Please Note: The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and are communicated without reference to supporting documentation. Other inspiration and influence for the writing came through consultation with other mental health professionals. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias.
A Shift in Paradigm
When the time comes that a person is highly motivated to escape the onslaught of the disease process that is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), there is a fundamental shift in paradigm that first needs to occur before any real progress is going to be made. When I speak of paradigm, I refer to how a person (so far) understands his functioning, his body, his mind, other people, and relationships… the world in general and how it relates to his disorder.
A widespread sentiment and complaint heard from persons with BPD are “why me? This kind of complaint suggests genuine confusion and genuine frustration about not understanding why he or she has such a hard time with life. A more useful line of questioning might be… What is a paradigm and why isn’t my paradigm working for me?
Often in the first place when things are going wrong, such as in relationships, and likewise when there is more and more not feeling well (depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms), a person will usually try to make sense out of what’s wrong and seek out ways in which to feel better. Unfortunately, as it often happens, the struggling person will blame the first person, or situation, or circumstance that seems responsible for the emotional pain and associated problems.
For instance, if you’re talking to me and I am feeling guilty, rejected, or worthless, I might want to make it your fault that I am feeling this way because you are standing right there talking to me. Then if we have an argument and other problems happen because of the way the interaction goes, this is going to be your fault too. Ok? As you can probably imagine, or maybe you have experienced, this doesn’t go anywhere productive. Things can get very destructive very quickly taking this approach, over and over again in fact, and that is the proof that the paradigm in use is wrong.
So the very first thing to know in overcoming BPD is that a person equipped with a faulty life paradigm will not find a way to reduce his suffering and problems, and likewise will not find his way out of disorder. Having a defective paradigm is the ongoing tragedy of BPD… The suffering person doesn’t understand what’s going on but believes so firmly that he does, sometimes fighting to the bitter end no matter how dysfunctional life becomes.
Primarily, a suffering person is working to prove that his paradigm is a good one, even though the paradigm is inept. But when there is no other way to understand life and problems, and when the feelings associated with the only available paradigm are so strong, it makes sense that the person would use what he has to fight for his life. Understanding this reality, a person with BPD is genuinely doing the best he or she can. So if you are reading this article and don’t believe you suffer from BPD, please keep this important note in mind before inappropriately judging the issues and difficulties of others.
Getting a new paradigm to overcome BPD involves understanding what your enemy is and what your enemy isn’t. In BPD, the faulty paradigm leads you to believe that you know who and what to blame for your pain (everyone and everything else), but unfortunately, you will often be wrong. You will be wrong because until there is a way to manage your mind and emotions effectively, there is no way to ensure that your interpretations of events will be accurate. Mismanagement or non-management of thought and feelings inevitably goes hand in hand with too much assuming and hasty judging, resulting in too much blaming and hasty reacting, and then inevitably multiplying problems being experienced. In a nutshell, mismanagement of mind and emotion occurs in poor problem-solving efforts.
For example, if one of the kids was taking too much time getting dressed for school, the milk was unexpectedly low for cereal, and two other kids were fighting with each other, there would be understandable frustration, irritation, and feeling overwhelmed. But if the frustration and other feelings went ignored or got invalidated, for instance by someone suggesting that “everybody just calm down”, then a fight may erupt that results in no lunch being prepared, kids going hungry during the day, and possibly getting a speeding ticket on the way to school (since the kids missed the school bus). Whereas before you had three problems to contend with, now you have five because of the unnecessary drama that interfered with finding solutions to the first three. The unnecessary drama occurred because the emotions went unmanaged and there were faulty interpretations of the words “everybody just calm down”… perhaps something like “he doesn’t care that I am hurting and thinks I am handling things poorly” instead of seeing the words “everybody just calm down” as an ineffective but honest and caring attempt to help out. Know what I mean?
Getting to know the Real Enemy
The real enemy is not each other, but instead not knowing how to live in our bodies with our emotions and with our minds, and therefore not knowing how to relate and effectively problem-solve when needed. The real enemy is developmental neglect or misunderstanding, with its consequence being the installation of a self-defeating paradigm in the human being.
Western culture is loaded with ways, and a means to an end up with this developmental neglect, such as keeping ourselves and children so endlessly busy with questionably essential activities that crucial learning moments and opportunities are missed or wasted. But of course, the notion of developmental neglect or misunderstanding being present in a culture does not usually get acknowledged as harmful because “the busy lifestyle” is so well weaved, accepted, rationalized and promoted. Add to this the apparent difficulty of admitting that one’s culture could be part of a disease creation process.
A healthy paradigm for mental health can help an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder finally make sense out of his disorder in a cultural context. For instance, whereas before I believed that everyone and everything else was to blame for my problems, I am now open to consider that my caregivers lacked sufficient knowledge and availability to teach me how to live in my body, with my thoughts, and with my emotions, and therefore how to take my share of responsibility for life’s problems. If the chances are high that my caregivers didn’t know what or how to teach me about the above, then I am willing to admit that I still don’t know what or how, and that many of my problems have likely resulted from my lack of learning and skill development.
Whereas before I used to believe that understanding and managing emotions came naturally as a result of growing into an adult, I now understand that it requires a particular sort of learning, skill, and practice not available to every developing child in every family. Whereas before I believed that families, communities and educational systems were obligated to set me up for adequate mental health functioning, I now understand this is a false assumption, and that a more accurate view may be that mental health is far lower in priority to other things such as money, market, recreation, entertainment, career and economy. If all of these things are true on a large scale, then perhaps my struggle is much more commonplace than I once believed.
It can be a significant challenge to adopt a new paradigm as suggested above, not only because it is so unique, but also because it might have disappointment and sadness attached to it. It can be both disappointing and sad to accept (and just downright hard to believe) that many of us are misguided and misinformed, and that this has resulted in damage and disorder. Some might want to avoid a new paradigm because it triggers feelings of guilt and shame, such as a parent who looks back and realizes there was a great deal of unintentional abuse and neglect built into his or her parenting style. Nonetheless, if a change in functioning is desired to escape the hell that is BPD, then a shift in paradigm must also take place.
If the change in paradigm does not happen, the tendency will always be to revert to the old paradigm, learn nothing new to get healthy and pass on illness to the next generation. I suppose it could be said that the truth hurts sometimes, but discomfort and pain are very common precursors to healing, similar to setting a broken bone, cleaning an infected wound, or removing a splinter. Likewise, accepting a paradigm shift can be uncomfortable at the start, but it is well worth the long-term benefits of being free from disorder.
This guest post was written by Peter Miller who is a mental health advocate and full-time blogger. All views expressed are a personal view of BPD and in no way should be considered professional advice. If you disagree with anything in this post, or have your own thoughts do let her know in the comments below. For all other questions and issues relating to BPD do use the Contact Us page.