The Borderline Personality

Borderline Personality Therapy

The borderline personality cannot tolerate the beloved having problems. Flaws in the beloved cause the person to trash the relationship and pursue a new quest for a perfect beloved. The person becomes so profoundly disillusioned with a flawed beloved, that he is unable to work on problems and resolve them. Her social life is consequently chaotic.

There is a barrier to loving in a person who cannot tolerate his beloved having problems. These are people who begin with very high hopes for the relationship. She rapidly idealize her beloved. How do we understand this process of idealization? The child creates a concept of the good mother who will gratify all his needs. This is based on the image of mother’s ability to gratify many of her needs, but the child superimposes on the real life mother the fantasy of total bountifulness.

Parents inevitably disappoint the child and the child devalues them. However, the child cannot exist in a world without parents because that would mean no hope of being loved and protected. The child splits off the disappointment in the parent and creates a bad parent in his/her mind distinct from an ideal good one. The split off bad experience of the bad parent is forgotten about. There develops a concept of an ideal perfect other that remains in the forefront of consciousness. This image of the ideal parent becomes part of the lover’s quest for the beloved. The disappointing beloved is devalued. However, the person cannot exist in a world without a dream of a perfect beloved and so he is compelled to create and search for a perfect dream beloved as soon as he trashes the former beloved. This is essential to do to sustain hope of finding love. That ideal perfect other is projected onto the beloved and is one source of idealization.

This ideal good parent or beloved is defensive. This image defends against the unbearable fear that the parent or the beloved is really bad; a monster. People who have difficulty tolerating imperfections in the beloved are people who expect the beloved to have no flaws. The beloved is either all good when he gratifies or all bad- a monster, when he disappoints. When the beloved disappoints, all the disappointing experiences with the disillusioning parent come flooding back. The beloved is trashed. Lovers who can’t tolerate imperfection in his beloved have very unstable social lives. She repetitively trashes her imperfect beloved and is compelled to search for a new one to replace him. His work life might be quite stable in contrast to his love life. She cannot tolerate the beloved having problems of his own and work with these problems as part of working on the relationship. Psychoanalytic Theory calls these people borderline.

Therapy for Borderline Personalities

Psychoanalytic therapy offers a remedy for people who are prone to disillusionment. People transfer feelings they have about their parents onto the therapist. She may transfer an expectation that the therapist be selfless and devoted to her needs above all else. The therapist, for example, should never leave him or always be available immediately if he is  in crisis. When the therapist fails to do this, the person becomes disillusioned with the therapist. She then can be helped to be less disillusioned if the therapist can help the person understand the therapist’s unavailability in more benign terms. The person over time develops a capacity to tolerate a less than perfect therapist. Since the therapist is a representative of the larger community this tolerance is extended to the yet undiscovered beloved waiting to be found.

See Compulsive search for the perfect other


Dr. Daniel Paul is a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles specializing in disorders that affect relationships. Contact his Beverly Hills counseling office more information about treatments for borderline personalities.