The Self Destructive Borderline

All borderlines are at times self-destructive, perhaps to the point of self-mutilation. In the self-destructive borderline subtype, however, self-destruction serves the needs of a comorbid masochistic pattern. Like the petulant borderline, the self-destructive type is unable to find a comfortable niche with others. Unlike the petulant type, self-destructive borderlines do not become increasingly testy and bitter over time. Instead, their masochistic traits cause them to turn inward, where destructive feelings can be expressed upon the self. In the past, these individuals presented a veneer of sociability and conformity. Underneath, however, were both a desire for independence and a genuine fear of autonomy. As a result, their social propriety cloaked a deeply con-flictful submission to the expectations of others. To control these oppositional tendencies, they struggled to present a fa├žade of self-restraint and self-sacrifice. Ever deferential and ingratiating, most have bent over backwards to impress their superiors with their conformity, all the while denying their dependencies and becoming even more conflicted.

At times, these antagonisms have given rise to public displays and bitter complaints about being treated unfairly, of expecting to be disillusioned and disapproved by others, and of no longer being appreciated for their diligence, submissiveness, and self-sacrifice. With the persistence of ambivalent feelings, self-destructive borderlines often begin to voice growing distress about a wide range of physical symptoms. As more subtle means of discharging negative feelings prove self-defeating, tension and depression mount beyond tolerable limits. They may accuse others of despising them, seeking to destroy their worth, and plotting to abandon them. Inordinate demands for attention and reassurance may be made. They may threaten to commit suicide and thereby save others the energy of destroying them slowly. The self-destructive and discouraged borderline subtypes perpetuate their pathology by deliberately putting themselves in positions of excessive vulnerability, making themselves so dependent and clingy that others could only become exasperated.

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