The Relationship Between Shame and Borderline Personality
In the video below, I’ll talk about my experience of feelings of shame and borderline personality disorder, as well as some tips for coping with the shame within borderline personality disorder.
When many people think of borderline personality disorder, they think of anger. Angry people with big angry emotions and inappropriate displays of rage, right? Well, not exactly. I like to think of shame as the closest cousin to anger. Shame can be defined as a "painful feeling of humiliation or distress." Shame and anger are two sides of the same coin for me living with borderline personality disorder. Underneath the visible displays of anger, I often just feel shame.
Anger and Shame Are Connected with Borderline Personality Disorder
It’s hard to see shame because it’s something we feel on the inside. Unlike anger and rage (a commonly and easily identified part of BPD), shame is something we often internalize. It’s not visible to those around us. For me, a lot of the self-harm associated with BPD came out of the feelings of shame I experienced. I felt very powerless over my own behavior, often like I was sitting outside of myself, watching myself spiral out of control with anger and hurt. This was predictably followed by deep and intense shame (cue self-harm, self-loathing, and self-destructive behavior). Over time, I’ve learned new ways of coping. The feelings of shame still come up often, but I have new ways of dealing with them.
Learning to Identify Shame and Its Triggers
The first and most important step to healing shame is learning to recognize it. Awareness is everything. Shame wasn't even a part of my vocabulary until I was maybe 26 years old. I knew one familiar feeling “I am just so angry.” When I went to treatment for intensive outpatient therapy during a particularly difficult part of my life with BPD, I was placed in a group therapy session that was called “Anger and Shame.” Truthfully, I didn’t understand what anger had to do with shame and vice verse. It gave me a new vocabulary with a trusted therapist to identify how these worked together. I’d feel deep shame and then act angry. I’d get angry and act out and then feel deep shame. They seemed to dance together.
It’s been important to identify situations, scenarios, and behaviors that trigger feelings of shame. Over time and in conjunction with a trusted therapist, I’ve started to identify common triggers and themes surrounding my shame. With awareness, I’ve had less of a need to act on it destructively. I’ve also learned to identify people and relationships in my life that seem to trigger the shame and reevaluate whether or not these are healthy relationships.
Learning to Accept Feelings of Shame with BPD
Many of us with BPD are encouraged to keep diaries and logs of our feelings. This is especially helpful around shame. We don’t really have a vocabulary (at first) other than “I’m angry”, which is very childlike. Children feel shame all the time and it’s common in homes with abuse and trauma and neglect like the homes many of us with BPD come from. We just aren’t taught to name it and deal with it.
Shame is often silent. It festers and boils inside until it comes out sideways. Learning to acknowledge shame, recognize it, and name it is half the battle in healing from borderline personality disorder. When shame comes up now, I talk about it with people I trust, I write about it, and I give it space to breathe. I remind myself: "there is no such thing as a 'bad' feeling."
With awareness of shame, comes acceptance. And from acceptance, comes compassion. As we heal from BPD, we begin to learn that every single one of our feelings is valid, even shame.
Easton, W. (2018, October 23). The Relationship Between Shame and Borderline Personality , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2018/10/the-relationship-between-shame-and-borderline-personality
Author: Whitney Easton