Splitting - getting to grips with hell.
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
I have been working on this issue tooth and nail throughout my life so I know a bit about splitting, unfortunately. Quite a lot actually.
In regards to this blog entry, it acts as an amateur but experienced bit of friendly advice, story and rant all at the same time I guess and, as suggested to me, it is published to help hold myself accountable in order to aid my progress further into "wise mind". Journalling both privately (mainly) and publicly is a very powerful tool in DBT.
It isn't though, most definitely, not professional advice for anyone going through the mill with splitting behaviours.
So, please seek professional help. It's so worth it.
This here blog entry isn't spell checked or proof read and I'm no writer, so it's a ramble based on my personal journey and progress thus far. It contains more swearing and inappropriate humour. It might be really shit:
Splitting: The Defence Mechanism That Destroys Your Relationships - and trust me, I know.
Have you ever wondered why you swing so quickly between utterly fucking loving a person and then entirely hating a person almost psychotically? Are your relationships characterised by extreme ups and downs and insane horrid nuclear meltdowns?
If so, you might be experiencing what psychologists call splitting – a nefarious, hellish, unbearable defence mechanism that makes it difficult to hold down stable relationships.
In my own case, I am emotionally well and healthy and I am doing okay and I'm not too much of a dick and then I get emotionally unwell and boom, I'm a dick and it all goes drastically wrong. I start splitting and it comes and goes in waves.
If you live with the challenge of managing splitting, I'm sure you get where I am coming from. It's a really dickish defence mechanism for all involved.
What is a Defence Mechanism?
Defence mechanisms are techniques the ego uses to avoid feelings of fear, uncertainty, and shame. Defence mechanisms are unconscious, meaning that we aren’t aware of them or their control over our lives. Essentially, our defence mechanisms “defend” us against unpleasant feelings or situations which our egos perceive as dangerous, helping us to feel better about ourselves and the environment. Ultimately, however, defence mechanisms distort, deny, and/or falsify reality. It's really counter-intuitive stuff.
This defence mechanism has really screwed a lot of things up and not in fact, defended me at all. Splitting is a horribly confusing beast.
What is Splitting?
Splitting is a defence mechanism whereby we split the world into polarities such as good or bad, right or wrong, really nice or fucking nasty, and so forth. Essentially, splitting is black and white thinking.
Because we, as humans, struggle to tolerate uncertainty and the ability to hold two opposing ideas in our minds at once, we resolve that ambiguity by splitting the issue into two simplified and opposing parts. We then align ourselves with one part and reject the other part. It's either entirely black and or it's entirely white and it's not a case of, "oh, well, fuck the grey area", we don't even realise the grey area exists at all. It's gone. Our insight has shut down. Our amygdala in our brain has gone off line. It's really very fucked.
Splitting Can Maintain or Destroy Relationships
(and that's a really really big problem)
In the emotional arena, splitting helps us to avoid mixed emotions. This is not necessarily always a bad thing because, for some people, it helps us to keep a leash on certain extreme emotions that would otherwise harm our relationships, such as anger.
But, not in my case. I couldn't keep my rage locked down. Splitting made me a monster - when I got ill. It also made me a gibbering ball of frightened tears.
See, for example, splitting can be positive when we feel temporary hatred for our partner, while at the same time feeling lots of deep love for them. By subconsciously defining hatred as ‘bad,’ we might sometimes prevent our partner from facing our insane fiery wrath, we stop them from suffering.
There were times, many times I did this I realise now. Hindsight is fucking great isn't it? Those times went unnoticed by others however as only the bad acting out behaviours were ever noticed and responded too, understandably. It's was/is a tricky issue for me to talk about like this and make any sense. I hope I am.
Now, that said, I know by my regrettable but unintentional behaviours in the past, splitting can also be disgustingly toxic and dark and super destructive to our relationships and there is no "excuse". Just mitigating unfortunate mental health illness.
(Something that doesn't get addressed, hardly ever, is that splitting also, sometimes, gets misinterpreted as "intentional" emotional bullying and "attention seeking". Me, myself, I was not once faking any of my crazy shit. It was sheer bad ass melt down on every level. Utter shut down of any coping skills and reality. There is a huge difference. The difference between consciously being a calculated sneaky fucker, knowing what you are up to and the flip side of that which is acting out, kicking off, with all insight and "in the moment" awareness out of the window with the emotional regulation bath water! Un-calculated. The difference between the two is vast and the motivating mechanisms between the two examples are entirely different beasts.
But both beasts. No excuse for abusive behaviour but people who split are not automatically evil and Machiavellian bullies.
These differences, I feel, need to be known by all involved in the toxic soup of splitting. The more people who are aware and onside of the person who is lost in a world insane pain, the better. And it is insanity. It really is. Slipping in and out of sanity into insanity and back again. Only professional help and the support of those around a BPD splitter can be of any helpful use.
I was awful. Vile. But I was not "out to control and manipulate" as the accusations levelled against me have gone and the other nosey parker gossips and shit stirrers threw at me, not knowing the whole story. Cunts 🖕 .
I was lost in fucking space.
It was dark there.)
Those who struggle with splitting as one of their primary defence mechanisms cannot tolerate the reality of mixed emotions, and therefore find keeping close relationships hard, or even impossible. I know this.
Being unable to tolerate mixed emotions means that your partner will be seen as either an angel or a devil; a loving person or a virulent cunt. There is no allowance for nuance, subtlety, grey areas, or flaws (and simultaneous points of perfection) within your partner whatsoever. Nada. Nothing.
It feels fucking bleak when it's tipping to the negative scale of black of the black and white thinking thing and even worse when you come out of a "split" and realise what damage you did/have done to your partner and even physically, to things around you, property. I broke a lot of objects in rage, not intentionally, and I disrespected my ex during some horrid moments of splitting. The guilt afterwards is indescribable and the guilt remains. As it should. This tendency to either idealise the other person to the status of a soulmate (soul twin) or condemn them as the spawn of Satan, a real cunt, leads to lots of issues and unhappiness.
Filtering one’s partner through the lens of good/bad not only ignores their multifaceted authentic nature but also leads to sheer heartbreak and extreme disillusionment when they don’t meet your expectations.
Rants and reflections:
(Before I finally got the psychological help I have now and the wider level of support I have now and am forever grateful for, I was very much on my own with it, despite having people around me. Back then, I just didn't understand what was happening to me and it was scary. I mean, I knew I was mentally unwell (diagnosed, hospitalised far to many times, etc ) as I have been since the age of ten, perhaps even before when I really think about it. However, I just didn't know enough about the mechanisms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, BPD, splitting and all the things involved in and around it.
Long story short, I sometimes feel I have been very let down by (not on purpose though at all) pretty much everyone in charge of my psyche care* over the years and not educated nearly enough about all of these things I have been getting to grips with over the last two years. I was certainly not well enough to do it myself on top of the rest of life that you have to get on with that goes on around you, despite it being pretty bloody bonkers. Sometimes functioning, sometimes not.
DBT at the age of say, 25 or 30, would have saved me a lot of bother later down the line. But then, it is what it is.
*I am eternally grateful to Leven House, Tim Russell, Dr.Bray and Nathan Haney, let that be said.
Insight, support and empathy are everything when you are trying to get to grips with this behaviour.
I have hated every second of splitting and the consequences and the hurt and confusion I caused over the years.)
11 tell tale things to spot if you are struggling with suspected splitting behaviours:
(ripped from www.themighty.com )
Want to know whether splitting is sabotaging your relationships? Here are some clues:
You think about the other person in terms of being “perfect,” “evil,” “angelic,” “demonic,” “saintly,” “narcissistic” (and as a narcissist)
When things go wrong, you always feel horribly “cheated,” “betrayed,” or “screwed over”
When you have a fight you feel as though the world is crumbling around you or coming to an end
Most of your relationships have been intense and stormy
You go through regular cycles of “I love you, I hate you, don’t leave me” in your relationships
At the beginning of relationships, you tend to idolise your partner and put them on a pedestal
After disagreements or witnessing flaws in your partner, you begin to lose your respect for them and start to think they’re bad, stupid, pathetic, hateful, or not worthy of your time
You enter cycles of pushing people away, and then trying to pull them back (push/pull dynamic)
You crave experiencing strong emotions (love/hate) in your relationships and can’t tolerate neutral or conflicting emotions
You’re an idealist, and you consciously/unconsciously seek to be with perfect people and in “perfect” relationships
In fights, you tend to perceive yourself exclusively as the “victim,” and your partner as the perpetrator/wrongdoer
How many of these signs can you relate to? If you have BPD and you split, then you can probably relate to them all at one point or another. www.themighty.com
⬆⬆ Note: over the years, at various times, not all at once necessarily although, maybe, I have exhibited all of the behaviours to the fucking max! So I know. If you are experiencing some, most or all of these things, flag it up, don't leave it unchecked, seek support and talk about it. Also, read more about it online and ignore some of the ignorant uneducated hatred you will find towards people with personality disorders. We are not all Machiavellian monsters. Seek support from a professional, not just arm chair unqualified bloggers like me.
A good starting point on a journey into healing is www.emotionallysensitive.com
It's not free but it fairly priced and it's legit.
(I have no affiliation with these people, I just used them ion my journey and they helped me more than I can express. I'm just a bloke blogging.)
How to Prevent Splitting From Destroying Your Relationships.
If you find yourself agreeing with many of the above 11 signs listed above ⬆ , be concerned but don’t panic. Panicking makes this shit worse.
Splitting is a common unwanted defence mechanism that many people with deep rooted demons and subsequent mental health issues struggle with. Tons of stuff on google about how it works and it's well worth reading up on this.
As with any defence mechanism, splitting can addressed, it can be treated and it can be decreased in intensity and replaced with healthier forms of non-destructive behaviour through self-awareness.
Being aware and conscious of this ingrained behaviour is the first step to overcoming it and finding stability in your relationships.
Take it from me, I know, first hand.
Here are some tips I have learned and practice to help me stop splitting:
1. Identify your emotional triggers
Pay attention to your own language, your words and actions, tones of voice, or situations that trigger emotional reactions such as outbursts of anger and crazy rage, resentment, finger-pointing etc.
Write these down in a private journal whenever they occur and look for those reoccurring patterns and themes.
Y'know, you might find that you’re triggered the most when your partner doesn’t give you the attention you want or expect or you might feel particularly triggered when a certain look appears on your partner’s face. These were biggies for me. Huge.
Often environmental factors contribute to us getting triggered, for example, getting poor sleep, stress from work, too many life SNAFU's going on at once. Insomnia and depression were/are my particular challenges.
2. How does you body feel?
How does your body feel when you are being triggered? Does your heart rate elevate, your breath quicken, your palms sweat, your jaw clench, your hands curl in to fist?
Incorporate mindfulness and/or meditation into your daily routine to help you notice these symptoms. Really think about them and identify them get mindful about what happens and what you do not want to happen physically. Sit with that feeling.
Learn how to take a step the fuck back and "find the pause" and become self-observant – it takes practice! Lots of it. You've got to want to do it.
Notice how your body feels when it starts to split the world into two extremes, the black and the white, and jot it down in your private journal. Keep in mind that tuning into your body takes practice, so don’t expect to be perfect at doing it overnight. It took me a good year before it started to click if I'm honest.
3. Interrupt your reactions by staying grounded
Once you become self-aware of your triggers and physical reactions, the next step is to learn how to respond in a healthier way.
Rewiring this deeply embedded defence mechanism takes time and practice. It requires you to be able to be two steps ahead of your responses and reactions, to know them and take decisive steps to ground and stabilise yourself. One of the simplest ways of staying grounded is to breathe deeply and/or focus on your breath. Sounds easy, but it's not. Practice this and it will click and feels good when it does. The other (which is best used in extremely triggering situations and you feel like melting down) is to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. This will give you space to calm down.
That last one is more important than I ever realised before. Ask my ex. Ask me. believe me, get the fuck away and calm down and don't harass your partner with your splitting behaviours. Just don't. Get away and breath and come back later when you have found your wise mind.
Don't fuck up to the degree I did. Do the work, practice it and learn to stop.
There are other ways to stay grounded include:
Feel and notice your feet on the earth, bare feet. Literally earth yourself.
Drink something hot or cold. Sensation helps. Cup of tea is the universal cure all (kinda).
Touch something and notice the sensations (your watch, beard, zip, wall, etc). Not ya cock though, probably a bit inappropriate 🤭. (this is not a professional blog)
Anchor yourself into the physical world by paying attention to your environment and the colours, smells, movements, and sounds happening around you. Really notice things and meditate on them.
Use a mantra such as “I there are two sides to this” or something like “I am balanced and grounded” or “I see objectively” or “I am forgiving and open”. You can see where I am going with that one.
4. Train yourself to see the multi-layered nature of people. Kick the knee jerk judgements.
In a private journal, set yourself the task each day (or however frequently you get triggered by someone) to see ALL sides of them. Not just the bad bits. You won’t be anywhere near perfect at this from the start, but keep practising.
Divide the page into three columns, “Positive Attributes,” “Neutral,” and “Negative Attributes.”
In the positive attributes section, list all of the things you like about the person (it doesn’t just have to be your partner, it can be about anyone who is pressing your buttons).
In the neutral section, list all of the personality characteristics of the person that are neither good or bad.
In the negative attributes section, list all of the things about the person you dislike.
Be diligent and self-disciplined about this process. The more you do it, the more you will come to see and appreciate the full, authentic, and multi-faceted nature of the people around you.
I have been doing this for two and bit years now and I have noticed my understanding of people increasing and my compassion and empathy grow and my angry, paranoid, frightened self shrink in magnitude. It does work and it's not the hippy dippy hocus pocus some people around me insisted it was for many many years before I began this process. It's good shit.
5. Be honest, open, and willing to prove the facts.
6. Look more deeply into the situation
After arguments with your partner, try to look more deeply into the situation.
Was your partner really annoyed with you, or was she (or he) just trying to honestly expel and unload stress? Your partner is human and IS entitled to be human as well as you are.
Was your partner really seeking to hurt your feelings, or were they just trying to protect themselves and perhaps that day their self-esteem was suffering too? Be mindful.
Is your partner really a selfish horrible cunt like you were convinced, or does she just struggle to manage her time and responsibilities and life things too?
Looking beyond your own head fucks and hurt feelings (because it's not all about you) and the immediate surface appearance of the situation, will help you to gain a deeper perspective, understanding and insight into what's really going down and why it's so vital to keep your shit locked down.
Other ways to prevent splitting from undermining your relationships include:
Refusing to discuss things that trigger you until you feel mentally prepared - as I have said, THIS!
Exploring your projections – what insecurities are you projecting onto your partner? Splitting is more often than not projection of fear. Well, it is. It's fear based.
Keep affirming that it is OK to have flaws, it’s OK to not agree all the time, it’s OK (and normal) to be a mixture of good, bad, and neutral traits. Meditate on this.
Seeking out a trained therapist who can help you further explore these difficulties. i did and it has helped me on my journey to change and self forgiveness. DBT.
A bit more:
Know your splits:
Splitting is a term used in psychiatry to describe the inability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Some might say that a person who splits sees the world in terms of black or white—all or nothing.
A good article ⬆⬆ ⬇⬇
gif's are fun.