What Is Splitting in Psychology - The Extreme Way of Life

Written by: Shreya Manerkar – MA (Psychology)

Last updated date : October 25, 2022

“He is a great guy” or “She is a bad person”. “I am always on time” or “I am always late”. Have you or someone close to you had these extreme thoughts? Well, we define these thoughts as splitting in psychology. But do you know what is the reason for calling it splitting from the perspective of psychology?

After you read this article, you will get answers to some of the questions that you have such as “What is splitting” and “how do you define splitting”. Along with this, we will also explain why people have all or nothing thinking. Finally, we will give you some tips to help people who may display such thoughts.

Let us start by defining some key terms that you will come across in this article – splitting, distorted thinking, and borderline personality disorder.

  • Splitting – Some people cope with difficult situations by thinking in one way or another. In psychology, splitting refers to seeing someone or something as “good” or “bad”. We will explain this concept in detail in the next section.
  • Distorted thinking – When people are going through mental health issues, they are unable to see the reality of the situation. With time, these thinking patterns become a habit.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – It is a severe mental health condition in which people find it difficult to control their emotions. A person who has BPD is often impulsive and will act without thinking.


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Chapter 1:

What Is Splitting and How Do You Define It in Psychology?

While we have briefly been able to define splitting in psychology, let us understand this concept in detail. As the name suggests, there is a “split” in thoughts. This means that people look at situations as “A” or “B”. As much as they would like to, they find it difficult to look at the situation in any other way.

This type of faulty thought pattern is seen in people with BPD. For them, the world is either black or white. They also split between all or nothing thinking. As per psychology, when a person is splitting, they tend to be dramatic or emotional. At one point in their life, they have ‘completely fallen apart’ and at other times they are ‘completely in control’ of their life.

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Chapter 2:

Why Do People Have an ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking?

When people have splitting thoughts, they divide the world into two parts. These two parts and extreme opposites of each other. But have you ever wondered what makes people look at the world as black or white?

Let us take an example to understand the psychology behind splitting. For some time, imagine you are someone else. As a child, your parents never paid attention to you. They were too busy drinking and misusing drugs. Moreover, at the age of 8, you were abused by a teenager when you were still a small child. So, you had no one to talk to about this horrible situation. If this was not enough trauma, your mother constantly put fears in your mind about the dark, certain people, and situations.

Now, take a minute to think of how this may have affected your life. How do you think you would react to stressful situations? Imagine how exhausting it can be to think of the world in black and white and apply labels to people all the time.

Therefore, in the face of an extremely stressful situation, splitting is used as a coping technique. And so, they split everything into the good and bad labels.

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Chapter 3:

How to Help People Who Show Splitting Thoughts?

Now that we have defined the psychology behind splitting, let us look at ways in which we can help someone who faces these difficulties. Though there is no easy way to deal with someone who has BPD, some patience and empathy can go a long way.

Learn More Details about Splitting

The best way to understand the psychology of a person who has splitting is to learn more about the issue. You can meet an expert, speak to a doctor and also join support groups.

Understand Their Triggers

When you understand the psychology of a person who is splitting, you will be able to understand their triggers. You will observe that after some events, they usually act out, become passive-aggressive, and even deny the occurrence of that event.

When you see this happening frequently, make a mental note of it. This will help you define the further course of action when your partner is using the splitting thought pattern.

Openly Communicate with Them

It is important to be open and honest in your communication with your partner whenever they face a splitting situation. It is better to talk about the situation as it occurs rather than keeping things for later.

When you don’t address the issue as it occurs, your partner may feel neglected. As a result of this, splitting thoughts such as “You never understand me”, “You are a bad person”, or something similar gets strengthened in the psychology of the person.

Remind Them That You Care

A person who has distorted thoughts will see the world as black or white. Hence, they attach strong labels to other people’s behavior. This means that even your behavior will be categorized as “good” or “bad”.

When you don’t show them that you care for them or love them, they will fear that you will leave. But, knowing that someone cares for them will reduce this splitting behavior. Therefore, it is important to remind them that you care for them.

Set Boundaries

From the perspective of psychology, you should be able to understand where to draw the line between managing splitting and being abused. It is important to define certain limits and set some ground rules. This will ensure the splitting doesn’t turn into abuse.

If you ever feel that your partner crossed the line, move away. But, give an explanation why. This will reduce any challenges that you may face in the relationship.

Take Care of Yourself

If you wish to help your partner, you need to first take care of yourself. You also need to learn how to respond in such situations and the best possible reaction for splitting behaviors.

Avoid yelling or fighting while having a conversation, this will only make things worse. Instead, meet an expert and understand how to manage such sensitive situations.

Encourage Your Partner to Seek Help

It is important to encourage your partner to visit a doctor or seek therapy. You can also encourage them to join support groups. If required, do couples therapy and support your partner in the mental health journey.

Another way you can support your partner is by enrolling them in self-help courses such as DBT for Anger or Low self-esteem. Both these courses will help them deal with acting out behaviors, aggression and the constant doubt they have about themselves. It can also teach you some simple tips that you can use to manage your partner’s splitting.


"Quizzes and recommendations were very uselful" Donna

50 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount