BPD BEHAVIORS: Emotional Immaturity

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Here are some characteristics of emotional immaturity from When the man in your life can't commit by David Hawkins:

1. Volatile Emotions Emotional volatility is indicated by such things as explosive behavior, temper tantrums, low frustration tolerance, responses out of proportion to cause, oversensitivity, inability to take criticism, unreasonable jealousy, unwillingness to forgive, and a capricious fluctuation of moods.

2. Over-Dependence Healthy human development proceeds from dependence (I need you), to independence (I don’t need anyone), to interdependence (we need each other — see also the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey).
Over-dependence is indicated by: a) inappropriate dependence, e.g. relying on someone when it is preferable to be self-reliant, and b) too great a degree of dependence for too long. This includes being too easily influenced, indecisive, and prone to snap judgments. Overly-dependent people fear change preferring accustomed situations and behavior to the uncertainty of change and the challenge of adjustment. Extreme conservatism may even be a symptom.

3. Stimulation Hunger This includes demanding immediate attention or gratification and being unable to wait for anything. Stimulation hungry people are incapable of deferred gratification, which means to put off present desires in order to gain a future reward. Stimulation hungry people are superficial and live thoughtlessly and impulsively. Their personal loyalty lasts only as long as the usefulness of the relationship. They have superficial values and are too concerned with trivia (their appearance, etc.). Their social and financial lives are chaotic.

4. Egocentricity Egocentricity is self-centeredness. It’s major manifestation is selfishness. It is associated with low self-esteem. Self-centered people have no regard for others, but they also have only slight regard for themselves. An egocentric person is preoccupied with his own feelings and symptoms. He demands constant attention and insists on self-gratifying sympathy, fishes for compliments, and makes unreasonable demands. He is typically overly-competitive, a poor loser, perfectionistic, and refuses to play or work if he can’t have his own way.

A self-centered person does not see himself realistically, does not take responsibility for his own mistakes or deficiencies, is unable to constructively criticize himself, and is insensitive to the feelings of others. Only emotionally mature people can experience true empathy, and empathy is a prime requirement for successful relationships.

My experiences with my ex were always baffling to me then, I always thought she was trying to relive her teenage years. She never thought of the feelings and harm she did to me or our children. It was like she was in another world of her own at times and very driven to fulfill all her desires and needs. The only time I saw her express shame and guilt when she found out how her behavior had effected the spouse and children of others or when she found out she had been really lied to and manipulated by a game player that abused his wife or children. It was like she could have empathy to others that were abused but not to the ones she abused surrounding the very same behavior.


A.J. Mahari:
According to the Developmental Theorists (with whom I totally agree based upon my own BPD experience) the previously developing healthy authentic psychological self is effectively killed (Melanie Klein - anxiety of the death instinct - which I write about in my ebook, The Legacy of Abandonment In BPD) which results in what I call the "core wound of abandonment" and results in the loss of this self and this is believed to occur by the age of 2 years in most cases - between 2 and 3 years of age at the outside.

A.J. Mahari:
People with Borderline Personality Disorder, unless and until they make a lot of progress in recovery with skilled professional help, are by the very nature of what BPD is - emotionally immature. Emotional development is arrested at the time of the core wound of abandonment (as I call it) or abandonment trauma (Masterson). This means that the authentic self is lost and in the space it leaves rises up a false self - which I have written about in my ebook called, "The Shadows and Echoes of Self - The Rise of the False Self out of the Core Wound of Abandonment in BPD".

This false self has really one major role - to protect from further pain, intrapsychic injury, and above all else to be on guard for and try to ward off any future feelings of abandonment, betrayal, or loss.

The false self just is what it is. It is maladaptive. It doesn't have the capacity or ability to mature. It is a very young primitive response to having been effectively annihiliated.

When I was borderline, my God, for so long I didn't get it at all and thought everything was everyone else's problem but when I did "get it" in therapy and when I came face to face (around the age of 34 - over 15 years ago now) with how immature I really was it was like I was the last to know and I was devastated.

I was able though therapy with very skilled professionals reclaim my authentic self, re-parent it, understand and define it - and recover from BPD.

However, looking back at my borderline years, it is obvious to me now how they were they were epitomized by a very lost dissociated from young me (my inner child) who was split off from my false self (inner child versus false self of borderline usually an internal war zone of agony) was chasing the "mommy" I never had (never bonded or attached to or was nurtured by etc) in and through every single person I ever knew or tried to relate to. It was a nightmare when I started to realize all of this.

I had related to others totally (emotionally) from a very young child place, the neediness, the demandingness, the false sense of entitlement, the narcissistic stage in childhood of "me, me, me - the world does revolve around me right?" This is where all borderlines relate from until they learn how to cope with that and change and heal that in therapy. Something by the way that is exceedingly difficult and painful.

Where there can be some confusion regarding the maturity level of a person with BPD is that there are compensatory strategies employed by the borderlines that make them seem much more competent than they are. These strategies come from the borderline's usually very well-developed and strong intellectual capacity. So there is a huge gap between the development of a borderline intellectually - borderlines learn intellectually and master things and get degrees etc and the reality of what is the arrested psychological and emotional development.

I don't want or mean to sound harsh but as a person who recovered from BPD I have to say, borderlines (as was I then) are emotionally immature. And that won't change without intensive therapy. So again, my message to nons is please do not fool yourself into thinking that you can love them ENOUGH to produce some kind of increase in emotional maturity. From my experience on both sides of BPD it definately does not work that way.

To sum it up simply, because of all that happens to those who develop BPD they are not able to mature emotionally. They are caught back at very young ages of abandonment trauma and until it is resolved once and for all in therapy they will not have even the insight into the reality of how much they emotionally lack.

The lack is real. The lack is formidable. The lack requires professional help to be addressed appropriately.

By the way, in lots of the email I get from non borderlines from my web sites, they often feel a dilemma about whether or not to leave a relationship because, among other things, they get stuck on the notion that if they try hard enough they can change the borderline - mistake number one. They also get stuck with a huge "what-if". They email me and ask, "what if I let go now, or give up now, and he or she gets help, changes and becomes a wonderful human being - becomes who I see they could be and who it is I know I love" kind of thing. In countless emails I reply with the following hard-won insight:

If a non borderline sticks with the "what-ifs" he or she will be STUCK. The non will be stuck in all the suffering that we all know so well. The way to unhook from this or any other "what-ifs" that might have you STUCK is to begin to educate yourself (if you haven't already) about Radical Acceptance. Because nons have to learn to start their thought or decision-making process re to stay or leave, for example, from the foundation of "this is what IS right now - period" Can I put up with or live with it or not? Does the pain of it outweigh any possible benefits?

Borderline immaturity is ingrained in what it means to have Borderline Personality Disorder. You, as a non borderline, cannot will or wish it away. You cannot change it. You also likely cannot live with all the pain that it continues to cause you either - it is the classic no-win rock and a hard place.

It is important to radically accept where your borderline is at and who he/she really is - right now - for example, if they are extremely emotionally immature, radically accept that. That means you just sit with that reality. You do not judge it. It isn't a good thing or a bad thing, observe that it merely is what is.

Radical accepting the immaturity of the borderline in your life does not mean that you resign yourself to it or that you decide you will just put up with it.

Not to be a walking commercial here but in one of my ebooks for Non Borderlines, "The Other Side of BPD" I introduce the concepts of Mindfulness and Radical Acceptance and explain how these two concepts (generally) and as defined by Linehan (who created DBT Skills Training for borderlines) and how they can and will help non borderlines to begin to suffer less and be able to create a foundation from which they can then begin to clarify what they need and how to go about achieving it.

Borderline Personality Disorder, in my opinion, is a relational disorder. At the heart of it is the enduring emotional immaturity that essentially defines it and that is a direct result of the core wound of abandonment that arrested the borderline's emotional development at 2 years of age.

It is not practical or reasonable, really, I say to you gently, to expect to have the healthy intimacy, mutuality, or reciprocity that are the hallmarks of healthy relationships with someone who has BPD - simply put, that's the bottom line, sadly enough for all concerned.

Hi A.J

Thank you very much for this insightful post.

It's great to have someone who has recovered from bpd to share thoughts with us all here.

As u may have noticed, many of us are still trying to understand the why and the how of the bpd behavior.

I'm one of them.

Thank you again for your post, and I hope we will have the occasion to read more from you !

Take care



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