You Can End Your Borderline Personality Style
Can anger outbursts, one of the hallmarks of bpd, be tamed?
Posted Jun 25, 2012
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 folks with borderline tendencies to wreck their relationships by being too "high maintenance."
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 excessive-anger habits.
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. Because anger outbursts antagonize friends, co-workers and family members, they can leave you feeling alone and realistically fearful that folks will abandon you. That realization enables you to want to change your angry ways.
Fortunately, anger habits can be changed if you determine that you want to change your ways.
Here's 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 these early-life factors. 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, go to the energy therapy section of my new website called watchpsychotherapy.
Another of my psychologytoday blogposts is called "Your Mind Has Extraordinary Powers." That article explains some of the fundamentals of energy treatment methods. 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 people with borderline personality patterns 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."
Lastly, Dale Petterson, the energy therapist I have been writing about, and I have been working on a new techniques for reducing amygdala hyper-reactivity. So far these results look highly promising as well.
(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, 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 habits can accomplish the same goal without bullying others and raging? If you are going to forego the painful and alienating strategy of getting your way via anger, what better options can you learn to replace the old explode-and-coerce route to getting what you want?
First, learn to exit and self-soothe. Exit frustrating situations at the first warning signs of an anger eruption. Calm down. Then return to the dialogue ready to continue more calmly is one set of vital skills.
'Take the pot off the stove' by going into a different room or out for a walk. Be sure though to put your mind on other things though after you have left the provocative situation. If you bring the other person with you in your thoughts—"he shouldn't have ... !"—you will continue to be stoking the fire.
Set up a Quiet Chair somewhere in your living space, a place where you can go to breathe deeply and distract yourself with reading or the like when you feel yourself heating up.
Also, see my short blogpost and video on temporal tapping for an alternative quick way to calm down.
Learn collaborative communication and conflict resolution to replace the old ways with better new ones. I call this collaborative problem-solving the Win-Win-Waltz.
Learn 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 is one set of 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.
One 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 angry child (or adult) follows them into the other room, exit the house. If the angry one follows again, exit via the car. Explain before-hand that you will return as previously explained in x period of time (could be 15 minutes, a half hour, or more, depending on the circumstances).
With anger no longer an effective means of controlling others, children soon cease to use it to get what they want. 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.