at the smallest trigger, but can also switch slowly, through months or even years. On top of that, people with BPD seem several times more sensitive to subtle changes in others’ non-verbal communication than most people – which is, again, very normal for small children.

This black-or-white perception can be expressed in different ways for different people. My family member with (probable) BPD spent most of the time with the black tinted glasses on. Occasionally he would become very enthusiastic about a project, and would start working on it with high idealism and perfectionism, only to become discouraged and drop everything very quickly as the first problems, mistakes and disappointments would occur. I used to think he was „simply” depressed and self hating enough that it was extremely easy to trigger his defensiveness, but some of his outbursts still didn’t make sense. When I started wondering if he was borderline, some symptoms matched, and some didn’t. Finally I googled „hidden borderline”, and among the results, found a sub-type called „quiet borderline” which helped me gain some more clarity. I think he was turning his anger and blame more and more inwards as he aged.

People with borderline PD can, just like anyone else, be deeply good inside in spite of their symptoms. It can be very confusing, especially when you are a child, to reconcile their deep essential goodness with their angry outbursts and unreasonable expectations. They can be very friendly, kind and compassionate when they are not triggered – which often means with people outside their home, with whom they don’t spend enough time, and don’t have so high expectations, to be easily triggered.

It can be difficult to let go of the hope that they will eventually turn around, understand you and change, especially if you see them functioning fairly well and reasonably outside of the home. It can be difficult not to try to change yourself trying to help them, not to become more cautious, more trying to please, more subdued. But the more you try to help them, the more you lose yourself – and it’s never enough. The more you try to help them, the more they (unconsciously or not) feel their outbursts are rewarded, and the less they will feel the need to take responsibility to work on their own issues.

I tried to help as a child, by walking on eggshells the best I could, withdrawing into the world of books. It was never enough. I tried to help as an adult, becoming a helping professional, writing my heart out. I didn’t consciously expect it would reach my family, but I must have hoped for it unconsciously. They must have read at least some of my works, but it never made a difference. The only one who can reach and change the person with BDP, is that person themselves. If you are their family member, your first job is to (re)learn to love yourself, trust yourself, and forgive yourself you couldn’t heal something you never were the cause of.

Related articles:

Borderline Syndrome Or Self Hatred?

Red Flags in Relationships

What Happens When a Love Partner Is a Parental Substitute?

All articles

Online coaching 

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

Kosjenka Muk

I’m an Integrative Systemic Coaching trainer and special education teacher. I taught workshops and gave lectures in 10 countries, and helped hundreds of people in 20+ countries on 5 continents (on- and offline) find solutions for their emotional patterns. I wrote the book “Emotional Maturity In Everyday Life” and a related series of workbooks.

Some people ask me if I do bodywork such as massage too – sadly, the only type of massage I can do is rubbing salt into wounds.  😉

Just kidding. I’m actually very gentle. Most of the time.

new posts

follow us on facebook

Become an Integrative Systemic Coach Trainer

Integrative Systemic Coaching training enables you to help others with resolving their relationship and emotional patterns, releasing limiting beliefs and integrating lost qualities and lost identity.

Online Coaching for Individuals and Couples

Integrative Systemic Coaching can help you in different areas of life in which you feel stuck, experience unpleasant emotions and self-sabotage.



+385 98 9205 935
© 2024
Integrative Systemic Coaching
Website developed Danijel Balaban - Web Development Agency & Design Company

Appy to become a trainer

Become an Integrative Systemic Coach Trainer

Integrative Systemic Coaching training enables you to help others with resolving their relationship and emotional patterns, releasing limiting beliefs and integrating lost qualities and lost identity.