Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Be Mindful with Borderline Personality Disorder

Learning to be mindful of our emotions, feelings, and thoughts is important for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. Like any problem in life, it’s difficult to work through a sticky situation if you don’t know what the underlying cause for that situation is. Being mindful of yourself is where you need to begin. When you are mindful of your emotions it becomes possible to accept and tolerate the intense feelings that seem to emerge out of nowhere when we are presented with a stressful situation. Being mindful helps you find that origin, locate where they came from, and get to the heart of the problem.
Many of you may recognize this as one of the core concepts in Marsha M. Linehan’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The goal of Mindfulness is to help you pay attention to what is going on around you and inside you; observe it in a non-judgmental way, and learn to live in the present moment by actually experiencing your senses and emotions fully, but with a reasonable perspective.
This is not a skill that can be developed over night. It takes time and practice, but it can work for you if you allow yourself to internalize the tenants.
Linehan breaks these down into two sets: The “What” skills and the “How” skills. These sets of skills, ultimately, will help you learn emotional acceptance. It’s very difficult to heal from a traumatic experience if you cannot accept how it actually affects you. In order to achieve true healing, you must accept that what is occurring within your body and mind is a real experience. Experience it, understand it, and then you can begin to heal from it.
For me this is difficult. I fight my emotions. I fight my feelings. I suppress, repress, and completely detach from the conflict occurring inside of myself. As I’ve mentioned though, this only works to make things worse in the long run. It may make the moment appear manageable, but eventually it catches up with you.
So how do you work on being Mindful? Today let’s look at the “What” Skills.
Observe. Describe. Participate.
Observe – This is the act of experiencing with awareness your feelings, thoughts, and sensations without trying to describe them with words. In order to observe yourself you need to take a step back in order to re-orient yourself into the present moment. Often people get stuck in their own minds; they become preoccupied with thoughts, ruminations, and distractions. These things inhibit your ability to see what is actually going on around you in the present moment. By simply observing how you feel, without judging it or trying to describe it, it allows you to become a blank canvas.
Describe – This is where you actually attempt to put into words the thoughts and feelings that you have observed in yourself. The words you choose should not be judgmental! Just describe the facts of what is going on, do not try to interpret what is happening yet. This helps cultivate self-control. Describing what you think in words, describing your feelings, your emotions allows you to become focused. This helps gain control over those distractions that take you out of the present moment.
Participate – This is when you decide to become involved in what you are working through and doing. To do this, you must allow yourself to experience.
Allow yourself to actually feel the emotions you are having. This may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to get rid of painful feelings. But if you don’t experience and acknowledge the pain, all you will do is repress it and avoid it, which will not help you move past it. By observing how you are feeling, letting yourself feel it, you can then take the next step.
When you’ve allowed yourself to observe how you feel, have permitted yourself to actually accept how you feel, it can be very painful. However, it provides the opportunity to work on what is causing your this pain. When you recognize the source, and ultimately are able to begin a path towards healing from the pain, you will form a cognitive attachment to the fact that you have experience painful emotions, however, these emotions and feelings, are temporary. One of the biggest problems for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is that, in the moment of painful experiences, it can feel like the world is ending. All that you know and feel is the pain you are in at the moment and it feels like that pain will never go away. When everything you do works to avoid pain, bury pain, hide pain within so that you do not experience it directly, it builds up and lurks below your surface. In this way it IS ACTUALLY ever present. It’s always there because instead of facing it, dealing with it, and ultimately healing from it, you’re allowing it to take up residence in the basement of your mind. Allowing yourself to experience painful emotions provides the ability to accept these emotions, work through them, and then let them move on, and move out of your life. It’s like mental housekeeping. Ultimately too, this will allow you to connect to happy and pleasurable emotions as well! Sound strange? When you attempt to cut yourself off from feeling, your body doesn’t work along a clear cut line. You can’t tell yourself, “Ok brain, I’m just not going to feel A, B, and C, but D, E, and F are good to go”. No. When you dull one mechanism you work to dull all mechanisms of feeling, which means it’s also harder to feel happiness and internalize positive emotions.
Often it feels like a compromise. In the past, and honestly right now in my present, I’m still fighting with a sort of stunted compromise. I may not be totally happy, but at least I’m not in devastating pain either. Does this sound pleasant to you? It doesn’t feel pleasant to me. In fact, it’s a pretty lame compromise.
Don’t compromise on having a fulfilling life.
When you don’t allow yourself to experience the pain you’re going through, you can not realize the there is, in fact, a finite resolution. When you suppress the pain, it continues to lurk. This is why it feels like the pain will never end… because you don’t give it the opportunity to! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy of internal pain.  And that pain can last indefinitely. You have to choose not to let it. It does mean opening yourself to some difficult emotions in the present, but once you do, you will also be opening yourself up to a wider range of happiness and unburdened living as well.
I’m still working on this. It’s not easy. It does take time, but it’s happening. Slowly. I think. =P  


  1. I have dealt with borderline personality disorder for a few years now. Often I get this strange feeling that I can't control myself. Your three skills on how to be mindful help with this feeling of uncontrollable anger. I learned other techniques like self time-outs which help me suppress my anger at I recommend anyone dealing with BPD to take a look.

  2. I spent my life sweeping my issues under the rug, not really processing. My childhood, my rape, even my divorce. I talked a little about stuff with my exhusband but he was not helpful. He invalidated and did the same dance my mother did, which is to say he would somehow turn all of my turbulence around so that I would feel bad for him and bottle up my emotions further.

    My friend broke up with me right before I went to see my folks. It was my first time seeing my family post divorce and I had a lot of emotions bottled that I didnt want to deal with surrounding my childhood and my rape, as well as my marriage. I was dreading seeing them and had begun acting out, getting very emotionally labile and clingy towards my friend. He broke up with me for the greener grass of stability in the form of a princess. I love how guys talk about how they cant live up to prince charming, but still seek out the princess. Lol. So when I got home and he was still pestering me to be his friend, all the while having broken me into pieces, I snapped. I know I wouldnt have "ruined his life" if I had been allowing myself to feel, but he was pushing me to bottle, like everyone else always does. He seems like he kinda understands why I did it, but I worry that he just thinks of me as a crazy woman. He has used that word. I hate that word.

    Sometimes I feel so broken that a healthy relationship isnt possible. Even the broken men, who should be in relationships with broken women, still want some perfect superwoman who is capable of completely controlling her emotions.

    Meh. Gloomy day. Im going to force myself to have a cry later. I am trying to allow myself to feel. Its ok. I dont have to be perfect. That standard is totally unreasonable and destructive.

    1. I've just reached a point where I don't talk about my shit with people. I automatically assume that they'll invalidate me, or think I'm being stupid and weak. Which is me, invalidating myself, before they can! I don't even think about it. It's just how I think. It sucks.

      What drives me nuts, is when Nons don't see their own actions. We're always the "crazy" ones because we feel the brunt of this emotional bullshit, but they refuse to acknowledge that they could possibly have anything to do with how we got to this place. I'm not saying it's all their fault, but it takes other peoples contributions to get us worked up. It's hard to have drama when you're by yourself, yanno?

      I always feel broken ::hugs:: I think people are stupid for wanting to date me (even though cognitively I know I have a lot to offer). People have such unreasonable expectations for how other people are supposed to act. I don't understand where this all comes from.

      I should do the crying thing, but I'm pretty bad at it unless I'm having a meltdown. You're right, perfection is a totally unrealistic standard, and it's not even fun! Who wants to go around being perfect all the time? I'll tell ya, I've done some pretty silly shit in my day, and it's been fun as hell. Bleh, and yet... Ugh.

    2. Well I didnt get much of a cry. A few tears. I swear I cried a lifetimes worth during my separation/divorce (between manic fun episodes lol) I have a harder time crying now. I think Ive excised a lot of my histrionic mother tendencies that I internalized. She can sit and weep. I dont want to.

      I know what you mean about invalidating yourself first. Somehow, my friend still saw my instability, even though I was projecting my cool demeanor. It ws once the engulfment kicked in and I started to panic about the nature of the relationship. Happened when he used the L word. It wasnt accidental, either. He had my face in his hand while we were cuddled naked in a natural hot spring. Meh. The romance of it all got me all twisted.

      He told me once, a week before he left me for the princess that he wouldnt like me if I was perfect. I was drunk and confessing fears to him like a retard. I opened up emotionally and a week later was replaced by his dream girl. No wonder I went nuts and sent her a string of emails. ;) He is taking some responsibility, but he knows that my actions werent the "normal" response. So now we are doing this weird dance and we dont quite trust each other, but we fit together so well. Ah, aint love grand!

  3. Ive been reading some of your older posts. What I think of as codependent I think may be engulfment. I know if it were real codependence, I would probably just latch onto the first guy I see. Another cod type. I cant really deal with those, especially after my marriage. I have one chasing me now. Even if he werent a rude, jobless loser, I still wouldnt want him because hes so needy. Also already devalued and it doesnt matter how much he pursues me. I know its off topic. Hes not my friend, who right now, despite all the weirdness and his aloofness, is still the one who makes me wet.

    1. Engulfment and Codependence often go hand in hand. It may be one of those: If you're A then you're also B, but if you're B, you're not necessarily A (retangles and squares, yanno?). I think you can be Engulfed but not Co-D, but being Co-D might encapsulate a life of Engulfed relationships. Something like that.

      I actually can not deal with codependent people. For as much as I like being with someone and having someone to take care of, I'm very bad at letting others take care of me, and if it feels like you're smothering me, no way, I'm out. I'll probably be back again, but for the moment, buh bye, hahahaha.

      It's so funny what attracts you to someone and what doesn't. I just don't understand it sometimes.

    2. I hate being smothered like that too, but it doesnt seem to stop me from being all like that when Im involved with someone I really like. Ugh. Im trying to be kind, forgiving, and patient with myself. Baby steps.

    3. ::hugs:: You'll get there. I think I suprise the crap out of guys (girls never seem to mind) when I turn out to be a cuddle bug (Don't tell anyone I used this term to describe myself - said the girl that is posting this on her public blog, anyways) because out and about in the world when I'm running around with my pro-mask on I'm kind of a badass (sorry, I'm in a really weird mood today). But then I'm all cuddly, and they're like, wow you're different than I thought you'd be. Which usually ends up with them being way more cuddly than I ever expected too. Like Tech Boy, WAY cuddly. It's adorable. I had a point. Maybe not. Cuddling is good. Smothering is bad. Ok.

    4. Cuddling is good, smothering is bad. So true!

      Since I backed off my friend and started actively countering my clinginess, he has got back to the cuddly sweet fella he was before stuff got weird. Last night he was so yummy.

    5. Woot, yumminess. Yeah I find a healthy dose of aloofness thrown in too makes them wonder why you're not all over them so they try harder too.

  4. I was a patient of a local DBT clinic for about 18 months and I do have to say, it does really really help. I don't know if all DBT groups do it the same, but this clinic is well known and seems to have it all down to a science. I've been out of the program for about a year now and it is super helpful if you stick to it and practice it daily. I know when times are rough for me and I choose not to use my DBT skills, things go from bad to worse in seconds. The trick is learning it and practicing it and making it an everyday thing that you do without thinking... still working on that!

    1. This is exactly why I think therapy is so important for BPD. It's all about learning how to cope and deal with what we're going through. We need to develop skills to help us manage our emotions and they're not necessarily things that just come naturally.

      It really is a life-long decision. Therapy won't change our brain chemistry, but when you practice something long enough, it does become second nature eventually and that can really help us.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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