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Intimacy, Oranges, and Fish Eyeballs

Updated: Jun 24, 2019

A major symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, perhaps the most powerful symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, is a total and complete aversion to intimacy.

I have read the disorder described this way, which is perfectly accurate:

Borderline Personality Disorder is the immeasurable craving for intimacy combined with the immeasurable fear of intimacy.

Why does a person with BPD crave intimacy so much? Because intimacy is a human need. Notice, I did not say intimacy is a human pleasure, rather it is a human need.

What happens when your body has an iron deficiency? Or a sodium deficiency? Or a vitamin C deficiency? In all cases, when you are deficient in something you need, not only do you suffer, but it goes much deeper than that: Your subconscious self will find a way to relieve that need, if at all possible.

I once read the true-life experience of a British couple lost at sea. They survived by catching fish. For a while, they survived on the meat alone. But get this: For reasons completely unknown to them, they eventually developed an inexplicable craving for the fish eyeballs:

Another unlikely luxury are fish eyes, which are a useful source of liquid and of another vital nutrient. Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, a British couple who survived 117 days on a rubber life raft in the Pacific in 1973, did not initially understand why they sought them, Tipton said: "They found they started to crave fish eyes, which is not something one would normally do. It wasn't until after the voyage they realised these are quite rich in vitamin C, which is something you get depleted in when you're adrift, and can of course cause scurvy."

The part I still find most astonishing about this is that Maurice and Maralyn's subconscious minds figured out on their own what to do, and then had them do it. Maurice and Maralyn themselves had no idea whatsoever that fish eyeballs contain vitamin C until after their rescue.

Now, let me ask you this: What are people with Borderline Personality Disorder deficient in? Intimacy. For how long have they been deficient in intimacy? Since they were three or four years old! Why are they deficient in intimacy? Because they themselves ferociously refuse, at all cost, to allow it. Why do they do this? Because by the time they were three or four years old, their parents’ attitudes toward their emotions had convinced them that their feelings are inherently shameful; humiliating.

What is intimacy? It is the revealing of one’s authentic, inner self to another - a state of complete emotional vulnerability. Intimacy, by definition, involves revealing and sharing your authentic self, or feelings, with another person.

Again, what is the most concrete, subconscious, foundation certainty that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder lives with? That their feelings are inherently shameful.

What do you, or does anybody, do with things about ourselves we are ashamed of? We don’t share those things with others, we hide them. That’s what shame is.

You may be thinking of the story of the fish eyeballs and believe this is heading in a positive direction, but no.

It’s true that it seems logical that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder, in their extreme intimacy deficiency, would take advantage of the love that is right before them, even if they don’t understand why; that they must relieve their subconscious need. But this is not what happens. Remember, their subconscious fear of intimacy rivals their subconscious craving for it.

So I’m going to ask you to imagine the British couple lost at sea, but this time, their boat is loaded with oranges and multivitamins. And, they have been raised to believe that oranges and multivitamins are deadly poisonous. So, instead of taking advantage of all of this natural, perfectly-appetizing vitamin C right at their fingertips, they instead resort to fish eyeballs as a substitute to fulfill their subconscious craving. This is akin to what people with Borderline Personality Disorder do.

In their extreme desperation, many resort to flirting, affairs, and sexual escapades as an inferior, but related, substitute for intimacy, and since it’s merely an inferior substitute for what they actually need, their craving is ongoing. They’ll never feel full. And just like the English couple lost at sea, they have no clue why they develop these compulsions.

In short, a person with unrecognized Borderline Personality Disorder cannot experience the full benefit of any genuine love you might have for them.

This is not a reflection of your love. It is a reflection of what their subconscious self cannot allow. It is guarding their emotional safety. For those who have Borderline Personality Disorder (or had, such as myself) our past environment required this protection from intimacy because our environment was emotionally dangerous. We are now stuck in this guarded, protective state, by default, as a result. Our environment molded us, and then our environment changed, but the original environment remains our template for how to survive life in general.

It’s like tiny children who were bitten by dogs now walking around as large adults, irrationally on high alert around every dog they encounter - even chihuahuas. I have met these people, and perhaps you have, too. Their subconscious minds cannot accept that the dynamics have changed; they are no longer small, weak children. They are now capable of kicking a chihuahua to the moon if necessary. .

Subconscious is a key word. Folks with Borderline Personality Disorder are generally unaware that they want intimacy, or that they themselves are blocking it. They are oblivious to their feelings about intimacy, and they are certainly oblivious to the reasons behind these feelings. If you were to ask them, they would probably deny having any conscious aversion to intimacy whatsoever. Most of them might not understand what intimacy actually is, and believe they are already experiencing intimacy. (“Intimacy? Of course I know intimacy! I’ve been living with the same man for ten years, that seems pretty intimate to me.”)

However, their subconscious mind is diligently guarding their safety, and this means it will not allow genuine intimacy, for that is vulnerability, and vulnerability is an opening for an emotional kill shot.

So, no. Nobody with Borderline Personality Disorder can experience genuine happiness, no matter how much you love them. They have a subconscious wall in place preventing intimacy. And genuine love - genuine happiness - depends on healthfully having your needs met, and providing for another’s needs. In the case of relationships, that need is intimacy. Genuine, healthy, romantic love cannot exist without it.


Nobody has to continue to live with Borderline Personality Disorder. You can eliminate it. No, I did not say ‘control the symptoms’, I said eliminate it. I invite you to read my other articles to learn how.

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