**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
There are many skills and concepts to learn when you are working your way through Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, when considering which skills are more or less essential to make progress and adjust the BPD pattern into something less destructive, I believe there is at least one skill area that must take priority above all others. In general, this is the skill area of self-awareness or self-reflection. In particular, this is the skill area often referred to as mindfulness. I believe that as a person learns more and more about her mental health and which thought/emotion/ behaviour patterns apply to her, then she is growing more and more in self-awareness, and therefore, more and more capable of making in-the-moment adjustments to function better.
Marsha Linehan talks about self-awareness in BPD using the analogy that “you are learning to turn on the lights so that you can avoid tripping over furniture placed in the rooms that you walk through.” She is saying that developing self-awareness means you are learning to “see” what’s happening when it’s happening – inside of you – in the moments of your life, including your thoughts, emotions, and impulses to act in certain ways. Without developing self-awareness, the likely consequence is that you will “continue tripping over the furniture in the rooms of your life as you attempt to walk through them.” When you are “tripping over the furniture,” this means you can’t see things coming, and are therefore having unnecessarily tricky life moments with emotions and relationships, for example.
In conditions like BPD, it is not uncommon to have a difficult time with emotions EVERY SINGLE DAY, regardless of whether you are around others who could influence the way you feel, or not. Interacting with others usually means more emotional challenge than being by yourself, since every interaction has the potential to induce more new thinking and feeling, as well as emotional memory recall. With the emotional challenge being so consistently high and affecting the difficulty level of living life, this is why people suffering from BPD might start entertaining life-ending (suicidal) thoughts – it can seem like the only way to get relief from ongoing struggle.
Many stored memories might pop into awareness and trigger emotions, and likewise many ideas about people and the future that have the potential to “fill your emotional cup to overflowing.” If there is no developed ability to “see,” and therefore to process, at least a portion of this mind/body content, then it makes sense that a great deal of emotional pressure could build up inside a suffering person – and believe me, IT DOES. When the pressure builds up too much, this is when functioning in relationships and problem-solving ability starts to deteriorate, among other things. People (sometimes BPD themselves, sometimes not) often get angry at people who have BPD because they don’t like what it looks like when the internal pressure is too high and can’t be turned down.
In many instances before a person with BPD has developed self-awareness sufficient to reduce internal pressure, this is when emotional avoidance behaviours will be used to cope with the stress… anything from getting inappropriately irritable to over-spending, to abusing substances, to self-abusing. These behaviours usually make life harder to deal with because of natural consequences. These highly stressful times are also when someone with BPD might attempt to reach out to others (to essentially receive some help with processing thoughts and feelings), but sadly in many cases doesn’t get the type of support that would reduce the internal pressure.
After “slamming into these walls of ineffective coping and unavailable support” repeatedly, this is when the most toxic of BPD moments can come about, and likewise when the most vicious and unhelpful counter-measures can be taken by those who don’t understand BPD for what it is (an inability to “see” and adjust thoughts, feelings, and behaviors).
When suffering from BPD and realizing the extreme limitations of support available through the people you know and love, you have to decide how far you are willing to go to release yourself from the ongoing and unnecessary suffering in thinking, feeling, and behaving. From my experience as a person who both suffers from BPD symptoms and works with others to deal with BPD, you can indeed release yourself from much of the suffering if you are relentless about developing self-awareness. No one can give it to you, no matter how upset you get and no matter how much you react. But you can give it to yourself through your dedication to develop it.
Developing self-awareness requires BOTH studying Borderline Personality Disorder using the resources that make the most profound impact for you, plus practicing self-awareness (mindfulness) in the ways that work best for you, every day. The 9-Steps at BreakAway MHE has been developed with all of this in mind and is here to assist you with getting started or resuming your journey to wellness and freedom from BPD. If you are yet to begin your journey to freedom from BPD, then I recommend to start… and take it from me (someone who was completely blind but who can now see more and more)… you are worth it, and you can do it if you want it bad enough.