Splitting is a term used in psychiatry to describe the inability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Some might say that a person who splits see the world in terms of black or white. It is a distorted way of thinking in which the positive or negative attributes of a person or event are neither weighed nor cohesive.
Splitting is considered a defense mechanism by which people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can view people, events, or even themselves in all or nothing terms.
Splitting allows them to readily discard things they have assigned as “bad” and to embrace things they consider “good,” even if they are harmful or risky. Splitting is one of the nine criteria used to diagnosed BPD.
Splitting can interfere with relationships and lead to intense and self-destructive behaviors. A person who splits will typically frame people or events in terms that are absolute with no middle ground for discussion. Examples include:
Things are either “always” or “never.”
People can either be “evil” and “crooked” or “angels” and “perfect.”
Opportunities can either have “no risk” or be a “complete con.”
Science, history, or news is either a “complete fact” or a “complete lie.”
When things go wrong, a person will feel “cheated,” “ruined,” or “screwed.”
What makes splitting all the more confusing is that the belief can sometimes be iron-clad or shift back-and-forth from one moment to the next.
People who split are often seen to be overly dramatic or overwrought, especially when declaring that things have either “completely fallen apart” or “completely turned around.” Such behavior can be exhausting to those around them.