I will start this weeks self-help therapy with a trigger warning. Because this week we are talking about the BPD symptom of feelings of emptiness and how it often leads to suicidal thoughts. Sure, this is a touchy subject to talk about, but it is important to understand not only what is going on when people feel this way but to also talk about ways to prevent such thoughts from occurring. So, consider yourself full warned and let’s just jump right into it…
Research has shown that about 75% of people with BPD will make at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime, and many will make multiple suicide attempts. Let’s be painfully truthful here, if you are having those kinds of thoughts the last thing you should be doing is trying to read a page of self-help. You should be seeking professional advice and help. Just to get through a single suicidal thought process is a true testament to your own survival and I respect anyone who has done so and come out the other side. So, what can you do about them?
Over the years of helping people with suicidal thoughts, I have discovered that the art of Logotherapy is the best way to deal with them. Developed by Viktor Frankl who was a Nazi concentration camp survivor who was constantly trying to find reasons to carry on with his own life. It goes without saying that he himself has daily suicidal thoughts and most probably witnessed many around him not making it through the other side of those said thoughts. Logotherapy is based on the premise that we humans are driven to find a sense of meaning and purpose in life. So to work hard, earn money or love someone, things like that.
While he was of course a prisoner, he noticed that he was still free to respond in any way he wanted to circumstances, even the most painful ones. All he did was give himself a task, a purpose in life and that purpose for him was to help out his fellow prisoners with their own severe depression. This survival technique is called ‘Dereflection’ and it is the art of redirection and distraction. By becoming overly self-absorbed with helping others he himself could survive the thoughts of suicide and emptiness. So, taking that technique into our modern-day lives you could try the dereflection of…
- I need to live because I am young and have my whole life ahead of me
- I need to live because I have others who need my care, love or attention
- I need to live so one day I can help others get through these same empty thoughts caused by having BPD
While I am not going to sit here and tell you it is easy to develop such a thought process it is more than possible even in the darkest of minds. Just try to imagine what the 20th-century psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was thinking on a daily basis and suddenly your own dark thought might no seem so dark after all. Don’t get me wrong, you can also feel like a prisoner in your own mind at times, but there are ways to shine a light on a dark place if you are willing to turn on the torch.
What I love most about Logotherapy is that the same line of thinking works in many other ways as well. You don’t need to be suicidal to use the teachings of Viktor Frankl, you can use them when you are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed! While you could argue that this method takes personal responsibility away from the individual, it is still a method that works nevertheless.
While I often talk about finding your trigger points with the BPD symptom of feelings of emptiness it can be hard to think about anything other than those thoughts of emptiness. But if you can manage to find that glimmer of hope inside the void of darkness, even if it’s just a candlelight it is something to work towards and aim at.
This Week’s Homework: I personally know a lot of people who will enjoy doing this week’s homework, because this week I would like you to carry some bubble paper around with you. Just a small bit, so you can pop them when you need to. But I don’t want you to do this in times of stress, I want you to put your hand in your pocket and start popping them when having a simple, normal conversation. Why? Because you will soon realise the power of Dereflection and will struggle to concentrate on what is being said to you. Once you realise that is happening when you are trying your hardest not to think about it, it will be far easier to do the same thing in a stressful situation or heated conversation.