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Author Topic: BEHAVIORS: Lack of object consistency  (Read 6490 times)
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« on: August 11, 2007, 08:26:43 PM »

As I understand object consistency, it has to do about forgetting or changing how they feel about someone when they are away.  In my case, her feelings for me are not consistent when I am away.  I have left for a business trip and when I get back a week later she is now mad at me over something that happened months ago but she was not mad at me when I left.  

I don't know.  I thought forgetting about events or actions was covered by a different term.  My w has forgotten something she has said just a few hours before.  I see that all the time.  The more upset she is, the more likely she will not remember.  
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2007, 08:41:38 PM »

There is a lot of confusion between "object constancy",  "object permanence"  and "transitional objects" on message boards. The former has to do with people, the later has to do with objects.

Transitional Objects: For children, a ''transitional object'' can be a teddy bear, or a security blanket. For long the conventional wisdom has been that, as normal children mature, they outgrow such fixations. And the attachment to blankets and the like after 3 or so was, in the classic psychoanalytic framework, defined as disturbed or regressive behavior.

The connotation has been negative, but Horton believes the evidence is against that.  His work embodies a school of thought among those in psychiatry who hold that such attachments can continue normally: ''The relationship that I'm talking about is vital, humane and essential to development throughout one's life,'' he said.

Object Permanence: The understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way).

Object Consistency / constancy: I think these pages from Gunderson's text (ISBN-10:1585620165) really help put it into perspective - it addresses the issue of object constancy for a pwBPD and their developing relationship to the major object (people) in their life.

Borderline Personality Disorder
John G. Gunderson, MD


The 3 Levels of Emotions found in Borderline Personality

This formulation emphasizes the degree to which the borderline person's manifest psychopathology can be understood in terms of relationships to major objects.

The term major object will be used to refer to any significant current relationship perceived as necessary . In the following section, the borderline person's current relationships to the three levels of psychological functioning are observed. Lower levels of psychological function emerge regressively and act to preserve a sense of contact with and control over major object relationships.


LEVEL I

When a major object is present and supportive, the depressive, bored, and lonely features predominate. Here the borderline person is at the first and best level of function. It is characterized by considerable conscious longing for closer attachment but considerable passivity and failure to initiate greater sharing within the context of the relationships. There is a capacity here to reflect on past failures and to identify conflicts and resistances realistically. There remains, however, considerable concern about the object's fragility and concurrent fears of being controlled by becoming dependent. As Kernberg (1975) has pointed out, such concerns reflect fears of projected hostility, the wary expectation of being controlled can be used as an active attempt to gain control over others. The result is that a dysphoric stalemate exists in relationships, which is periodically disrupted by regressive efforts to provoke reassurance from the other or by progressive initiatives to acknowledge what they want and feel they need from that person more fully. Two major organizing and sustaining beliefs are "Should I want more from you, or should I be angry with you, you will leave" and "If I'm more compliant, something will be given to me that will make me invulnerable and less destructive." The nature of this "something" is generally not well defined. Behind these conscious beliefs are concerns with the destructiveness of their own aggressive wishes and wishes to find a powerful protector. In any event, the basic tension between wanting more from the object and fearing that less will be received accounts for the sustained dysphoria characteristic of borderline functioning at this level. Within treatment contexts, these features of the borderline's personality disorder will be evident during uninterrupted phases of therapy (even more evident in the middle of hours, and likewise when such patients are offered considerable autonomy within supportive residential treatment settings. During these periods, patients will generally be able to work collaboratively with an active therapist toward fuller affective expression and insight i.e., accept interpretations). The resistances most commonly encountered are the patient's passive compliance, accompanied by failure to initiate contact, bring in new material, and so on. This often occurs in response to activity by the therapist that is experienced as directive or helpful. Such compliance and failures to initiate often contain a covert demand that the therapist do more. Another resistance arises after having shared new material or affect; then the patient withdraws and becomes defiant. Such sharing is accompanied by fears that there will be a loss of control, that they will give in to their passive wishes, and that, if either of these fears is actualized, the therapist will then respond exploitatively. These represent threats to the illusion of control over the therapist which sustains the patient on this level. The overt expression of these concerns is an increased fear of being controlled and an openly defiant posture. Within residential settings, impatience and fears of giving much gratification (secondary gain) are common feelings among staff working with borderline patients who are functioning within this level. Treatment personnel are likely to overestimate a patient's strengths and try to stir patients into better social functioning and more independence. There is frequently a failure to recognize and interpret, especially to less verbal patients, the degree to which their passivity reflects fears of loosing control over their affects and the degree to which their compliance silently hides their belief that their object is under their control. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to appreciate and anticipate the extreme sensitivity to rejection that becomes evident when either greater autonomy or separation is encouraged.

LEVEL II

When a major object is frustrating to borderline persons or when the specter of their loss is raised, a second level of psychological functioning and a different constellation of clinical phenomena are evident. The angry, devaluative, and manipulative features predominate. Although the affective tone of anger is pervasive, it is only occasionally expressed as open rage. More frequently, it takes a modified form such as biting sarcasm, belligerent argumentativeness, or extreme demands. The anger is modified to alleviate fears of losing the object (in reality as well as its mental representation), while it still communicates the wish to maintain a hold on the person. Failing this, the patient can attempt to deny the fear of loss by dismissing the felt need for the object (i.e., devaluation) or attempt to prevent loss by dramatizing the object need. Manipulative suicidal gestures are frequent under these circumstances. At its extreme, when there is danger of the anger becoming too uncontrolled, the rage gets projected onto the object and paranoid accusations occur. All of these reactions are best understood as efforts, often conscious, to control or coerce the object into staying. These issues - to feel the need for a reliably available other and to feel able to control that person - have not changed from the higher level. Rather it is the repertoire of defenses and their behavioral expression that undergo regression and are most specific to the borderline patient. These reactions continue as long as the object is still perceived as accessible or retainable. The disabling effects of anticipated loss can frequently be seen as the patient struggles to find some acceptable expression of its attendant affects. This can take the form of rather elaborate and poorly connected affective states - giggling, bland dismissals, sudden rages, and, of course, extreme lability. The distinctive feature is the dissembled unsustained quality of the affects. Within treatment contexts, these features of the borderline's psychopathology become evident only when the treating person, or institution, has assumed the role of a major object (i.e., is felt as needed by the patient). When the object is felt as needed, these regressive phenomena emerge whenever separations are imminent (i.e., terminations, vacations, and end of hours). They also take place within the psychotherapy hours themselves whenever the inaccurate. The borderline patient's elaborate efforts to prevent separations and sudden anger at or withdrawal from frustrations are critical features in the treatment of borderlines. These features have been a focus of most authors who have primarily been concerned with analytic therapy (Adler 1975; Giovacchini 1973; Kernberg 1968; Masterson 1972.) Under these circumstances, borderline patients will frequently dismiss a therapist's interpretative or clarificatory efforts (i.e., to one). The therapist's primary task is to interrupt the patient's anger enough to draw attention to the provoking incident. This often requires confrontation or limit setting. Such responses address the change of feeling and attitude as a regressive retreat from some reality that the patient wishes to avoid. It preserves and calls on the patient to utilize still intact ego functions of reality testing and self-observation. It is not that the expression of anger at the therapist's failure are not critically important in themselves; it is that the transformed rage (i.e., devaluation, manipulation, or paranoid accusations) utilizes defenses of denial, acting out, and projection, which prevent the patient's recognition of the feeling response and its reason. I believe this helps understand why many experienced therapists have found it futile to allow borderline patients to spend much time in this preferred mode of angry expressiveness. Once the regressive efforts are interrupted, interpretative work directed at the devaluation ("You're working hard not to know what you want" or "You're afraid to want things from me which you can't control"), the manipulation ("You're trying to exert control over me without risking that it will provoke my anger" or "You want to prevent me from being unavailable"), or the projection ("You're mad at me for not always being available" or "You're afraid of how enraged you might be with me") can be accepted and worked with. An insistent examination of the importance a patient places on the therapist's presence brings to fears of experiencing the important helplessness that are a psychological function occurs within the therapeutic context, and while the object, the analysis of its purpose and form is a critical part of psychotherapy.

LEVEL III

When a borderline person feels an absence or lack of any major object, then a third level of psychological function becomes predominant. The phenomena during such periods include the occurrence of brief psychotic episodes, panic states, or impulsive efforts to avoid such panic. These phenomena each represent efforts to ward off the subjective experience of aloneness (Adler and Buie 1979a) and, I would add, total badness. Under ordinary circumstances, this aspect of the borderline around - even if without any evident emotional contact, in using radio and television as hypnotics, or in heavy reliance on transitional objects (Arkema 1981; Morris et. al. 1984). Under the more extreme circumstances when there has been a loss of a specific and essential object relationship, dangerous impulsive acts occur that most commonly consist of taking drugs or alcohol. These serve both to numb the panic and to initiate social contacts. Fights and promiscuity occur under these circumstances - often assisted by the disinhibiting influence of alcohol - and reflect desperate efforts to establish contact with and to revive the illusion of control over some new object. A second major type of reaction against the experience of aloneness is a prolonged dissociative episode of either the depersonalization or derealization types. These detach the borderline person from either the reality of bodily distress or the reality of the environmental situation that evokes that intolerable distress. During dissociative episodes, nihilistic fears occur ("am I dead, has my body dissolved"), and these may give rise to self-mutilation in order to confirm being alive by feeling pain. Frequently, such self-mutilation is accompanied by restitutive fantasies in which the absent object is either believed to be performing the act or is being punished by the act, but in either event, is still involved. These self-mutilative actions are quite different in their intent and subjective experience from the suicidal gestures that occur when ongoing contact with a specific object is still being sought. Sometimes nihilistic ideas slip from dystonic fears to become beliefs; they then take on aspects of psychotic depressions. The conviction of being evil and nihilistic beliefs are two extremes that the borderline patient achieves when the usual defenses of action and substitutive objects are not that Kernberg (1967) refers to the borderline's very primitive underlying, generally avoided, abandonment depression as central to his formulations. Perhaps because of the amount of interpersonal involvement and the borderline person's dramatic responsivity to such involvement, sustained depressions of psychotic proportions are unusual in borderline patients, particularly for those who are in treatment settings. Occasionally, bizarre imagery, simple hallucinatory phenomena, or transient somatic delusions occur. The object restitutive aspect patient who developed the belief she was pregnant, or the patient who developed anal and urethral retentiveness requiring emergency room care). The most common delusional experience is ideas of reference. Not only do these project unacceptable self-judgments, they sustain a sense of involvement with nonspecific others where none exists. The general point here is function (desperate impulsivity, substance abuse, dissociative episodes, brief psychotic episodes, and ideas of reference) represent efforts to manage the fear of aloneness and the sense of badness. This badness is related to beliefs that they have failed or wronged their object. These experiences of alone-badness and the panicky reactions to it are seldom seen within the hospital or psychotherapeutic context. As described subsequently (Chapter 7) they do, however, often come to the attention of clinicians as a reason for seeking treatment or as phenomena described retrospectively by borderline patients. Understanding the context in which they occur is important so that their recurrence can be anticipated and avoided.
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2007, 08:43:29 PM »

Randi Kreger said this in Stop Walking on Eggshells. I think she is actually talking about Object Permanence. Thought it might help.

"Lack of Object Constancy[Permanence]: When we're lonely, most of us can soothe ourselves by remembering the love that others have for us. This is very comforting even if these people are far away-sometimes, even if they're no longer living. This ability is known as object constancy.

Some people with BPD, however, find it difficult to evoke an image of a loved one to soothe them when they feel upset or anxious. If that person is not physically present, they don't exist on an emotional level. The BP may call you frequently just to make sure you're still there and still care about them. (One non-BP told us that every time her boyfriend called her at work, he introduced himself using both his first and last name.)"


Stop walking on Eggshells
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2007, 08:46:07 PM »

Here's a good Gunderson quote:

Excerpt
Something which is all good one day can be all bad the next, which is related to another symptom: borderlines have problems with object constancy in people -- they read each action of people in their lives as if there were no prior context; they don't have a sense of continuity and consistency about people and things in their lives. They have difficulty seeing all of the actions taken by a person over a period of time as part of an integrated whole, and tend instead to analyze individual actions in an attempt to divine their individual meanings. People are defined by how they lasted interacted with the borderline. In the same sense of constancy borderlines have "emotional amnesia", they are so completely in each mood, they have great difficulty conceptualizing, remembering what it's like to be in another mood.

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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2007, 08:51:58 PM »

Yes- pwBPD does have emotional amnesia - which as i said in my post is all to do with object consistency and is the reason for the rages , frustration , accusations , tears etc . They cant link - the past with the present at all and is also the reason why they are so suggestible .

With my ex she would talk to a friend about me and her friend would say but beckett hasn't got this or doesn't do that and because of the object consistency and  amnesia - shed call me and want to finish -and had completely forgotten that we had spent the weekend together and were planning to buy a house together - pwBPD,  because of object consistency,  can only live in the moment.  

so very good point and this is turning into an excellent thread
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2007, 08:59:29 PM »

Object constancy develops between 25-36 months of age or a bit after . It relates to recognising the mother and also recognising the mother not being there for any period of time does not mean that the mother has left for good ( annihilation). At this stage the child learns to tolerate ambivalence and frustration - which BPDs do not - consider black and white thinking for example . And of course need I write more about frustration ! Also at this stage the child will recognise that anger or sorrow is only temporary so will not feel abandoned - need I write more- BPDs in general dont get to this stage at all. Instead BPDs remain fixated an earlier developmental stage where splitting and extreme defense mechanisms are prominent.

There is also a memory issue involved here - you'll often hear a BPD say I dont  remember that or I forgot what you looked like or keeping some of their partners stuff like cologneor shirts or something of that ilk  so that they can remmber their partner . Also it explains why BPDs always seem to act in the moment rather than think about their past actions and what the future consequences of their actions will be .

Its best illustrated by the classic example of when a BPD says you dont love me , youre going to leave me - which they truly believe or when they break up with you because they fear that you might leave them . If they did have  object constancy then  they could look back at the past and realise that their partner by his previous actions does love them and that their comments are completely invalid . Think about how a three year old acts when mom goes out for the evening for the first time and then how a five year old acts and youll get the idea . The five year old will understand its only temporary and behave well whilst sometimes the three year old may  feel bereft and no matter how much you try its virtually impossible to get the idea across that Mommy will be home soon .  

Incidentally it was one of the clues my exgf left me that made me start thinking about possible BPD . When she get agitated or cried she would constantly refer to being only 4 and stuck in a 42 year old body and how she wanted to go out witha 26 year old and not a 5 year old as she continuously told me I was (projecting )

So object constancy is a big  big factor if you really want to know why BPDs are BPDs- the fact is they dont grow up on an emotional level and this would explain  their impatience ,frustration ,  their impulsivity and their belief in safety- sucha contradiction  , their need etc, the way they can jump very quickly to a new partner, their rages , their attacks , their prolonged silences , their sulks , their high maintenance lifestyles - always wantinga new toy   - just like a three year old acts . Think abouyt how a three year old is in a queue or sitiing at restaurant able and now think about your BPD - hopefully by now youre beginning to get the picture .

It might also be the reason why BPd is so hard to fix, why BPDs are always in denial and why they will refuse to admit they are wrong - think of that screaming three year old again who no matter what you say to them they believe the mother has left them  .


I think once you get to grips with Object constancy you will really get  get to understand whay a BPD acts the way they do .

Kresisman deals with this matter indetail in " I hate you - dont leave me" - if theres any scholars out there and Schnitzel on other posts has discussed this in great detail as have other people on a post entitled emotional immaturity .

I hope this helps - I feel its fundamental to understanding BPD.        
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2007, 09:15:22 AM »

"...they read each action of people in their lives as if there were no prior context; they don't have a sense of continuity and consistency about people and things in their lives.  When a person is not physically present, someone with BPD slowly loses an emotionally consistent 'sense' of that person's existence"

That's probably why UBPDex DIL NEEDS her three a week phone calls with GS-so she can 'keep' him.  He is definately not benefitting from them-she is.  It is her every other day 'I am still your Mommy' fix.  Gotta keep up her public MOTY appearance.

Nana
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2007, 12:04:18 PM »

I can give two very strong accounts of what I believe to be a lack of "object consistency" that I saw in my ex.

1)  I took the ex to Disneyland on day as a surprise post christmas present.  She's never been to disneyland before and was very excited once she realized where we were going(we live in so. california)  we had a fantastic time all day and just enjoyed being with each other the whole time.  Laughed - felt like kids, all the good parts of a relationship.  When we got home, instead of staying at her place, I went home because we both had to work early in the morning, and I didn't want to have to get up extra early, drive home to get ready, and then go to work.  She called me the next day and broke up with me.  Saying she couldn't let our relationship continue this way.  She was so overwhelmed by the thought that I wouldn't stay with her that night after our day at Disneyland that she couldn't see a reason to continue with our relationship.  We got back together later that day.  This was one of several break-ups for us.

2)  When I left to go on vacation (I went on vacation by myself because she was still in school and couldn't go during classes.  It was a vacation I had planned since before she and I had ever even met) she asked to keep the shirt I was wearing when she dropped me off at the airport (it was a button down - I had a tshirt on underneath).  When I called her from the road, she told me how she was sleeping in it every night and how she liked to smell me on it.  She broke up with me while I was on this vacation because she had moved on with another guy.  (In this case *I* was the object lacking consistency)  When I asked her what the new guy had that I didn't (a horrible thing to ask someone btw) she said that she loved his 'consistency' - literally!  When she gave me back my shirt, she said that it lost the smell of me after about a week.  She had found the new guy a week after that.

Rough.

-KS
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2007, 02:50:52 AM »

Hmm... this is giving me a lot to think about.  My mother is also obsessed with photographs; dozens of albums, montages, hundreds of frames, but I just assumed that was a narcissism thing.  There's one photo in particular that I asked her to take down because it was with a governor that I can't stand, and Mom refused, even though she wasn't present at the occasion, because it was about the stature of his position, and not political considerations.  I remember at one point asking to have some photos of myself and sister as a child, and was refused because the film and processing were "hers".  Fair enough.

OTOH, when I went to girl-scout camp for a week, Mom insisted on providing me with a handkerchief with her perfume so I wouldn't "forget" her.  I thought that was odd, but it did make me feel loved.  Also after maternal grandmother's suicide, I was given a bottle of her perfume, which I really appreciate.  Then again, was given a box full of childhood records that also contained tons of Mother's Day cards, artwork, stuff that you'd think a mother would want, particularly one that feels so "un-loved", so go figure.

With mine I think the object constancy is mostly manifested in emotional amnesia.  (Very well-put.)  Simply remembering that the last time we spoke, I got hung up on, or referring to a suicide threat, or violent incident, or what-have-you was interpreted as "holding a grudge"; it was as though everything negative she did was immediately forgotten the minute she thought of something else.  My aunt once told me that during a visit, Mom railed at her for choosing a career instead of having children.  Then when she herself decided to pursue a career, Mom expected aunt to praise her and "forgot" everything she'd said about career women. 

Until recently I just assumed that this was in service of her all/nothing justifications.  Since "no one" cared about, loved, supported, or ever did anything good for her, she needed to erase anything that might contradict those statements.  Now I'm not so sure.  Great thread btw.
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« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2008, 08:05:07 PM »

John Masterson MD, the psychiatrist who identified Object Constancy, defines it as follows: 

When one is unable to hold the memory of significant others in mind. Patients with BPD do not relate to people in their totality, but as parts. They are unable to evoke the image of the other when the other is not present. The absence is then viewed as abandonment.



New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York defines Object Relations as follows:

An individual's perception of external reality is largely directed by the unconscious internal representation of self and others. In individuals with BPD, these internal representations that do not adequately match the real people the individual is dealing with. This could explain, for example, why a BPD patient may be convinced that another person is abandoning them when that is not the case.
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« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2008, 10:13:22 AM »

I am a great believer in what Masterson describes object constancy to be or the lack of it in BPD. I believe it is a direct result (as Masterson outlines) of insecure attachment and failure to bond which contribute heavily or are major causative factors to what Masterson calls "abandonment trauma" and what I call, from my own experience with it, the "core wound of abandonment".

Those with BPD, until and unless they get a lot of therapy, therapy that is somewhat successful at the very least, emotionally/psychologically experienced an emotional arrest in development usually between or around the ages of 2 or 3. If you think about it this way, the borderline is emotionally 2 or 3 years old and lack of object constancy is a stage of development in those early developmental years that are not mastered by those who go on to be diagnosed with BPD. So just as a young child cries or screams for mom or dad when they leave, not yet having the ability to understand they will come back, a child in this stage of development experiences much of his or her world as "out of sight, out of mind." This is, what I came to understand about my experience when I had BPD. If someone wasn't directly relating to me or in the environment they were more or less out of sight and therefore out of mind.

When those with BPD expereince this out of sight, out of mind, stuff, protective defense mechanisms kick in that result in them splitting and devaluing the "lost" or experienced-as-lost "object" - person. For many with BPD they require the constant attention of "other" to feel connected to "other". Remember, also that for most with  BPD, in the active throes of BPD, "other" = "self" - the "self" that borderlines don't otherwise have.

In terms of the way this topic was titled, "what is object consistency?" Borderlines do not have object constancy. They do not relate in any consistent way. That's why you see the swing between all-good to all-bad, then back to all-good until they shift back to all-bad etc. Borderlines do not have the inter-personal skills to relate to "self" or "other" in any consistent or lasting way.

Lack of object constancy, in my opinion, isn't so much about emotional amnesia or a forgetting as it is about dissociation and splitting in which there are dual realities in operation at the same time or that shift back and forth, if you will. "Out of sight, out of mind, isn't so much an inability to remember certain things about a person as it is more about abandonment fear that drives borderline defense mechanisms like splitting and devaluation to kick in because the state of being left alone isn't tolerable when a borderline doesn't know how to soothe him/herself. Just as the young child in the playpen starts to cry when mother goes to work, for example, and experiences a discomfort with separation, borderlines experience a triggering back to abandonment fear, abandonment trauma (Masterson) which they do not have the inter-personal skills to cope with - thus the maladaptive pathological defenses kick in. Often also those with BPD will punish "other" for leaving or being busy because when "other" isn't immediately available to provide the soothing and reassurance the borderline needs, the borderline experiences feelings (related to original core wound of abandonment trauma which is often repressed - dissociated from) which is more about intra-psychic trauma and unresolved abandonment trauma from the borderline's past than it is about actual "memory issues". Borderlines cannot hold the experience of "other" or any connection to "other" when "other" isn't right there.

Masterson describes borderlines being "unable to hold the memory of significant others in mind" - not to say this isn't correct, but as I experienced this in my borderline years more than what I couldn't keep in my mind what was most central was my borderline fear of abandonment coupled with the reality that I was unable to form bonds or attachments in a way that could survive or be held through times of separation. Separation, even brief separation threatens the borderline and essentially triggers him or her back to what is actually (until and unless enough therapy is undergone successfully) their original experience of "the core wound of abandonment". It produces terror, fear, very primal emotional reactions on some level in those with BPD. The key thing about his, however, is that many borderlines have no conscious awareness of this. They are dissociated from this repressed pain - what I refer to as the abandoned pain of BPD (which I have an ebook all about by the way).

Borderlines do not experience the kind of bonding or secure attachment that would provide a foundation for being able to shift between closeness and distance. It is this lack of object constancy that is the heart of the toxic relational style of the borderline false self.

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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 09:04:36 AM »

Thank you so much for posting this is excellent material  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

So much of it resonates with my personal story  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2011, 02:42:15 PM »

gonna copy this and email it to myself.  sums things up quite nicely.
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2011, 12:04:21 PM »

The 3 Levels of Emotions found in Borderline Personality

This formulation emphasizes the degree to which the borderline person's manifest psychopathology can be understood in terms of relationships to major objects.

The term major object will be used to refer to any significant current relationship perceived as necessary .

Wonderful post. Identified with every word. Always interesting to see the disorder you lived with spelled out by some stranger in nearly exact detail. LOL
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« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2011, 06:34:07 PM »

 This is BY FAR one of the best posts I've read since I've been on bpdfamily.com.

  Thanks for posting this information. It's a Godsend!
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« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2011, 07:34:52 PM »

heavy reliance on transitional objects (Arkema 1981; Morris et. al. 1984).

Wow.  What an eye opener.  If a "transitional object" is a person, then that's exactly what I was in the life of my friend with BPD as he was going through Level III.  This explains so much.  Idea thanks.

When a mother (or carer) leaves an infant, they can easily become upset by the disappearance of their primary care-giver. To compensate and comfort for this sense of loss, they imbue some object with the attributes of the mother. This item is called a Transition Object. This is a form of splitting as the mother is divided between the actual mother and the transition object.  Use of transition objects starts to appear at around 4 to 6 months, when the infant is moving towards the external world, but has not quite separated it from the internal world.

www.changingminds.org/disciplines/psychoanalysis/concepts/transition_object.htm
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« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2011, 04:52:21 PM »

Thank you for posting this... I have BPD and it does help me alot to understand my disability and that this is all is not just in my head.

I don't like being level 3...
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« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2012, 12:27:49 AM »

I agree with what others have said about object constancy. I wanted to add that they often keep mementos, which are like totems of the past experience and it provides some strange continuity. My ex liked to have objects of mine when we were apart (even if he was chasing other women) and I am sure he still has them. He has all kinds of stuff from his past (much of it junk) that are like bits and pieces of memories--bits and pieces of a self--even though he has no enduring sense of self. So sometimes the things and pictures are what they have instead of a constant identity. I don't think it means the same thing to them as it does to us.

Diotima
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« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2012, 05:56:46 AM »

My understanding of object constancy is also that they can't see people as a continuous memory but as individual memories, like if you do something they don't like then you're bad or evil and not have a long history of memories that you're good but did one bad thing.  They think of you mostly based off your last interaction with them instead of your entire history with them.  

What messes with us nons so much is that when we think of our BPD and try to sooth ourselves to process what happen to get over them we have to apply different rules to them vs a non.  This messes with us bc we have to put this stencil over them and it's hard to seek solid advise from friends bc you have to be well read on Borderlines to understand what happen to us and our friends try to give us advice based on nons.  It's exhausting trying to explain everything to them and we look crazy when bring up object constancy, projection, splitting, devaluation, and FOA.
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« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2012, 05:55:16 PM »

I remember really banging my head against the wall trying to understand what to make of this BPD trait.  I'm hoping by trying my best to relay my understanding of this idea, it will improve my understanding of it, or at least reveal where my understanding is limited, and also clear us some questions we all have.

Big picture: Object Relations Theory is an approach to understanding some aspects of human behavior.  My understanding is that developing "Object constancy" is a normal part of human behavioral development.  How this fits in to borderline personality disorder is the observation that people with BPD (pwBPD) seem to *lack* object constancy.  They don't have it, or it is under developed relative to non-disordered people.

What does this mean?

Here's a definition of "object constancy" I've found off the internet:

Excerpt
Object constancy. Maintaining a lasting relationship with a specific object, or rejecting any substitute for such an object. Example of the latter: rejecting mothering from anyone except one's own mother. Mahler: object constancy is "the capacity to recognize and tolerate loving and hostile feelings toward the same object; the capacity to keep feelings centered on a specific object; and the capacity to value an object for attributes other than its function of satisfying needs."

Here's the reference.

Now my understanding is that pwBPD are able to distinguish the difference between people and things.  They can tell that a ball is an object.  And that a person is not a ball.  But.  It is when it comes to the most intimate kinds of connections, or attachments, and the "objects" with which we make these connections/attachments, that they hit a limit.  Let me back up a little.

When we were all infants the first people we learned how to interact with was with our parents, or more specifically our mothers (or whoever was the primary care giver during that stage of development).  That is the most basic interpersonal relationship.  And if you've had the experience of interacting with infants, you will realize that they are very very particularly attached to their mommies.  When mommy is not within sight, they will get anxious and maybe even start to cry because the fear is... that they will be abandoned?  But as soon as mommy comes back in sight, all is well.  This is the basic behavior.

As we develop, we *learn* that even when mommy is not within sight, mommy still loves us.  And mommy will not abandon us.  The notion is that when the appropriately secure environment is fostered, the we *internalize* the security provided by our mothers or our "object".  And we are able to maintain this security in a more or less "constant" way even though our immediate environment might change (i.e., mom goes on vacation, or we go off to college, etc...).  This ability to keep our "object" "constant" in what I think of as our emotional memory, allows us to have the wherewithal to explore beyond our cribs and to form other *stable* interpersonal relationships beyond our principle "object."  I guess the theory is that pwBPD either never made this behavioral development or for different reasons regressed.

Just looking at the above definition I quoted, it says "Maintaining a lasting relationship with a specific object, or rejecting any substitute for such an object."  And this sort of describes a bit of what we find our BPD loved ones seemly incapable of doing.  They cannot maintain a lasting relationship with a specific object, i.e., us.  Sure they love us intermittently but they cannot "maintain" it in a "lasting" fashion.  Moreover they do *not* "reject any substitute for such an object."  Rather, they are quite able and readily find substitutes or replacements for their objects, i.e., us.

According to Mahler, "object constancy is 'the capacity to recognize and tolerate loving and hostile feelings toward the same object..." which we see they cannot do as exhibited by their "splitting" behaviors.  They cannot accept our negative traits along with our positive traits.  They can only either idealize us, or else devalue us.  Nothing in between.

Again, "[object constancy is] the capacity to keep feelings centered on a specific object."  Which pwBPD seem not to be able to do.  Well when they are centered on us (for good or bad) those feelings can be particularly intense, but they are unable to "keep" those feelings centered on us.  And I've observed that often when their feelings are on us (i.e., feelings of intimacy) this triggers other disordered feelings (i.e., fear of abandonment) which is another example of their feelings changing when it comes to their specific object (i.e., us).

Finally, "[object constancy is] the capacity to value an object for attributes other than its function of satisfying needs."  And this one speaks volumes.  To me it says that pwBPD, who *lack* object constancy, are unable to value (or love) an object (us) when they find that we no longer function to satisfy their needs.  This is to say, they only love us so long as they need us.  And when they do not need us, they find that they are unable to love us.

I'll try to apply this to some of what other people have already written...
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« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2012, 06:27:19 AM »

As we know BPD is on a continuum so there are different variations in the intensity of object constancy problems. . .for those who have felt it at its most intense - i feel for you.

However, i'm sure we have all had a sense of insecurity in love relationships that can provoke clinginess and jealousy. . .even more so when younger and these intense feelings may be new. 

Personally i have felt this - i do feel i have some control over it -  but i bet we have all felt insecure and made ourselves panic when someone we are in love with who might usually call/text/mail hasn't. . .or felt anxiety when someone who is close to us is having a quiet day and may go straight to thinking they are upset with us.  When any of these happen it provokes an emotional reaction which can differ in all of us. . .in BPD very intensely. . .but we can all be guilty of not reacting well sometimes.

If you get up in the morning your partner is quiet, it's likely that they are just quiet and your relationship hasn't somehow changed and gone wrong overnight.   If you don't hear from someone all day, it's likely that you should be concerned if something has happened, rather than that they are off with someone else.   

Relationships involve human reactions/insecurities/go in cycles. . . you can't always give, give, give. . .unfortunately those with disordered thinking do not comprehend this. . .immediate abandonment issues, panic, irrational thoughts etc

Object constancy comes from misattuned parenting. . .there is no sense of security or consistency - that's why you won't get any from them
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« Reply #21 on: April 14, 2012, 07:54:00 AM »

...

However, i'm sure we have all had a sense of insecurity in love relationships that can provoke clinginess and jealousy. . .even more so when younger and these intense feelings may be new.  

Personally i have felt this - i do feel i have some control over it -  but i bet we have all felt insecure and made ourselves panic when someone we are in love with who might usually call/text/mail hasn't. . .or felt anxiety when someone who is close to us is having a quiet day and may go straight to thinking they are upset with us.  When any of these happen it provokes an emotional reaction which can differ in all of us. . .in BPD very intensely. . .but we can all be guilty of not reacting well sometimes.

If you get up in the morning your partner is quiet, it's likely that they are just quiet and your relationship hasn't somehow changed and gone wrong overnight.   If you don't hear from someone all day, it's likely that you should be concerned if something has happened, rather than that they are off with someone else.  

I very much agree with the thoughts expressed here, and am thinking further insight may be reached if we re-frame or separate two distinct issues that are likely at play.

The first issue is object constancy, which I think has been brilliantly outlined by many in this thread. The second issue, while perhaps related, seems to me much more consistent with attachment theory. I don't believe they are the same thing, yet both deserve study if our goal is understanding of what's going on - not only with them, but also with us.

Some of the biggest lightbulb moments I experienced for my own inner reflection came when I read about attachment theory. Insecure behaviors, distancing maneuvers, and attempts to validate connection are pretty common in a lot of people, not just those with disordered personalities. The issues around attachment are magnified with disorder, but they are not indicative of disorder in and of themselves. A very good primer for laymen can be found in a book called "Attached". While it is quite superficial in its treatment of the subject, it's also compassionate and easy to understand.

One final note. Although both theories are founded on studies involving the relationships between parent and child, there has been weak correlation at best between childhood object constancy issues or insecure attachment and adult object constancy issues or insecure attachment. In other words, the kids aren't shown to exhibit the behaviors as adults in most studies to date.

I think both are fascinating areas of study, but perhaps best defined and considered as related but very distinct subjects.

{{Edited to substitute one word for another and a second edit to correct the spelling of that word!}}
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« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2012, 11:34:00 AM »

Although related to attachment theories, i think it is issues of emotional attunement/mis-attunement that are most relevant to object constancy.

When a child goes through the stage of individuation it starts to explore and do more without the main carer.  Ideally the main carer will encourage this but be appropriately 'there' for the child if needed.  With emotional mis-attunement/neglect to the child's needs there can be negative attitudes (child very aware of facial expressions for its cues of danger etc), erratic reactions, emotional withdrawal, rejecting or over-intrusion etc.  This can cause a crisis in the child's development of object constancy and an integrated sense of self. Here can lie the problems for future intimate relationships and abandonment and engulfment issues.  Without object constancy a positive mental representation of the carer cannot be maintained when they are not there or if the child is frustrated, stressed etc

While all this is happening in childhood both implicit and explicit memories are being formed about relationships.

In the 'real' world of intimate relationships as adults we can all react if we feel someone we love is pulling away or getting too close if we're not ready. . .imagine not being able to manage this or knowing you will over-react to this because you've never been taught how, never felt secure or reacted to erratically, neglectfully or over-intrusively.  
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« Reply #23 on: April 14, 2012, 11:38:05 AM »

sm1500: that is a very good explanation of how object constancy is threatened in the development of a BPD. They never successfully pass through the individuation stage so their future relationships are a repeat of pre-individuation dynamics--repeat, repeat, repeat--hence the reason why they can't see their partners as anything more than potential sources of need satisfaction, which stimulates fear since there was no constancy in having those needs met appropriately as babies and toddlers.

Diotima
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« Reply #24 on: April 14, 2012, 11:52:08 AM »

The inability to believe that I love him, am straightforward with who I am, never cheated, never thought of it.  The irrational anxiety and accusations when I was going away with a gf and our 4 kids for a few days to the ocean.  Anger that he wasn't invited when I made plans with gf's.  Just odd clingy, suffocating behaviors. 

I'll never understand it I guess.  He'd rather have the pics than a family that loved him and a woman that thought she'd found her "forever" guy. 

Do you know much about your ex's upbringing?  When you read the theory behind these things you can often relate it to past problems e.g. anxiety, accusations, clingy - all possibly acting out behaviours for his irrational fears? 

The very, very hardest thing about dealing with someone with disordered thinking is you will most probably never understand or get answers form them. . .that's why we're all here i suppose.  It's tough. . .i wish you well  xoxo
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