Two-Pronged Solution

(I’m going to sound a little over-excited in this post but I’m still reeling from the revelation! I haven’t had the chance to apply this in real life yet, but I really hope it’ll work, and that it helps someone out there as well.)

The mistake pwBPD make is in assuming that things, especially solutions, are “all or nothing”. When we get triggered, it seems as if the only solution at hand is for the person who triggered us to get rid of the trigger. For example, a recurring issue for the Boyfriend and I is that I tend to feel insecure, jealous and scared when he wants to go out with his friends. The ‘solution’ that always jumps to my mind is for him to simply not go. It would be so easy, and I wouldn’t have to be upset, and everything would be alright!

Except that that’s a false statement. Going along with that ‘solution’ often winds up making things worse over the long run because we do eventually end up feeling guilty and horrible about it. This is when the self-hatred kicks in and we start ruminating about all the ways we’re disgusting and selfish and the people we love should just leave us to die.

In session today the Therapist wanted me to imagine how I would react in a healthy manner. I said that I would ask for some space to calm down, practice my breathing exercises, and then ultimately go back and tell the Boyfriend that, okay, he was well within his right to go out and have fun with his friends.

“Does that sit right with you?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “On the one hand, I’d probably feel better about myself knowing that I was doing the right thing, that I was being mature about all of it…”

“On the other hand?”

“But I would still feel sad. And scared. And upset.”

It was at this point that I realized that I tended to deal with things in either extremes. Either I flipped out and wanted the Boyfriend to override his own feelings to manage mine, or I became meek and passive and kicked out my own feelings (and wound up feeling resentful and even more hurt).

But it didn’t have to be that way.

“I guess I could find a way to deal with those insecurities… I could fact-check and ask for reassurance.”

“That’s good. What do you think about it?”

“So, there isn’t always only one catch-all solution? Wow. I don’t think I ever saw it that way.”

The Therapist pointed out that situations like that called for a two-pronged approach instead.

First was the solution for the more ‘superficial’ issue at hand. I needed to deal with that appropriately — do my breathing exercises, calm down, use my ‘wise mind’ to determine if there were any logical reasons for my emotions (i.e. if the Boyfriend had genuinely done something objectively wrong) or if I was acting out because of BPD triggers.

Next, I couldn’t forget that there were still root issues to tackle. At the heart of it, the reasons for my emotional outbursts were usually due to fear — of abandonment, of being forgotten, of not mattering. Again, I needed to alleviate these fears appropriately, or I would continue feeling upset and dysregulated. I could assuage my fears by asking the Boyfriend for reassurance instead of accusing or lashing out at him. For example, I could ask, “You’ll still love me even if you go out with your friends, right?” Or “Will you forget me if you’re out with someone else?” Or “But you still have the most fun with me, right?” While the Boyfriend would get defensive if I got angry with him and accused him of not caring about me, fact-checking and asking for reassurance would most likely elicit a positive response instead.

Wow. I don’t know. I honestly never saw things that way before. In the heat of a breakdown, I guess I always search for a simple, straightforward way out of the chaos. But oftentimes the simple, straightforward way either neglects the Boyfriend’s needs or my own. Which is why there’s a need for an additional route, thus ensuring both our needs get met.

It’s not a perfect solution, by all means, but it works. And sometimes I think we get so caught up in looking for a perfect solution that we don’t realize that maybe a perfect solution doesn’t exist.


One of the major issues surrounding pwBPD and the way we love is how quickly it can shift in an instant. Everything is judged as it is in that very moment; a loved one, in that sense, cannot hope to ‘collect’ good moments for a rainy day. A storm is a storm. No amount of sunny days can change that.

Love, like so many things, is taught. What my mother taught me was that love needed, in some sense, to be earned. And even then, it could be lost in a heartbeat.

I don’t think my mother suffers from BPD (or any other mental illness, for that matter). She doesn’t seem to suffer from narcissism or fear of abandonment issues. However, she does show a great deal of emotional lability—displayed most often in rage episodes.

Growing up, I never knew what to expect from my mother. How she treated my sister and I was incredibly dependent on her mood of the day. If she’d had a bad day at work, she would come home and take her anger out on us. Nothing we did would be seen as ‘right’ in her eyes, and we often got thrown out of the house for misbehaving. (She has mellowed out with age, although her weapon of choice these days is to engage in a cold war and refuse to speak to me until I apologize.)

My mother told me that no love was unconditional, even hers.

I don’t think I will ever forget that.

The other day, I was standing in line with the Boyfriend. He had his hands full, and he wanted me to help him secure the clasp on his bag. I fumbled at it, and he let out a tsk of annoyance. In response, I literally flinched and took a step back. I thought, “He hates me! I’m such a failure that I can’t even do one thing right, and now he hates me!”

What nons like to do is turn the question back on us. They ask, “Why would you think that? Would you hate me if I did the same thing to you?” They figure that the way we view someone else’s reactions speaks volumes about the way we would react ourselves.

It’s a chicken or egg question. I learned that how my mother treated me on a daily basis was dependent on her moods, and that I had no control over it (expect try my best to keep out of her way). When you factor in BPD hypersensitivity into the equation, I’m guessing that my younger self, did, in fact, view her as ‘hating’ me whenever she yelled at or punished me. I don’t think she did actually hate me (she is my mother, after all) — but it’s how I saw it. And it’s something I’ve internalized, and so it’s shaped the way I view the world.

Do I hate the Boyfriend whenever he does something I don’t like? Do I stop loving him?

It’s a question I’ve given a lot of careful thought to, but I think I would say: No.

I would think it’s logically impossible to be able to turn your feelings for someone on and off so rapidly. I don’t think we immediately throw away all the love we have for you at the drop of a hat, and pick it up equally easily.

Ultimately, it isn’t so much that any feelings or love for him evaporate into thin air. It’s more of the fact that when I’m triggered, my emotions are so loud and intense and distracting that they sweep over everything else. You know when it’s raining so hard you can barely see what’s in front of you? Or when it’s a snowstorm so strong that you can’t even see the ground? That’s what it feels like. The ground still exists; it’s just that I temporarily can’t see it. The love is still there. It’s simply that my feelings are so overpowering in that moment that I can’t get a hold on it just yet.

I don’t know how it feels like to be the other end. But all I can say is that we still love you, somewhere in the back of our minds. The agony is just so acute that we have no emotional space for that love to stand its ground, and so it gets shoved in a dusty corner out of sight.

All storms end eventually. You just need to decide if the rainbow is worth the wait.