A Guide to Self-Forgiveness for People With Borderline Personality Disorder
We all make mistakes. It’s a given. It doesn’t help if you’re too hard on yourself; something every borderline challenger can relate to.
There are plenty of times I’ve reacted before I could rationalize. As I grow and develop myself each day, the frequency of this reduces, but it rears its ugly head once in a while nonetheless. I’ve learned one of the hardest things to do is to love myself, particularly when I’ve screwed up. Here are some ways I try to look beyond the situation, and consider it as a growth opportunity. A quick word of advice though: Begin to do this when you have totally removed yourself from the situation. Sometimes that may be days or weeks after (you’ll know when you longer feel seething anger or uncontrollable tears and instead these are replaced by guilt and self-pity/self-deprecation).
1. Accept: Part of the reason we sometimes fail to forgive ourselves is that we don’t want to accept we messed up. Instead, we go straight to self-deprecation and punishing ourselves. This isn’t helpful, simply because it prevents you from looking beyond the incident.
First, say out loud what you did. And then follow it with a statement affirming that you accept the fact that it happened, and that you fully embrace the consequences.
2. Acknowledge: Here you acknowledge the emotions you felt then which caused you to react the way you did. For example: Your significant other said something to upset you before you headed out to work, and you carried that with you, acting out through reckless driving. Acknowledge you felt uncontrollable anger at that point, and could not see a way to calm down.
3. Watch: Now that you know what the emotion you felt was, it’s time to watch yourself. Try to replay the incident in your mind; this time as an outsider. Imagine you’re watching yourself drive angrily, and yet you know exactly what’s going through your mind. This is important because it helps you gain perspective on how your actions affect others, despite the action having little-to-no relation with the incident that provoked it.
4. Let go and forgive (this is the most important step): The previous three steps are to help you fully experience the emotions, so that you can finally do away with them (in the context of that situation). Now, you choose to let go and forgive yourself. I’ll admit it — this step isn’t easy even for people who can control their emotions. I realize it might be much much harder for you, given the roller coaster you’re probably always on. That’s why I initially advised doing this days or weeks after the actual incident. But do this, you must. Trust me: harboring the regret and guilt will not help you in your journey to challenge the heck out of borderline personality disorder (BPD). At this point, you once again vocalize the fact that you’re letting go of the incident and associated emotions. Then follow it up by saying you forgive yourself for your actions.
5. Commit to change: They say the best apology is changed behavior. Here you aren’t apologizing to anyone but yourself. (Chances are, you’ve probably beaten yourself up enough about the incident and don’t know how to begin to apologize to the affected people in your life. Or even better, you probably have already apologized to them multiple times). Either way, I recommend forgiving and apologizing to yourself is a pre-requisite in order to work towards the best apology your loved ones could ever get: a fully aware BPD challenger who makes sure his/her life is not dominated by the illness. This is the point where you list out alternate reactions to the same incident and commit them to memory (once again, not an easy task, but something that feels fulfilling when you do it!). In this step, you are planning for a future, which is less governed by your emotions and more ruled by you!
6. Tackle life head on: No explanation needed here. You’ve accepted, acknowledged, embraced, watched, let go, forgiven, committed to change. Now all that’s left is go out with your head held high. Like every BPD challenger should.
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