Archives for Social Learning Theory

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder: Social Survival Skills

Borderline Personality Disorder is not just about mental illness and emotional distress, it is also about social skills (or lack of them), empathy, manners, conflict resolution and self-care. Most children learn these vital social skills early on at pre and primary school where they observe other children’s behaviour, learn a “theory of mind” or how other children think and feel (mentalising) and experience compassion and empathy for others. These things come naturally to them.
But some children, through no fault of their own, are unable to learn and remain totally clueless about how to survive socially in the playground. These are the kids who suffer social neglect, rejection and abandonment. These are the children who need a step by step guide or a “recipe” on how to learn empathy, how to be a team player, how to get on with other children, negotiation skills, conflict resolution, the rough and tumble of give and take and sharing toys with grace and dignity.

These kids need to learn that when this happens, this is the correct response. I was not one of those naturally cluey children; I lived in social Siberia most of my school life and became a library refugee.

Here are five survival techniques desperately needed when suffering from BPD:
Continue Reading

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder: Self-esteem vs Self Destruction

There is a saying in a self-help group I used to be in back in the eighties. When a “normal” person gets a flat tire, they call the Automobile Association. When someone with (what’s now known as BPD) gets a flat tire, they call the suicide hotline. There’s an awful lot of truth in that.

My goal recently has been to respond rather than react to what I perceive are excruciatingly provocative circumstances and situations. I want to think and act with grace and dignity, to deep breathe, turn around, walk away, move on, learn the lesson and get a life. This attitude has, in the past, kept me in relationships, out of the law courts, out of jail, out of psychiatric hospitals, in employment and in therapy (or life coaching as we are now doing).

No longer is my therapist my nurturing supporter, smothering me endlessly with loving/kindness, reassurances of never abandoning me and justifying my bad behaviour and lack of social skills as a result of my environment. We have a more pragmatic egalitarian relationship where I feel mentored, rather than mental.
Continue Reading

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder – Accepting Criticism Mindfully


Learning how to accept criticism graciously is a form of art, but for me it is a work of art in progress. This is because I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and part of that syndrome is being unable to tolerate critical comments, no matter how well-meaning.

So what happens when I get criticized? No matter how mindful my brain wants to be, my body has an anaphylactic reaction. I feel as though someone has thrown acid in my face. I feel my body disintegrating and my internal organs shutting down and psychological and physical death is imminent. Does that sound familiar to you?

This isn’t planned, this isn’t about me being a Drama Queen or a Princess with a slipped tiara; it’s about staying alive. I go into survival mode where I have to sit in a chair, breathe deeply, count my fingers and toes and make sure that I am all here. I have to detoxify my body before I can even start to work out cognitively what was said, why it was said and what the ramifications of the criticism were.
Continue Reading

attachment

Borderline Personality Disorder: Ring Someone Who Cares


It used to be that if I ever ran into my therapist at a café, at the airport, in a restaurant, or walking down the street, I would have to walk out, catch a different plane, leave my meal or cross the street and get hit by a bus. She once said to me that I would have moved on when I could pass her in public, either wave or not wave, and my care factor would not be there.

So how do I avoid either the impending feeling of doom and chaos or the sheer guilty pleasure and excitement of seeing my therapist outside of therapy for free? I have had a mixed reaction on the handful of occasions I have seen her or her car out in the wide, wide world.
Continue Reading

attachment

Borderline Personality Disorder: Final Email to My Therapist

Dear XXXXX,

I thought it was safe to let you know how I was doing. I thought it was safe to email you about what my thoughts were regarding brief psychosis –v- depression (which is something I have finally made sense of and wanted your opinion on because I trusted you). I told you what my current working life was like and I felt as though I got a rubber stamp response because nothing in your email referred specifically to what I had actually said or achieved.

In therapy once, you asked me to always let you know how I was doing because you didn’t want me to move on and disappear out of your therapy life. You also once told me you loved me and trusted me deeply and that you would never abandon me.

With those bold statements comes a considerable amount of post-therapy responsibility to clients, even to the most adjusted but vulnerable client who has left your therapy and your rooms. With that comes a duty of care to accept that sometimes the client who wants to move on feels much dissonance, ambivalence and an overwhelmingly disproportionate sense of obligation and responsibility to her former therapist to keep her informed lest she feels abandoned by her.
Continue Reading

Boundaries

Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust


It occurred to me the other day that I had not thought about myself in terms of excessive guilt, shame and disgust for many months.  This coincided around about the time I started my new job working with self-actualised people in the mental health field and making long overdue decisions about what sort of people I surrounded myself with in my private life.

I never seemed to have the discriminatory powers to know who was good for me, who was not good for me and who was perfectly evil in my life.  I also put strict boundaries around certain family members.  There are people in my life determined to make me feel shame and guilt because that is what they do best. 
Continue Reading

Boundaries

When Life Feels Like a Near Death Experience

I was in session last week with my emotionally and socially intelligent therapist learning important role-modelling and personal negotiation skills when my mobile phone started to ring.  I swore loudly, threw my arms in the air, jumped up, and raced out the door and into the courtyard.  I was expecting a phone call to tell me whether or not I had a much-wanted part-time job.

Only for me it wasn’t someone giving me potential employment - it was a life or death experience.  If I got the job I would be ecstatic and if I didn’t get the job I was going to throw myself under a train.  One would make me feel very important and the other would annihilate me.  If I didn’t get the job, I would just keep walking to my car, without explanation because the alternative was to tell my beloved therapist I had failed – yet again.   I just could not face that.  Ever.

Not that I overreact or anything.
Continue Reading

On Being a Therapist

I’ve often wondered what being a therapist and giving therapy feels like?  What does it feel like to be on the other side of the couch, the so-called mentally healthy side, slowly building up that all-important trust, respect and safety, dispensing wisdom, experiencing and sharing flashes of insight, feeling the poignant pangs of empathy and for some, being able to conjure up that third person, the second client in the room – the inner child, the little girl/boy who so desperately needs a voice to be heard after being silenced many decades before?
Continue Reading

May The Transference Be With You

Transference can be the duct tape that binds the psychotherapy universe together.

One of the interpretations of my mostly positive, idealizing transference was to use my therapist as a role model. This is similar to Social Learning Theory where people can learn new behavior through...
Continue Reading