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no new information will be added. The page below is retained for
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Glenn Campbell's home page for his still-active websites.
This section was my workspace for philosophy essays between July 2006 and April 2008.
I call this "Prehistoric Kilroy" because it gave me practice for more
disciplined essays in Kilroy Cafe.Also see my philophical blog and Twitter feed.
Issue #1, 7/24/2006
What is Borderline Disorder?
By Glenn Campbell
Family Court Philosopher
NOTE: This topic is covered better in Essay #50:
The essay below (the first in our Philosophy section)
is retained mainly for archive purposes.
Borderline Personality Disorder is the Big
One. In my view it is the single most destructive
and pervasive mental illness, but hardly anyone
in general society seems to know about it.
Actually, you do know about it; you're just not
familiar with the label. If you have ever dealt
with a surly adolescent, you have tasted
borderline disorder. Teenagers are borderline
almost by definition. Think of their
characteristics: highly impulsive, sometimes
explosive, highly sensitive about being controlled
by adults yet easily controlled by their peers,
volatile in mood, easily swayed by simplistic
ideas, not open to negotiation. They have great
difficulty regulating their emotions. (Think back
to your own adolescence, and you'll remember it.)
We expect kids to be this way, and this is why we
continue to give them protection during their
adolescent years, even if their bodies are nearly
We don't expect adults to behave like impulsive
teenagers, and this is essentially what borderline
disorder is. Only it's worse, because adults have
The diagnostic manual has a certain set of criteria
for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which
is said to afflict about 2% of the population, but
if you broaden the criteria a bit, the borderline
style affects EVERYBODY. It is part of you
and a part of me. If you understand the
borderline style, then you can understand many of the
seemingly inexplicable and self-destructive things people
The name "borderline" is useless. The word came
about for historical reasons and doesn't really
describe the disorder. (A better name might be Emotional
Regulation Disorder.) Borderlines aren't on
the "borderline" on anything; in fact, their views
tend to be quite extreme and constantly changing.
Mostly, they complain, complain, complain, in
public or private, about whatever has gone wrong
in their lives. Anything bad that has happened
is never their fault.
Whenever you see someone yelling at someone
else in a parking lot or a customer complaining
bitterly to a hapless clerk about the failings of
you are probably watching a borderline in action.
In Family Court, I believe that
borderline disorder or something
like it touches the vast majority of cases. Nearly
every divorce that we would consider "nasty"
involves at least one borderline party. Either
they fit the formal criteria for the
disorder or they carry many of its traits.
Once a Borderline loses control of their
emotions, they can't resolve their interpersonal
problems on their own, so they need a court to do
it for them.
Juvenile delinquency is usually a borderline-like
problem, because we are usually talking about
impulsive and useless emotional acts that don't achieve
anything. Child abuse and neglect also tend to
involve borderline traits. It is usually
parental drug abuse that brings children into
custody, but there is a psychological force behind
the drug abuse, and I contend that this is a
defect in emotional regulation.
What is the borderline "style"?
It is obvious when you meet it but very difficult
to describe. Borderlines are the people WHO NEVER
ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS. They
are the assholes of the world who, once they reach
a certain level of emotional stress, consistently
blame others for their own problems.
Because of defects in his upbringing, the
borderline has very fragile self-esteem. It is so
fragile that he can't accept any negative news
about himself. When any negative news reaches
him, he uses a variety of defense mechanisms to
deflect blame elsewhere. For example, when you
criticize him, he may get angry at you, pointing
out your defects and how you are to blame for
whatever you criticized him for; thus, your
criticism, even if benignly intended, never "gets through."
Borderlines may look like you and me on the
surface but they respond to the world in a whole
different way, which is driven by this extreme
emotional sensitivity. The borderline style is
all about "killing the messenger" when he tries to
deliver bad news rather than responding to what
the messenger has to say.
Once you have accepted the position that "I am not
responsible for my own actions and feelings," then
all sorts of bizarre behavior can result, from
dramatic mood swings to violence toward
others and even theatrical suicide attempts.
Borderline is a "philosophical disorder." You and
I have each made a philosophical decision at some
point that we are not the center of the universe.
We may be proud of our identity, but we don't
believe that the world exists only for our
benefit. The borderline has never made this leap.
He can acknowledge intellectually that that he is
not the center of the universe, but emotionally he
still thinks he is.
The "mood swings" observed by others, to him are
nonexistent. In his view, it is the WORLD that is
changing from moment-to-moment, and he is merely
responding to it.
Think of the abusive spouse, who worships his
partner one minute then berates them the next. In
his partner's view, nothing has changed to justify
the shift, but in the borderline's view, their
change in attitude is entirely justified by the
partner's shift from "good" to "evil."
The central psychological phenomenon in borderline
disorder is something called "splitting." This is
when a person divides the world up into "good" and
"bad" components and reacts to them separately,
without any attempt to reconcile them.
In the borderline's view, instead of there being
one Glenn, there are actually two: the kind,
attentive, benevolent Glenn who takes care of your
needs, and the mean, abusive, selfish Glenn who
will do everything in his power to hurt you.
In my view, I am just one Glenn. I've got my
strengths and weaknesses, but I try to be
consistent and logical. Sometimes I am relaxed
and happy-go-lucky, and sometimes I am firm and
demanding. The difference in my behavior, as I see
it, is due to the differing circumstances that I
am facing. I am not two people a Jekyll and
Hyde. I am, I
acknowledge, a limited human being who is trying
to do his best in the circumstances he is
The borderline, however, cannot see my struggles.
In fact, he can't see anyone's struggles. He can
only see his own. His is an
egocentric/narcissistic position which says that
the world exists for me.
To the borderline, Glenn is a god. Glenn is also
a devil. Glenn is never a human being in between.
If you are a borderline, and you are engaged in a
relationship with Glenn, you do not experience any
mood swings yourself. Instead, it is Glenn who
goes through the mood swings: he flips back and
forth between "good" and "evil".
In your mind, your changes in attitude and
your occasional abuse of Glenn are a reasonable
reaction to Glenn's emotional abuse of you.
The borderline pushes all responsibility outward.
If he murders somebody IT IS ALWAYS THE VICTIM'S
FAULT. The borderline's ego is too fragile to
allow any personal responsibility when the
emotional stakes are high.
Any affronts to the ego are met with a DEFENSE
MECHANISM or some flaw of reasoning which
shifts blame elsewhere. If a teacher gives you a
bad grade on a test, it is the TEACHER'S FAULT for
being biased against you or for not teaching you
right. It is never your fault for not studying or
not being smart enough.
The borderline feels, at a fundamental
unconscious level, that he is not smart, not
worthy, not valuable. He can never openly acknowledge
this however. There is a mechanism deep in the
human psyche that demands self-esteem, and if it
can't be achieved by doing impressive things in
the world, then it is achieved by trickery by
killing the messenger.
The borderline's worldview can be thought of like
this: You live on a planet, right? The planet is
solid beneath your feet, and if you walk from
place to place, it is you that is moving and not
the planet. You wouldn't say, when you are
walking to the store, that you are staying
stationary and the whole world is moving under
your feet, propelled by the force of your legs.
Yet this is exactly the position that we all start
out with. When we are born and first open our eyes,
we think we are the center of the universe. We
have to LEARN that the world exists as constant
force outside of us. This concept is called
The borderline never really figures this out, at
least in an emotional sense. In particular, he
never really understands that other people have an
independent existence of their own. At least, he
cannot see this when other people compete with his
A borderline can read novels and watch TV and
identify with the characters he sees. He can
identify with a fictional character or a pet
because there is no conflict with his own needs.
If you introduce any emotional risk, however, this
ability to identify with others slips away.
Your own vulnerabilities overwhelm your ability to
Someone who opposes your needs or exposes your
weaknesses is "evil" while someone who supports
your self-esteem is "good." Under emotional
pressure, other people cease to have an
independent existance apart from those labels.
If you see a person as evil, then there is no
limit to the amount of abuse you can heap on
them. The evil Glenn deserves any punishment you
can give him, since he is no better than
Hitler. The borderline has no comprehension that
by punishing the evil Glenn he is also pushing
away the good Glenn who the borderline desperately
[End of allotted time.]
“clear and informative”
— 1/16/07 (rating=3)
“How can you say such things?”
— 8/9/07 (rating=0)
— 8/9/07 (rating=0)
“Replete with flagrant lies.”
— 8/9/07 (rating=0)
“You are absolutely heartless.”
— 8/9/07 (rating=0)
“10% of borderlines do end up killing themselves.”
— 8/9/07 (rating=0)
“A very concise summary of a difficult disorder to describe accurately.”
— 8/27/07 (rating=4)
“The best description I've read. Heartless?, obviously these people never had to deal with one of these sub-human creatures...pure evil.”
—email@example.com 9/4/07 (rating=5)
“As one who is going through a divorce from a female borderline, this is well-written and concise. Good description.”
—npd/free from pain 9/14/07 (rating=3)
“the truth hurts”
—son of a gun 9/15/07 (rating=2)
“The analogies in this article help define the disorder!!! thank you.”
—recently divorced from a borderline man (thank God) 10/2/07 (rating=3)
“I recently stayed with a nuclear family where the wife (a social worker) and the husband (very small business owner) and their three children live in this circus every day. This woman is a piece of work. You can only find a reasonable explanation for her erratic behavior. When her boys are teenagers. I hope her husband finds the balls to divorce her for their sake.”
— 2/9/08 (rating=2)
“I find it interesting that you mentioned how a person who is Borderline divides the other person into "all good" and "evil". This, in my opinion, is yet another case of "projection" - whatever way they feel about themselves at that moment, they project onto you. YOU don't change - their emotional response, however, does. "Tag, you're it!"”
—Erik 3/13/08 (rating=3)
“BPD and happily married for 20 years. Do some more research before you put us all in the same basket, please - and get out of the stereotyping. It's inhuman to call another human being inhuman. Big difference between the overuse and must abused adjective of "borderline" and the complex constellation of painful dysphoria under stress, hypervigilance, cognitive deficits and profound inner feelings of inadequacy, guilt and despair that make up a true dx of BPD. Leave it for professionals, please.”
—West 3/24/08 (rating=0)
“BPD's only think in black and white under stress. Whereas the Glenns of this world... funny they say that most partners of Borderlines that end of in the divorce court suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Which is just the kind of character disorder that gets off on calling those who disagree with them "assholes"...”
—Not Glenn thank God 3/24/08 (rating=0)
“Fit my borderline to a "T".”
—cjs 5/19/08 (rating=5)
“It's quite clear from this quote from Glenn - "They are the assholes of the world" - that he isn't trained to make any kind of diagnosis or offer any useful advice, either. What kind of disorder do you have, Glenn, that allows you to blithely categorize people you don't know as assholes?”
—make better use of your time Glenn 5/24/08 (rating=0)
“Classic... taking the very symptoms which describe a recognized psychological disorder to damn the person who suffers from the disorder as "assholes of the world." Glenn, would you characterize someone who was paralized as an "asshole cripple"? If not, why not? You're doing the same thing with your broad-stroke damnation of BPD sufferers. Useful critique would not include inflamatory language, which show how unuseful your posting really is.”
—Not going to stoop to Glenn's level 5/25/08 (rating=0)
“Married to a borderline for 22 yrs - did you live in my house!! It was a briliant article whose point was very well made/”
—RJ in Ohio 5/29/08 (rating=3)
“The introductory sentense says it all ... The very most destructive of mental illnesses.”
— 6/1/08 (rating=5)
“I think your putting yourself, your own pain too much in the frefront (your using the term "asshole" destroys the credibility of an otherwise extremely insightful set of observations about BPD. I feel bad for the terrible experience you must have had with a borderline, but it's a DISEASE, and uncontrolled, it hurts everything and everyone it touches. Try to think of your article as your contribution, one step towards bringing awarness to a subject that needs so much attention and research ... maybe someday, what you have written can, in the end, contribute to a cure to such a sad and destructive, heartbreaking disorder. I know of what I speak ... my heart is scarred from BPD too.”
—Otto (NYC) 6/1/08 (rating=3)
— 6/1/08 (rating=0)
“Factual inconsistencies in abundance. A psychoanalyst would tell you that you have "countertransfernce" - bias, blind spots, and ignores the good in borderlines - Why dont you write something on what good a borderline can bring to peoples lives. After all history is replete with fine examples of erractic impulsive people. IF the world were a bit more accepting and understanding, there would be less borderline conditions”
—Psychologist 6/6/08 (rating=0)
“Seems to me we have examples of BPD right here in the comments as people attempt to deflect the reality of what is being said here. I love the Psychologist comment "IF the world were a bit more accepting and understanding.." What of psychotic behavior? The world can change for the better to be sure, but being able to handle these emotional stresses is something that needs to be learned, or else these people do behave like assholes! It is an observation, not condemnation.”
—Marc 6/14/08 (rating=5)
—Kennedy 8/5/08 (rating=5)
“clearly the first few comments and ratings of 0 were from a borderline. This is right on the money. I'm divorcing a borderline right now and your description was the hell i have lived for the past 3 years.”
— 8/28/08 (rating=5)
“I am Borderline. I struggle taking responsibility yet when I have hurt another I do not blame them for my actions. Because I lack the internal resources to regulate my painful emotion I seek outwardly to resolve this problem. Yes I burden people, yes I avoid responsibility, yes I find it difficult to relate to others, to empathize, yes I split others into 'good' and 'bad' when others do not meet my expectations/ needs. I have come to accept most people do not, can not understand the internal chaos within the borderline and the fact most of the external controlling/ manipulative behaviours are acts of emotional desperations. By no means does the past abuse inflicted on a Borderline nor the internal suffering justify a murder, rape or other serious abuse the same applies to a person with Bi-polar, schizophrenia, PTSD, or AD/HD. Regardless of our afflictions we must continue on the path toward personal responsibility, we maybe hurt but how we choose to manage the internal hell is our responsibility but please for those who are genuinely trying please do not judges us based upon your own capabilities and motivations. If your legs were broken and people stood around you judging you & accusing you of not walking because you�re blaming would you feel a little confused? The inner world of the Borderline is broken.”
—bpd123 9/27/08 (rating=3)
“"Assholes of the world"? "Subhuman"? I have BPD, and after reading this flagrant display of ignorance and some of the comments, I believe I can safely say that those of us with the disorder are not the ones who are assholes. I work hard to overcome the negative aspects of BPD...perhaps you should do the same with your ignorance and lack of manners. And you say WE lack empathy?”
—Brandi 1/2/09 (rating=0)
“and the hateful comments on the bottom of the page actually prove all your points about BPD”
— 6/27/09 (rating=5)
“Brandi's comment is spot on.”
— 7/5/09 (rating=0)
“I find it interesting how those who have self-proclaimed BPD take offense to this very well written narrative. First of all, power to those who have accepted that they possess some of these behavioral traits. In my somewhat educated view, the writer is not talking about you. The person depicted in this article is incapable of understanding what he/she does, and probably has a support system (relatives or friends) that enables the destructive behavior.”
—OK Then 10/25/09 (rating=5)
“Right on the money. The BPD's comments about this narrative are meaningless. Their comments are just another example of their refusal to accept responsibility for the reality of who and what they really are and the train wreck of emotional damage they leave behind. It is what it is � BPD�s are sub-human, sorry excuses for human beings. Unfortunately there is no help for BPD�s because they refuse to genuinely admit they have a problem. BPD�s will write that they admit they have problems but let me cut them off before they waste their time � their half-hearted attempts at therapy are nothing more than entertaining their sickness. BPD�s don�t want help � they only want to play a victim and assign blame to anyone other than themselves. BPD�s, ask yourselves one question � What is the common denominator in all your pathetic problems????? It would be YOU.”
— 11/7/09 (rating=5)
— 11/21/09 (rating=0)
“Calling Borderlines "assholes" and "evil" may be correct depending on your perspective and your relationship to the disease. People, intellectuals freely call hitler the personification of pure evil. They never look into his psyche to determine if he was in emotional pain and did what he did as an emotional defense mechanism. But you readers might say "Come on! We're Comparing Borderlines to HILER?!?! " WEll in fact, Hitler's behavior has been deeply analyzed by mental health professionals, and they agree that Hitler, in fact, had Borderline Personality Disorder. Never mind the underlying "boo hoo, I have a fragile ego" BS, violence and antisocial behavior and cruelty to the point of sadism, projection or not, is still morally repugnant behavior. These people need to be removed from society for the safety and sanity of the rest of us. I'm sorry for what MADE them evil, but evil they are. And to those who say "but I'm borderline and I'm a good person" is comparing their case of the sniffles to a deadly cancer. In practical terms it's a whole different animal we're dealing with and calling the same thing. And I know of what I write here; I loved a borderline once, and paid a dear, dear price for it ... nearly paying for the gift of my love for her with my very life.”
—Otto 12/30/09 (rating=4)
“One of the best descriptions of BPD I have ever read. My mom has BPD and the whole family struggles to live with her. It is truely the most distructive personality disorder because it ruins you as a person and everyone around you.”
— 1/24/10 (rating=5)
“Anyone who says this is inaccurate has never dealt with a BPD or is one.”
— 2/16/10 (rating=5)
“Allot PhD. self help authors B.S. allot without ever getting to the root of the problems people face. These things need to be told in order for humanity to help itself (Even if politically incorrect).”
—Bus Admin CIS 2/18/10 (rating=5)
“Spot on. I lived with one who almost killed me, he still says it's my fault.”
—Running away as fast as I can. 8/18/10 (rating=3)
“This is EXACTLY how my undignosed BPD soon to be Ex wife views the world. Since I left because I no longer could take the constant verbal and emotional abuse, and occasional physical abuse, she has turned into a "victim" and blames everything on me. Even better, her BPD parents moved into my house the day I left 6 months ago and they've slowly been helping to turn my poor kids against me. My oldest, 15, knows mom is loopy, but she has to live with her, and she is cutting communication off with me just like I did with my parents to keep from setting off my BPD wife. she has to live with her and fears retribution, which is very real. My poor daughters are living in a dreamworld created by 3 high conflict personalities in my old house. I feel helpless. To boot, she is using the court sustem to get her 10 pounds of flesh and dragging me to trial to exhaust me financially (her father is weakthy and her warchest is endless - I'm screwed). But, soon i'll be free of her, i just hope my kids acn weather the storm.”
— 9/13/10 (rating=5)
“So Very True of my experience with a BPD husband... I am leaving after 20 years”
—on my way out of this relationship with a BPD man 3/8/11 (rating=4)
“Best insight into the mind of the BPD person...I am in process of leaving my BPD husband after 20 years of this...wish I could take these years back. But the thought of growing old with him is more scary then venturing out into the unknown, with 3 kids...”
—can't get out of here soon enough . 3/8/11 (rating=5)
“I live with a girl who has BPD...the most obnoxious, critical, mean-spirited person I have met in my life before...I love the people on her who have BPD (some say it, others imply it) spit out their virulent defense mechanisms in response to this article, but it's honestly so true to what my housemate does--she constantly berates people and manipulates everyone around the house, and loves leaving little hyper-aggressive notes around the house for things that were clearly accidents. She cannot understand that other people are just as complex and imperfect as herself. I honestly feel bad for her, but, if I were a health care professional, I would completely be at a loss as to how I could help someone who is so unable to have insight or empathy...There are just simple little rules of being kind and respectful that she has never learned due to her difficult child. I would love to reach out to her, but I'm too afraid of having her turn on me again (It makes my life painful and annoying).”
—Terrified of my Roommate 3/10/11 (rating=5)
“Going through a divorce with a Borderlinevspuse. The article is spot on.”
— 4/7/11 (rating=4)
“Very,very accurate. Dealing with them is soul destroying and extremely difficult.”
— 6/30/11 (rating=5)