Next up on my look into some more Associated Features of Borderline Personality Disorder:
(C) Individuals with BPD may feel more secure with transitional objects than in interpersonal relationships:
Ex. a pet or inanimate possession
I love my cat. He loves me. My cat is the only man that will never leave me. I honestly believe this.
First off, I am not a cat person. I grew up with giant dog breeds. It wasn’t until I rescued my cat while at University that my appreciation began to change. That said, if you come between me and my cat, say a bad word against my cat, attempt to harm my cat, I will come after you and at the very least give you a verbal lashing enough to flay your spirits.
It sounds a little obsessive. Maybe it is. I found him just before I began grad school. I rescued him from boys with a golf club, this starving skin and bones stray. For 3 days he didn’t leave my lap, no matter how hungry he was, he wouldn’t eat unless I was next to him. He’s been with me through grad school, through graduation, moving upstate, out of state, all over NY, through boring relationships and bad… he’s just about the only constant I’ve ever had in my life. And he loves me. Is my attachment to my cat unhealthy? No, I really don’t think it is. It’s not like I’ve given up my life in order to cater to my cat. He’s a cat. He’s pretty self-sufficient in that puppy-like way where he greets me at the door when I come home and sleeps at the foot of my bed. Not even kidding.
He’s a comfortable, familiar, stable presence.
People let you down. People leave. He hasn’t. He doesn’t. He won’t. He depends on me and in a way, I depend on him.
That’s really the heart of it I think. It’s the idea of a security blanket. Mine just happens to be a cat.
A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations. This is common with children. However for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, quite often there is a deep seeded abandonment issue rooting back to that crucial period of time when these transitional objects were so necessary. Where a more neuro-typical person eventually develops beyond the need for such stabilizing objects, the person with BPD has not.
Here’s a psychological approach explaining WHY comfort objects are useful.
When the young child begins to separate the ‘me’ from the ‘not-me’ and evolves from complete dependence to a stage of relative independence, it uses transitional objects.
An infant sees himself and the mother as a whole. In this phase the mother ‘brings the world’ to the infant without delay which gives him a ‘moment of illusion’, a belief that his own wish creates the object of his desire which brings with it a sense of satisfaction. Winnicott calls this subjective omnipotence. Alongside the subjective omnipotence of a child lies an objective reality, which constitutes the child’s awareness of separateness between himself and desired objects. While the subjective omnipotence experience is one in which the child feels that his desires create satisfaction, the objective reality experience is one in which the child independently seeks out objects of desire.
Later on the child comes to realize that the mother is separate from him through which it appears that the child has lost something. The child realizes that he is dependent on others and thus he loses the idea that he is independent, a realization which creates a difficult period and brings frustration and anxiety with it. In the end it is impossible that the mother is always there to ‘bring the world’ to the baby, a realization which has a powerful, somewhat painful, but constructive impact on the child. Through fantasizing about the object of his wishes the child will find comfort. A transitional object can be used in this process.
(- Or what should be a constructive impact on the child. I suspect for those with BPD this was an experience more traumatic than is typical and from here defense mechanisms begin to form.)
The transitional object is often the first ‘not me’ possession that really belongs to the child. These could be real objects like a blanket or a teddy bear, but other ‘objects’, such as a melody or a word, can fulfill this role as well. This object represents all components of ‘mothering’, and it means that the child himself is able to create what he needs as well. It enables the child to have a fantasized bond with the mother when she gradually separates for increasingly longer periods of time. The transitional object is important at the time of going to sleep and as a defense against anxiety.
In a later stage of the development the child no longer needs the transitional object. He is able to make a distinction between ‘me’ and ‘not-me’, and keeping inside and outside apart and yet interrelated. This development leads to the use of illusion, symbols and objects later on in life.
Now the problem is. Someone with BPD may not have been able to make that full transition to the later stage of development when the transitional object is no longer necessary. I would hypothesize that this is at the core of most abandonment issue explanations.
My security blanket growing up was an actual blanket. A yellow blanket. I loved this thing to death until I think my parents threw it out without telling me. My mother also, was not around much when I was growing up. My parents believed that one of them should always be home for us at all times so that we wouldn’t be left alone. Sounds perfect right? Maybe. Maybe not. My dad worked days. My mom worked nights. Which meant she was sleeping during the day and awake when we were asleep in order to provide for us.I only ever saw her for an hour or two at dinner. She would have loved to have spent more time with us. THAT I know, but the way my parents decided to do things this was just the nature of our reality. My dad was always the one to get us ready for school and home when we got back. I’m much more connected to my father. Are there psychological implications to this? Probably, but I’m sort of just figuring this out as I type so it’ll be something to bring up in therapy tonight.
Growing up everything I had, was shared. My room, my toys… later my siblings were a constant study in lack of privacy, stealing clothes & my stuff (typical younger sibling antics), and having my journals and diaries violated by my mother. Even my thoughts weren’t my own. I have NEVER recovered trust towards her for this. What this means to me, is that nothing has ever been just mine. I hold to some things very hard because I feel a definite lack of having anything that belongs to me. Or that I belong to. Everything is separate while I have an intense need for something to be connected with.
I buy a lot of things. I spend a lot of money. I, have a lot of things. Now. I wonder if this has anything to do with the psychological reasons behind impulsive spending as well. Surrounding yourself with possessions as a means to create a protective den of stuff that is yours and will not leave. Hm.
Having these objects or pets… they don’t let you down the way that normal relationships always do. They’re comfortable and stable. Something easy to hold on to because they’re not going to suddenly change or decide they want to be different. They provide a reassurance that we need and don’t otherwise feel we have (usually). At least, that’s what I think.
*My thoughts are a little disjointed today. I just had a major design review and presentation at work.