Paint Me Black

In recent years I’ve read a lot about being “painted black”, also known as “splitting”.  It means thinking in extremes, and has been described by such people as Anna Freud and Sigmund Freud.

Splitting occurs naturally in childhood, as part of the developmental process where children learn about good vs bad, and how to integrate the entities of positive and negative (eg love vs hate).  The final stage of this developmental process, is the ability to recognise that good and bad can co-exist, ie a person can have good as well as bad qualities, or a relationship can experience combined love as well as hate, conflict as well as friendship, etc.

When this developmental process doesn’t mature well, the person can have trouble in adulthood with integrating good and bad images, so that they will either idealise, or completely devalue a person, depending on whether the focus is on that person’s good qualities, or bad qualities.

This polarised thinking results in people being considered “all good”, or “all bad”, perhaps at different times, or perhaps permanently as they maintain the rage.  Relationships consequently become very unstable.

It’s much more complicated than this brief synopsis, and depending on certain other factors related to the “splitter”, can involve imagined offences which become real to the person, and can help to reinforce a negative split.  You can read more about it here

I have been split in a number of different situations as an adult, and have struggled to understand it, hence my reading up about it.  It’s been a real challenge for me at times, as noone likes to be hated, or to find themselves in situations where they go from being considered oneday as “good”, “a friend”, etc, to being rejected, ignored, and treated as a pariah the next.  Being falsely accused of things which never happened also exacerbates the experience to levels that can be hard to come to terms with.

It’s not only hurtful, but can  be extremely confusing, leading to reactions of confusion that may reinforce the negative conclusions being made about you.

Reading about it though, the practice of painting others black when they are perceived to have done you wrong, is not an uncommon phenomenon, as seen in discussions at this forum .

So if you find yourself painted black, make use of the resources available to you.  Your pain doesn’t need to be experienced alone, and understanding the reasons for someone’s behaviour definitely helps you to process your own reactions to what is happening to / around you.

One thought on “Paint Me Black

  1. Thank you for this, it’s something I’ve probably been aware of but have never seen crystallised in quite this way. The temptation to polarise feelings is something I fight from time to time.


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