BPD and the Dance of Dysfuction
If you live with BPD you may be familiar with this dance. It happens when you react to a prompting event and lash out or turn to self-harm or run away. I call it the Dance of Dysfunction and it goes like this:
Intro — Phase I
The other person says or does something that enrages you for some reason. You don’t really know why you have such a big reaction to it. You just do and then you either explode or implode. You advance and lash out at the other person. You say all kinds of horrible things as a way to discharge the enormous feelings you are feeling. You become a gigantic bear in the room and you crash and thrash about like there is no tomorrow. Except there is a tomorrow and when that comes you become overwhelmed with rage remorse. At least that’s what I call it.
The second phase of the dance begins when you start to relive the rage experience and you begin to berate yourself for your behaviour. We all know this part. The “How could I say those terrible things?” part. The “I am such an awful person for getting mad like that,” part. We’ve all been there. It’s a terrible place to be. And so, for many of us, these feelings become too big to contain and so we turn to self-medicating behaviour like smoking weed or taking opioids or shopping online to help ourselves feel better. And it does, for a while. This is the retreat phase.
But that part of the dance eventually begins to wear thin as well. So, you move into Phase 3
It is in this part of the dance that you try to “fix” what you did. This often entails telling the other person you are sorry. Some of us will engage in sex with our partner to show them just how sorry we are. We promise them we will never do it again. We will never say those awful things again. And we don’t. Until the next time another big prompting event occurs?
What if you could learn a different way to respond to the prompting events so you didn’t have to keep repeating this dance over and over again? What if you could learn a way to respond differently to things like that so you could process it differently and choose a different response instead of what seems like your almost pre-programmed REACTION?
Learning some different dance steps. Is it possible?
There is a way and it is through DBT.
Through the practice of mindfulness, DBT teaches people how to identify their emotions and how to regulate them. It is a long process but learning these skills will dramatically reduce your hypersensitivity to certain stimuli.
There is a saying, “Name it to tame it.” This could not be more true. Many of us experience these huge emotional responses and think they come out of the blue. That is not true at all. In fact, for people with BPD, you can predict when someone will go off the deep-end into a rage response with enough therapy. The key is to learn how to recognize the prompting events and how to cope with them though something called Distress Tolerance. Learning how to do these two things significantly reduced my rage responses. As I learned why these prompting events triggered me so much and how to deal with them, my BPD symptoms calmed and reduced greatly. If you are having rage episodes that you can not control which feel like they just come out of nowhere, you might want to think about trying to get a referral to a DBT group. DBT transforms lives. It did for me.