More Literary BPD!


Kirsten behaving herself

The sexually voracious Kirsten Munk (1598-1658), consort of King Christian 4th of Denmark, was terrified that, first, her lover Otto Ludwig would leave her, and then that she would lose her beloved handmaiden Emilia. She was incapable of empathy and showed no love for her children. She threw tantrums when things didn’t go her way and veered from profound love and devotion to bitter hatred when her significant others disappointed her.

Remind you of anyone?

I can’t testify to the historical truth, but it’s how Kirsten appears in Rose Tremain’s Music and Silence (1999), an August book-group selection. The sort of historical novel I don’t often read, it concerns the intrigues of the Danish court. I couldn’t help noticing Kirsten’s fear of abandonment, addictive personality, rages, lack of empathy, difficulty with being a mother, and dichotomous and distorted thinking — BPD symptoms all.

Kirsten’s strength and devious intelligence are almost admirable, but by and large she’s wickedly selfish and salacious. A Renaissance Alex Forrest.

There’s no hope — and no real humanity — in Kirsten. Which is another way of saying that identifying someone, even a literary character, as having borderline traits is usually stigmatizing.

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2 Responses to More Literary BPD!

  1. Kathy says:

    Good points. The root of “hysterical” is the Greek word for “womb.” Describing someone as “emotional” or “overly emotional” might just mean she was crying!

  2. Brigitte B says:

    I agree with the stigmatizing part. I believe that any mental illness is stigmatizing. It amazes me that people who have a mental illness, typically a mood disorder, still stigmatize those that have schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder – I may be depressed, but at least I don’t have schizophrenia. Not to minimze BPD, but I feel that any woman, especially back in the day of Kirsten would be labeled as having something for any behavior that is outside what is dictated by society. Speak your mind, you’re a troublemaker. Get naturally upset over an incident, you’re hysterical. I feel that women are stigmatized more than men are when it comes to mental illness or even just having periods of overwhelming emotions.

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