Connections between Self-Defeating Beliefs and BPD – Step 4 (slide set 1)

**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. Any uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer

Author: Peter Miller

As humans, we desire to feel safe and secure. This inner sense of safety and security is best achieved through stable early life relationships (parent/child). That being said, this sense of safety and security often gets undermined as a result of common childhood experiences and exposure to patterns of dysfunction (e.g., emotional neglect, lack of emotional guidance, unhealthy parents, ongoing conflicts between parents, ongoing conflicts between parents and children, broken families). Many of us, unfortunately, shortly after coming into this world are exposed to the sorts of circumstances mentioned above, and so do not receive a good orientation to our emotions and how to skillfully manage our “internal experience”.

A consequence of this “broken experience” is to develop certain beliefs (or sets of expectations/assumptions) about people, life situations, and the world in general. In other words, in the absence of developing a natural inner security through healthy living arrangements with healthy caregivers, we may invent ideas, concepts, and rules about people, life situations, and the world, that provide us with “a sense” of having the much-desired safety and security feelings. However, in reality, the “sense of security” stemming from invented beliefs does not provide a real or lasting inner security – it is only a false (or fleeting) sense of security.

These beliefs may help us function and survive for certain periods of time when we have very little personal power and freedom (such as during childhood and/or teen years) but ultimately do not support healthy functioning in the long-run, both within ourselves and with others. Beliefs like this therefore become “self-defeating” because they work to undermine our attempts at meeting important needs instead of supporting a healthy and fulfilling life experience. An example of a self-defeating belief is explained below the first slide.

It is common for people who suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to have experienced instability during childhood, or otherwise to have been provided little in the way of healthy role modelling and emotional and cognitive (thinking) guidance. A common result of the childhood experience is to truly believe what has been seen, heard, and experienced. Beliefs can therefore be passed down and beliefs can be made up as development proceeds – healthy or unhealthy – it matters not.

For instance, early life experiences of betrayal or abandonment with parents may suggest to a child that “people cannot be trusted”. A common occurrence in this regard is when parents’ divorce, or when the connection between parents and children gets interrupted by life circumstances (e.g., work/financial demands, health issues). Having early life experiences like these, it becomes understandable that a child might develop expectations about getting hurt in relationships, so as to reduce the risk of repeat emotional suffering in the future.

When relationships are attempted throughout life, this individual may become controlling and distrustful of his or her partner and/or repeatedly seek out reassurance that he or she is safe (from abandonment/betrayal) in the relationship. If the partner does not comply with the control and reassurance seeking, it may result in an emotional outburst or some other type of passive/aggressive, or aggressive, response. As you can probably imagine, having these sorts of “distrust behaviors” in a relationship would increase the chances of relationship breakdown and breakup, since it would be very hard for the partner to live life freely, and likewise to live free from abusiveness.

The ongoing problem for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) therefore becomes one of trying (but repeatedly failing) to get settled into a long-term relationship. Since intimate relationships are where humans get some of their most important needs met, problems sustaining relationships that require trust can add yet another layer of emotional suffering for a person with BPD.

An important goal for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in therapy, is, therefore, to begin recognizing the types of self-defeating beliefs that have been formed over time, and how they have been used to provide a false sense of security instead of supporting a healthy and fulfilling life experience. There are many different types of self-defeating beliefs that can get formed, and these will be shared in upcoming slides as you continue your laerning with the 9-steps. As you can see in the last slide on this page, however, self-defeating beliefs tend to be extreme in nature, and so cannot possibly provide a helpful structure for a human to function and adapt to an ever changing world, and likewise to live with other human beings going through their own learning and evolving.

Making adjustments to unhealthy belief systems developed in early life circumstances requires learning to self-reflect, to become mindful, and likewise to understand and manage emotional struggles connected to the beliefs. Learning about emotions later in life is possible, but requires a willingness to be vulnerable and to explore feelings without retreating into defensive anger or continual distraction/dissociation/redirection.

Recognizing that it is absolutely necessary to make adjustments to unhealthy beliefs in order to function better is an important first step; the next step is to seek out a therapeutic connection (and therewith experience therapeutic treatments) that can with acknowledging and working through emotional intolerances that are connected to the unhealthy beliefs. In time, and with trust and effort in your therapeutic connection, the beliefs and related thoughts can be adjusted, and the emotions connected to the beliefs… those that were previously intolerable and avoided at any cost… can now be tolerated and processed as necessary.