Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions

What are emotions and why do we have them?

Emotions are built-in mechanisms for keeping us safe. The “base” of emotions in our brain is in the limbic system, deep within the core and just above the brain stem. I like to refer to emotions as the “land-bridge” between the mind and the body.

When you experience emotions both your body and mind react. If you feel fearful, your body reacts by speeding up your heart-rate, contracting capillaries in your extremities (that is why you can “go pale”), and releasing adrenaline into your bloodstream. Your emotion, fear in this case, is preparing your body to run away fast, which is the natural reaction to fear. Emotions are, in some ways, a “mind reflex” that protect you and your body’s survival.

Emotions are basic survival mechanisms.

Even animals have some form of emotion – fear, for example – that prey can use to escape predators. While some might argue that emotions are a left-over vestige of a distant past, an “animal” version of higher thought, I would disagree. We still need emotions to inform us about the environment. In any event, everyone has emotions and everyone can learn to deal with them effectively.

That being said, BP’s are in a position of requiring additional help to effectively deal with their emotions.

Emotions are almost immediate. They arise quickly and dissipate quickly. They are not “moods.”

Emotions last a short period of time – minutes, hours – but are unlikely to last more than a day or two. Moods last a longer time, sometimes weeks or months. Your “temperament” is of an even longer duration and with you most of their life. Because emotional reactions are immediate and short-acting, a person can be angry one minute and joyful the next.

The bad news is that such reactions are unpredictable. The good news is that they will pass quickly in most people.

Adapted from When Hope is Not Enough

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