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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Lack of object consistency  (Read 69939 times)
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« Reply #10 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 #11 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.

« Reply #12 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 #13 on: March 22, 2008, 07:23:34 AM »

But herein laid the rub...at least for me.

I can remember for the first five or six years of our relationship when we were separated for an extended period of time we'd always have such nice reunions. Strong hugs, passionate kisses, sometimes have relations right afterward. It was consistently some of the nicer times in the relationship/marriage. It made me feel my love for her and feel loved by her. Sometimes it would happen when I just came home from work.

And now it seems as though it was related to the lack of object constancy of a BPD. Knowing this doesn't tarnish those memories as much as it explains a lot of things--her anger and frustration when I would play golf on the weekends, even though I'd be back by the time she woke up, one of her colossal meltdowns right before I was to go away for my first tradeshow when I was with her, the cards from the road when she went on her first few sales trips for her job, cards from Italy when she went away with her Mom right before our wedding, etc. I thought it was nice, but at the same time it could very well be due to her lack of object constancy being triggered.

It is now also what I believe that caused her to have an affair with her boss. Being off her meds and being away so much for work on the road with her boss, she had to feel connected to something...and since I wasn't there he would do...and perhaps vice versa for her boss and his wife and family.

Of the nine BPD criteria this was the one I was least sure she had, but now I am convinced she engaged in this behavior.

I hope I didn't hijack this too much with my sharing. I am not up to speed academically on this topic. Thanks for starting it, though.


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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2011, 09:04:36 AM »

Thank you so much for posting this is excellent material  Doing the right thing

So much of it resonates with my personal story  Doing the right thing


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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2011, 12:35:28 PM »

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

A lot to take in here...

So helpful to me as I try to sort out my life and grow beyond the trauma I have suffered from my r/s with a pwBPD/NPD...

I need to understand the illness as this has helped me out tremendously and continues to do so... This post really addresses key areas that are very relevant to my BPD r/s situation... Painfully so...

But equally important - I need to know what it was in me that accepted such horrific abuse from a man that said "he loved me"... Aghh...
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« Reply #16 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 #17 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

Mary Oliver:  Someone I loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift

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« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2011, 05:40:15 PM »

It really does continue to amaze me when I read text like this that describes my partner - and seemingly so many partners here - with such precision.  The predictability of an illness and a person who once seemed so wholly unpredictable and nonsensical to me still sends that random momentary shiver down my spine.  Frustration and anger seems pretty pointless when faced with such a well-mapped out course...we definitely know what we face...and choose to stay or not.   

Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have.  It is the very last inch of us.  And within that inch, we are free. - Valerie's Letter

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« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2011, 02:41:18 PM »

I find it interesting to myself that when I first came here I didnt know a thing about BPD and the behavior to me seemed random and unpredictable. Now, after reading and digesting and understanding posts like this I see its structured nature. I reflect and see cause and effects and triggers into all three of these stages. Whats also apparent to me is how my triggers and stages synced to it. As my pwBPD cycled...my anxieties, fears, and behaviors cycled with her. Now, I am able to detach from the experience and see what REALLY happened looking through the knowledge I have. Thank you for this post.
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