BPD: Splitting

“In this context, splitting refers to a primitive mechanism of defense characterized by a polarization of good feelings and bad feelings, of love and hate, of attachment and rejection. Splitting, archetypally imbedded in a patient’s psychic structure, acts as a powerful unconscious force to protect against the ego’s perception of dangerous anxiety and intense affects. Rather than providing real protection, splitting leads to destructive behavior and turmoil in patients’ lives, and the often confused reactions manifested by those who try to help.


Splitting is very common with BPD. It’s a hallmark symptom/sign that your loved one may not only suffer from BPD, but is a very clear cue as to when he or she is in the midst of an episode, either falling into or out of one.

Any sign of rejection or abandonment, perceived or real, can flip the splitting switch and turn your loved one into your worst enemy. Or rather you are theirs. You’ve officially made the hit list. We may hate you. We may become defensive or overly-independent. Hate, you say? Sadly, yes. The hate and rage we may feel for you when we’ve split you and you’ve become “all black” or “all bad” is very real to us. We may even think you are part of the rest of the world and are part of the conspiracy to hurt us. Remembering as you once being the good guy is either so stupid to us, or we literally cannot even remember or tap into that “oh so in the past” reality.

But then something changes. Something shifts and now you’re as good and needed as the very air we breathe.

This may happen often within a relationship. Sometimes even multiple times a day! What a roller coaster ride, right? Yea. Now really think about it. I can only imagine how difficult this would be for a non, but imagine with it’s like to truly believe that the same person you may think is your only safe place, suddenly is “after you”.

How long does an episode last? Could be minutes. Could be hours, days, months…or could go all bad and never return. We may even may a somewhat conscious decision to keep you in the black because we feel safer that way.

So what do you do when you’ve been split? I don’t know! No matter what you say. if you have been split and are in the black, anything you say will be a lie in our minds. You’re just lying and trying to manipulate us or hurt us. Time. Give it time. Express your emotions (softly) and let us know how this is making you feel, and then leave the ball in their court. The more you force your way back in, the worse you will make things.


5 thoughts on “BPD: Splitting

  1. Hi Mandi
    Thank you for this. I’ve not consciously seen the ‘pull’ side of splitting as a need for protection but that really makes sense to me now.

    As a non your advice rings true to me, it is tempting to rush towards my loved one when he is in potentially life threatening pain or when I feel excluded but taking a step back when I’m pushed now feels more like I’m giving him what he needs and is asking for and the result seems to be less problematic for both of us.

    I’m guessing that if you are thinking about splitting now then this is your experience now. I hope you are alright and that your boyfriend understands.

  2. This is a really good article, thanks Mandi.

    Unfortunately it is too late for me to leave the ball in their court. I had no idea about BPD – the label at least – and pushed and pushed.

    I have been split back. I am wondering though. Is there anyway back? I was split back and forth for two years but this time I don’t feel he will ever paint me white again.

  3. Mandi, as you know, I have been split black and trying very hard both to understand and to hopefully become white again. Or better yet, gray, since that would mean progress!
    This blog is excellent in its insight and clarity. Helps me!
    Thank you for taking the time to do this. Hope you are feeling well!!!!

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