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.
Putting words into an article like this is one method for practising thinking for yourself. After all, the words spilling onto the page are mine and there are ideas taking shape as I ponder what to say. It isn’t exactly the most pleasant activity to be going through this process of thinking and writing, but the end result is often improved clarity and understanding on the topic of choice, so I press forward. I also realize as I am writing that a person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has the additional challenge of settling challenging emotions as they arise during thinking activities like this. Therefore, becoming willing to practice thinking and piecing words together is one hurdle to get over, then another hurdle is the ongoing potential for emotional challenges that require attending to – a DOUBLE motivational whammy for the person living with BPD.
When you suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, chances are very good that much of your thinking includes distortions of thought that work to amplify the emotions you experience. I have outlined the most common distortions of thought in my book, 9-Steps to Mastering Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and they are all freely accessible here at BreakAwayMHE.com in Step-3 of the book. If there is to be true success in adjusting the BPD pattern into something less destructive, then the individual suffering from BPD needs to take it upon himself to become an expert in knowing these distortions and when they become active in his daily life. To underestimate the power these distortions have to keep you emotionally debilitated (and less capable of functioning in many areas of life) is to rob yourself of the opportunity to live free from much unnecessary suffering.
In many cases of BPD, I have discovered that people have been going about life depending on the advice of others, and likewise, upon the advice of the moral communities they belong to. Said another way, the suffering person may have been offered general rules or principles (or doctrines) to follow by the perceived authorities in his life, and then partially or completely foregoes developing the higher skill of becoming a critic of information. To break this down even further, one could say that the suffering individual has been taught WHAT to think, but not HOW to think. Taking an overly simplistic approach to thought while living a life of complicated/interconnected relationships is bound to fail because rigidity in thinking is encouraged (or preferred for ease of use) and flexibility in thinking is discouraged. Remaining focused on WHAT to think is a trap that will make transcending BPD extremely difficult.
As a therapist and person who has suffered with BPD, it immediately becomes apparent that thinking practice activities can be hard to adopt. Since most people are weighed down or distracted by numerous other activities consuming their time and energy, as well as surrounded by numerous others who are more than happy to enable thinking dependence, it can be an uphill battle to sit down with pen and paper (or on a computer or phone) to map out distortions in thought and get critical about them. Not to suggest that people cannot recognize the value in practising thinking for themselves, but to prioritize this type of activity is probably about as challenging as starting and maintaining a workout routine. It can be done, but you have to clearly understand and desire to receive the benefits of what you’re doing.
Thinking activities for adjusting distorted thoughts usually involve writing down the thoughts as they sound when life difficulties are being experienced. Emotions relevant to the thoughts are noted, as well as the intensity of the emotions (e.g., from 1-10). Scanning a list of potential distortions of thought is the next step, followed by critically reviewing (challenging) the thought and writing out a new thought. Please review Step-3 of my 9-Steps book if necessary to learn the most common distortions. The new thought typically includes previously disregarded facts and other evidence that works to “balance” thinking and distil a more fitting emotional experience for the situation that gave birth to the thought being analyzed.
There are many free thinking activity exercises available to print from the internet. There are also many free and low cost phone applications that can be used for the same purpose. The extremely important distinction to make here is that knowing where to find these thinking activities is much less important than actually making regular use of the activities. No practice generally means no progress made in this aspect of adjusting Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as remaining dependent on others for WHAT to think. Continuing to “get stuck” on unhealthy thoughts and remaining dependent on others for WHAT to think can disrupt and destroy relationships, since it often means additional pressure and stress that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
To master Borderline Personality Disorder is to be able to see and adjust the patterns of disorder (thought, emotion, and behaviour) as they are happening. Practising developing healthy “balanced” thoughts through thinking activities increases the chances that these types of thoughts will automatically be available for use when needed in the future. The more often new and improved thoughts are used, the more you will also be able to adjust other similarly unhealthy thoughts that attempt to occupy space in your head. Once again, the key is practice that only happens after you develop the proper motivation to begin and continue. Of course, there are several other important skills to acquire in order to master BPD, but thinking for yourself is absolutely essential.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on this article please do leave a comment for the witter to answer and reply to personally. But if you have any other issues or questions not relating to this do get in touch with us on social media or via our Contact Us page.