When you pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee or even wine for you and someone else which cup do you fill first? Many of my clients with BPD report that they will often fill the other cup before filling their own as it is…”polite”. In terms of social behaviour that is probably the right way to do things, but what happens when you don’t have enough drink to fill your own cup? When I asked this to those very same clients almost all of them said they would simply go without. I think by now most of you realise where this is going…
Society teaches us that taking care of ourselves before others is selfish and a bad thing, but yet in any emergency situation the best advice is always to deal with your own emergency rather than others around you. On a plane, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen masks first as you can’t consider helping others until you are in a safe space to offer this assistance and this is something that easily relates back to BPD.
If you ask most people with BPD what makes them happy many of them will tell you that making others happy is what makes them happy! With the BPD symptom of Unclear or Shifting Self-Image in full effect, people tell me that they often find themself trying to ‘blend in’ and match the personalities of others around them. Some people will even mimic those around them, but they don’t do it to feel happy themselves, they do it because they think that is what others want from them. To fit in, to blend into society and not be such a burden.
Part of DBT is to teach you about filling your own cup first. To be yourself rather than trying to blend into something you are not. If you want to take care of yourself you need to make sure your own cup is filled before pouring a drink for others, or offering support for them and trying to please them. You need to be happy with yourself, not trying to please others. We do this because there will be times when you have nothing left to share. No drink to offer, no emotional support, no cares left to give. You will be left feeling empty inside and craving fulfilment. Sound familiar? that’s because it is, welcome to the BPD symptom of ‘Chronic Feelings of Emptiness‘. So next time you are willing to share what you have with others, make sure your own cup is filled to the brim first.
This Weeks Homework: What I would like you to do this week is fill a cup with water…only do this with your eyes closed (make sure you do this in a sink, a tray or on a draining board). Try to guess how much liquid you need to put into the cup before it is full, but not by guesswork, but by listening to the sound as the cup fills up. Once you learn what sounds the cup makes when it is full you should be able to fill the cup up to the top without it spilling over. Once you have achieved this note how satisfied you feel and remember it.