Please Note: The ideas contained in this FAQ are the opinions of the writer and are communicated without reference to supporting documentation in most cases. Other inspiration and influence for the writing came through consultation with other mental health professionals but the writer “Peter Quintano” is also fully qualified in DBT making him qualified to talk about the things discussed in this article.
To put mastering Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a nutshell, one has to only realize that all emotions that are possible to experience in a human body must at all times be faced with courage. Unfortunately, it is much easier to utter the words “I am willing to face all emotions with courage” than it is to fully comprehend and follow through with such a commitment, and this is one of the reasons that BPD can be very hard to adjust.
One of the primary reasons that a person ends up trapped in a BPD pattern is because his emotions can be particularly powerful, and therefore, hard to experience. Another likely reason is that there were few opportunities (or no opportunities at all) to learn how to live with powerful emotions from childhood on-wards. That being understood and noted, the person who realizes he is – for now – trapped in a BPD pattern can make the choice to learn HOW to work through/move through his emotional experience, and thus, experience life differently. The choice has always been there, although awareness of such a choice and how to make it most definitely was not.
If you’re still beating yourself up (judging yourself) for having so much difficulty with working through your powerful emotions constructively, take this one moment to relieve yourself of this judgment! YOU HAVE NOT KNOWN HOW TO DO IT. The urge to harshly judge yourself for having difficulty managing emotions will no doubt come back to haunt you again and again, but you are discovering new ways to release yourself from this kind of unnecessary suffering. Keep reading!
There are many life experiences and many thoughts that happen every singe day, and this equates to a very challenging emotional reality for humans “head-cuffed” to a highly sensitive emotional centre of the brain (the Amygdala). Without specific instructions and guided teaching for how to live with a highly sensitive emotional centre of the brain, it is almost guaranteed that many harmful, neglectful, and self-defeating approaches to inescapable emotions will get used.
There are many ways a human will attempt to avoid taking courageous responsibility for emotions while he does not yet know what this means and how to do it. Consider the many behaviours that have a high potential to make life harder to live, such as impulsive (and habitual) anger, impulsive (and habitual) shopping and sexuality, substance abuse, and self-harm. These are just a few possibilities in a wide range of unhealthy/emotional avoidance approaches to emotional difficulties. These behaviours are often used to “make space” between self and challenging emotions, although the “emotional benefits” are always temporary and often come loaded with unpleasant consequences (natural life consequences).
There are many other more subtle ways to avoid taking courageous responsibility for emotions, such as being disproportionately engaged in work activities, leisure activities, daily chores, hobbies, and even thinking and belief systems. Again, the reason these get over-used (or used as emotional avoidance tactics) is that the individual has not yet learned to identify and work through emotions directly. There are consequences associated with living in patterns of emotional avoidance of this nature as well, although perhaps not as obvious and immediate. For example, a person may eventually experience physical/mental burnout, become highly resentful, or lose sight of individual identity. These more subtle avoidance behaviours may also eventually turn into more extreme behaviours when symptoms start to become intolerable.
Motivation for learning to face emotions with courage comes with realizing there is no other way to be released from the destructive pattern that BPD is until you learn to face them. You can continue using tactics to avoid taking real emotional responsibility and continue reaping the many awful consequences, or you can figure out HOW to live with your emotions as they are, and thus, learn how to effectively live in your body.
Facing emotions with courage is a type of learning that no one can do for you, nor something you can buy prepackaged to shortcut the learning process. However, it is also true that being supported by caring for others while learning to face emotions can make for more efficient learning. Not that it is easy to recruit others into a new learning process for emotions, because most people in modern culture (whether afflicted with BPD or not) use emotional avoidance tactics as well.
The featured image of this article (the first one with a woman viewing herself in a mirror) is meant to be symbolic of facing emotions with courage, meaning to be present with your emotions without any evasion and with complete honesty and caring. The image isn’t meant to be taken literally, so please don’t think you need to get undressed and look in the mirror to work through your emotions courageously! LOL! But seriously, if you are going to take real responsibility for your emotions, then it means being willing to remain curious about your emotional experience and notice it for what it is. If you are feeling shame, then notice it for what it is, give it the proper name, sit with it, breathe through it, and find ways to validate it so that it can resolve and you can use your logical mind.
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