TU136: Holding Your Own S4 -“Borderline” Traits (4th in a series)

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Attachment, Brain Science, Emotional Intelligence, Episodes, Mindfulness, Narcissism, Personal Growth, Relationships | 0 comments

Show Notes

Holding Your Own with Challenging Personalities – staying (or becoming) secure in relationship with those with those with “borderline” traits

Session 4 – Staying secure in connection with borderline or highly reactive responses

When does sensitivity cross the line into clinical reactivity?

Borderline traits, or those with highly reactive personalities, are another common challenge in relationship that we might need support to navigate well.

Today's episode sees co-hosts Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott unpack high reactivity through a caring and developmental approach. Together, they discuss how these dynamics and traits arise, what they look like, and what we can do when we find ourselves in relationships with them. Find more here www.therapistuncensored.com/episodes

Co-hosts Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott have launched a new series titled “Holding Your Own with Challenging Personalities.” Together, they’ll sort out the differences between the various forms of narcissism – grandiose, covert and malignant, as well as look at what has been called borderline traits. The goal of this series is to bring you the skills and practices that help you ground and stay in your secure self no matter what is swirling around you.

This series builds on itself so we recommend that you listen to the previous sessions first before jumping into this episode, but if that isn't your cup of tea, then by all means, the episode will be solid on it's own. 

To start at the beginning & hear the previous episodes in the series click here: Session 1, Session 2, and Session 3.

High Reactivity (or borderline traits)

  • Neurological implications
  • Especially women historically have been harmed by this label. It takes the treating professional off the hook and blames the patient.
  • However now we know a lot more of what to do how to treat it. Better technology.
  • It’s not moral.  To be clear, these people aren't just being dramatic or “overreacting.” In their felt experience there really is a crisis happening.
  • Most commonly, this happens when someone is overly trusting or attached, and then perceives a loss or abandonment due to mismatched perspectives. Without doing normal tracking of the situation they can perceive a change or even as happening all at once in a big way.
  • In this way, individuals with high reactivity experience two different types of self that flip back and forth quickly, an idealized experience and a de-valued experience.
  • This can often express itself through deep and dramatic mood swings. Sometimes even this can result in self-harm, or threats of self-harm.

So what can you do about borderline or high reactive personalities?

  • As with all things, stay focused and centered. It won't help anyone if you blow up in response to someone else's panicked reaction. In fact it will only escalate the situation and cause everyone to go into a highly defense state.
  • That being said, attune to yourself, ask yourself what this experience is evoking in you? Recognize that their reaction is hard on you, and then recognize them. Don't lose yourself in trying to appease them or hold them.
  • Try and return to honest communicate. Attune to each other and take everyone's pain or fear seriously. Remember, this is not just a silly or “ridiculous” overreaction but instead a real felt experience that they are having.
  • You're not going to let someone abuse you or disrespect you, there's definitely a limit that you're going to have. But at the same time, it's important to have a bit of thick skin and comfort and care for the other person.
  • Remind both yourself and them that this experience you're having together right then isn't all that there is to a person, or a relationship.

Nobody fits in a box!

In this series we set the stage and call out pathological use of labels and diagnosis.  We begin with secure but messy relating and then wade into the various traits that can become personality based on degree.



Get Me Out of Here” by Rachel Reiland  This is an excellent book although it's older, a first-hand account of the healing trajectory written by woman who identifies as borderline.  Fascinating and hopeful… recommended read.



Skills Training Manual for BPD Marsha Linehan

Affect Regulation…. Peter Fonagy et al

Traumatic Narcissism the Relational Systems of Subjugation by David Grey

Attachment Disturbances in Adults Comprehensive Treatment & Repair(2016) Dan Brown and David Elliott (This is Sue's favorite textbook on attachment currently)

This is not our first rodeo, see these previous episodes on the subject:

TU105: Narcissism – What's Going on Underneath the Defense? 

TU107: Our Powerful Fascination with Narcissism in the Era of Trump

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Recent Episodes

Attachment Assessment Unpacked, Ann & Sue Geek Out and Debrief Previous Episode with Carol George (163)

Attachment Assessment Unpacked, Ann & Sue Geek Out and Debrief Previous Episode with Carol George (163)

We are still excited by the exceptional opportunity to learn directly from Dr. George and for the privilege we have in getting to sit down with so many incredible experts in the field of attachment and the relational sciences. We thought there was no better way to follow up than to bring you an in-depth session with Ann and Sue to really get into the heart of attachment assessment. Follow along as they explore what attachment really means, how research has evolved, and how it is relevant on a clinical level. Guided by excerpts from the conversation with Dr. George, they share personal stories, and their own knowledge of the topic to give you 40 minutes of insightful, candid conversation to expand your knowledge even greater. You won’t want to miss it!

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TU162: Adult Attachment Projective (AAP) Assessment & Clinical Use with Dr. Carol George

TU162: Adult Attachment Projective (AAP) Assessment & Clinical Use with Dr. Carol George

This is an incredible opportunity to sit with a legend in the field of attachment research! Dr. Carol George worked directly with Mary Main, and her dissertation lead to the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI). She and Sue Marriott discuss wide-ranging topics all with the eye on using the whole of this research in real life and in the clinical setting. Learn about the Adult Attachment Projective, the history of the research and more about this incredible woman who is a living legend.

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TU161: Managing Unconscious Defense & Fear with Ann Kelley PhD and Sue Marriott LCSW, CGP

TU161: Managing Unconscious Defense & Fear with Ann Kelley PhD and Sue Marriott LCSW, CGP

Overcome defense and fear – Catch up with hosts Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott while they discuss the difference between cognitive understanding of modern attachment and regulation and the bottom-up experience of it. We distort information coming in – either by not registering interpersonal information or by over-interpreting the importance of an exchange (up-regulating with fear). This is an unconscious process that to undo we have to have the courage and the resources to feel the feelings that cause us to defend. They walk through it with you they don’t just tell you what to do, so join us in understanding our own defensive process. Find episode notes at therapistuncensored.com/episodes.

read more

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