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When Borderlines and Narcissists Collide

When Borderlines and Narcissists clash, it makes When Worlds Collide look like two butterflies locking wings together in a mid-air prang. As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder I had the misfortune to run up against a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I would describe the experience like running full speed, head first into a brick wall without a helmet.

For me, it is exceedingly rare to come under the microscopic scrutiny of a dangerous and mentally unhinged person who appears to be made out of concrete in such a manner that a nuclear bomb would be unable to dislodge their black and white thinking. For this person it was either night or day, there was no pearly pink twilight or early misty mornings.

This person was highly and appropriately right and I was incredibly stupid and wrong. I know this because it was hammered into my skull at every given opportunity.

As someone who in the past either self-destructs, screams abuse to innocent family members or smashes plates and crockery in order to relieve psychic pain and distressing emotions, over the past week I have kept a comprehensive visceral diary of how I felt inside when this narcissist attacked. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and internally violated.

When I was anxious, my stomach was in knots of turmoil.  When I was sad, my throat was swollen and constricted. When I was angry, my brain felt like exploding, but when I was fearful and frightened my bladder and bowels turned to jelly. I used these bodily sensations as a guide to get through my day.

I did notice, however that my mind was mostly thoroughly engaged in the visceral process, rather than mired in the content and process of the attacks. My mind felt separate, cool, calm, clear, full of clarity and observingly mindful of what was happening and it was this process that guided the way I conducted myself both publicly and privately when this person threatened to annihilate and humiliate me with legal action for a minor narcissistic injury I had unwittingly inflicted.

This was when I realized just how much hard work I had done to alleviate my diagnosed borderline symptoms especially high emotional dysregulation, instability of personal relationships, anger management and self identity. I kept my cool, I did not sabotage any relationships (except for the one with the narcissist) and I kept my agenda, my dignity, my grace, my manners and my integrity intact. I was able to remember who I was and why I was doing this and managed to keep this in mind through major personal and public attacks.

This was not always the case. I self-destructed once because someone at work called me dogmatic. This was in 1989 and I went on to sabotage myself into unemployment. In hindsight, yes I was very dogmatic, and proceeded to swing wildly between homicidal rage and dramatic parasuicide. Now I can admit that yes, sometimes, like most people, I am dogmatic about certain things, but my mind is now far more malleable and I am likely to laugh at myself and not take my own dogma so seriously.

Life is far too short to take on board a narcissist’s rantings and ravings about how they know everything in a way that you could possibly not because they are brighter, smarter, sexier, more powerful, better looking and have more friends and possessions than you have and therefore you should hang your head in shame and whip yourself across your back.

I know who I am. I know that I am not always right. I know that I still feel emotionally disregulated inside, like everyone else at times, but outwardly I am in control. I know that thoughts and feelings are not facts and that I am mostly at peace when I am bushwalking or photographing my beloved ducks.

I know that life is impermanent and seven days from now this will not matter. I know that I accept who I am for what I am. I know that I will change again over the years. I know that my observing ego functions at a higher level than my Freudian id. I also know viscerally that I like myself.

And I also know that Karma is a bitch.


When Borderlines and Narcissists Collide

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.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2012). When Borderlines and Narcissists Collide. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2012
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