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

If you want to master 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 specific ways because you probably have specific neurological vulnerabilities and sensitivities you do not understand, and have perhaps never understood.

There is a good chance your brain development may have been impacted somewhere along the line as a result of specific environmental conditions or traumatic experiences. Many of those who suffer from BPD, in fact, have both neurological vulnerabilities and traumatic life experiences that have influenced 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. Therefore, 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 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 assumptions, 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 opts merely to believe the threat is real most 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 severe problems in your behaviour and relationships, and I did.

Regarding my 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 specific 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 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 a religious fanatic, and due to a marital fallout with my father was dramatically in and out of my life several times between the ages of about 10-13, and then entirely 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 else 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 wrong 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 problems and conflicts; they also probably didn’t have the first clue how to recognize how the 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 necessities of life 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.