This is What Psychological Splitting Feels Like
My emotional splits were in control for many years and I didn’t even realize it.
My psychologist diagnosed me with PTSD a few years ago now, and told me that I had three “splits.” He said these emotional splits were my child, teenager and the healthy, functioning adult version of myself.
What is Psychological Splitting?
Splitting is an unconscious defense mechanism. Erica Cirino states that it’s triggered by the brain in an attempt to protect the ego “and prevent anxiety.”
Psychologist Allan Schwartz states that splitting occurs in individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder. He states it “can be used by anyone at any time if they are under enough pressure, stress, anxiety, and anger.”
Splitting causing individuals to view life, themselves or others, in extremes. It’s black and white thinking, no grey areas, says editor and Psychologist, Janey Davies.
When Splitting Becomes An Issue
Davies explains that most people have experienced splitting. But it becomes a problem for individuals who fail to join their opposing views together.
These individuals may understand that life isn’t black and white, but can’t see certain things in a neutral way. Here are some examples:
- Putting people on a pedestal… But when they do one thing wrong, they become the worst person in the world
- Seeing certain groups of people as good or bad. E.g. All drug addicts are bad people
- Believing that you are not a good person.
When you go through life feeling this way for so long, it’s easy to believe that’s how you are. I had no clue I was behaving like this until my psychologist pointed it out.
This Is What Splitting Feels Like
I started noticing when splitting would occur after I learned about it. I could feel an emotional switch flip, causing me to react from my traumatized child or teenage self.
It’s like seeing your rational adult self step into a cage, and you watch as the old parts of yourself take over.
You may experience behaviors that are out of the norm. If I experienced something I didn’t like, I became stubborn and angry towards the person or situation.
You may know an adult who starts acting childish when things don’t go their way, well, splitting may be behind this.
I was that adult for a long time.
I felt a lot of anger and helplessness as a teenager, this triggered an emotional split within me. I couldn’t experience neutrality with certain things, it was like that area didn’t exist in my mind. Good or bad, no in-between.
Splitting and Emotional Self-Regulation
For those experiencing problematic psychological splitting, it can be challenging to self-regulate. Especially when the individual isn’t aware of what’s happening for them.
During charged emotional situations, I’d try self-regulation skills, like deep breathing. I felt my brain fighting my irrational reactions, but it was difficult to stop feeling upset.
With the help of a psychologist and learning self-regulation skills, I was able to reduce the intensity of my emotions. Self-soothing became easier with practice, and I was able to join the pieces together.
- Splitting is the brains defense mechanism to protect you from further trauma
- It’s an unconscious process that can happen to anyone
- It becomes problematic when the individual can’t bring together their opposing ‘extremes’
- Splitting feels like the ‘normal self’ watching as the old traumatized parts take over
- Emotional regulation may be challenging for individuals who experience splitting
- With the help of a mental health professional and consistent practice, splits can be brought together and healed.
It can be challenging trying to bring your opposing views together. Especially when you’ve been reacting on autopilot your whole life.
I thought I was a reactive person until my psychologist helped bring this part of me to light. Healing trauma splits is possible, it just takes time and consistent effort and practice.
This is my personal mental health experience. What helped me, may not work for you. If you are experiencing mental ill-health, please consult a mental health professional.