**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
Would you believe me if I told you that many of the thoughts an emotionally troubled person experiences in a single day are useless garbage? These are the types of thoughts that are not needed (or at best unhelpful) for solving the immediate problems of everyday living, but tend to show up in the mind anyways and require strong self-awareness and skills to sort out… to manage.
Many of these unnecessary thoughts involve concerns about past or future, tend to be skewed in particular ways, and can also lead a person to go on many other unnecessary “thought tangents”. All of this thinking can really be for nothing and use up precious energy, and worse yet result in doing things and experiencing many consequences such that life becomes harder to live than it was before. Interesting, isn’t it?
I have posted several examples of these kinds of thoughts in the slides below. They are common both for people who suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and those who don’t. Perhaps you have experienced some of them? I know that I have, and still to this day face the challenge of acknowledging and adjusting how I think!
It is important to realize that human thoughts can take on all sorts of forms: they can be extremely simple, they can be extremely complicated, or they can be somewhere in the middle. You will notice that the unhealthy (or “useless”) types of thoughts tend to have “biases” or “extremes’ in the ways that they are worded, and likewise do not make space for information that could help put things into different perspectives. Notice also how these kinds of thoughts will result in a more extreme emotional experience, just because of the way they are worded (including words like “always”, “never”, etc.). One of the BreakAway MHE blog articles explains more about common BPD language issues.
When a person is working through Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it is very important for that person to become mindfully aware of the types of thoughts that form his thinking pattern. It is also very important for a person with BPD to become mindfully aware of the feelings that are experienced when these thoughts happen, so that eventually that person can effectively attend to the feelings and take steps to adjust the thoughts that got him to this feeling place. Remaining stuck in a very difficult “feeling place” for too long usually results in some sort of ineffective reaction or impulsive behavior, and this can result in more life problems and regrets.
One of the primary challenges of having strong feelings (as in cases of BPD) is that it tends to increase the belief as person has about his thoughts. In other words… thoughts can produce such strong associated feelings that whatever interpretation a struggling person makes about a situation can seem like “the ONLY way” of looking at things. This is the essence of “getting stuck” in thoughts. Then if anyone challenges that “ONE way” of looking at things that seems like “the ONLY way” of looking at things, it can result in extreme distress. This extreme distress happens (at least in part) because of the sensation of having your way of making sense of the world removed, and thus having no security of mind left.
The immense challenge for persons with BPD therefore becomes learning how to take care of body and mind (especially the emotions) such that they can form multiple interpretations for every life situation experienced. So, if anyone has a different way of looking at things (different opinion, perspective, etc.) then they can work with others to find common ground and compromise, or otherwise find acceptance for things undesirable that can’t be changed.
Remaining “stuck” in the types of thoughts you see in these slides can make it very hard to work with anyone… to solve the problems of everyday life… since every person has their own unique way of looking at every life situation. Remaining “stuck” like this is also a strong contributing factor in conflict/drama.
Again, regular people (not suffering with BPD) can fall into these “thought traps” as well, although it might not happen as often or involve as big of reactions because of the feeling experience being less intense. That being said, when “non-BPD’s” fall into these thought traps in conversation with persons suffering with BPD, it can be hard for persons with BPD to not follow suit because of the tendency to “go there” already being so strong.
Perhaps you are beginning to notice how thoughts like those in the slides may be used for the purpose of trying to make life more predictable and less emotionally shocking. In other words, unhelpful thoughts like these may include the short-term benefit of “feeling more in control” of life, but then on the other hand can result in long-term experiencing of other difficult emotions (and reactions to emotions) that makes life harder to live.
For instance, if a person makes it his habit to remove credit that is due to him (discounting the positive) he may believe that he experiences the short-term benefit of avoiding being judged as “arrogant” or “haughty” (hence avoiding guilt or shame feelings) but then in the long-run may undermine his self-confidence by not allowing any sense of achievement (hence inducing low-worth feelings) and maybe giving up on his ambitions more often.
A similar scenario may be use of the “mental filter” for the short-term benefit of believing there is safety from experiencing future criticism (hence avoiding low-worth feeling) but then in the long-run developing a pattern of self-judgment (hence inducing shame feelings) and maybe becoming an irritable perfectionist.
Again, much of what people are doing when using these unhealthy thoughts is attempting to create a sense of inner “safety” or “security”, albeit a false one. It is false, because in reality there is no healthy way to escape human emotions.
When there are poor attachment experiences in childhood, the long-term consequence can be an ongoing yearning to create this sense of security (no matter how self-defeating it may be) therefore perhaps clinging to thoughts that may SEEM to make the world more predictable or emotionally safe to live in.
Instead of working so hard to try and avoid feelings in these various ways, the better path is to become familiar with all your emotions. Becoming bravely aware and tolerant of your emotions, you can then move from a false sense of security to a natural strength and confidence in yourself. The urge to avoid certain types of feeling no longer dictates how you think, believe, or behave. This way of being greatly increases the odds for experiencing true freedom, wisdom, and creativity as life unfolds.