A matter of choice – BPD and self-worth

I am posting another “Reblog” from the same blog, “Life in a Bind – BPD and Me”, as this post really gets at one of the fundamental aspects of therapy: self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is not simple, as it involves accepting the part or parts of yourself that refuse to accept you. In other words, in order to learn to love yourself, you may need to love the parts of you that hate you and berate you, that try to convince you that you are worthless…

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

People come to therapy with a variety of issues, and with their own individual goals. But whatever the particular difficulty, at the heart of therapy there are often twin tasks: to reveal the ways in which we really think about ourselves; and to ‘make up for’ what has been missing. Or, to put it in even more general terms, the twin tasks of therapy are concerned with content (or process) and with relationship – and both are important.

But even when it comes to content, and uncovering the nature of our thoughts and assumptions about the person we thought we knew best – that too, at heart, is about relationship. But in this case, it is the relationship we have with ourselves, that is being explored.

In my experience, and on the basis of reading numerous blogs by others with BPD, there is nothing more likely to elicit feelings of…

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Tuesday Blog Day: “The Cornerperson”

I’m still trying out my new blogging schedule, so this will be for Tuesday, Feb. 16. Tuesday is the day for using words to say something in one or more sentenceI’ve heard this phrase from a few patients about therapy, even about me being in their corner when they are not!

Interestingly the idiom originates with boxing, which I often conjure up as a therapist. It feels like I am in the ring but in the corner; I’m not a boxing expert; in fact, as usual with blogging, I learn something just by getting into a topic. Check out this list of boxing terms:

http://www.predictem.com/boxing/terms.php

The “cornerman” (“corner person”), also called the “Second” is one of several people who work in that corner during the “fight”. The head trainer is described as a Chief Second.

“Go the distance” is from boxing too, and also can be used as a metaphor for therapy.

SO,when you think of therapy as a process and the role of the therapist, one way to describe it is that the therapist is your Second, your Cornerperson, and sometimes you may notice that the therapist is in your corner even when you are not. What this means for me as an art therapist is that I am familiar with sitting or standing patiently in the person’s corner, even when they seem to be hiding or in the other fighters corner. Perhaps the interesting question would be, “When it feels like I’m in your corner when you’re not, where are you?”

Does this mean life is seen as a “boxing match” which involves fighting another person with your gloves on and there being winners and losers?

Not really. To me maybe the boxing match is useful for a person’s process in therapy. Are they fighting themselves? Are they fighting imaginary opponents or very real ones? Are they training and not fighting to win anything?

Maybe it is more accurate to describe the  therapy process as a boxing match that has the patient, their other “parts”, and the therapist in their corner? During therapy you see and accept parts of yourself that were in the “shadow” part of yourself. Integration can involve accepting all parts and having all parts be in the “Whole” gestalt of you and your Self concept. Perhaps seeing the extreme parts of yourself, such as the self-hater and the “grandiose” self, could be seen as having those parts in the ring and at some point they don’t fight each other, they can co-exist side by side. At first, the self-hater may  be taking up most of the space and you can’t even see your grandiose self… Part of the therapist’s job may be to see some parts that are mostly in the shadow and help the person look at that part without hiding from it…

Poem: Accepting the Donald Trump within Me

Time is running out. I have to accept my own Donald Trump before he takes over and actually does something really stupid.

Trump loves whatever he says.

He doesn’t think before talking.

He loves attention. (I think my Trump is writing this poem.)

He loves to say crazy things and not agree with them the next minute.

He thinks he is really unique and worships himself.

He doesn’t like playing by the rules.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

My inner assistant Angie is keeping him in line

Angie knows when to say to my Trump:

“Shut the Fuck Up!”

Love Yourself

Great poem about acceptance and self-acceptance…

Memee's Musings

selfie of a girl blowing a kiss to herself photo selection by Memee’s Musings

Love Yourself is one of three winning poetry submissions for last month’s poetry party: How Do I Love Thee?  It was submitted by People, Things and Life blogger Blair.

Love Yourself

What they say isn’t true.
You don’t need to love yourself
Before someone can love you.

               All the things about you that you hate
                           Your quirks, your fears,
                           Your hair, or your ears
                              Someone will love
                           And find really great.

                    Sometimes it takes acceptance
                              from someone else
                             To accept our flaws
                              And love our self.

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Instructional Post for Writing 201: How to on Radical Self-Acceptance!

“It takes a really long time to realize this, but if you’re lucky you eventually see that you’ve got this life on this planet and you’re responsible for really loving yourself. And I mean really, really, really loving yourself. Love is never a corruption. I’m talking about loving yourself with a true love, a love that’s incorruptible and everlasting.”
― C. JoyBell C.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

What is radical self-acceptance? Really it is pretty simply exactly what those words mean. For something that easy, it is pretty hard for many adults to practice Radical Self-Acceptance.

Try saying out loud: “I accept myself completely as I am right now.” It sounds simple, but remember, it means you accept everything about yourself in this exact moment: your physical body, your emotional body, your mental, creative and spiritual bodies, not the way you might have looked or felt or been several years ago or as you think you “should be” right now or how you want to be in some future time. This means you accept your whole body, for example, you can’t just accept your head and pick apart which parts of your body are acceptable and what isn’t. It’s all or nothing. As one of my patients once told me, “You cannot receive something in parts or somewhat, you have to receive it completely or not at all.”

So the challenge is, can you receive yourself and accept yourself in this present moment, no matter what you are feeling, how you are looking, what is going on with you and your life. I posted a while back about this kind of self-acceptance. I took a piece I read about yoga “not caring”, which had a lot in it about yoga not caring what you know, how flexible you are, how you eat, etc., and turned it into a challenge to not “care” what state of affairs your life, body, career or lack thereof, apt or lack of home, family or no family, etc. is and to just care that you have showed up to your life in this moment. The link to the post is:
https://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/just-show-up-and-be-here-now-getting-through-difficult-times-like-the-holidays/

Here are a few of the sentences:
“I don’t care what color my skin is or what gender I choose to love or what gender or non gender I am. I don’t care about others’ appearance, sexual orientation, gender, etc. either. We all share similar struggles and pain.

I don’t care how much money I have, what house or space I live in, what car I drive, or if I have to live on the streets right now.

I don’t care what my apartment, house, living space etc. looks like right now. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that I am still here anyway.

I don’t care if I smoke cigarettes, drink, use substances that are illegal, eat too much, binge and purge, starve myself, or am addicted to sex or other things or whether I hoard things in my abode. I’m still here and I showed up to this new day and that is enough.

I don’t care if I am single, with someone, with several people, in a messy relationship, stuck in a difficult relationship or anything else.”

To take these ideas into radical self-acceptance, we would not use the words “I don’t care”, but instead, “I accept that…”. For example, I accept myself as I am right now, including what I am doing right now, even if I am drinking, smoking, binging. I accept myself as I am right now, that I live alone in a tiny apartment and am in terrible debt and unemployed. I still can accept myself as I am in this moment, even though I need to lose 20 pounds and my house is a mess…

I first read about the concept of “Radical Self-Acceptance” in a DBT workbook. DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, first discovered and invented by Marsha Linehan.
Here is a link to a description of the concept: http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html

Here is something from that article: “So what’s Radical Acceptance? What do I mean by the word ‘radical’? Radical means complete and total. It’s when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body. It’s total and complete.

When you’ve radically accepted something, you’re not fighting it. It’s when you stop fighting reality. That’s what radical acceptance is.”

So there is the importance of sort of surrendering to the reality of yourself and your life as it is, not as you would like it to be. The word “Radical” may sound extreme but it is just the right word to really pin down this concept, the idea of complete and total acceptance.

There is this too: “Often when you’ve accepted you have this sense of letting go of the struggle. It’s just like you’ve been struggling and now you’re not. Sometimes, if you have accepted, you just have this sense of being centered, like you feel centered inside yourself somehow. ”

So as this article says, this is an interior process but I disagree that it is hard to describe, as it is really very simple. The sense of struggle versus letting go gets at it. It reminds me of the feeling you have when you tense up part or as much of your body as you can and then release. That moment of release is what this is about. Radical Self-Acceptance is a bodily sensation as well as a verbal affirmation. It is what goes on when you focus on your breathing in and out. When you let the breath out, you let go; that is what goes on with this process. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then release it. There is a kind of metaphorical holding of the breath that people engage in during times of stress. Studying for law school exams and saying, I will attend to my body and get a massage and relax after the exams. That is holding your breath till you’re done. Taking care of yourself while going through some kind of big stress like this is a kind of radical acceptance. Accepting that you have no control over what might happen tomorrow, much less a week from now in the exam room is part of this process, for example.

When you are not calm, not grounded, not relaxed, not liking yourself, not using “healthy coping skills”, that is a time to practice this kind of self-acceptance. I accept that I am a mess, that I messed up, that I was doing great at “fill in the blank”, not picking my skin, not binging and purging, not getting drunk, whatever, and now I’m back in the muck, out of control, disgusting, ashamed, whatever. BUT, I can just stop, breathe and accept myself even in this moment of complete “failure”.

I have sat with very smart, very put together, very successful adults and asked them to say the words, “I accept myself as I am in this moment, right now, completely.”, and had them respond that they cannot do it. I press them to just say it out loud even if they do not believe it. Just getting someone to say that out loud is a huge struggle; for some, it is way more challenging than doing stuff that seems impossible, they can run a marathon, write and publish a book, etc. etc., but to say those words can feel impossible. Say them anyway, say them as if your life depended on it, because in a way, it does.

What I love about the theory of the “Dialectic” in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is the idea of two opposing things being true at the same time inside a person. That includes radical self-acceptance alongside the desire to change behaviors. It turns out you can’t change much until you completely accept yourself as you are now, in the bad, unchanged messy state. You can feel sad and self hateful and want to die and still accept yourself right now, and it is the only route to ever living at all.

Radical Self-Acceptance happens right now, but it is also a work in progress. I can say that I radically accept myself as I am now, and most of me not believe it and say it isn’t true, but when I say it, it is true.

It is 11:11. I should have done my yoga practice and be getting ready to go to sleep. I should have written this article last week as it is not this week’s assignment. I haven’t done the first assignment, the interview yet. My mouth tastes lousy and I should brush my teeth. I think I missed going to the dentist and probably haven’t flossed enough. Now that I focus on it, my teeth are too yellow. My body feels uncomfortable from eating too much heavy food a few hours ago. I am behind on some bills and not budgeting. That could lead me to my issues with money. There’s the graphic novel I started in 2000, 14 years ago, and ten pages of it that I misplaced in my own house/apt. I won’t go to the apartment and what kind of state it is in right now, versus how it should look. There’s my studio too, in disarray. I could go on and on about all the ways I am disorganized, not good enough, my little private addictions, like shopping for stuffed bunnies and old Betsey Johnson jewelry on Ebay, during a month when I am buying holiday gifts and have no business buying crap for myself. I will say, I accept myself anyway, as messed up as I could portray myself. I am vain about my hair, but I accept that it doesn’t look like it did ten years ago, and I accept my gray hair and my age.

None of this stuff matters. What matters is that I am trying to accept myself anyway, just like the rest of humanity. I still mostly can believe in my own inner goodness, good intentions, caring, alongside my grandiosity and selfishness, petty jealousies, etc.

I accept myself completely as I am right now. Can you say this too? Of course you can! Just do it, just say it. Look in the mirror and say it every day.