One of the nine symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling one’s temper. It has been written many times that these symptoms seem to lessen or even disappear when middle age comes around, but my thoughts are sometimes they just get driven underground as we get older. Sufferers of BPD can still feel these intense, angry feelings, they are just better controlled, especially the ones who have had therapy or worked on their issues. It takes much mindfulness to get through emotionally intense experiences without having a meltdown.
I have learned over the many years of my therapy that although I am no longer the angry, rageful person I used to be, I can still surprise myself by having a one-off major brain-snap when conditions are ripe or the planets are misaligned. Most of the time I control my outward actions; in fact I cannot remember the last time I lost my temper completely. Mindfulness training, CBT, Buddhism, meditation, yoga and bush and lake walking has given me much peace of mind – but does a leopard truly change its spots or have they just faded away or changed shape?
Aristotle said (and I have quoted this before): “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.”
I was angry earlier on this week – with the wrong person, for the wrong purpose and in a wrong manner. At the time it was not within my power to remain calm and it was a difficult situation. I had a road-rage brain-snap in a shopping centre car park.
Once our brains had locked horns I could not back down until I had verbally annihilated the other and I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. I did win, but at what cost to myself? For every action there is a counteraction and the preceding action was a work situation where I was told I was headstrong. I brooded and ruminated all the way home. So essentially what I did in the car park was to confirm the other person’s opinion of me. I acted in a headstrong manner and it galls me that she was perhaps right.
So where was Buddha and mindfulness in all this? Totally obliterated in the storm of toxic rage, that’s where. The Borderline inside of me erupted because I was frightened and full of fear. All of a sudden winning was a life or death situation. I felt I had lost my power. It was an impulsive reaction. I felt my relationship with my boss had dipped considerably and I was definitely paranoid about rejection and abandonment. It felt annihilating and permanent. Underneath that seemingly extinct volcano, a hidden active layer of lava bubbled away and under the right conditions, deadly toxic sulphuric acid would explode outward and upward in a spectacular display. I thought I had quelled that fire a long time ago.
It’s been two days and I am not over it. All my therapy and mindfulness training tells me to be kind to myself – let go, move on, forgive and forget, be non-judgemental and non-critical, but my body is still tense and churned up and my head is full of turbulent thoughts. I am unable to see the bigger picture; all I can see is my tiny adrenaline-filled corner of the boxing ring.
I know my perception of both the action and the reaction are erroneous and that my boss was trying to be helpful and is on my side. I also know that in another time and place I would have moved my car first, not had a meltdown and be blogging about something else. But this is not just about a car-park brain-snap or a minor criticism. There is a very long history of events that shaped what happened two days ago.
I have much learning and healing still to do.
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Last reviewed: 3 Aug 2011