DSM 5 Impairment 8 – Perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative attributes or vulnerabilities

If I see a roll of the eyes, or if someone contradicts, criticizes, or corrects me, I automatically sense rejection. Before this feeling of rejection takes control of my mind, I have a choice, I can still step back, take a deep breath, and take control of the situation, or I can let my emotions take control and take me to a place I do not want to go. Once I let go, my mind will take me down one of two paths.  I can blame myself and withdraw into a dissociate state with a sick feeling in my gut, or blame them and respond in anger. Unfortunately, I follow the path of least resistance. If this is a boss or a colleague at work and the emotional connection is fragile, I withdraw, but I deeply resent them for putting me in this state. However, if this is a loved one, someone with whom I have a solid relationship, I attack. Either way, I am now on a course for anxiety and symptoms of depression.

Our favorite targets for our anger are usually a friend, a life partner, or a parent, especially a mother whom we know will love us unconditionally. Unfortunately, these outbursts against the ones we love the most and rely on for our emotion support, inevitably leads to regret and shame. We will continue in this state until we apologize and restore the relationship.  However, subconsciously, we still hold on to the belief that they caused the problem in the first place and blame them for forcing us into attacking them and then rejecting us because of our behavior. We build up resentment. She (mother, father, wife, husband) becomes a bitch or a witch that we have to live with, setting the stage for more conflict and resentment. Even if we withdraw, as is the case with a colleague or a boss, they become the bastard or the bitch that we have to put up with.

So what does Science say? In a study, Fertuck et al (2009), using the Reading the Mind in the Eye Test with thirty individuals with BPD and 25 controls, discovered that the BPD group performed significantly better than the HC group. There was also a connection with depression severity. They concluded that people with BPD may have an enhanced sensitivity to the mental states of others.  In another study, Renneburg et al (2011) examined the responses of thirty patents with BPD and 30 controls to a game of Cyberball in which social inclusion and exclusion were experimentally induced. They noted that the BPD subjects tended to feel deeper levels of exclusion and reacted with anger rather than sadness compared with controls.

So what does this mean in plain English. These two studies indicate that we souls with BPD are constantly vigilant in reading the eyes and body language of others, especially if we are feeling down with symptoms of depression.  Because we believe the world is an unsafe place, we have a mild sense of paranoia. People out there do not understand us; they are insensitive to our feelings; and they are out to get us.  We have to be vigilant. We look for signs that they may be a danger to our fragile egos, and we tend to see what we think we will see.  Disagreements in neutral situations are interpreted as rejection and exclusion and we tend to react to these situations with anger for being rejected rather than sadness for being excluded. Everyone is a potential bitch or witch and we feel we either have to suffer their constant rejection, or attack.

But that does not have to be the end of the story. With due diligence we can learn to step back, take a deep breath, get out of our mind and turn the situation over to our higher self. Once we are in our higher self, we realize that we are still loved and this disagreement is no more than just a disagreement. We can tell our loved one that we are having a difficult time with this and ask them if we can try to solve the problem again, this time realizing that they really do love us, and they have no intention of rejecting or abandoning us. 


Fertuck, W.A.; Jekal, A.; Song, I.; and Wyman, B.. Enhanced ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ in borderline personality disorder compared to healthy controls. Published online: 22 May 2009, https://doi.org/10.1017/S003329170900600X

Renneberg, Babette; Herm, Kersten; Hahn, Adam; Staeber, Katia; Lammers, Claas-Hinrich; and Roepke, Stefan. Perception of Social Participation in Borderline Personality Disorder. Clinical Psychology and Psycotherapy. 2011. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.772