Grandiosity: Borderline Style
An examination of the purpose and consequence of grandiosity to the borderline and those around him/her. Grandiosity is a defense mechanism that keeps borderlines stuck in the helplessness that perpetuates the illusion that their neediness is valid and that it's okay to visit it upon others.
Grandiosity Borderline Style can be defined as a pompous distancing, overbearingly-arrogant presentation which is not very desirable to be on the receiving end of and is more often than not designed to intimidate others into meeting the demands of the borderline. In fairness to the borderline who may often be grandiose it is not a very pleasant or rewarding place to be on the inside of either.
Grandiosity is an exaggerated sense of importance, worth, power, control, esteem, or respect. It comes across mostly as an angry delusion-riddled and childish sense of entitlement. To experience it, it gives one the impression of having much more power and influence than one has. It is a break with reality. Grandiosity felt and expressed is a breakdown in your cognitive interpretation of reality. Borderline grandiosity is a good measure of the amount of pain a borderline is avoiding but is really, in, underneath it all, and often unbeknownst to him or her.
Grandiosity is an oppositional reaction (defense mechanism) to helplessness and victimization that the borderline usually feels. Borderlines often feel, "less than", "incompetent" and whether they in fact show competency or not. When they feel this way, rather than admit it and or be in touch with how that feels they deny it, reflect it and overcompensate for it. They may look at someone else and see them as trying to intimidate them or be more powerful than them when truly this is a projection of what they themselves are doing out of a desperately-painful sense of inadequacy. Instead of being in touch with what it feels like to struggle with their own self-esteem and worth and sense of incompetency borderlines tend to strut in ways that are very offensive to others and very distancing as well. The way in which they strut displays what seems like a very arrogant and inflated sense of worth, purpose, ability, ego, that they often don't recognize as the cause of much of their isolation and loneliness. No matter how hard borderlines try to befriend others their grandiosity violates the boundaries of healthy relating so blatantly that others often leave as fast as they came. This leaves many borderlines feeling re-abandoned all over again, often without any real sense of or understanding as to why people do not want to get closer to them.
Grandiosity, borderline style leaves many borderlines isolated, lonely, lost, and alone. Many do not understand why. Many cannot appreciate the true consequences of what they are doing to both the others who try to care about them and to themselves. If one decides to heal, it is within this realization, as you come to understand what your grandiosity did to others that there is much grief work to do. No one can go back and fix this kind of damage. The losses have to be accepted, grieved and learned from if a borderline wants to heal.
Somehow the borderline feels both abandoned and protected by such pushing behaviour. There can be little doubt though as to the cause of much of the discomfort of others. This discomfort is a direct result of the way in which many borderlines carry themselves and choose to interact with others. That's right, choosing to be pompous, arrogant and grandiose is within your power. You can un-choose it. You can make new choices. But, each new choice, or other choice that you have to select from likely involve things that you are trying to avoid: personal responsibility and accountability, managing your own anger and fears and emotions, meeting your own needs, taking care of yourself, self-care generally, dealing with your issues of vulnerability, neediness, grief, loss, sadness, lostness, emptiness, and identity confusion and your unstable moods and sense of self.
It is often through the expression of this denial of one's vulnerability that borderlines do, indeed, keep others around them "walking on egg shells". Those around a borderline will often end up walking on "egg shells" because much of the borderlines arrogance and false-sense of entitlement is demanding enough that it becomes quite apparent to others that to not meet the grandiose expectations of a borderline is to invite abuse. That abuse may be in the form of explosive anger, or absolute silence. It may be in the form of escalated self-abuse by the borderline or a suicide attempt. That abuse can also be verbal, emotional, or physical. But, to the onlooker, who is on the other side of the borderline's grandiose strut of overcompensation, the dilemma and the challenge are there.
Many borderlines feel so victimized, so hurt and really so afraid that in an attempt to manage that fear that they project out on to others and out onto the environment itself they feel that they must somehow be in control of that environment in order to be safe. Really, all they need to learn is that they need to be in control of their own actions, words and behaviour to be safe. But this cannot be grasped by a borderline, on an emotional level until they are prepared to feel their pain and to know that they are, just like the rest of us, vulnerable, and human and subject to being hurt.
Many borderlines do use this overcompensation as a way to directly intimidate others and they know it consciously -- they get a misguided sense of "power" and or "control" from "pushing other's buttons". We all have buttons that can be pushed. What many borderlines fail to realize is that trust, relationship, friendship and so forth hinge upon our trusting others not to push those very delicate and revealed buttons. This leads many who are in relationship to a borderline to feel very hurt and betrayed. Often borderlines who feel the need to push, punish and control others in this way have little to no age-appropriate understanding of trust, respect or the reality that they are no more entitled to anything from the marketplace of humanity than the next person is. Borderlines who feel safe by making others feel less than safe, as transparent as they can be often will leave you with an unsure sense of yourself.
Your sense of identity having been usurped by the demands and efforts of the borderline to survive have effectively left you in a similar situation to the one that they are in. This is where the non-borderline must pull back and take care of themselves, no matter what it may cost them. Often the cost is the relationship. But sanity is a very fragile thing. No borderline has the right to manipulate anyone else's sense of self in what are futile attempts to find themselves. Borderlines often find the chaos that unfolds in relationships to their advantage in that they are trying to avoid themselves (lack of identity) and will often experience the incumbent chaos as something to focus on that takes away from the reservoir of pain that remains to be faced if they are to get well.
Clearly, one of the main goals of arrogant, grandiose behaviour is to introduce chaos into what might otherwise be a painfully-peaceful situation that the borderline out of his/her sheer angst alone will not be able to tolerate.
Grandiosity, borderline style, is an over-compensation for the results of much of your splitting. As you vacillate between idealization and devaluation of yourself (and other) and the projection of said onto others so too does your belief in yourself go up and down. How you feel about yourself is what you visit upon others as you project your inner-most conflicts out upon others rather than tolerate the anxiety, pain and grief that you need to FEEL in order to accept your vulnerability, join the human race on equal footing, learn who you are, develop that identity from within and recover from BPD.
Grandiosity, borderline style is another crudely-elaborate way that the neediness of many borderlines is driven rough- shot over others in an attempt to meet ones own needs from without, instead of from within. It is also a way in which borderlines shirk their personal responsibility and pass the buck to whomever will pick it up, no matter how short the period of time that they choose to hold it may be. As with all other borderline defenses pompous, arrogant, grandiosity is a defense mechanism that hurts the borderline as much, if not more than it hurts others. It leaves in itís path destruction and desecrated careers, hopes, dreams and relationships.
If you continue to be or to act in a pompous, arrogant and grandiose manner you will drive people away. You may not realize it now but a borderline behaving this way is very transparent to others, painfully so. If you are borderline and invested in grandiose, and arrogant behaviour than you are the reason that you continue to suffer the hurt that you do, time and time again. In order to move forward you must stop looking back, stop looking outside of yourself and stop looking to unacceptable behaviour as your some kind of bastion of safety. That safety is an illusion. To find your sense of saftey you have to find your true idenity and personhood -- the very personality that has been usurped by this insidious disorder. And that is your job and your responsibility!
The only way out for any borderline is through the pain from the inside out. Your grandiosity may carry you for sometime but it will never endear you to others or give you the safe place that you are so desperately looking for everywhere but inside of yourself. If you are borderline, look inside, thatís where your pain sits, in the dark, waiting for you to release it in healthy ways that allow you to heal it.
© Ms. A.J. Mahari - July 9, 2000