Please Note: The ideas contained in this post 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.
I have followed in the footsteps of so many other males who have secretly struggled with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I know that I have suffered with the full-blown disorder, and that I still have vulnerable moments. Collecting hundreds of life stories and working with others as a therapist has confirmed to me that this is true.
Much more acknowledgement and attention on how BPD interferes with the lives of males is still needed. BPD is a common disease process of emotions, behaviors, relationships, and identity that has the power to destroy lives and families; but unfortunately, my experience continues to inform me that males are yet to fully recognize this to be true.
My ongoing goal in writing these articles is to highlight how common the BPD pattern is from a male’s point of view, but also to promote that idea that healing BPD is in fact possible.
I can’t recall exactly when it started getting easier to manage my reactions to events and people, although I do know that learning mindful awareness has played a major role in the way things now happen (for the better) in my life. Without this one crucial skill, I am certain I would have lost or severely compromised every precious relationship in my life. With practice, mindfulness works so that a person can notice and adjust unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This makes it possible to preserve life and relationships rather than have it all undermined.
For most of my life (before mindfulness and other learning in mental health) I wasn’t able to tell the difference between a feeling and a fact, and likewise between a thought and a fact. If an event resulted in experiencing a feeling that was intense, I immediately believed that MY perception of the event was the ONLY possible perception. The emotion I experienced, relative to my perception/interpretation of an event, immediately translated into “fact” for me, period. No analysis, no consideration, no nothing.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) terms, this means that emotional reasoning was a major problem for me (if I feel it, then in fact it is really happening). I also struggled with other thinking issues, such as Mind Reading (I know what you’re thinking about me), Personalizing (whatever you are struggling with has something to do with me), and All-or-Nothing thinking (either you completely love me or you completely reject me). Turns out these kinds of issues can result in serious relational difficulties, and so I will go into some detail about that for you.
Emotional reasoning in my relationships looked something like this… I would struggle with misinterpreting the anger and frustration reactions of others as meaning they were rejecting or devaluing me. It has been especially hard with female partners. Whenever I would FEEL rejected or devalued in relationships, I would believe it was really happening. My immediate urge (and eventual reaction) would be to complain about “the way you are talking to me”. In other words, I blamed my partners’ words and tones as “making me” feel rejected and worthlessness. I would become immediately upset, defensive and otherwise critical about the “crimes they were committing”. After all, she shouldn’t be “making me” feel that way, right?
Though I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, I was very much afraid that my rejection and worthlessness feelings meant that my partner would soon be quitting the relationship and walking out of my life – abandoning me. My feeling struggle therefore increased my anxiety levels dramatically. The more threatened I believed I was (the more I believed my emotions were fact) usually determined how big my reactions would become. But guess what? The more reactive I became to my emotional experience, the more my partner actually wanted to leave me, for real. My worst fears started coming true – A self-fulfilling prophecy!
I also believed that the way my partners expressed themselves and experienced their lives had everything to do with me. It was as though they were communicating hidden messages to me through their frustrated or angry tones. In other words, I personalized how things were expressed by my partners… I made it “all about me” ALL THE TIME. My partner could be expressing something completely unrelated to me as a person, but since my feelings reigned supreme in my life (turned into “facts”) I would find a way to connect the things she was saying to issues I believed she was having with me. “I knew” what she was thinking and was planning to leave me!
My partner could be upset with friends, with family, with work, with a broken sink, with a flat tire or with the weather, but nope, I interpreted her frustration as meaning she disliked or rejected me. It was incredibly easy for me to filter information this way, but always incredibly annoying for her. If my partner wasn’t upset with me before my misinterpretations, now she was!
And so this is the pattern that keeps going and going… and why misunderstanding the BPD process can make a mess out of an otherwise great relationship. Learning how to manage emotions with mindfulness means that you can learn the difference between fact and fiction, and then have a chance at thinking alternative thoughts in typically challenging situations. Problem is that if you don’t see what mindfulness is able to reveal, then you probably wouldn’t believe how important it is to practice.
My wish is that my fellow males that suffer from BPD will find this article and the many others I have written and start taking the necessary steps for healing. Start learning to live a mindful life brothers, so that your eyes may be opened and you may be liberated from unnecessary error and drama. Seek further instruction on mindfulness and its corrective application to BPD. You and the ones you love are all worth the effort required!!
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