Understanding Anxiety and Emotion – Step 1 (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

Hi Everyone!! My name is Peter! I am one of many in the male population who ended up suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). No, it’s not just a female disorder! Lots of men struggle with their emotions and behaviour, and everything else that is BPD. I know this is true because of my own experiences, my own learning in psychology, and also because of the many contacts I have made as a practicing therapist in Canada.

Not knowing anything about BPD for most of my life, I reaped the many difficulties and consequences that come part-in-parcel with having it (relationship problems, identity problems, emotional problems, impulsive behaviors, etc.). Since developing a good understanding of what happened to me, and also realizing that many others suffer unnecessarily as a result of this disorder, I have felt compelled “to do something about it”… to inform others how and why BPD doesn’t have to continue ruining lives.

I realize there are many individuals and organizations doing great work to reduce that catastrophe and destruction that BPD unleashes on the lives of those that struggle, but still I want to share what I have learned… “to do my part”. Even if the things I communicate only make a small difference in the ways people suffer with BPD, I am happy to do so!

Everything you see and read here is part of a 9-step course that outlines everything I have learned over time to mostly overcome the worst parts of BPD. The steps may appear like “a lot to swallow” to get informed about an illness, and that’s probably because they are! What… you didn’t think there was going to be an easy way out of this, did you? 😉

Hey, I hear your frustration if you are having some! Without a doubt, it isn’t easy to work through this disorder and master your emotions; however, suffering with unmanageable BPD is absolutely worse than going through this kind of learning. Trust me! This is why I have broken the information down into “steps”… so you can absorb things a little at a time and then keep coming back for more.

The 9-steps includes psychological teaching as well as parts of my own experience living with and developing disorder. I will be adding to it regularly, tweaking it, and hopefully making it better and better as times goes on. The information in the 9-steps comes from my own perspective and life-story, and therefore may appeal more to a male audience and others having similar life experiences. Nonetheless I remain hopeful that anyone struggling with BPD could benefit from the things I have to say.

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If you want to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) then you need to come to grips with some of the facts about your neurology and development. You are malfunctioning in certain ways because you probably have certain neurological vulnerabilities and sensitivities you do not understand and have probably never understood.

There is a good chance your brain development may have been impacted somewhere along the line as a result of certain environmental conditions or traumatic experiences. Many of those who suffer with BPD, in fact, have both neurological vulnerabilities and traumatic life experiences that influence their brain development.

When I speak of neurological vulnerabilities in those with Borderline Personality Disorder, I am talking specifically about becoming easily and overly anxious, and likewise experiencing powerful emotions. Borderline Personality Disorder and anxiety go hand-in-hand, or hand in glove, so to speak. So, if a person doesn’t have a problem with anxiety, then he probably won’t develop BPD either. And while it is normal to have some anxiety in life so as to be alerted to danger and to take precautions when necessary, people with BPD do not tend to experience anxiety in this limited sort of way.

A person with BPD usually experiences ongoing, unnecessary or exaggerated anxiety, often combined with worry thoughts… assuming “bad things” are happening or anticipating “bad things” are going to happen (e.g., someone is going to hurt or betray me, embarrass me, reject me, or leave me, etc.). Most of these thoughts are based on limited sensory input and are therefore loaded with assumption… meaning that a person is making interpretations based on only a few things seen, heard, considered, or remembered.

In short, a person with BPD very often can’t tell the difference between real versus perceived danger and simply opts to believe the danger is real much or all of the time, and then reacts accordingly. BPD interactions with people and the world can therefore occur in very misguided and distorted ways, subsequently making for lots of confusion, drama, heartache and disappointment.

My own experience with Borderline Personality Disorder was strongly linked with believing I was threatened when I wasn’t, especially in relationships with female partners. I had anxiety in other situations outside of relationships as well, but not as potently.

The types of situations that resulted in feeling the most threatened (most anxious) were the ones in which I believed I was being rejected, devalued, guilted, shamed, or abandoned. The situations experienced combined with my skewed perceptions and worry thoughts often resulted in a toxic blend of the feelings just mentioned. And when you haven’t learned how to tolerate and process thoughts and feelings like these, you are almost guaranteed to run into serious problems in your behavior and relationships, and I did.

Regarding my own genetic history… I can’t say with complete certainty, but I believe my issues with anxiety, emotion, and eventual BPD came from a solid combination of genetic inheritance (being similar to parents in certain ways genetically) and absent or low-quality attachments with both parents. I also recall moments of high intensity family drama/conflict that no doubt contributed to destabilizing my brain parts that function to regulate anxiety and emotion.

My father was and is a chronic worrier and very often distrustful of many things. He quite often advised and warned me about the many ways life can go wrong instead of having conversations to teach me how to think for myself. I believe I was conditioned to follow Dad’s “worry and distrust” style of thinking because of the repeated exposure to his style of thinking (I grew up in Dad’s house).

My mother was and is a religious fanatic, and due to marital fallout with my father was dramatically in and out of my life several times between the ages of about 10-13, and then completely out of my life after she moved far away. There was toxicity and conflict between Mom and Dad whenever she came around, and it seemed like her religious fixations made the communication between her and anyone extremely difficult (if not impossible).

The courts ordered me to have visits with mom. Even so, I didn’t want her to come around and pick me up because of possible conflicts with Dad, plus I was annoyed and embarrassed by her religious fixations. This pattern was the norm for several years while I was young, and I’m sure triggered lots of anxiety and difficult emotions I wasn’t prepared to handle on my own. The seeds for my full blown Borderline Personality Disorder were no doubt being firmly planted.

When things went bad with family interactions in these early stages of my life, I don’t recall having someone to guide me through the anxiety and emotions I experienced. Similar to many parents, mine were preoccupied with their own problems and conflicts; they also probably didn’t have the first clue how to recognize how brain and emotional development in children could get compromised in the midst of family drama.

I recognize that Dad tried his best over the years to support me through providing the basic necessities and encouraging my hobbies and interests, but unfortunately his efforts wouldn’t make up for the family dysfunction and trauma I experienced, and likewise for my brain/developmental issues. I mostly rejected mom on account of her religious fixations and the ways I felt during visits with her… embarrassed and abandoned via religion.