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The Therapeutic Underbelly of Borderline Personality Disorder

The Rose

The most difficult aspect of Being Borderline is intimate relationships and that includes the special relationship we have with our therapists.  After nearly twenty years of (on and off and when needed) therapy, a certain familiarity happens and feelings, not always positive, can occur.  I will be honest here and I find that envy of my therapist and her happiness can threaten my internal security.  Because I know less about her than she does about me, I tend to fill in the blanks with “stories” of how perfect her life is.

This is one of the many reasons there are no shortage of therapists unwilling to engage with people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  There is no doubt we can unwittingly (and wittingly) press therapeutic buttons.  It is their job to gently needle us out of our ego centred comfort zones so we gain insight into our less than desirable personal qualities which I might add are universal, it just depends on the extent.  In a conversation with my therapist where we are working on why I see her as a threat to my happiness, she referred to this as the “therapeutic underbelly” of our work together.  What lies beneath our valuable work together and what is known in the trade as “transference.”

For everything there is its opposite.  It was Sigmund Freud who coined the term “transference” as well as “counter-transference” which is therapist feelings towards their clients.  Even Freud was not immune to his own feelings for his clients as he used to regularly transgress boundaries and even take his favourite clients on holidays with him.

So why would I pay someone good money if I see them as a threat to my security and happiness?  Because due to my BPD thought processes, I am aware enough to know never to compare my insides with anyone else’s outsides.  My perception of her as a “threat” to me is not based in reality.  She is at peace with herself and is happy with her life.  I sometimes forget that peace and happiness is not a finite resource, that when you give peace and happiness away, it expands exponentially and creates ongoing karma.  This is something I have to practice every day.

For a few days there instead of stewing in my own juices and emotionally dysregulating up to DefCon One, I sent her a morning email hoping she had a wonderful day and a photo of a flower I had taken.  I kept a record of how I felt and found that the mornings I send her positive vibes I felt she was less of a threat to me.  I had to stay very mindful and after a while I was feeling quite good about myself and less threatened by my perceived perfection of her.

Mindfulness and meditation without judgement on thoughts both good and bad have a way of helping me through the drama of my life and connect me with others in a real way.

The Therapeutic Underbelly of Borderline Personality Disorder

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field. Please email her on davson at

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2014). The Therapeutic Underbelly of Borderline Personality Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 10 Dec 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Dec 2014
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