Borderline Personality tendencies, codependency, and love addiction are self-destructive behavioral patterns. Each personality seeks constant approval and love from others while abandoning themselves. Through people pleasing, compulsivity, and dependent patterns of behavior, a sense of self is lost. Relationship dynamics runs the extremes from idealization and domination to being controlled. The extremes create a false sense of safety, self-worth, and identity. This articles covers the characteristics of all three behavioral types and relates it to the cycle of addiction.
Everyone embraces some cycle of addiction, whether it be the way you towel off after a shower or mindlessly move through the grocery aisles. Regardless of the activity, the ritual involves unconscious thoughts, feelings and actions that repeats cyclically.
There are four parts to the cycle of addiction. The first stage is preoccupation, the second is the ritual, the third is acting out, and the fourth phase is feelings of guilt and shame.
Many dynamics of relationships exist but for the purpose of this article, codependency, borderline tendencies, and love addiction will be discussed with an emphasis of the cycle of addiction.
During the first stage, thoughts begin to preoccupy themselves with a lover. Persons consume the majority of their time and attention toward their imago. The imago is the image we place on our partner who mirrors our original caretakers. The psychological term for this is transference. The image feels right because it is familiar much like eating macaroni and cheese. Admiration for their partner is comfort food that feeds the attraction to excitement, chaos, and emotional intoxication.
The intense attraction is due to an unconscious drive to heal and resolve childhood wounds. This overwhelming state of infatuation is part of the first stage of addiction called preoccupation. During this phase, the love addict feels high (emotional intoxication) as parental fantasies to heal the abandonment, emptiness, and lack of self-worth are perceived to be met even if for a splitting moment. Thoughts and energy of their partner preoccupy all the love addict’s time. The majority of the day is conceiving ways to hold onto them and bring them closer so that they don’t abandon them. Love addicts relinquish total control and power to their partner. Any sense of spiritually becomes impaired as a grandiose persona transfers to their image.
Love addicts relation to family, friends, and personal care begin to change during the second phase of addiction. This stage is called ritual. Compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of their partner override any sense of independence. Control completely transfers to other. Love addicts become dependent with learned helplessness and neediness. Trust and judgment projects on their partner and smashes their personal values and feelings. Love addicts give up control while abandoning themselves and becoming dependent on their lover to make personal decisions. Over time love addicts’ careers, relationships, and personal care diminish.
Love addicts deny and refuse to open their eyes to the reality of their false, fantasy love. Similarly, codependents do not acknowledge their partner’s defensive wall, inability for real connection, and love themselves. Codependent relationships create enmeshment just as love addicts take on their partner’s morals and values and blur boundary lines. Relationships are viewed through unconsciously filtered fantasy. Relational dynamics continues between colossal cycles of intense passion and extreme anger. The sense of excitement in the emotional extremes is drunken in like an alcoholic drinks whiskey. The high of emotional intoxication deepens to obsessiveness that then is mistaken for authentic love.
The third period is acting out. Negative consequences of lost identity, irresponsible behavior, and diminishing life conditions are overlooked. Symptoms of loneliness, despair, and self-hatred continue in a downward spiral of intolerable circumstances. Self-worth bottoms and depression creeps in.
As the spiral continues downward, bottom hits with feelings of guilt and shame making up the fourth stage. Love addicts feel stuck as if they cannot cope on their own. Codependents feel they need their partner to survive just as a dependent child. Guilt, shame, internalized anger and resentment grow until the pain is too great, and the hurt is too much to bear. Finally, a glimmer of hope emerges, and awareness unfolds. Denial slowly lifts as light shines down on their partner’s defenses, emotional unavailability, controlling, and manipulating behavior. Further consciousness arises in financial and career sacrifices if they still have a job. Understanding of their isolation surfaces the notions of little contact if any with family and friends. It’s a rude awakening to the mess.
Shame and guilt stage causes love addicts to feel like failures, remain hopeless and lose sight of their discovery. Consequently, they fall deeper into depression. Denial sets in again to lighten the pain, and the cycle begins again.
Borderline personalities obsess again about their partner thinking they will save them from their misery. Codependents shift independence to dependence and as they stay in the relationship; prolonging the cycle of addiction.
Commonly borderline personalities, codependents, and love addicts develop from an alcoholic family or dysfunctional family who are narcissistic, unable to allow another to have an independent self, and cut-off emotionally. The personality types yearn for real connections and intimate relationships yet don’t know how and continue to play cat and mouse.
Childhood hurt and rage from parental abandonment, neglect, and emotional abuse leads to internalizing thoughts of being bad. The child splits the image of his desire internalizing it as bad and places a good internal object-image onto their caretakers.
If a child’s needs of nurture, mirroring of feelings and thoughts, and care lack, the child continues to split parts of themselves; internalizing they are bad, and their parents are good. This pattern is a defensive survival technique so that the child can tolerate the abuse in an environment where he is dependent. As adults, a bad internalized image persists as a worthless and inadequate identity thus the perceived need to latch on to others for an identity. The wounded adult attracts partner’s who replicate their parents and place the externalized fantasy image of real parts onto their partner ultimately giving them all power and control.
Awareness of the similarity of borderline personalities, codependents, and love addicts can shed light and understanding of internal emotional drivers of behavior. New knowledge brings more choices and the more power and control for healthy, respectful, and loving thoughts, feelings, and actions. Understanding how one’s personal cycle of addiction originated can then begin to find ways to break the cycle and healing can begin. The goal is to feel whole (independent) while having the capacity to give and receive love.