Splitting (also called all-or-nothing thinking) is the failure in a person's thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common mechanism used by large numbers of individuals. The individual tends to think in extremes (that is, another's actions, motivations etc. are all good or all bad and there is no middle ground.)
Splitting was developed by Ronald Fairbairn in his formulation of object relations theory; it begins as the inability of the infant to combine the fulfilling aspects of the parents (the good object) and their unresponsive aspects (the unsatisfying object) into the same individuals, but sees the good and bad as separate. In psychoanalytic theory this functions as a defense mechanism. It is a central mechanism to the diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder in DSM-IV-TR.
Famous quotes containing the word splitting:
“I had an old axe which nobody claimed, with which by spells in winter days, on the sunny side of the house, I played about the stumps which I had got out of my bean-field. As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, they warmed me twice,once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat. As for the axe,... if it was dull, it was at least hung true.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)