Excessive anger is a problematic factor in many disorders and particularly in the syndrome referred to as borderline personality disorder. Along with splitting (seeing others as all good or all bad, as angels or devils) and creating chaos by getting everyone to fight, anger episodes are major contributors to the tendency of bpd folks to wreck their relationships by being too "high maintenance" to live with.
Do you feel like you do too much anger?
The anger treatment options I describe here can help you also if you tend toward verbal abusiveness, narcissism, paranoid or other diagnosable picture.
In my clinical practice, the first key to change I would help you with if you were my client would be to be sure that you understand how your anger as problematic. That realization enables you to want to change your angry ways.
Because anger outbursts antagonize friends, co-workers and family members, they can leave you feeling alone and realistically fearful that folks will abandon you.
Fortunately, anger habits can be changed if you determine that you want to change your ways.
[Before going further however I'd like to thank so much the many insightful readers who have been writing Comments in response to my articles entitled The Sleepover: How a Cute Little Girl Develops Borderline Personality Disorder and How an Often-Angry Little Girl Does Not Develop a Borderline Personality Disorder. Many of you have been writing compellingly to me about your experiences with a bpd child, spouse, mother, or struggle within yourself vis a vis bpd. I have published blogposts with these contributions, here and here.]
This current article describes a three-pronged treatment strategy.
Here's my top three approaches to reducing the anger of borderline and other anger-prone personality styles.
1. Energy therapy to reduce the tendency to anger.
Energy psychology techniques such as The Emotion Code can access, identify, and neutralize early-life factors that, because they are pre-verbal, other treatment methods cannot. The outcome of these revolutionary diagnostic and healing methods is a calmer person. For a video example of this technique, though to address a different problem, click here.
My posting on these techniques, called "Your Mind Has Extraordinary Powers," explains some of the fundamentals of energy treatment methods. It's at
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/your-mind-has-extraordinary-powers. By accessing and neutralizing early traumatic experiences with these cutting-edge techniques, it may be possible to calm the bpd tendency to hyper-emotionality, though this is a hypothesis, not yet researched.
Another hunch I have from energy psychology work is that borderlines are often psychologically reversed. That is, they are oriented toward staying miserable rather than toward happiness. I would love to see research on this hypothesis, especially since it is a condition that is easily treated with an intervention that takes generally less than a half hour.
My posting on this topic is "Bad Luck or Psychological Reversal." It's at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201202/bad-luck-or-psychological-reversal.
I saw startling results using these energy treatment with a young boy who looked like he was on the path to bpd. He's still a sensitive young lad, but since treatment of his psychological reversal and the traumatic bullying incident at age three that had triggered it, the excessive drama and frequent emotional outbursts have ceased. He also went from being off-putting to very likable and loving.
In another several cases, one of my colleagues, Dr. McQueen, has obtained extraordinary results in calming the tendency to react angrily with the use of a set of techniques called Body Talk. While Dr. McQueen combines Body Talk with several other techniques, Body Talk therapists are available in many places across the US and the globe. Check out their website for more information or Google the name of where you live and Body Talk to find a local therapist.
Lastly, Dale Petterson, the energy therapist I have been writing about, and I have been working on new techniques for reducing amygdala hyper-reactivity. So far these results look highly promising as well, After we have experimented with more cases, I will publish further details and hopefully a Youtube video.
(2) Psychoeducation to build healthier anger management and conflict resolution skills.
The bottom line is that bpd individuals use anger to get what they want. I go into more detail about this explanation in my book Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More. The key, however, once you understand that the goal of anger is to get what you want, is to find alternative, more winning and less damaging, strategies for accomplishing this objective.
What kind of habits can accomplish the same goal without bullying others and raging? If you are going to forego the painful and interpersonally alienating strategy of domination via anger, what better options can you learn to replace the old explode-and-coerce route to getting what you want?
Learning collaborative communication and conflict resolution to replace the old ways with better new ones is essential.
Learning to exit situations at the first warning signs of an anger eruption, self-soothe, and then return to the dialogue ready to continue more calmly also are vital skills. Fortunately, in addition to joining an anger management group or signing up for therapy to learn these techniques, self-help is also available via the internet.
(3) Zero tolerance from family members for anger outbursts.
With regard to this third prong of treatment, there's a highly effective treatment protocol developed by therapists in Israel for young people who show with quickness to anger and domination of parents and sibs with their anger outbursts.
This treatment approaches teaches parents to institute zero tolerance for anger outbursts. They are taught to exit immediately any situation in which the emotionally hyper-reachtive child or adolescent begins to show the very first signs of anger. The parents are taught to go into another room when anger begins to intrude on pleasant interactions. If the bpd individual follows them into the other room, exit the house. If the bpd follows again, exit via the car, reminding the bpd that they will return as previously explained in x period of time (could be 15 minutes, a half hour, or more, depending on the age of the bpd).
With anger no longer an effective means of controlling others, it soon ceases to be utilized by someone with bpd to get what s/he wants. This same technique can be used for adult-to-adult anger explosiveness.
Conclusions about treatment for borderline personality style
DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is generally seen as the "empirically validated" and the gold standard treatment for bpd. It does help many people, so that's certainly an option in addition to the ideas above.
This article is meant to expand those options, particularly by focusing on reduction of the excessive anger component of bpd functioning.
Note also that some, though by no means all, people with bpd also have narcissistic, sociopathic, paranoid, physically abusive, alcohol/drug and other pathological tendencies, especially they feel stressed. The treatment described above is unlikely to impact these.
However, many people who experience chaos and splitting in their relationships as aspects of a pattern of controlling others with anger, do want to change. If so, they can grow significantly with this three-pronged borderline personality disorder treatment approach.
It's never too late to give change a try!
(c) Susan Heitler, Ph.D.
Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teach the communication skills that sustain positive relationships.
Learn to tame your anger with the prescriptions in Dr. Heitler's latest book, Prescriptions Without Pills.