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20 Rules for Understanding #BPD

The “most vivid autobiographical memories tend to be of emotional events.” Based on experience with people with BPD, I have come to notice that these emotional memories become linked within one’s mind and outside of time. In other words, a distance of many years does not diminish the linkage between an emotional-laden memory and an event currently taking place.

A person with BPD will link long ago negative emotional experiences with current events because it “feels the same.” In that way, the person with BPD will sometimes act on these emotional memories in a way that is inappropriate for the current situation. 

The sense of time is lost completely when it comes to emotional memory. As a response to this quality, one of my list members (who wishes to remain anonymous) crafted a brilliant “Top 20” list of the internal beliefs of someone with BPD. I will reproduce them here, slightly edited. I think this member did an excellent job of summarizing the feelings of BPD:

THE TOP 20 RULES FOR BPD

(An experimental outlook)

  1. All time is in the present. If something makes me feel bad now, it is linked directly to the greatest pain I ever experienced — and that pain is happening now, too. Time can’t heal any wounds because time never really passes. Everything – past, present, and future — is NOW.
  2. If I do something I feel is wrong, I am unworthy of living. Therefore, admitting I am wrong — or that I did something to hurt someone — feels just like committing suicide. I don’t want to die, so I can’t acknowledge that I am wrong. Even to the judges inside me.
  3. I am wrong means I AM wrong. It’s not about what I did; it’s about who I am as a person. This is also true of other people. If they do/did something wrong, they are unfixable. If I do/did something wrong, I am broken.
  4. I am constantly being judged by people who don’t understand my situation. Including myself. And the penalty for being judged as being wrong is death. (see #2)
  5. Memories are the files in my mental “cabinet.” But because I am always being judged, I need to use those files like a lawyer. Therefore, only the memories that suit my current feeling will be called up. Those that present evidence that contradicts that feeling will not be considered admissible… or will be doctored to preserve my innocence. Again, it’s a matter of my life or my death.
  6. I am like a ship with a thin, fragile hull — any hole will sink me. Therefore, anything that approaches near enough is a danger, and must be kept away. At all costs.
  7. Everyone is just an extension of me — so if I can’t control them, it means I can’t control myself. Likewise, when someone steps outside my control, I — by definition — lose control.
  8. I cannot bear pain — therefore I must find someone else to bear it for me. If they don’t take the weight of my pain, I will be crushed. Literally.
  9. If I take responsibility for making something happen, I will have to deal with disappointment. At some point, it won’t work, and that means I will have been wrong, which will feel like death. I cannot risk death, so I can’t risk responsibility.
  10. Relationships are attractive, but will end in disappointment. They are like cigarettes and drugs — soothing at first, but they’ll kill you. However, they are addictive. This makes them toxic.
  11. I was abused and need shelter. But whatever shelter I run to, they will eventually abuse me. So I must be constantly on guard, to prevent being violated. If I let down my guard, I will be abused again. There is only one thing that leads to abuse: trust.
  12. Asking me to be calm in the face of what I believe is danger is like asking the Scarecrow not to be afraid when the Wicked Witch holds up the burning broom.
  13. Thought is reality. If I think of something, it is already done. If someone else mentions something, they have already made it happen.
  14. Anyone who wants something wants it right now. Including me. All needs must be satisfied instantly, or something is wrong. And wrong means death.
  15. I would never hurt me or anyone else. Therefore, if that occurs, it means someone other than me did it.
  16. The way the world operates is “effect and cause.” If I feel a certain way, I will find a cause for it that does not involve me, because otherwise I will be judged as wrong. And I cannot be judged as wrong.
  17. Other people created the shame I carry. Therefore, only other people can remove it. I was rendered powerless to do anything about it the moment it happened. I was powerless then, therefore I am powerless now.
  18. The world is how I feel. Anything that does not reflect/support my feeling must be annihilated. When it comes to feelings and ideas other than what I experience, I am like the Taliban. Those alien forces threaten who I am, and so must be removed from my midst.
  19. If you agree with me, you agree with my feelings, which ARE me. If you disagree with me, you disagree with my feelings. But, because my feelings are me — if you disagree with me, you kill me.
  20. There is no greater weakness than vulnerability. Open yourself up, and all you will be is exposed. And if you are exposed, you can only rely on trust. And — trust is the cause of abuse.

Adapted from When Hope is Not Enough

28 comments to 20 Rules for Understanding #BPD

  • Kristine

    It’s different for each individual. Feelings and emotions are the core of BPD and no one understand it and it feels as though no one can support ME emotionally. My feelings and reactions are always misunderstood and therefore invalid. And since I require validation, it makes it almost impossible for anyone to live with me. So therefore; I feel I must die in order to keep from eventually causing turmoil in others lives’. The world would be a better place without me. I’m just a broken pile of glass waiting for someone to come step on me and break me some more or hurt themselves because I’m just TOO much TO handle. Nothing I do is right, nothing I say is right. I can’t handle social situations, can’t even move some days. No medication they prescribe helps, no amount of therapy or time away helps. I’m a Lost cause… This is how I feel.

  • Kristine,

    My book seek to teach the skills for your family members to understand you a bit better. Validation, a non-judgmental stance, etc. I hope you can find a way to more serenity – rather than the suffering you are in.

    Bon

  • Sally

    Would sharing this list of rules with a friend who may or may not have BPD and asking if they feel that way be completely inappropriate? I’m wanting to share with a very special yet troubled friend that I’m trying to understand how they might be feeling… I would remove any reference to BPD as to diagnose would not be my intention – purely to empathize..I have no idea whether this would be in any way an appropriate thing to do or not?

  • Scarlette

    This was the most brilliant thing I’ve read today that I feel describes me to the outside world.

  • jackie

    This made me cry – it is an exact reflection of my partners behaviors that I have been struggling to understand.

  • Yvonne
    There’s no one left that wants to understand me, because of all the damage I’ve done to everyone. I’ve always been misunderstood how I feel ,what I think, my motivations, The way I see things. To my whole family I’m wrong, I’m delusional,. I spent the last 10 years working on myself in therapy, in and out of pysch hospitals. Been on all kinds of meds., I so want to be better. But now nobody really wants to be around me. All the work of done does’nt mean shit. I never got better. I hate myself so much. I hate myself for hurting the people I love with my stupid Illness. I wish I was dead, but I’m too much of a coward to do anything about it. So, I just go through the motions everyday of life. I got a dog so I would’nt be so alone and I have to go outside to take her on walks.

  • Hunter_Wolf

    Yvonne Crapo, unread your comment , but one part officially took my breath away . ” I wish I was dead, but I’m too much of a coward to do anything about it. ” I’ve been saying this to myself for a little while , and I said it about half an hour ago again . I’m not sure if I have BPD or if I’m just a normal paranoid and attention seeking teenage girl . I’m trying to figure it out , but neither seem good . Your comment spoke to me because I understand it so much , and I’m not sure what to say next . Thank you ? I’m sorry ? Yes , I’m sorry that I don’t know what to say next , and thank you for this . Im not sure how or why it helps me , but it does . I guess it means I’m not as alone in this world as I believe myself to be .

  • Gizzy

    I felt very moved by your work. I feel for all the people that have BPD and EUPD. I also cried cause at times I am unable to control the chaos in my head and deal with the wicked world which ultimately creates misunderstandings. I have managed for a while to keep things OK. But I am now 6 weeks pregnant and I have had to come off antidepressants. Now I’m a wreck again.

  • vivian paul

    I wept when I read this. It is my ex of thirty years. I’ve been devastated for her and now myself. So much pain.

  • Stephen Champagne

    I am dealing with the realization that my wife of 36 years has been suffering from this horrific disorder and it tears me up that she continues to suffer thru it. I am praying she comes to the place that she can acknowledge this and get the needed help.

    I have had to suffer thru the back wash but I now think I am beginning to understand why which in turn helps me to cope and love her even more. Its not me, its the disorder.
    .

  • Jackie

    Yvonne, I feel the same exact way. Except I have a little girl now who I am so afraid of hurting because of my issues. I am so afraid she is going to grow up to feel the way I do, and it kills me. But I don’t know how to get better. I can’t afford the therapy recommended for this disorder, so I feel very hopeless that anything will ever change. So want to take my own life but too afraid to actually do it. I honestly think my little girl will be better off without me, I won’t be able to bring her down if I’m not around. She has so many people in her life that love her… it’s a horrible feeling to think she would be better off but it’s true. I just don’t know what to do anymore.. been in and out of therapy for 20+ years… nothing works.

  • Alice Dantos

    • My 37-yer old daughter has Bdp (I think). Her marriage of eight years is unraveling. They have a four year old little boy. I feel like I can’t win, that anything I say or do will be twisted and used against me. Her brother and husband feel the same way. I just avoid her – no phone calls, an occasional email. She often reaches out to me and to my husband – as though in need. Now I understand better what the disorder is. Thank you so much.

  • Sandy

    Hi its sandy my ex has been recently diagnosed with bpd and I didn’t know it existed. I was crying the whole time while reading this article. I was always wondering why this roller coaster thing but now I know. It’s so painful to be in such a relationship. It’s sad because at points you feel that he’s so in love with you but he’s only i love you only means I want you to love me and need you. I thought I left him bec of cheating and didn’t understand why one day he loved me the other day he loved her he was coming back and forth bw us we were like a triangle and I discovered this late in the relationship and that was went I left. I always wanted to leave during the relation but always felt guilty and worried abt him so I couldn’t leave. Don’t know if he ll get better don’t know if he truly loved me ..

  • Jorge

    Partners of someone with Bpd need to listen to the video 400 positive affirmations by pinch me living. That’s getting the oxigen mask that people talk about. I’ve tried everything but listening to this for 30 days before going to bed works.

  • Patrick

    The first statement was like reading the Bible I have spent months wondering why you mix people and places espically arguements as if yesterday never happened the person now becomes that person 20 30 years ago but like fog drfting in you are aware that situation has nothing to do with this situation all those years ago but like in a dream half asleep half awake a face a name the sound of a voice you are aware you are slowly losing your way in the fog but don’t know why.

  • Sam

    I cried reading this as well but C’MON PEOPLE. You read one article that shines light and defines so many truths. Yes, it can be disheartening to realize some of these points but if anything, I am thankful to have learned more and to know that I am not the only person thinking these thoughts. But please, no more posts about how “nothing works” because if anything made me cry the most, it was reading that depressing stuff. I know, I get it, it’s “how you feel” and nobody can change that but you. But also, I know I get those gut reaction feelings and it feels impossible to ignore/tone down/move on but it is SO possible. I only think that bringing more awareness and information to the world about BPD could help our cause so it can be recognized as a disease and not just as being “crazy” / “clingy” / “too much” / “emotional” (I’ve heard em all). I know my ex always said this and I never thought it helped but it still holds true: We have to count our blessings. I remind myself this every morning combined with mindfulness techniques to feel more stable.

  • Emma

    I was abused when I was 4 by my dad’s best mate …my dad was in the army. .I watched my dad beat my mum for years..as time went on and I become a older and I believed it was normal to be beaten…4 relationships later I’m lucky to be here ..my trigger point was when I was 10 the abuse stoped…years later I’m fucked I’m one person nice then the nexted I am a women in rage..within minutes I’m like nothing has happend..I thought I had biopolia (can’t spell) turns out I’ve got euspd …I’m now under the mental health team..I’ve lost my home ,.work cou not stable to keep it..my baby through stress…they put me anti depressant tablets all they do is I become a zombie please help

  • Kimberly

    Wow-this is so insightful and powerful. I have realized that my ex’s behavior seemed extreme, and was recently told by a couple’s therapist that he may have BPD. Based on readings I have done and now this I know that is a correct diagnosis. I’m now trying to find ways to work with it because he will not get treatment, and he is taking all of his anger/fear/sadness out on me and it is very harmful to me (and we have 2 young children). Thank you for this insight!

  • Chris Testerman

    4 days ago I snapped I couldn’t take it anymore I had no clue what was going on with my wife she wasn’t in the same reality that I was in, total melt down…3 days ago I threatened to leave her for good. 2 days a go I picked myself off the ground and started looking for answers 1 day ago I found the answers that made the most since BPD….30 minutes ago I wrote an apology to by wife……5 minutes ago after reading this I cried.. I have AVPD I know what it feels like to have irrational feelings I was so worried about dealing with my issues I didn’t stop and look at the larger picture. Crap. I had no idea.

  • Deke

    OMG, my ex is exactly this. She is actually sort of a psyche-soup and this, BPD, is but one ingredient. The scary thing is that she is a CSAT. I believe she entered the field to find out more about her own situation. Sad for her clients.

  • Nancy

    Thank you for this list of rules that offer so much insight into the turbulent love – hate relationship between me and my sister whom I believe has Narcissistic BPD. Her charm and intelligence left me feeling at fault all my life, and desperate for her approval and love, and at times, grateful when she wasn’t speaking to me. I am learning to self-care, and understanding what she may be going thru allows room for compassion. She will always be my sister, and I have hope.

  • Carly Ann Jillard

    This really touched me. I too suffer from these intense feelings and constantly feel like everything that’s happened to me happened because of me. I am the common denominator in my past pain after all. When you mentioned how all pain is in the present, as if no time has passed, I truly felt relief knowing it’s not only me. Thank you for sharing your pain, I know that nothing ever seems to ease the humming of what is borderline but you helped me get through today. Thank you.

  • John davis

    My girlfriend has bpd with bipolar and I’m really struggling at the moment. Reading this has helped as I see every single point made. I want to help her so much but I know I can’t do anything. I try but it’s really hard to keep calm when she’s in the zone. Please keep posting about this as it does help someone like me understand a little of what’s going on…

  • Mike

    I was finally diagnosed with eupd last year and it did help to explained why I have felt the way I have all my life. I don’t fear death in almost every way it would b a relief to not feel like I do anymore. After 4 serious attempts to kill myself I realised that I wasn’t going to be let off that easily. Since my last attempt I have had 3 wonderful children that mean I will never try again. Sadly there is hardly a day where I don’t think of at least 3 ways to end it all, and I still feel that the world would b a better place if the waste of air that I am was no more. I have a brilliant partner who has suffered for years ridding my rollercoaster while dealing with her own at the same time and yet still she fights for me. This makes me luckier than I deserve. I just want to feel normal for a moment and stop hurting those that I love with the way I am.

  • AB

    I just read everyone’s comments and thought of how I’d feel in that situation… I am an extremist. I go hard on everything. I get told I’m beautiful but find 10 things wrong with me. I have problems with monagomy (however it’s spelt.) I wasn’t feeling anyone else’s pain n I didn’t care. I also have a drug addiction n as I said earlier about being an extremist … I started IV .. opiates were my issue. I used suboxone n came off with xanax which I got hooked on. I know some of u might think it’s just the drugs than, BUT … as I am currently with my GP to ween off of xanax with 3 Valium a day … but to me, I feel sober not dependent on any substances. I take my pills accordingly. Pick up 3 everyday. I had bad withdrawals which brought out emotion n made me realize what a monster I really am. I am self centred. I always have guys in my life cus they fall in love with me lol none conceited way at all. But it gave me advantages and I’d manipulate them all. I never thought I was a liar but my brother said I am… I was still using when I started to notice something was wrong up there (in my brain!) I thought due to the fact I would escort and be my fake name than wake up to like nothing happened go back to the “normal” me. Blow a bunch of cash n nothing worthwhile. I become compulsive and paranoid everyone is going to steal from me seeing as I’ve had it happen one too many times. Anyways, I thought I had split personality and spoke with my doctor but he disagreed. But BPD is similar in ways and yes I did use drugs which changed me but I am a manipulator and a smart girl so I am always in control lol … am I really a psycho???

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