How “the Present Moment” Gets You through Borderline Personality Disorder

**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer

When a person suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the strong tendency is to “get locked” into irrational types of thought… not because he is a “bad person”, but because his emotional experience is compelling and seems to suggest that his initial perceptions (impressions, interpretations) of life events are absolute fact. Irrational thoughts tend to be rigid and more extreme (e.g., all-or-nothing, black-or-white) and often lacking in contextual information that helps to form alternative ways of looking at things. And when irrational thoughts and the accompanying intense emotions remain unadjusted (inflexible), it can very quickly turn into problems in relational functioning and difficulties problem-solving (conflict, drama, poor decision-making), and ultimately lower the quality of life experience more and more.

**If more information is needed in regards to how irrational thoughts can be a problem in BPD, it may be helpful to access Step-3 of the BreakAway MHE 9-Steps before proceeding further.

One of the realities that a person with BPD eventually discovers is that he is mostly on his own in figuring out how to manage his condition as it happens day-to-day. Others in his life may be caring in their attitudes, but be ill-equipped in understanding HOW mental health becomes a problem and HOW to be helpful to reduce the suffering. In fact, the more likely reality is that the people “who attempt to be helpful” to a person with BPD will usually say and do things that make it harder to function… not because they want to induce more suffering, but because they haven’t learned how to interact with a suffering person in a skillful way. Other people in the life of someone with BPD are also quite often focused on many things other than mental health. Therefore, not only does a person with BPD need to figure himself out, he also has to learn how to live in a world and in relationships where mental health hasn’t been a high priority.

**If more information is needed in regards to how significant others can accidentally make BPD worse, it may be helpful to read this BreakAway MHE article before proceeding further.

To realistically have a chance of breaking free from the Borderline Personality Disorder pattern, then you need to have something that will consistently help you to function better. Whatever that thing is that you use to function better, it needs to be accessible 24/7 and not be reliant on the helpfulness of the others. In my own experience working through BPD, it hasn’t been so much “a thing” that has helped me to become more self-reliant and to function better, but rather “a place” – That place is “the present moment.”

But even if this is true, then specific questions may arise, such as “what (or where) exactly is the present moment?” and “why would the present moment be such a helpful place for people with BPD to be?”

In my view, the present moment is a zone of attention that is neither invested in memories from the past nor concerns about the future. It involves using the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) to redirect attention back to what is happening moment-to-moment in daily life. It doesn’t happen automatically, and likewise isn’t something that our body takes care of for us. It involves being purposeful about noticing “how the mind goes off in different directions” and then practicing returning to a focal point of attention (such as the breath) again and again. It is like “a switch” that turns off the fight, flight, freeze response in the body when it isn’t needed.

Remaining committed to practicing finding the present moment, it then becomes possible to experience the full range of benefits the practice offers, including less sudden and less intense emotions, less emotional reactivity, and increased potential to adjust thoughts (to be more rational). All of this, again, basically implies experiencing less unnecessary fight, flight, freeze responses, and therefore not robbing the brain and body of much-needed energy and resources that it needs to function optimally as a whole. And if you suffer from BPD, these are precisely the types of functional improvements that you need to have less conflict, drama, and problems with poor decision-making.

It is important to explore different mindfulness/present-moment awareness exercises until you find one (or two, or three) that works well for you, and likewise that you are willing to practice on a regular basis. I often compare mindfulness practices to brushing your teeth, because both the brain and your teeth require routine maintenance to keep working well for you. When the brain is more sensitive, or if there is any genetic susceptibility to mental health issues, then the need for ongoing attention to brain maintenance activity becomes even more critical for you.

Please note: I do also recognize that medications are sometimes needed to assist a person with BPD to gain the maximum possible benefit from other therapy approaches (like mindfulness). That being said, I believe that getting through and living with BPD has much to do with getting good at (and being consistent with) finding the present moment. And though it may at first be hard to believe, it is, in fact, possible to work through a BPD diagnosis… as long as you have information that accurately informs your understanding about what you are going through, and how to approach the challenge of disorder wisely.







photo credit: Instagram: @jbedrina Altruegoismo (ying-yang) via photopin (license)

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