Even as adults, sometimes people need their mommy. People with BPD, being so emotional, need other people a lot. The people thatare being needed are “attachment people.” The first attachment that a person makes in their life is usually to their mother. Some in the psychiatric community call BPD an “attachment disorder”, meaning the initial attachment with the mother is disordered in someway and it models future attachments which also become disordered. The birth of the self and how one looks at oneself is developed during the period of first attachment. If this attachment is done in a non-disordered way, the child develops a stable self image, one in which they can locate their feelings and one that is not filled with shame. However, if this process is disordered in some way, the child will develop an unstable sense of self. This can lead to attachment issues later in life.
With BPD, the attachment system is hyper-sensitive and can be triggered too often and with little provocation. This can lead to the symptoms of BPD like fear of abandonment, a pattern of attaching and then leaving and a tendency to fall “in love” quickly. In other words, intimacy may be assumed before it is actually established.
Internally this unstable self can contribute to shame and self-hatred. In turn the self-hatred can be “flip-flopped” with what seems like narcissism. In reality, at least with BPD, the person will usually deep-down dislike themselves because their “self” is unstable and every changing. They just don’t know who they are.
When a person is unable to find themselves internally, they may seek to define themselves through others, moving from one attachment figure to another, searching for a “home” in which they can find their true self. As a loved one of someone in this situation, it can be very difficult and confusing for you. The thing that you must keep in mind is that, because you are an important attachment figure in their minds, the stakes will be higher with you as opposed to the stakes with other people in their lives. This is the reason that some have postulated that there are “high functioning” people with BPD. I contend that it all depends of the importance of the attachment in the person’s life. The more important the attachment, the more that is at stake. Keeping this in mind can help you develop empathy, gentleness and compassion for them.