**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.
As a person who struggles day-to-day with intense emotions and the tendency to “fall into” irrational thought traps, one of the hardest parts of living in this world can be exposure to the narratives of the news, of politicians, and others who have a way of “shining the spotlight” on particular aspects of human life deemed (by them) as important or relevant. Just like everybody else, a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has to figure out ways to participate in and sort out the masses of information circulating in the age of instant information. But not like many others, a person with BPD has the extraordinary additional challenge of trying to prevent getting polarized in thoughts and feelings, and likewise, prevent falling into patterns of unwise decision-making and unnecessary misery.
I write this article as much for myself as for others who may find themselves feeling afraid and pessimistic much more than is needed. I can’t even remember a time in my life when fear-inducing/sadness-inducing types of information (e.g., wars, political uproar, famine, disaster) were not daily brought to my attention, either through the mass media or overhearing the conversations of others. It’s as though our daily diet of information has been designed by those in power to include “ingredients” sufficient for many to eventually develop mental illness. Some might say this way of looking at things is nothing more than conspiratorial speculation, but the fact seems to remain that we humans have a habit of mass-producing and mass-promoting fear-inducing/sadness-inducing content.
A big part of struggling with mental health issues is connected to experiencing unbalanced (or biased) patterns of thought, and therefore, not seeing, ignoring, or forgetting other relevant life information… about ourselves, about others, and about the world. Speaking in Cognitive Behavioural terms, this would be referred to as applying a “mental filter” – picking out a few details and dwelling on them exclusively.
If much of the content we consume focuses on a particular set of details (e.g., a sad or fearful type of perspective), then of course we will develop a “mental filter” complimentary to that which we consume the most. After developing this filter, we will process most (or even all) life information through that filter. Our particular “mental filter” will then dictate the essence of our emotional experience, since the ways we perceive life and subsequently produce thoughts literally creates our emotions.
News companies most likely DO NOT consider the potential mental health ramifications of what they do. After all, they are in the reporting business – invested in attracting the attention of readers and pleasing advertisers – and not in the mental health business. Mental health, no doubt, is considered by these organizations as being the SOLE responsibility of the consumer (consumer beware). The reality, however, is that the consumer of information could easily develop “a mental filter” without his awareness since he is NOT forewarned that his consumption of information could contribute to such a mental health issue. Have you ever seen a mental health warning prior to watching newscast that, for instance, indicates “97% of the information you are about to watch may be fear-inducing, frustration-inducing, or sadness-inducing, and only about 3% of the content will be uplifting and presented late in the program?” No? Neither have I!
It took me a long time to notice how stuck I was in my “mental filter,” and, truth be told, I continue to have difficulty at times putting life information into a healthy perspective. I was, for instance, stuck on biased views such as “humanity is out to destroy itself” and “humanity has enslaved itself in its use of money systems.” Perhaps these views are true to some extent; perhaps barely at all. That being said, I have also started to recognize that there are many uplifting, inspiring, health-promoting, and heart-warming events taking place all over the place. All a person has to do is start looking for this other relevant information and he can find it. There are news apps dedicated to spreading “positive news”, swarms of online videos, and legions of individuals and organizations seeking to help others suffering with mental health and many other issues.
The good news for people with Borderline Personality Disorder is that life is neither “all good” nor “all bad”, both on the micro level (your personal life) and the macro level (all things happening in the world). As much as there is awfulness and abuse in the world, there is at the same time many things wonderful and hopeful. We can prove this by taking it upon ourselves to look for the information and deciding what types of information we are going to consume and how much. We can also remain highly critical of all that we consume through the mass media.
I, for one, am going to continue making a point of structuring my media intake to include a healthy dose of uplifting information, since it is available, and real, and just as relevant as the other more readily available (usually negative) information. In other words, I am going to continue working on adjusting my “mental filter.”
Good questions to continue asking yourself are: “what am I about to put into my mind?” and “is it about time that I put something different into my mind to balance things out?” Being a person who experiences emotional challenges and who is working towards developing an awareness of, acceptance of, and tolerance of all human emotion, I believe it is good practice to allow exposure to all sorts of life experience and information (with exception to the extremely dangerous or toxic, or that which runs contrary to held morals and values). The challenge will always be there to process the information until it becomes useful as wisdom, and likewise, to use the information for making informed/wise decisions.
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