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Psychological Splitting is a defense mechanism in which a person sees situations, things and other people in black or white, all or nothing, good or evil terms.

Psychological Splitting was discovered by Sigmund Freud and was explained by him as ‘mental process by which two separate and contradictory versions of reality could co-exist’. Psychological Splitting occurs because a person has difficulty having contradictory feelings about something or someone. A person who engages in Psychological Splitting tends to have equally one sided, strong emotions about things.

Psychological Splitting as a Defense Mechanism

As an example, there are both bad and good qualities in people. Meaning no one is all good or all bad. However a person who engages in Psychological Splitting has the need to see things that way in order for the world to be safe and make sense. People who engage in Psychological Splitting may have dramatic swings in feelings towards people or things. They tend idealize people or hate them. It is difficult for these people to understand that good people can sometimes do bad things or that bad people can do good things. Splitting is a defensive psychological tactic which acts to take the person ‘off the fence’ about something or someone.

Psychological Splitting Examples

The language of another person can reveal that Psychological Splitting is taking place:

  • ‘I hate him, he is such a rotten jerk’.
  • ‘Oh my God, she is such as saint, she is one of the best people I have ever met in my life’.

Psychological Splitting is closely related to Psychological Projecting as they are both psychological defense coping mechanisms. It is worth noting that all people engage in Psychological Splitting, to some degree, as having feelings about something or someone can only be possible by dividing our experiences and events into categories. Psychological Splitting allows us to make distinctions about the millions of different and varied things and people we experience in life.