The gift inside borderline personality disorder (BPD)
If it is a gift, why do I suffer so much?
Under favourable, ‘good enough’ circumstances, a child who is born with a gift in perceptivity would not grow up to have serious emotional regulation issues or BPD. However, if the primary caretakers did not have the capacity to attune to their child, or even resented or were threatened by their unusually perceptive child, they may consciously or subconsciously sabotage the child’s healthy development. The nature of the psychological abuse may differ, but it always includes an assault on the child’s perceptions and the development of their autonomy.
For gifted children, ongoing negative feedback towards their intuitive perception is ‘particularly damaging’ (Park et al., 1992, p.228).
Attachment theories have us know that children will do all they can in order to preserve a good image of their parents. Even when their parents are incompetent, abusive or neglectful, children naturally blame themselves because it is not safe to think of the people they depend on as ‘bad’ (Winnicott, 1960). This scenario is complex if the child is naturally intuitive; many emotionally gifted children have strong feelings of love and responsibility for their parents, and often feel compelled by a need or desire to take care of them.
If the parents either explicitly or implicitly reject the child – he or she will internalise the shame of being rejected, and experience him / herself as being profoundly bad (toxic shame). As a result of their negative experience of themselves and those around them, these children’s natural gifts in perceptivity become ‘hijacked’ by negative bias and negative projections. Without an environment where they can learn to set healthy boundaries and experience secure attachment without exploitation, these children develop ’symptoms’ such as as an inability to self-soothe and regulate emotions, a fear of rejection, and a deep sense of internal hollowness.
Many emotionally intense adults have struggled all their lives feeling lonely, misunderstood, with the belief that there is something deeply wrong with them. If you are one of them, I hope that you can reconsider the potential gifts that are within you.