Sense of Self Part 1: Directional Thought

What is Directional Thinking?

Many people with BPD struggle with negative self-image and difficulty controlling their thoughts and emotions. The fight to gain control of my racing emotional thoughts can be debilitating. That’s why I’ve decided that practicing “directional thinking” is a great idea.

Directional thinking simply means focusing your thoughts on a particular theme or idea, in order to have more control of the “inner dialogue” that everyone possesses. Many churches have discovered this secret and use it by writing or reading daily spiritual devotionals. The devotionals give you a particular theme, topic, or Bible passage to think hard about. Every time you catch yourself thinking scattered or emotionally charged thoughts, try to fit or redirect your thoughts into the “theme” given that day.

Not everyone likes spiritual devotionals, though. I’m an atheist, for example. In a case like this, you must think up your own self-devotional. Pick a theme you want to think about, something that has a lot of bearing on your life. For my first “devotional,” I chose to think about my Sense of Self for a week. I’d like to share my experiences with readers in this multi-part blog series on Sense of Self.

Identity Disturbance

Everyone goes through times of uncertainty or change, and everyone makes occasional decisions they later regret or don’t understand. For people with Borderline Personality Disorder (or Dyslimbia), though, these occasions are chronic and recurring. One of the criteria for BPD is “Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.” What this means is different for everyone, but basically it’s a sense of not really knowing who you are.

For me, “identity disturbance” manifests in several ways. First, since I also have a dissociative disorder, I sometimes feel like I have multiple personalities. My desires are so conflicted between totally different options, to the point where I feel like I am more than one person. Even if you know you don’t have multiple personalities, though, identity disturbance can still be very real and very frightening. I often become mentally anguished because I have this idea of who I’m supposed to be, and yet I’m doing things that don’t fit with that model, leaving me confused and frustrated. Identity disturbance is different for everyone, so if you care to share, please comment below. At any rate, it’s a problem that most people with BPD have to battle.

Today’s Example

In order to have a more stable self-image, it’s important to have goals concerning what kind of person you want to be. For instance, I want to be a “courageous, healthy, helpful, capable, strong, and self-controlled” person. Then, when I feel I don’t know who I am, I think about small steps I can take to become more like my ideal self. Equally as important, I give myself examples of how I’m already a person who shows many of those qualities. Let’s look at an example of this kind of directional thought from my own life.

Last night, I made an unwise decision and drank to excess, waking up today sick and hung-over. I also slept in very late, and realized my goals for the day could not be met thanks to my bad decision. On top of that, I received an invitation to a job interview on very short notice—with an intimidating company. As a result, I began to have a lot of racing thoughts, crippling anxiety, and intense self-loathing. Then I considered what I could do to calm my thoughts, and remembered my theme of Sense of Self.

Distracting from my panic, I told myself what I had done recently that proved I am “capable, strong, and self-controlled.” I thought about what small steps or actions I could take toward my goals, and how each one would prove I am “courageous” or “healthy” or “helpful.” To my surprise, exercising this directed thinking helped me through the intense anxiety until my medicine had time to kick in.

In summary, I believe directional thought could be a great tool for people with Borderline. In the next part of this blog series, I’ll continue discussing my experiences as I try to form a stable sense of self.

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