How I ran a full marathon without ever training for more than 3 miles

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I am a big believer in the balance of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of us. Actually, each aspect is symbolized by one of the four elements. Fire for spiritual (really for the soul plane as spirit correlates to Ether or the 5th element), water for emotional, air for mental and earth for physical. Earth is the resultant of fire, water and air elements working together. The quality of our external physical manifestations is therefore directly connected to the quality of our intentions, feelings and thoughts. From my perspective, human beings true mission is to bring the truth of the higher spiritual spheres into our physical reality, hence to bring heaven on earth. Many of us deviate from this purpose as we listen to our ego rather than to our heart.   

Many spiritual people deny or reject the physical dimension while it is the crucible of our spiritual achievements. This is why we say that actions speak louder than words. On the same token, Mens sana in corpore sano is a Latin phrase, usually translated as “a sound mind in a sound body”. The phrase is widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being. Emotional healing needs to go hand in hand with physical healing so I got inspired to get myself back in shape. I also wanted to make a statement for a cause that is close to my heart so I decided to sign up for my first full marathon in Salt Lake City.

As I was doing some online research on preparing for the marathon, I came across a video with Wim Hof, a Dutchman that ran a full marathon in shorts and sandals in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F) above the arctic circle in Finland. He is an adept of meditation and yoga. A lot of scientific studies have been conducted about him that proved his claims. In one of his videos, he said that “awakening is to be happy, strong, and healthy; the rest is BULLSHIT!” And I could not agree with him more. I subsequently read a book he co-authored with Koen De Jong “The way of the iceman”.

There is a lot of information online about it but basically the Wim Hof method is a combination of breathing exercises and cold training. I am a morning person and this is when I have the most energy. I decided to create my own routine built on these two principles. I would wake-up, put on some motivational workout music, do 3 series of abdominal crunch and push-ups. Then, I would start the Wim Hof breathing exercises that he actually learned from Tibetan Buddhism. I noticed that holding the breath is the part that kicks the primal brain that is responsible for survival and the immune system. While I could only hold my breath for 1 minute initially, I managed to hold it for 3 minutes a month later. Wim Hof is able to hold his breath for about 10 minutes. I noticed that after the third repetition of the breathing exercise, I felt strong and inspired to do anything. The first day I tried it, it was 6 am in Salt Lake City on March 14th under icy condition. I went out with a shirt and shorts. After 2 minutes running, I felt a sense of exhilaration and I took my shirt off and started running bare chest. I felt amazing and so alive. I ran 1.5 mile that first day. The rare people or drivers I came across may have wondered about this crazy guy running naked in freezing Salt Lake City Avenues. I came back home and took a shower, first warm to bring back my body to normal temperature but ended with a cold shower. My torso was red due to the blood circulation but this is actually a healthy sign. Then I would meditate to connect to my heart and plan my day accordingly to live an inspired life. And it happened to be a good day so I got motivated to do it a second day. My body would actually wake me up naturally early, because it was getting already addicted to the high of feeling alive, typically associated with a dopamine or melatonin rush. I kept this strict routine for 7 days in a row. Then I hit a wall. I intuitively felt would get sick if I were to push harder so I took a break.

As I mentioned in previous blogs, we are a multitude within ourselves. If we keep pushing while ignoring the internal parts of us that feel weak, depressed, worthless or unlovable, these parts will eventually rebel which may manifest in illness or accident. These so-called parts are actually very powerful as they are connected to the inner child, the seat of the soul. During the following week, I did a lot of meditation to listen to these hurt and tender parts of my being, which is commonly called inner child work, while giving my body a well-deserved rest. The adult and child selves within me starting to collaborate more effectively, and I created an inner child playlist mostly made to songs of my childhood. Moving forward, during my routine, I would play both playlists so all my inner children and adults could feel included into this process of getting back in shape. The inner adults bring discipline, knowledge, reason, toughness while the inner children bring enthusiasm, joy, kindness and connection to spirit. Once they start working together, true miracles are possible.

I have included my actual detailed jogging training. As you can see, it alternates cycles of training with periods of rest. And this routine takes relatively little time, 45 minutes at most.

So I ran a total of 24 miles in total to train for the marathon (less than the marathon distance), never exceeding 3 miles on any given morning however all of these runs happened at low temperature (between 20 and 40 degree Fahrenheit) while running bare chest.

One of my training was rather funny and somewhat embarrassing. One of my friends invited me at his cabin in the mountain with over 10 feet of snow. While he started running with me, he quickly returned home. After my regular 20 minute running, I came back but for the life of me, I could not find my way home, as all cabins looked the same. I circled for a while but I was definitely lost. There was also no cell coverage so there is no one I could call. I had to find someone to help me out but the whole neighborhood was empty. There was so much snow that to access any cabin, I would have to plunge into 2 feet of fresh snow well above my knees. There was no street access to the cabins, and most residents there have a snowmobile. There was a small sense of panic but somehow my primal brain had already kicked in due to my new routine and I felt relatively calm and confident. After a few unsuccessful tries, I managed to locate a cabin with people inside. They were definitely surprised to find a naked man asking for hospitality but they were very gracious about it. I called my friend using the WIFI of my unexpected hosts. My friend did not even know his exact address, only the street name as all numbers were covered in snow. I got a map of the residential neighborhood from my new host, and started running again to my friend’s cabin. But after another 25 minutes running in the cold, I still could not find him as it was a rather long street and all cabins looked the same so I had no another choice to return again to my kind hosts. This time, I asked my friend to stay in the street and my compassionate host drove me this time with his snowmobile. And I arrived safely to my friend’s cabin. I was not at all shaken from that experience. We simply laughed, I took a hot shower and then snowboarded the whole day after that. No unnecessary energy had been wasted in fear.

It had snowed the day prior to the Salt Lake City marathon on April 13th. I went to the start a race with shorts and a custom shirt I had designed for my cause, which was now holding my bib. My cold training proved to be very convenient as most runners start the race with lots of layers that they probably had to remove later as it got warmer. I started the race slowly, understanding that I would need the endurance to run approximately 5 hours. I would only play meditation music the first two hours, keeping my workout and inner child playlist for the second part of the race to give me the necessary boosts as things got tougher.

My cardio and my spirit felt great however after only one hour, I felt that my legs were heavy and that my kidneys were strained. I had not trained my legs enough so they would realistically be my limiting factor. After 3 hours, my legs and feet were hurting a lot and I used my playlists to kick in my primal brain. This is a form of NLP technique as the music can now be used to trigger the state. I was then running on heart and will alone. I ran one more hour this way until I reach mile 20. Then my legs abandoned me. I became simply incapable of running so I switched to walking. Walking seemed easy at first as it used different leg muscles, and I found out that I could walk relatively fast. The last two miles were however excruciating and I started limping. I had thoughts of giving up but I could not do it now so close from the finish line. And I finally did cross it after almost 6 hours!

I called my friend Branson and he picked me up. But little did I realize that I had only won half the battle. Recovering from this grueling effort was next. I had to crawl to get to my bedroom as I was incapable of walking anymore. There, I laid on my bed completely disabled so I called Christian to bring me bananas and water. I just did not have enough energy to have a regular meal. For the next 20 hours, I just alternated between sleep and waking time where I would listen an audio program to distract myself. My energy was even too weak to watch a movie on my phone. The hardest part was to crawl to the bathroom to urinate as I had to drink lots of water to support my kidneys’ healing. It was like being sick. The second day of recovery was a bit better. I still could not leave my bed but I could binge on watching movies, and got myself a real meal. During that recovery time, I use a lot of my awareness to be fully present to my body in order to speed up the healing, no matter how much it hurt. The following Monday, my mind was alert and could do some work on the computer though I was limping pretty badly but at least I was mobile again. Tuesday, I was able to go out at night with friends. I gave ample rest to my body during these days, keeping an easy schedule. On Thursday night, I was scheduled to play a tennis league match against the best team of the league, which had won the nationals last year. I had recovered just in time. Just before the match, I did the breathing exercises taught by Wim Hof which I had not done since the marathon. It kicked back my primal brain. I was calm, and determined to win. As expected, I played against a much better player than me but I felt so strong mentally that I ended up winning 6/3 6/4. My opponent lost his composure, as he could not make sense of my resistance on the tennis court to what was supposed to be an easy win for him. I had an overwhelming desire to win while not facing any stress at all. All my teammates were impressed by my win as they were all severely defeated and we ended up losing 4 matches to 1. This single win was however determinant as it kept us on the second position of the league, keeping our chance to qualify for the district tournament.

But the night was not over. My friend Matt called me up and asked me to join him for the 999 ride in Salt Lake City. It is a weekly bike ride that happens at 9 AM at the corner of 900 S and 900 E. So I went biking with over 100 fun people in the streets of Salt Lake City on a beautiful full moon until midnight. I ended up also speaking with a homeless guy to try to help him out, and meet a bunch of interesting people. The night got cooler but I felt great all along. Even after I came home, I still had plenty of energy. Thank you Wim Hof. I can attest from my own personal experience that your stuff works!

However, just like every new information, it is important to make it your own. We need to experiment just as a scientist would do what works and does not work. We use our body sensations, feelings and emotions as our feedback mechanism and inner guidance system. While a teacher such as Wim Hof can provide valuable information and point us in the right direction, our progress lies first and foremost within ourselves. It takes personal discipline, curiosity, introspection, intelligence, proactivity and persistence.

What are you willing to experiment to create a higher quality of life?

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Multiplicity and finding one’s way home towards integration

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I was looking to go to the movies recently with a friend, and I noticed that all movie theaters were playing the latest Captain Marvel movie. A reason why this type of movies attracts such big crowds is because most of us have a powerless inner child that we have buried. Super heroes movies are an enjoyable fantasy for our powerless young selves. This is how it works. We come to this plane of existence as a divine child with no limitation, and no negative imprints. But because of our previous karma, our soul may have decided to come into a family and society environment that is challenging (to say the least for some of us). Our soul has not made the decision to punish us because we are bad. It simply wants us to learn love, joy, faith, celebration, compassion or any other higher vibrational states by first experiencing its opposite. Our soul will then select an environment with a negative imprint that we are meant to transform, and our life purpose is typically the opposite vibration of this negative imprint. This is how our inner child finds itself initially in a traumatic environment. From this place of darkness, a new desire is born, and the first split occurs.

As a baby, we are completely dependent on our primary caregivers. If they are not able to meet our physical and emotional needs, there is very little we can do besides crying or being sick to signal them something is not quite right. It is a very powerless state. In order to survive, we need to adapt to our environment and figure out which strategies will help us best meet our needs and feel the love we are desperately starving for. This process is mostly unconscious. It could be crying, developing an ailment, being quiet, being funny, ignoring one’s needs to the benefit of others (common in big families), being angry, becoming the golden child, not bothering the parents and staying alone, and so on, so forth… When we start going to school, the same process occurs but this time with peers and authority figures such as teachers. So by the time we have become adults, we have already created a whole arborescence of different personalities, and aspects of the selves that live within us. They were all born from the same process of desire and splitting. Some of these parts are repressed in the subconscious while others live in the conscious mind.  These parts may or may not be conscious of each other. These parts may be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual in nature. As a result, all of us are a multiplicity of personalities.

For example, one part may decide to wake up at 6 AM the next morning to go to the gym and start shedding these extra pounds. Unfortunately, when the alarm clock rings the next morning, there is another part that just wants to rest and it shuts off the alarm clock. As a result, we stay in bed until 7:30 AM, the time to get to work in a hurry. Or while we are at a conference, we find this girl super attractive and we decide to talk to her. She is talking with other people. As we come closer, another inner part of us jumps in. It tells us we do not have the time, that she is not that attractive after all, that she is busy with other people, that she will not be interested in us anyway, that she is probably with another guy. So we change our mind and we do not talk to her. This part was probably connected with a fragile aspect of us that got hurt through rejection. The list is endless and this is why we have so much difficulty manifesting a life that feels good. Our parts are constantly fighting each other, having contradictory opinions, sabotaging each other. Basically, it just feels like the US congress 🙂

If we had a traumatic childhood, our state of multiplicity and inner division is often a source of intense suffering. We may have repressed angry, desperate, lonely, suicidal, or bitter parts. They may show up uninvited under pressure or with our intimate partner. Because we have not done the work of inner integration, we are like a big overpopulated house where anarchy reigns. The person in that house with the most energy at a given moment takes control, but then may be replaced with someone else with completely different ideas. In that house, everyone is leaving a mess, it is a cacophony where no one can hear each other, where there is little concern for other house members and actions are only taken when survival is at stake. There are some good people there but they feel powerless to get anyone to listen to them.

Whether we are aware of this or not, we have the desire for better integration and this playground that we call life is simply a perfect reflection of our inner parts and how they interact with each other. It takes immense bravery to see that all the close people in our life are a perfect mirror of our internal parts. How is that possible? How could this authoritarian boss, this crazy ex wife, these rude teenagers, this friend that just betrayed us be all a part of me? They are everything what we cannot stand, and want to push away because they hurt us. Yes, this is why they represent parts of us that are repressed because they were deemed unacceptable by the conscious mind. But they keep manifesting in our physical reality to torment us because they are desperate to come into the light of awareness too. Our soul always attempts to bring light into darkness, or awareness into unconsciousness so this is why these hidden aspects keep manifesting externally. This is why someone on the spiritual path will look inwardly when s/he is triggered. They know that this is an opportunity to heal by bringing a repressed hurt aspect of their past into the light of consciousness for integration.

The first important thing to realize is that we can work on our own internal parts with the way we treat people. So working with other people to develop more collaborative, loving, harmonious relationships is doing the same internally with our own inner parts. This is one of the big secrets of life. This is why the quality of our life is first the quality of our relationships. Our relationships never lie and act as the most accurate mirror of our internal world. So the more strongly we feel about a person (whether positive or negative), the closer mirror s/he is. People we dislike represent aspects of us that we repress and people we like or admire represent aspects of us that we want to develop. Someone in your acquaintances may attract a lot of attention, but you may be mostly indifferent to him/her. This means that s/he is not presently mirroring you so you are ignoring it because this is not important for your personal growth. People that used to be very important to our life may disappear naturally as we keep changing and evolving. And because we live in an efficient universe, many of our immediate relationships would be typically close mirrors of our inner parts, and the relationships that do not provide this mirroring would eventually fade away from our life.

There are people working in highly hierarchical and even dictatorial organizations. It means they may have one or more internal parts that are tyrannizing the rest of them. Most healers are wounded healers because they are healing their parts by healing other people. You will actually not find a healer without a traumatic childhood. The judges and lawyers are people with many critical parts that they need to constantly punish or save. The engineer thinks that his parts have a problem and needs fixing. The professions we have chosen are a very good indicator of our inner world. When a professional occupation ceases to be interesting, it means that it has stopped to be a good mirror to our inner world. Life is not what it appears to be. Many professions that are seen as successful and well paid are actually reflective of deep inner torment such as judges and lawyers. A doctor that sees sick people all day long is not in a much better place. This statement should not be perceived as a judgment. In order to be happy, we need to feel we are growing and healing and these environments are very rewarding so some people.

There are often two sides to these professions. From a karmic standpoint, a policeman is often someone who graduated from being a criminal (same as a criminal lawyer), a doctor from being a patient, a psychiatrist from someone with mental health concerns, a spiritual leader from a follower, a victim from being a perpetrator. The soul desires to understand both sides of the perspective. Actually, it is well documented that many of the Nazi officers during WWII developed very serious mental illnesses.  As they followed orders and killed their stated enemies, they were killing aspects of them at the same time. Scholars also speculate that Hitler suffered from schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, syphilis, severe headaches, dizziness, insomnia, monorchism and Parkinson’s disease. So was Hitler the most powerful man on earth in 1941 or the most powerless one?

Let me repeat this very important shortcut for your spiritual growth. By working on external relationships, we work on ourselves. The hardest reflection is often our own children. For example, a conservative and righteous Christian father with a gay son is often indicative of his own homosexual desires that he had to repress earlier on to fit society model. A fearful ex wife doing protective gatekeeping with her children may prevent at all cost any contact between the father and their children. To be a mirror of this situation, the alienated father may have a strong protector personality that may have shut down his own hurt traumatized inner children in order to survive his own childhood. It is interesting to look at the challenges that children are facing, and how this may just be the reflection of aspects that one or both parents may have repressed.

Many people want fame but to become a star, one needs to be or become a reflector. Basically, s/he needs to project a persona that most people can identify with. A famous person is someone that can mirror the parts of millions of people. Ideally, this star is able to mirror a positive potential to inspire people such as Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Roger Federer, the Dalaï Lama or Jackie Chan. But otherwise, one can become just as famous by projecting the repressed darker parts of the collective. Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s political advisor, knew that very well when he said “it’s better to be infamous than never be famous at all. And, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. Fame, however, is a double-edged sword. If fame does not come as a natural consequence of who you are as a person from your core, then it is easy to get lost in the process of being famous and appealing to the masses. The projections of these millions of people will destroy the famous person who is desperately looking for that attention to have a sense of self. This is the paradox: to be famous and stay mentally healthy at the same time, it is critical to be unattached to fame.

From my perspective, kindness is an underrated quality in our society however we all know that being kind and helpful makes us feel better about ourselves even (or especially) when we do not get anything in exchange. Kindness creates safety, trust, and positive relationships within us too. Loving-kindness is therefore one of the most effective approach towards true integration and this is why so many spiritual practices include it. This is the platform on which the most sustainable collective organizations are built. It is also the most effective way to share constructive feedback with someone. If someone feels shamed, judged or criticized, his or her ego will reject the observation as an attempt for self-preservation. However, it is true that kindness needs to be balanced with firmness so that other people or inner parts may not abuse it.

So if life continues to mirror our inner world to help us grow and heal, what is our ultimate destination?  As we experience life in an introspective way, we learn to recognize what feels the best. What feels the best simply resonates at a higher frequency. We are naturally compelled to look for higher vibrational experiences, emotions & relationships. David Hawkins in Power vs Force made his own hierarchy of emotions and every individual need to feel it, experience it within themselves and build their own graph.

Theory without experience is counter-productive. The more wisdom we acquire, the more we are able to affect our reality in a positive way. When we have nothing more to learn from this hologram-based reality, which means when we have integrated all aspects of the self, shadow and light, our spirit graduates to another world or dimension to continue its progression towards oneness because evolution is infinite. Awakening is nothing else than the integration of all of our parts. First by becoming conscious of them and then making them work harmoniously with each other.

An alternative way to understand disease to take control of your health

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The USA is spending 18% of its GDP or $3.5 trillion in health care every year. This is a confirmation that healing is a key concern of our society and most individuals. As we all know, however, our healthcare system is far from being efficient. While I marvel at organ transplants, our ability to get people to survive the worst accidents and treat infectious diseases, healthcare is still predominantly a reflection of our collective vibration of powerlessness and dis-empowerment. Most people are still looking for this magic pill or that omniscient doctor to save them from their misery. The rapid rise of bariatric surgery (procedures performed on people who have obesity) perfectly illustrates this symptom. People would pay over $20,000 to reduce the size of their stomach with a gastric band before even considering changing their diet, following an exercise plan, examining their childhood traumas or changing their lifestyle. This trend is fortunately changing with more and more people taking control of their health, educating themselves with the ample information available on the Internet and looking at alternative medicine, just in case mainstream approaches prove to be ineffective. Modern medicine continues to treat patients’ bodies as a machine independent of their emotional, mental and spiritual aspects, and therein lies its main failure. As a result, they treat symptoms rather than the root cause of the ailment.

I have been exposed to emotional, mental and spiritual healing for the last 26 years, and I have developed many healing modalities that have served me tremendously throughout my life. My healing clients are able to benefit from this experience. We first need to realize that most diseases have an emotional component.

As an example, alternative therapists understand now that:

  • Stomach issues relate to stress related to our environment composed of people and situations that we are not able to “stomach” anymore
  • Constipation indicates our resistance of letting go of past situations, people or ideas often because of guilt.  The primary function of the bowel is to evacuate what is no longer useful to the body and our mindset can affect this function.
  • Back pain is a reflection to a perceived lack of support
  • Knee issues are a resistance to move forward both physically and psychologically
  • Headaches are indicative of over-thinking, over-analysis, judgment towards self and others. It is an attempt of our mind to control everything instead of working in harmony with the other aspects of the self for healing
  • And so on, so forth…

As we live our life, pollution, toxic food, people or environment, strenuous activities, radiation, stressful situations, personal tragedies or even accidents may negatively impact our health. Fortunately, we have everything within us to regenerate and heal ourselves, mostly through sleep, healthy food, positive relationships and environments, and an active lifestyle. Health is a state of balance that we strive towards naturally as we are attuned to ourselves and let go of resistance.

From my perspective, there are 6 major causes to all illnesses that we create from the lighter to the deeper:

  1. Not listening to our physical needs

Most people get a cold when they push their physical body harder though they are already depleted of energy. With experience, one can notice the early signs of exhaustion, the first sensation of a sore throat and give one’s body the needed rest before sickness comes in. Light ailment is usually just a call for a forced and needed rest. In the same way, we may stay in adverse physical environments (polluted, too cold, too hot, too much stimulation) too long and we disregard the signs when our body tells us to get out. At other times, the body needs to move & exercise, to get good comfort food, light healthy food or to fast and refrain from eating. A reason why health and wellness is such a confusing field with every expert saying something different is because there are no rules. We are different, and we need something different at different times. We live in a society that is predominantly ruled by the mental. This aspect of us always tries to be in control by rules & principles that are often disconnected to our physical reality in the present. 

2. Not meeting our emotional needs

What is true to our physical body is also true to our emotional self. We stay in toxic relationships or toxic work situations where we swim in harmful negative emotions. It is then just a matter of time that this emotional corrosion will eventually manifest physically. We have the fundamental needs to love and to be loved, to feel worthy, to feel safe, to belong, to be creative and to grow. If we feel continuously deprived of these core emotional needs, we will develop psychosomatic diseases. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, sexual dysfunction, stress disorders, and insomnia are some examples of the many unfortunate psychological disorders we may develop as a result.2. Repressed emotions

3. Repressed emotions

Life is movement, and emotions are powerful energies circulating in the body. When emotions are unable to move anymore, and cannot find an outlet, they may become poisonous. Every family or work environment has a set of emotions that are unacceptable to express whether it is anger, sadness, fear but also even excitement or joy. In order to be loved and accepted, we therefore repress these emotions. The organ corresponding to the emotion will then get impacted. Chinese medicine is well aware of this fact. For example; repressed anger will create liver imbalance, repressed sadness will affect the lungs, repressed fear will disrupt the kidneys and repressed joy will create heart issues.

4. Poor beliefs about self

We are all familiar with the power of belief and that mind creates reality. Negative core beliefs about the self will create lower-vibration emotions that will eventually take a toll on our physical health. The challenge that we face is that most of our negative self-concept is subconscious, as our ego desperately attempts to hide our dark side from the conscious mind. This is why it takes bravery and introspection for this type of inner work. The most common beliefs I have encountered in my practice are “I am unlovable”, “I am bad/evil/dark”, “I am dangerous” or “I am stupid”.

5. Unhealed past traumas

When our conscious mind is unable to deal with a traumatic situation, it automatically shuts down. Dissociation is a survival mechanism that we have used for millions of years. Unfortunately, we do not fully escape the trauma when we dissociate but a fragmentation of the self occurs. The traumatized aspects get buried deep into the subconscious so that our conscious self can go on with life. Some of the buried emotions are highly toxic without counting the tremendous energy required to keep these traumatic events to come back to the surface. The body will keep fighting subconsciously the traumatic events of the past. For example, I have seen women victim of incest or rape as a child, becoming obese, having adverse skin reactions or become overly masculine depending on the degree that they feel their beauty or femininity got them into trouble. Modern medicine is powerless towards these disorders as there is no pill that exists to heal a past traumatic event.

6. Obsolete coping mechanisms

As we go through challenging life situations, we develop coping strategies. For example, we may have developed inner walls or shut down emotionally to deal with a traumatic childhood. These coping strategies may have helped us survive a very abusive childhood environment but it is easy to see how it may isolate us in our adult life. On the same token, we may have developed an addiction (ex. smoking, drinking, drugs, pornography, gambling, video games, social media, being a workaholic etc…) every time we come close to a dreadful emotion. The addiction, which is actually a coping strategy, will eventually have a negative effect on our health. Another common coping mechanism is to numb our senses and in this case, hearing or seeing dysfunctions may follow. Our body always has our best interest in mind so there is always a positive intention in the disease itself. An autoimmune disease attempts to eliminate poisonous or discordant aspects of the self not understanding that by doing so, it is destroying us by the same token. The same is true for cancer. An obese person is creating extra layers of fat to feel protected against a dangerous environment when it feels so hard to keep any boundaries. We react to a perceived threat through freeze, fight, flight or fawn. We may repeat the same strategy over and over again independently of the environment. For example, an overuse of the freeze strategy may result in Bell’s palsy.

This is why so many research studies have shown that meditation can have such a positive impact on our health. Most disease are created and spread because we are not attuned to our emotions, feelings or body sensations. Meditation is the practice to look inward to explore our feelings, emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. We are always receiving new impressions and we are always shifting as a result. Our modern life is unfortunately not tailored to this inner listening. It praises instead the tyranny of the mind over body and emotions. Eventually, the body revolts or crashes.

Though it may not simple at first, there are ways to reverse this process through the conscious listening of our inner world. All emotions, even negative emotions, are our friends. There are here to move the energy around and restore a state of balance. This is why healthy kids go through so many emotions in a single day, from laughing, to crying, being playful or feeling cranky. If you have suffered loss, the emotions of despair, anger and sadness will help you heal. If your boundaries are violated, the positive side of anger will direct you to take action to ensure your safety. Simply learn to create a safe container to express all emotions during your meditation with full awareness. The state of inner alignment is the most conducive to physical and emotional health, and your feelings will point you in the right direction.

I have not been sick for over a year, and I have not had a discomfort that lasted for more than a couple of hours while 2018 has been a very challenging year marked by personal tragedy. I can tell you from my personal experience that one can heal from everything. I have some simple principles that have been critical to my healing and well being that I have listed below. 

  1. Meditation is my refuge. I meditate frequently, ideally every morning, to check-in and create a day according to my values, inspiration and feelings of the moment. But at the very least, I meditate as soon as I do not feel quite right
  2. I am committed to become aware and express all my emotions. I am careful to create a non judgmental safe container for these emotions. Authenticity is the courage to see my feelings for what they are without judgment. It is the commitment to my personal truth independently of the consequences
  3. When required, and when inner listening of my feelings and emotions is not enough, I commit to follow through with actions. This could be calling a friend you have not heard from for a while, or going on a run if my body feels sluggish.
  4. I commit to self care through a healthy emotional environment, a healthy lifestyle, to rest when I am tired and to strive to meet my authentic physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs
  5. I trust my body in guiding me in what I can eat and drink. Sometimes, this may be fruits, avoiding alcohol, vegetable or comfort food.
  6. I strive to live a conscious life, be positive and act as the best version of myself. But when I do not feel well, I do not bulldoze myself but commit to shadow work to use this opportunity to integrate unhealed aspects of myself. Shadow work means being present and exploring the negative emotion to elicit answers about the healing or actions that need to take place.
  7. I stretch myself positively with compelling goals but never to the point of breaking
  8. I believe in balance. Balance of physical, mental, social and spiritual activities. Balance of activity and rest. Balance of work and fun. Balance of solitude and together time. Balance in taking care of self and others. Balance of order and chaos. When done right, balance results naturally in a sense of peace and well-being.

There is nothing more important than health because when we lose it, nothing else matters. We take it for granted and impact it negatively through many small actions every day by not paying attention. But worse, we live in a state of dis-empowerment regarding our health as we were led to believe that our health is dependent on external factors such as germs, genes, pollution or bad luck. It is time for us to take responsibility for our health, build a strong immune system to live a truly fulfilling life.

Healing Towards True Integration

The dysfunctional dance between co-dependents and borderlines

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Part III – Healing Towards True Integration

social_stigmaFor the most part, my last blog on Understanding and Loving the Borderline was well received except on a Facebook group that brings together a vulnerable minority group. My blog triggered them, as they felt stigmatized and shamed. I removed the post from this private group as my intent was to make people feel better not worse, and they were unable to make use of the information. They probably suffered a lot in the hands of a mental health system that often uses labels to prescribe drugs and to scapegoate them instead of providing them with genuine support for healing. Labeling is indeed a dangerous thing. It is fine for people to label themselves as borderline or codependent as a tool for self-observation, but we should refrain from labeling other people this way, as it would just trigger their shame. Shame and self-awareness are incompatible states. This is why, once our shame is triggered, any positive change towards our authentic healthy self becomes impossible. We become frozen and what can happen instead is more fragmentation, meaning that we would build a false self in order not to experience this feeling of shame again. This is actually the process of how false cult personalities are created, and how the false “good guys” personalities are built with codependents. The borderline is however unable to cope and goes into rage. I sincerely do not know which is healthier. Every tool can be used for empowerment or to hurt people. It is up to each one of us to use this information wisely.

We mirror each other’s disowned self

shadow-work-shadow-self-jung-shadow-lonerwolf-minAs I was doing inner work, I remember when I first met my “inner borderline”. We call this process voice dialog or parts work. I display externally little of the BPD characteristics. As I mentioned previously, I have been struggling instead with codependency in my intimate relationships. This makes sense as we manifest externally what is deeply repressed in us. This is how attraction works. As a child, the borderline aspects of my mum and stepmom terrified me but I had to bond with them for my emotional survival. I had made the depression of one and the anger of the other one unacceptable emotions. I created these parts internally to mirror them but buried them deep within my psyche out of fear and in a subconscious attempt to feel safe. I could not have been a magnet for PBPD partners all of my life unless there was a part in me to reflect them. So if a codependent is in a relationship with a PBPD, we need to remember that the borderline is the repressed aspect of the codependent, and vice versa. There is futility in blaming our partner because they are you, both representing the positive and negative aspects of you that you have disowned. The most extreme form of internalizing the people we feel traumatized from, and that we feel dependent on for our survival is well documented as the Stockholm syndrome. An example was the adoration of Nazi concentration camp SS physician Josef Mengele by his victims. Josef Mengele performed the most horrific deadly human experiments on prisoners and in particular on children twins. I recommend a quick read on other famous cases of the Stockholm syndrome. Here is how it works. When a traumatic event occurs that we are not able to process consciously, we fragment. This means that aspects of our consciousness leave our body to find escape somewhere else. In very powerless situations, these fragmented selves actually find refuge in the abuser as it feels it is the safest place to hide. As a result, we create deeply repressed internal parts of the very same persons that traumatized us. We cannot acknowledge these aspects consciously as otherwise we would live in a constant state of anxiety so they manifest externally in particular in the form of romantic & intimate relationships. We have a tendency to fall in love with people showing the same dysfunctional aspects of our parent of the opposite gender. This is why women raised with an emotionally unavailable father would attract the same in their partners. And this is why I have been with PBPD most of my life. I am not a victim. They are simply mirroring the aspects of me that I have repressed. They are helping me to become conscious. In the same way, all the PBPD I have been with had a codependent father that I was mirroring back for them. It may be depressing news but most of us are simply trying to earn back the love we did not receive as a child (from our parents). We are actually replaying the traumas and the stories of the past instead of actually truly connecting with our partners. There is only one way out, which is bringing these lost aspects of ourselves back to the light of consciousness. Seeing these parts, accepting them, loving them and ultimately forgiving oneself for reenacting this drama subconsciously are the steps to recovery.

Think of yourself as the trinity: adult, child and soul

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 9.31.27 PMIn the process of integration, I have found it a helpful tool to see myself as the composite of my (hurt) inner child, my adult and my transcendental self. The codependent identifies with his adult self, while the PBPD identifies with her hurt inner child. The borderline feels too much while the codependent is hardly in touch with his feelings. For a healthy development of the individual, we need a balance between these two aspects. The inner child gives us our spontaneity, our creativity, our joie de vivre, access to more subtle aspects to our being. The adult self keeps us out of trouble, has wisdom to draw from, and helps us function in this physical reality. A genuine partnership between our child and adult has to be formed to restart an inner development that likely stopped during an early traumatic event. We do not want an overbearing internal adult (codependent) or tyrannical and out-of-control inner child (BPD). Life has its way of recreating balance. This is why children of PBPD get parentified, and why codependents are irresistibly attracted to PBPD. If you able to create a healthy balance of these aspects within yourself, the universe will also mirror it externally with a more stable partner. How does this work in practice?

  • When you feel uneasy and stuck, do shadow work to bring these aspects of you into awareness. Do not bulldoze your inner child into performing other activities that may appear more important to the inner adult. I understand that life has constraints so if you cannot attend right away to the inner child (which is the ideal), commit to schedule this inner work within 24 hours.
  • Follow personal inspiration, creativity and your inner joy whenever you can. Look for simple ways to feel genuinely happy
  • Stay aware of the consequences of your actions. Spontaneity does not have to equate with recklessness
  • Temper your internal fears with the wisdom from your personal experience
  • Know your limits, and assess your personal boundaries wisely. Follow-through, be responsible but not at the expense of your authentic self.

Try to visualize some of the healthiest parent/child relationships you have witnessed in your life. This is what you need to create internally. The inner child is the seat of the soul. The bible says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. But the child needs to develop to become this clear channel to the higher self. And he needs a wise, compassionate and supporting inner parent to grow-up. As we enter the spiritual path, many of us will find a hurt inner child whose development stopped at a very early age. We need to take this traumatized child where he is, without judgment and patiently re-parent ourselves. Another way to look at it is to see our inner child as our essence and our adult as our personality. When these two aspects of us start working in harmony, we can consciously access the more transcendental aspects of our beings.

Authenticity

unique red umbrella among black umbrellas with city backgroundTo get out of codependent relationships, we need to realize that “People in the relationship are more important than the relationship”. This sentence goes against many of our social bias. Miserable married people are often advised to stay together even when they have become toxic to each other. I understand that any intimate relationship will go through their ups and down and I am not advocating to breakup as soon as there is a bump in the road. Sometimes we struggle with the relationship but we deeply care about our partner and we feel this is helping us become a better version of ourselves. This is a situation where we need to fight for the relationship because it is supporting us as an individual. Actually, as we are able to successfully survive these difficult times, the relationship will then reach a much higher intimacy. There are other situations however when the marriage brings both pain and the loss of self. These are times to get out. Staying in a miserable marriage for the sake of the children does not make sense; they are well aware of the conflicts and this is damaging to them. We want to be models that they do not have to compromise their personal happiness to be in an intimate relationship. Putting the self above the relationship is a very scary and risky choice for the codependent. We probably entered the relationship pretending we were someone we are not because of our personal shame. Our partner may feel betrayed, duped or threatened as we reveal the real us. We may be rejected, abandoned as a result, and if your partner is narcissistic, they will surely do this and also discredit you to any common acquaintances. This is a very painful experience but a price worth paying to recover your authentic self. In any case, we need to remember that any other option is futile. What makes us attractive and sexy is our individuality; not being an accessory to someone else. As we compromise ourselves to fit into the relationship box dictated by our nascissistic partner, we will stop our attractiveness and our mate will abandon us anyway. We need to remember that it is better to be alone than being in the wrong company. We can remind ourselves that we survived brutal breakups in the past, and ended in a better place once the grieving was done. As we feel depressed by the loss of the relationship and see no end to our personal misery, we can bring King Solomon’s wisdom: “This too shall pass”. Actually, when we look back at the most difficult times of our life, we can see retrospectively that these were the times we did the most growth, and created the foundations of our future happiness. Life is a series of steep climbs and flat plateaus, then further climbs. Being in a relationship should always be a free choice. This is the only way to experience a true heart-to-heart connection to our partner. While there are external forms of coercion such as the threat of personal injury, losing one’s children or litigation when attempting to leave a relationship, these are quite rare and extreme. What is more insidious and common is the coercion coming from our own personal fears. Here are some examples.

If I leave her/him, if s/he breaks up with me:

  • I will have to compromise my personal lifestyle, take care of my personal finances and probably lose financial security
  • I will be alone which I cannot handle
  • I will have to be back on the dating scene, which I detest
  • I will lose face with my family, friends and community
  • I will have to go back to work
  • I will have to move
  • I will not have sex anymore
  • I will not handle seeing my ex with a new partner
  • I will have to take care of the children on my own which I feel incapable of doing
  • I will die because I cannot handle another breakup
  • I will not handle the guilt of hurting my children
  • I will have to start cooking and do my own laundry
  • I will lose all of our joint friends
  • I will have no one to protect me
  • I will have no one to take care of me if I am sick
  • I will lose the relationship with my children
  • I will lose the relationship with my in-laws

independent-300x200Can you see these are all wrong reasons to stay with someone? It makes the person a means to an end and this will destroy your intimacy. The times for selecting our partner for survival reasons are well over. In this day and age, intimate relationships are primarily for emotional nurturing, experiencing love, feeling seen, felt and understood, personal growth and enjoyment. If you are just looking for transactional relationships, you can simply use service providers as our world can offer any possible service imaginable in exchange for money. This is why it is so important to develop personal autonomy in our life as this allows our closed ones to be with us because they want to be there and not because they have to. We can move from the conditionality of love of the sacral chakra with all its cords, control drama and power struggles to the unconditional and pure love of the heart chakra. Of course, we should not take the goal of personal autonomy to the extreme to the point of being afraid of asking for support from others. The key is never to put yourself in a state of dependency that may lead you to compromise your personal integrity or stop honoring your personal boundaries. When your personal situation does not allow for this right away, just make a goal to create this personal autonomy in the future and make it a priority. Authenticity cannot strive in a controlled environment because the price to pay for your personal truth would be too high. Also, when we are incapable of taking care of ourselves, we will create expectations in our union, which in turn will create tension. This is not a conducive environment for love to flow. If you want a clean house and both you and your partner dislike cleaning, best is to hire a cleaning lady. If you are in need of physical affection but your partner is drained, go get a therapeutic massage. As a codependent, authenticity can be daunting as we are so afraid to lose everything once we find ourselves, and start sharing our authenticity with the world. It is true that the world reacts often very brutally to codependents finally standing in their truth. If you express your authentic self to your partner in a vulnerable way but s/he is not able to carve a place for your authentic self, it is best to let go. Our authentic self is our most treasured possession and without it, there cannot be the possibility of a joyful and happy life. I had given everything to my relationship but once I stood in my authenticity, the relationship did not survive. It took courage and it was incredibly painful but as a result, I received the ultimate gift of living an authentic life and stepping out of codependency. It was all well worth it.

Loneliness

5b3e5251fc7e9314158b460b.jpgLoneliness is one of the most painful feelings to experience consciously. We understand conceptually that we are one and connected to everything that is alive. I remember reading Radical Forgiveness years ago from Colin Tipping, and I had an epiphany when the author stated that our experience on earth is first about experiencing the illusion of separateness. Separateness is an enduring illusion because our physical body is separate from other beings. We are one with our mother then separate from her at birth to create an individual experience. We go through the process of death and many other painful experiences alone. We cannot go through life without feeling rejected, abandoned or criticized at times. In my personal experience, there is actually no biggest suffering than losing the connection to our creator. Even Jesus doubted on the cross if God had abandoned him “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Many of us with attachment traumas are suffering from profound loneliness and we become vulnerable to a variety of addictions as a result. There is a compulsory need to fill this void at any cost. This feeling of emptiness is actually caused by our internal fragmentation as we have lost many aspects of ourselves through the traumatic events of our upbringing. Filling this void with people or various addictions can only give us a temporary relief, and this is what codependents and borderlines attempt to do. It is like the person who lost his way in the forest who gets relief by meeting someone else only to realize this person is lost too. This may bring some temporary comfort however the two people are still lost. From my perspective, this form of pathological loneliness can only be healed in two steps. First, we need to feel consciously our deep and profound loneliness without trying to escape it. This is best done in a meditation setting where we create an internal container for the painful emotion with no judgment, letting our internal torment and fears run their course. From this place, if we are patient enough, eventually grace will come in and we will remember somatically our divine nature and recover our connection with God. As we realign with our soul and our sense of purpose, we can feel complete. We may still feel lonely at times as we go through phases when we do not have special people in our life to reflect our wholeness. However these phases are temporary and they do not destabilize us because we feel the security of our connection with our higher self that is connected with everything. Overtime, we learn to be alone without feeling lonely and aloneness becomes even a means to strengthen our connection to the divine. Our deep longing for an intimate connection becomes more a thirst to reflect our divine nature than to fill an endless void. Our divine nature is love, giving and receiving love. Is there anything better in the world than intimate relationships to experience it?

Stepping out of the drama triangle victim/persecutor/rescuer

DDT-transparent.pngThe PBPD is addicted to the victim role. She feels so unworthy and hopeless that she believes she can only get attention through pity and other form of victim control drama. The codependent is addicted with the rescuer role. He feels so unworthy that he feels he has no value unless he fulfills a specific role or does something for someone. To break this negative cycle, the codependent needs to apologize to the PBPD for putting her in a state of dependency, disempowering her and not creating the conditions where she could solve her own problems. Without bypassing her pain, the PBPD needs to find the strength to find the hidden treasure that came from her abuse, to realize that her persecutor is just another victim like her and eventually forgive her abuser and herself for creating this painful experience at a soul level. The Hawaiian prayer Ho’oponopono “I am sorry – Please forgive me – Thank you – I love you” is another powerful way to break out of the dysfunctional roles of the drama triangle and undo the false narration. But please remember to do this prayer from the adult or soul perspective but never from the hurt inner child as this could be very damaging.

Transition plan as we rewire our brain for real love

rewirethebrainBecause of his unhealthy childhood environment, the codependent actually got addicted to constant drama. He thrives with chaos, conflict and dangerous situations as this gives him the opportunity to prove his self-worth by rescuing. Drama is actually associated with love in his brain. Because it takes time to rewire a brain and examine all false beliefs, I recommend the recovering codependent to engage in more productive activities where he could experience the same adrenaline rush. He can start a more risky professional activity (reward and risk often go together), or enjoy extreme sports. On the other end, the borderline is addicted to emotionally abusive situations so that they can get attention through victimhood. Abuse equal love in her brain. One of my partners had suffered in a horrific way in the hands of one of an extremely disturbing violent cult. The abuser of her childhood pretended to be her dad but was also sexual with her. As we can expect, her intimate relationships were very unstable as a result. She would start all of her relationships idealizing her partner but then would slowly start seeing her companion through the filter of her childhood abuse. She would then replay the escape of her childhood nightmare by orchestrating the end of the romance. Then, she would enter a demonization phase where she would try to convince anyone willing to listen to her that her ex was part of the same cult that inflicted her so much grief as a child. In a similar way than the codependent, the PBPD can turn her addiction to abuse to productive use by helping the unfortunate ones. Since 2001, Angelina Jolie has been on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally displaced persons. She also adopted 3 children. French sex symbol Brigitte Bardot has dedicated the second half of her life rescuing animals. Princess Diana was involved in over 100 charities and she made a big impact fighting homelessness and helping victims of HIV/AIDS and leprosy. Overtime, as healing takes place, both PBPD and borderline learn to enjoy a more peaceful and simple love without relentless crises. They realize that can experience intimacy and love without the roller coaster.

The 80/20 rule in seeing the positive in your partner

imagesThe PBPD will have a tendency to catastrophizing and only focus on the negative in herself and her partner. The codependent will often err on the opposite. He will stay positive and apparently strong any time his partner feels bad or negative. This is his way to cope and exercise control in the situation. He has a tendency to act too optimistic in situations potentially dangerous to his partner. Even if his wife struggles with alcoholism, he could say “Let me give you a glass of champagne darling, this will help you relax”. He will let his wife go out with a man interested romantically with her trusting them a bit too much. He will give his daughter to a baby-sitter with bad vibes. He will decide to go out with his friends at the time his wife feels suicidal. Wearing pink glasses is his way of coping. He thinks he can make himself safer when imagining that we live in a good world with good people. He actually endangers himself and his family with this attitude. His borderline partner, on the opposite, feels too much the potential dangers and often amplifies them. She feels she cannot trust her codependent partner to keep her safe and will go ballistic at him when her anxiety reaches a threshold. The codependent will typically only crash emotionally and display negative emotions when his borderline partner feels happy! First, he feels very threatened by her happiness as he fears that she will not need him anymore if she feels good. Secondly, he built resentment through the many crises but did not allow himself to feel any of it because of the instability in the relationship. If he sees his borderline partner doing well, he feels this is his opportunity to share everything that upset him over the last few weeks, which unmistakably overwhelms and triggers his borderline girlfriend.

It is very frustrating for the PBPD as she feels she spends most of her time in doom, and when the sunshine comes, he immediately spoils it! In my twenties, I worked as an engineer in the Silicon Valley software start-up. We had a borderline male employee called Steve with constant conflictual relationships with many co-workers. The CEO liked him however because Steve’s mind was always focused on what could go wrong and this helped avert potential business threats as he felt that the rest of the management team was too optimistic. Though there are some positive aspects in looking at a glass half empty however there is a problem in always seeing the negative in your partner. The codependent struggles with shame too. If he is constantly shamed who he is and what he does, he will start deflecting the shame and pointing to his partner her own shadows. They will work on each other non-stop. It will cease to be a relationship. It will become a self-improvement torture chamber. To support someone towards positive change, it is well known that we need to receive more compliments than criticism. By continuing to reflect the positive of our partners, we will support their development towards their higher potential. On the other hand, the codependent needs to be more connected, aware of his environment and realize that the policy of burying one’s head in the sand is not the right strategy to follow. He should ensure to stay positive when his borderline partner feels good so that she can fully enjoy these brief moments of happiness. He needs to improve his communication so that he can bring constructive feedback in a way that would be best received by his borderline partner. He needs to express things as they come so that they do not have the time to fester in him. The borderline has to learn to see her codependent partner more objectively. She goes from idealization to demonization back to idealization and then again demonization in no time. She needs to recognize that her partner has qualities and flaws just like she has. Putting in writing how she feels about her partner will help her realize her “splitting” and eventually heal from it.

Become an expert in your partner

811572_attachment_jpeg05d3189c3adf883faec5e1cdaf2a0d73First by becoming an expert in your partner, you will learn to spend enjoyable time together while minimizing triggers. Ask lots of questions, be inquisitive and curious about him/her. The better she feels, the better you feel or more succinctly “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. By better understanding your partner’s dysfunctions, you can also better support their recovery and avoid fatal mistakes. This knowledge is best received when it is inconspicuous and unconditional. It should not be a way to score points for a hidden agenda. In this day and age, we are lucky that so much valuable information is at our fingertips. About any question we have may be answered by an insightful YouTube video or podcast. We can make our car a university on wheels during our commute time and keep improving our relationships. There are optimal communication strategies for any type of person and this is what we need to become skillful at using the right words at the right time. If you partner is codependent, here are some of the approaches that may work:

  • If he feels disconnected, be inquisitive, ask him how he feels, use his love language to bring him back to his heart, help him bring out to the surface what is bothering him deeply inside
  • If he says yes but you feel no weight behind his words, challenge him in his commitment. Either get him accountable and make it easy for him to say no. Confront him every time you feel he is lying to him and others (mostly subconsciously because he is a people pleaser). Do not let him off the hook. Point out his lack of consistency and how this is impacting others
  • If his words or actions are hurting you, become vulnerable on how he is making you feel and take responsibility for your feelings not to trigger his shame. Empower him to make things better for you. Tell him you hurt because you love him
  • Get him in touch with his shadows. Create a safe container for him to express the parts behind the “good guy”, all of the unsavory aspects of his hurt inner child. Reward him every time he has the courage to go there

It is important that we learn to clearly communicate our needs and likes instead of expecting our partners to know them telepathically. While this feels great when our partner does things what we treasure without the need to ask them, why not make it easier on them instead of constantly testing their love for us? Let us coach them to speak our love language instead of doing things for them with the expectation of getting something in return. Even the most compatible persons will have difference in their love language so communication is key. Make separate lists of your needs, what you love and share it with your loved one. Provide loving and non-judgmental frequent feedback so that both partners can improve constantly of making each other feel loved.

The importance of the commitment to self

backlit-beach-dawn-588561.jpgHappiness comes from the simple things of life: knowing who you are, feeling love for who we are, intimacy with special people and relationships, a supportive community, feeling creative, have our needs met at a physical level, being healthy, a connection to something greater than ourselves (ideal, God, values) and practicing activities that we enjoy. This is not rocket science but it takes commitment to fill our life with the ingredients of joy. In codependent relationships, we sacrifice our authentic self for the relationship. We are so desperate to be loved that we project a false idea of us so that we may be liked. The commitment to self has to come first as the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship. If the relationship stops supporting the individuals within the relationship, it does not have to mean a break-up. People can find creative ways to adjust the relationship in a way that they will feel better supported. This takes tremendous courage as these changes may trigger our insecurities and fears of abandonment. The commitment to self requires us to be OK to be alone, as we cannot control the reactions of others. This may not be our preferred way of being but unless we can sit in peace with ourselves, we will not be able to give our partner the freedom to love us by choice. Once our sense of self is secure, the commitment to the relationship comes with less anxiety so we can navigate the ups and downs in a more astute way. We typically make the worst relationship mistakes when we are triggered. As we dive deeper in intimacy, we start including the other into our personal field so the commitment to self will naturally encompass them too. Loving oneself extends to loving our partner and eventually to the whole universe as we increase our awareness.

Own your shame

30331-shame-guilt-woman-pointingfingers-sad.1200w.tn_.jpgMost fights between codependents and borderline are escalated when shame is triggered. Owning your shame is the best way to de-escalate the argument. Let me give you a couple of examples. Instead of “Why did book this shitty hotel? This is the last time you do the travel reservations”, say “I felt small and taken for granted when you booked this hotel for us. I really want to feel safe with you and it is hard to do when you do not seem to see me”. Instead of “Can I have some space now? I cannot take this constant drama” say “I feel at odds with myself and I do not think I can be a good company for you until I can sort things out. May I go meditate and reconnect with you after I am done?”. Instead of “How can you be friend with that asshole? He is just a narcissistic jerk” say “I feel triggered around your friend. He always speak about himself and never seems to care to listen about things in our life”. Instead of “Being with you is like being with a cold stone. It is obvious why none of your relationships never lasted very long” say “I do not feel seen, felt or understood right now. I feel unsafe as a result. I need you to really connect to me right now”. If you can show some genuine vulnerable emotions, your communication will be that much more effective. Owing our shame starts with the courage to believe that our innate nature is lovable, which would allow us to be vulnerable and therefore to build intimacy. It is important to stay humble because unless we are willing to acknowledge our own failings, we will continuously project what we refuse to see in ourselves into our partner. I had once a partner who kept saying obsessively that I had duped her to get in a relationship with her. This was partly true because as a codependent, I would portray myself as someone I am not in order to conquer the object of my desire because I felt unlovable deep within. However, what she failed to realize is that she felt even more intensely like a bad apple and did not believe anyone could love her for who she is. There were just as many things she hid about herself than her codependent partner. Projecting this deep shame solely into her partner prevented her to own it.

Therapy

240-01.jpgA good family therapist is important to help us navigate through the intricacies of interpersonal relationships with our partners, children and parents. There is a significant stigma in Europe with people using therapists. They are often labeled as crazy and unstable so most people in Europe would see a shrink in secret. People in the USA and even more Californians are very open to it. When a situation triggers both partners at the same time, a qualified therapist is critical. I do not recommend using a friend because the friend would typically be biased and they do not have the professional training to rise above the interpersonal conflict. The therapist primary goal is to help release the unconscious into the conscious, support introspection and empower the stakeholders towards a creative solution as their awareness is lifted. It is important to take your time to find a good family therapist. Many enter this profession because they feel damaged and they have not done yet all the inner work necessary to help others. A skilled family therapist is important at times to any intimate partnership but it is absolutely critical for codependent/borderline couple who need all the help they can get with their rocky relationship. The best therapists would actually be the ones that experienced earlier in their life the same negative patterns. I have an absolutely extraordinary family therapist. He is an older gentleman. He was raised in a horrendous family dynamic and he had a disorganized attachment style as a result. He was married and divorced 3 times before he was able to finally develop a healthy and intimate relationship with his 4th wife whom he has been for over 30 years now. He has done immense inner work to get where he is now, which makes him incredible knowledgeable and insightful in helping his clients.

Make the couple a sanctuary

The-Mirror-of-Twin-Flame-Relationships-copyCodependent/borderline relationships are inherently turbulent and therefore experience power struggles. Power struggles come from personal insecurity and powerlessness. We attempt to control our partner to love us because we feel deep inside unworthy of love. If someone does not feel secure in a relationship, they have the tendency to enroll their personal friends to validate their opinions and show their partner that they are right. This can do no good to the relationship. While venting to your friends can be sometimes helpful to release some of the internal pressure and frustration one may experience, enlisting them to prove your points would just damage the relationship. We need to keep remembering what is more important to us, to be loved or to be right? I was once in a very unhealthy community situation where all the community members were either employees or followers of my wife. They worshipped her and she could do no wrong. It was very tempting for her to enlist them to make herself right to me, ignoring the fact that they were all biased to start with. If I had used my close friends or French family to rally to my opinion, they would have sided with me. That would not have made me right. This was not an option anyway because they were not in our living community. And this would have just made the conflict larger instead of contributing towards a meaningful resolution of the conflict. This is why a trained therapist should be used instead of friends or community members to work through a relationship conflict. Communities are a very dangerous place for committed intimate relationships. As a young man, I remember that most couples that moved to the Fellowship of Friends community in northern California would divorce the first year. Community life diffuse the commitment between the two individuals and there is a high temptation to get one’s needs met outside the relationship instead of doing the hard work of focusing and solving the conflicts within the relationship. In my recent situation, community members that were my wife followers surrounded her. It was like living at the queen’s court. They were always fighting for her attention and it was difficult to have time where only the two of us could be together alone to simply connect. If you are looking to live in a community, I would advise to look for an equal community where members relate to each other on an equal basis and have interdependent relationships instead of dependent and hierarchical ones. It would be a model where each family knows very well their neighbors, and where the community is enhanced through regular get together, instead of a pyramidal structure. My situation was extreme and is quite rare, but it is important for any couple to make their intimate relationship a priority. As we discussed, the self is the priority because if we are not true to ourselves, we cannot be in an authentic relationship but the relationship is next in line even before the children for a married couple. The children feed from the energy of a healthy marriage and get damaged by the constant conflicts of their parents. So by putting your marriage first, you are putting your children first. Recomposed families are more complex systems and they are outside the scope of this article. It is a big temptation once we have children to put our marriage after the children, after our hobbies and sometimes even after some of our friendships. The result is often disastrous because the marriage is supposed to be the foundation of our family life but no more energy gets invested into it. You need to treat your relationship like a sanctuary if you want a happy life. The codependent and the borderline need to stop their destructive habit of enticing people outside the relationship to look like victims and instead take full responsibility for their personality disorder and their relationship.

The law of mirroring in relationships

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 9.59.28 PMDo not fool yourself that you will jump dramatically in terms of quality of partner from one relationship to the next. Remember that your partner comes to you through the law of attraction so they are an external mirror of who you are inside. What is far more important than finding a perfect partner is to find a partner that you can grow with. If you have attachment traumas, it is then far more sensible to find an introspective partner that has done a lot of inner work, and has learned from their personal wounds. Even if you meet someone with a secure attachment style, it is likely that there will not be any chemistry unless you have a secure attachment style yourself. For this reason, my future partner is likely to be a conscious borderline. After the initial honeymoon phase of a new relationship, we usually come back to the same personal flaws that contributed to our last breakup. Intimate relationships are a personal growth accelerator so there is simply no escape to what we are supposed to work on this lifetime if we are going to share our lives with someone special. I trust in the power of attraction in terms of intimate relationships. Many people have been hurt in intimate relationships so they learned to distrust their own chemistry & attraction feelings. They would rather cut their attraction sensors and focus solely on a compatibility checklist out of fear. Our body never lies. It is all about understanding and becoming conscious of what our body is attempting to communicate to us. Attraction is the path of freedom and back to oneself. However it is critical we move into this attraction with self-awareness because of our personal shadows. If there is no chemistry, there is limited growth. Our society is addicted to the removal of pain and struggles but suffering is a fact of life that needs to be embraced instead of feared so that we can become whole again. A friend of mine has a joke about the frozen packages of processed chicken in supermarkets. He called them boneless, skinless and flavorless chicken. Do you want a boneless, skinless and flavorless relationship or do you want to be consumed by love and be transformed to the full potential of who you are?

Final words

Love and intimacy are powerful forces because they reflect the movement of God towards integration. Many of us with attachment traumas, whether we are codependents or borderlines have been damaged through relationships. We can now heal through relationships too. This is why we need each other.

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I was fortunate to have many experiences in my lifetime. I have traveled in many parts of the world, I have built companies, non-profit organizations, I have connected with people from many different cultures, I have networked with the rich, wealthy and famous and experienced high-flying lifestyle. Among all these experiences, not a single one ever came close in intensity and happiness than the deep and intimate connection with a beloved. This experience is available to any of us as we open ourselves to authentic love no matter what may be our background.

Love,

Vaillant

Understanding and Loving the Borderline

The dysfunctional dance between co-dependents and borderlines

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Part II – Understanding and Loving the Borderline

emoIn traditional psychology literature, the person with BPD (borderline personality disorder) is seen as a hopeless and dangerous monster. While this disorder poses serious challenges, I have realized that it is just as dysfunctional as its codependent counterpart. This reputation is coming from the fact that PBPD (people with BPD) can be very threatening especially as they get into rage. The codependent is much more covert. He copes, plays the nice guy and manipulates. He is not threatening but we could argue that an exposed danger is safer than a covert one even if it may be more explosive.

This is actually the major difference between both disorders. They both struggle with poor self-esteem, fear of abandonment, loneliness and shame. The codependent copes while the PBPD is unable to cope. The codependent children were able to exercise a certain level of control in their environment because there was a certain level of predictability as they found coping or manipulative strategies that yielded results with their narcissistic parents. For example, as a codependent child, I could get positive feedback consistently from my grandfather and father by having good grades. I could affect my mother’s mood in how I reacted to her food. I could get her attention consistently by expressing strong emotions. The BPBD environment was much more unpredictable so they could never develop strategies to get the attention, reflection and love they were starving for. The BPBD were raised in fundamentally and profoundly invalidating environments. My mother was forbidden to use the light at night at her foster home in order to save money. Her grades suffered and she received criticism from the teachers as she kept receiving mixed messages from her environment. She was instructed to only wear poor people clothes because her foster parent was afraid that other parents might be jealous. At the same time, she was criticized the way she looked by her classmates. She was taught to wash only in the dark, as her body was sinful. A couple of borderline partners I have had would receive constant criticism from their mother and sometimes serious beatings. When they would do very well on an activity or discipline, their mother would get jealous and punish them. When the mother is borderline, it is very likely that the daughter will be a borderline too while the son would become a codependent though it may vary depending on family dynamics. Because of the invalidating and unpredictable environment, the child develops hypersensitivity to already be ready for danger and does not learn how to regulate his emotions. Their emotions go from park to 5th gear in no time. Contrary to what some experts are saying, I do not believe that BPD comes from chemical imbalance. It is coming from an early childhood invalidating environment that created this psychological condition in them, which then in turn produced the chemical imbalance. This is not a genetic disease though it often runs in the family. It is a behavioral disorder where parents make their children suffer the same way they have suffered in the hands of their own caregivers. This is coming from the fact that they had to create an internal perpetrator to cope with the caregiver they had to bond with. This ego defense mechanism came from the fact that children that were able to bond with their parents had a much higher chance of survival. Children that would wander away from the parents would be a target for predators. For this reason, the parents can never be bad from the child perspective. The children have to make themselves bad rather than the parents otherwise their survival would be at stake. This was learned through millions of years of evolution. It is safer for their survival or at least it used to be in ancestral societies. This is why children make it always their fault when their parents divorce, fight or abandon them. This is coming from our primitive brain.

new-how-to-recognize-sexual-abuse-who-can-be-a-victim-of-sexual-abuse-1People who are invalidated will usually either leave the invalidating environment, attempt to change their behavior so that it meets the expectations of their environment (codependent coping mechanism), or try to prove themselves valid by challenging the environment. The borderline dilemma arises when the individual cannot leave the environment and is unsuccessful at changing either the environment or their own behavior to meet the environment’s demands. Sexual abuse is one of the most severe form of invalidation during childhood. The victim is told that the molestation or intercourse is “OK” but that she must not tell anyone else. The abuse is seldom acknowledged by other family members, and if the child reports the abuse she risks being disbelieved or blamed. It is difficult to imagine a more invalidating experience for a child. As a result, clinical psychologists have suggested that the secrecy of sexual abuse may be the factor most related to subsequent BPD. Similarly, physical abuse is often presented to the child as an act of love or is otherwise normalized by the abusive adult. We  have a French expression “Qui aime bien, châtie bien” which is the English equivalent of “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. It means that if children are not physically punished when they do wrong, their personal development will suffer. This type of upbringing is likely to create disorganized attachment which is the attachment trauma that most PBDP are suffering from.

Not everything is bad with the borderlines

Because PBPD are so often vilified, I am going to first play the devil’s advocate by stating what is great about them

  • 6c854339cf93f7342680901e4714c34cBecause of their hypersensitivity, they can make great artists, athletes or spokespersons. Vincent Van Gogh, Marilyn Monroe, Robin Williams, Brigitte Bardot, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguliera, Drew Barrymore, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Megan Fox, OJ Simpson, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Kurt Cobain and so many more that have inspired us, all have or have had, BPD. Many actually manage to get to the top of their field, as they are able to harness their very intense energy towards a creative purpose. When they are on, they are usually incredibly productive as their internal pain allows them to tap into parts of the brain that we typically have no access to.
  • They are great lovers. Their rawness, wildness and high-intensity make sex with them an unforgettable experience. They give themselves without restraint and because of their internal torment, they have no hesitation in experiencing the darkness and the ego death that makes love-making so spicy and thrilling. They have a unique way to make their partners dissolve into the act of love with them. The femme fatale is borderline. Some experts say that the PBPD is incapable of love because they are narcissistic however in my experience, the “love bombing” from the borderline is actually sincere that can make anyone melt. Unfortunately, because the PBPD does not have a defined sense of self, the adoration can turn very quickly to violent hate and rejection. I recommend you watch the character of Carmen in the famous Bizet opera to understand this archetype. The 1984 movie with Placido Domingo is one of its most remarkable interpretation.
  • They are more authentic by default as they lack the ability to cope. They are more spontaneous, vibrant, and alive than the rest of us. “Emotional intensity” means that their emotional reactions are amplified. On the positive side, emotionally intense individuals may experience joy more easily, and thus may also be more susceptible to spiritual experiences. Many of them are charismatic and possess unique charm and magnetism. As such, they can challenge societal structures that do not serve us anymore. Their frankness can disturb and sometimes hurt, but there is often a lot to learn from it.
  • They are the most ardent defenders of the weak and vulnerable because they are able to feel their pain. Children, animals, minorities and more generally; people suffering, echo into their heart. They often advocate for a change of lifestyle to minimize suffering on this planet. They will take that extra step to make a difference in someone’s life. They are less self-centered than the rest of us when they don’t struggle with their very survival. Brigitte Bardot, the French sex symbol of the 1960s, said when she retired “I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals.”

The truth however is that being with a borderline is difficult, and it is up to some of us involved with PBPD to decide if it is worth it or not. Because of my own childhood traumas, I have been in a mission to create happy and fulfilling relationships with borderline. As a result, I became an expert in loving the borderline which is nothing else than controlling the uncontrollable. I am single today so these efforts ultimately failed, or maybe succeeded, as I regained my autonomy through this healing journey and that I am now able to help others going similar dynamics.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 7.36.05 PMI adore this video. It is based on an actual email exchange between “Mike” and his abusive, BPD girlfriend, “Susan”. I have had probably thousands of similar types of arguments over the last 25 years. Susan is completely in her hurt emotions and Mike is protecting himself by being rational but he is also cut from his emotions as he feels unsafe. The two people are not connecting and they could argue for hours to no avail. What I have learned the hard way is that when a borderline is triggered, there is no amount of rational discussions that would do any good. At this point, the mind of the borderline is completely controlled by their negative emotions so wise thoughts will be pointless. Matching the borderline intensity through the same intensity is never a good option either. The borderline is an escalator so if both of you escalate the argument, you will just end up killing each other. Staying silent, present and looking at their eyes with compassion is a better option however it would not help them release their internal pain and torment. Unfortunately, it would often just reinforce their shame. We need to understand that PBPD feel really bad about themselves and being so much out of control all the time. So staying in control like Mike even in a loving way will just reflect their own inadequacy.

De-escalate the PBPD with heartfelt validation

hayley-orrantia-tears-up-after-getting-a-heartfelt-message-from-her-nana-on-hollywood-medium-i-m-always-gonna-be-with-youThis is the magic wand and it works! The first thing to do with the PBPD you love is always heartfelt validation. I am saying heartfelt because the PBPD is very sensitive and will be able to feel right away if your validation is not sincere and mechanical. This will just infuriate her even more (I will use “she” for the PBPD because of my own personal relationship experience however some studies say that BPD is just as common in men than in women). She has a very sophisticated BS detector! So you need to be creative and find a way to validate her emotions in a way that is precise and genuine. It is always safe to start with fillers like “you are right to feel this way, anyone in your situation would feel the exact same way”. This will put her in a state of receptivity and at this point, it is best to use your own experience to show how you can relate to what she is experiencing internally. Validation is so important to the PBPD because she carries intense shame so validation is the way to neutralize it. The PBPD was raised in a very invalidating environment where she learned that there is something wrong about herself and how she feels. She has internalized self-loathing as a coping mechanism and this is creating huge amounts of anxiety in her. Let me give you a couple of examples to how validation works. Let’s start with the easier situation when she got very upset with something that does not concern you. It is easier but still challenging because if you do respond to the PBPD in a specific way, a problem that was not connected to you may become all about you, and how insensitive and uncaring you are. So you are still walking on eggshells.

“ I am such a shitty mum. I am just screwing up this child”

“I think you are a great mum. You really care about your child’s emotional well-being like no one else”

“I can only spend with him one day a week with undivided attention. And I feel so drained by the end of my day with him. I am simply not made to be a mum”

“The quality of time you spend with him is more important that the quantity. The fact that he is always asking for you shows that he really enjoys your time together, and how much he feels you care for him. You are really creative coming up with new projects to do together. It is fun and it is helping his development a lot”

“You really think so?”

“Yes, I believe he is really lucky to have a mum like you.. I would have killed to have a mum like you”

PBPD is feeling better. Get closer, hug and connect. Then she naturally goes on her day.

Let’s say now you are not attuned enough to the PBPD that you love, and say instead…

“Yes. Maybe you could try to find ways to spend more time with him. This could help his self worth and development. It seems like he is struggling”

At this point, you have triggered the shame of the PBPD and a discussion that was initially unrelated to you will become solely about you and the relationship

“If you made more money and if you were not such a loser, then I could spend more time with my son.”

“Why are you attacking me? I was just trying to help you”

“You are also such a lousy stepdad. All the pressure is on me because he cannot connect to you.”

“I am spending a day a week with him and I am putting a lot of energy into him”

“Yes, but it feels like you do not want to be there when you are playing with him. And he is feeling it. You have no desire to be a stepdad. This is breaking my heart when I see other men having fun with him. I just wish that were you. It makes me doubt that we should really be together”

“Why are you bringing this up now? This is really hurting me”

“Our relationship is doomed. You say you love me but you cannot connect to my own child. I should have better listened to my instincts. I keep making the same mistake with men”

“This is too much. I have to leave this discussion”

“Yes, get the fuck out of here. We can never talk together. If you leave this room, you may never see me again”

A couple of things happened here. By expressing what you thought was a constructive criticism to make things better, you have triggered the shame of the PBPD. Shame is like a hot potato so she has to give it right back to you. If you are with a PBPD, the chance is that you are struggling with core shame too so she will find a way to get you triggered too by showing how inadequate you are. If this does not work, she will escalate to trigger your abandonment issues that all codependents are struggling with. What is important to realize is that the PBPD is switching the tables on you for her emotional survival, as she cannot regulate her own emotions.

Inability to regulate emotions

Woman-by-Ana-CInvalidating environments during childhood contribute to the development of emotion dysregulation; they also fail to teach the child how to label and regulate arousal, how to tolerate emotional distress, and when to trust their own emotional responses as reflections of valid interpretations of events. As adults, borderline individuals adopt the characteristics of the invalidating environment. They struggle to regulate negative emotions, have high sensitivity to negative emotional stimuli and show slow return to emotional baseline. As they feel powerless to regulate emotions internally, PBPD attempt to regulate their emotions externally, typically through unstable relationships. PBPD are well known to engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting. Someone not BPD does not understand this type of behavior. Cutting hurts so why would someone do something so painful to herself? People asking this question have never been through the emotional hell that PBPD go through on a daily basis. Their emotional pain is so intense that physical pain feels like a release. This also explains why BPDs are such great and intense lovers. Sex allows them to get a break from their internal emotional hell and give them a well-needed release. This is the most positive physical release they can get but they need to feel good about their partner for this experience to be healing. The PBPD goes from park to 5th gear with her emotions. Once she is triggered, it is going to take a considerable amount of time and energy to bring her back to a calmer state. Another positive way for a PBPD to regulate her emotions is exercising. Running, spinning or any other type of hard physical exercise where she can exhaust herself will help her regulate emotions that went wild. Unfortunately, she often chooses to fight with her loved ones and fix them as a way to get a release. Their codependent partner is their most common way to regulate their emotions and this is why PBPD are often diagnosed with love addiction. This is coming from their intense fear of loneliness. For that reason, they are perceived to be needy, demanding and entitled.

Borderline individuals, more so than most, seem to do well when in stable, positive relationships and do poorly when not in such relationships. My mother has done considerably better since she has been married to my stepdad, a remarkable caring man. They desperately need connection as their attachment traumas make them feel they are unlovable so they hysterically look for external validation to fill their inner void. When you are receiving the tail end of a BPD crisis, it is hard to realize that the person abusing you is desperately looking for love & connection. She was abused herself by her primary caretakers so she had to internalize abuse as love to survive a very damaging environment. When a PBPD has an urge to cut, I recommend giving her an ice cube. This will allow her to experience physical pain in a safe way and that will help her regulate her emotions. You may want to press very hard her forearms to create the same relief in a safe way. Hugging her very hard can be helpful too as long as you are careful not to injure her. You may try to blast rap music and get her to dance with the rhythm. The key is to help her release the very intense self-destructive emotions. Emotions have gone too toxic to be processed internally and they need a physical release. The key is to empower them to find ways to release these emotions in a way that do not destroy their lives and the people around them. Unfortunately, PBPDs are often tempted with destructive ways to release themselves from their unbearable internal torment. Elevated rates of borderline personality disorder (BPD) have been found among individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs), especially cocaine-dependent patients. This population is very susceptible to addiction with illegal drugs. The addiction with legally prescribed opioid drugs is just as dangerous and kill many of them every year. PBPD are prescribed opioid pain medications at increasing and alarming rates. When they do not overdose from these drugs, the prescribed medications weaken their health through their many side effects, increase dependency and impact negatively their functioning. Our mental health system is corrupted and most psychiatrists spend their time prescribing dangerous opioid drugs instead of supporting patients to heal their trauma. We live in a system that promotes dependency over autonomy because it is financially beneficial to key players of the pharmaceutical industry. PBPD are a vulnerable population that is paying the price often at the cost of their lives for these economic choices. New clinical trials are coming out using shamanic medicine with DMT, MDMA or psilocybin to treat populations with PTSD with very encouraging results. As most PBPD suffer from complex PTSD, these treatments offer significant healing potential especially as they are far less addictive than prescribed opioid medications.

suicide-by-heart-jbieberluver94-21933234-900-602The most destructive way PBPD attempt to escape their emotional pain is suicide. Research has shown that around 70 percent of people with BPD will have at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime, and many will make multiple suicide attempts. Between 8 and 10 percent of PBPD will complete suicide, which is more than 50 times the rate of suicide in the general population. There is not a single day when PBPD are not contemplating suicide, as the thought of putting a term to their lives feels like a release. Because suicide is always a temptation for PBPD, it is critical that they have strong reasons to keep living such as raising a child, not hurting their loved ones or a personal life mission with greater purpose. Take this meaning away from the PBPD, and they will not hesitate to commit the irreparable. People who commit suicide do not want to die, but to end their pain. This is why it is so important to help PBPD to deal with their emotions in constructive ways.

Hypersensitivity & Overreaction

We discussed previously the positive aspects of hypersensitivity but it also poses some challenges. Partings that would cause to feel antsy may precipitate very intense and painful grief; what would cause slight embarrassment for another may cause deep humiliation; annoyance may turn to rage; shame may develop from slight guilt; apprehension may escalate to a panic attack or incapacitating terror.

Actually much of the borderline individual’s emotional distress is a result of secondary responses (e.g., intense shame, anxiety, or rage) to primary emotions. Often the primary emotions are adaptive and appropriate to the context. The reduction of this secondary distress requires exposure to the primary emotions in a nonjudgmental atmosphere, a validating environment.

I have a friend married to a BPD that is an agriculture expert. Summer is for him the busy season and he leaves the house at 6 AM to return after 10 PM every night. His wife expressed her anguish of having him gone so long. He initially shut her down because he makes most of the family yearly income during this time and he knew he could not change the nature of his work for her. This allows them to have a very good lifestyle and some amazing vacations with the children for the rest of the year. Overtime he learned to stop being defensive and to validate her separation anxiety instead of triggering additional emotions of shame and anxiety. This way, without changing anything around the necessities of his job, his wife is experiencing some manageable anguish instead of completely falling apart. He is avoiding crises, hours long disputes and his wife’s emotional breakdown. By improving his communication, he dramatically improved the quality of their life together around this incompatibility. This is fortunate how they really love each other and they have a beautiful family together.

He would say initially “Why are you upset? Who is going to pay for the mortgage and pay for the kids if I do not work my ass off in the summer? I make in one summer what you make in 5 years. I am tired and I need support instead of having you nagging at me for something I have no control over. Do you think I am having fun working 15 hours a day? Can you stop acting irrational?”

This would trigger her secondary emotions of shame and their dispute would escalate. He would then get even less sleep which would make her feel even more guilty. They were in a vicious circle.

His dialog is now much more different “Honey. I understand I am asking a big sacrifice from you every summer. It is really hard to have someone you love gone so much. Everyone in your situation would feel the same way. I miss you a lot too. I am so impressed how you are able to handle the kids, the house, your job and taking care of me during this critical time. I simply could not do it without you. When the summer is over, I promise to make it up to you. I have planned an amazing vacation for all of us in October.” He also mitigates the pressure by getting some of her family & friends visiting during that time and getting additional household support. With his new communication, no secondary emotions are triggered which makes it manageable.

third-degree-burn-pic2Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of a third-degree burn patient. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. If we touch a burn patient, and they start yelling, we are not saying that they overreact. Unfortunately, we dismiss what is not visible to the naked eye so we make the PBPD reactions wrong. This triggers their shame even more and this causes them to lose their temper on a seemingly trivial situation. PBPD are commonly shamed for their neediness. It is quite unfair, as we would not shame an infant or a cancer patient to be needy. Because we cannot see with our physical eyes how emotionally damaged are the PBPD, we judge them as needy, dependents and drama queens. Because PBPD are in desperate need of other people, they have learned to be creative to get people, and this is why many of them have become great lovers, cooks or entertainers. When faced with limited resources, they use their natural talents and charisma to draw people around them in ways that is more socially acceptable.

They carry deep insecurity and have a constitutional incapacity to tolerate much stress, especially in their interpersonal life. Events that might not bother many people are likely to bother them. They are known to make a mountain out of a molehill. If you love a PBPD, it is critical to learn to love her the way she is instead of attempting to fix her. Any of these attempts will just trigger her shame and makes your life even more miserable. If you love a PBPD, you need to ask yourself if you would stay with this person even if they would never change. If the response is negative, it is probably best to end the relationship. A break-up with a PBPD is very painful however both of you will eventually heal while a relationship where both continuously project their shame into each other is permanent hell. The PBPD can also feel if you are with them by obligation or guilt rather than love.

Impaired Thinking from Overwhelming Emotions

Some of the PBPD I know are highly intelligent however, even with them, the intensity of their emotions is overwhelming their thinking ability. Their hurt, anger and other negative emotions are corrupting the objectivity of their thinking. This is why it is pointless to have a rational discussion with PBPD once they are triggered. Our thinking brain (neocortex) is no match to our reptilian brain because it ensures our survival. Some PBPD are able to be more objective once they come back to a calmer state but most feel too insecure and powerless to consider the reality of their dysfunction. They would rather take the role of the victim to avoid the shame related to their behavior.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 7.46.43 PMPBPDs have black & white thinking or “splitting”. They lack the ability to see simultaneously both the positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. They tend to think in extremes, interpreting others actions and motivations as all good or all bad with no middle ground. Even when they excel in their professional occupation, they will oscillate between a state where they think they are a fraud, ready to be fired to boasting how good they are. It truly feels as a “split” personality. The same pattern is seen even more clearly with their relationship. Once in a relationship, they idolize their intimate partners, see them as their twin flame, as the best thing that happened to them but once the relationship ends, they demonize them often by making up stories and rallying everyone around them to substantiate their perceived abuse. They refuse to see that they were with the same person at the beginning and at the end of the relationship. It is their perception of their loved one that changed overtime. At the end of a relationship, they frantically discard any sign they ever were romantically involved with their ex in the hope it would take away the pain related to their abandonment and internal sense of inadequacy. They internally wish that their exes fall apart emotionally after the break-up to improve their self-esteem and not face their internal shame of contributing to the separation. This would make them the good guys that tried everything to make it a successful relationship but the partner was simply “too damaged”. It is projection that helps them not to feel abandonment. I knew a PBPD that played mind games with her ex to drive him to the point of insanity. He was still in love with her and coping by drinking alcohol. I could sense below the surface how much she took satisfaction on his addiction. This way, she could easily justify to others the end of the relationship on his dysfunction while she had a large part in it. If you are ending a relationship with a PBPD, do not fall into this trap. Do your healing work and be the first one to get back on your feet. Stay away from the drama and create an environment conducive to your healing. It is part of the psychological make-up of the ex PBPD to get you to sink so that they look good to themselves and others. This is why many PBPDs will continue to harass their exes even years after they break up, and they will use any opportunity to damage your friendships, your career, the connection with your children and your enjoyment of life.

In the treatment of BPD, the therapist would help them see both black and white, and to achieve a synthesis of the two that does not negate the reality of either. PBPD inappropriately attribute all blame and responsibility for negative events sometimes to themselves and other times to others. The goal is to help them to be more objective and to realize that both parties made sincere efforts but also mistakes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 10.50.43 AM.pngPBPD are constantly catastrophizing, or anticipating disastrous scenarios. They have hopeless expectancies, or pessimistic predictions based on selective attention to negative events in the past or present, rather than on verifiable data. Borderline individuals frequently respond to any relapse or small failure as an indication that they are total failures and may as well give up. Once, I did an awareness exercise with my borderline partner and it was fascinating to watch how she made every stimulus into a negative thought. We are driving on a highway, and she imagines the people that crash at this intersection. She sees a pregnant woman and she feels infertile. I mentioned an exciting upcoming trip and she imagines the plane to crash. Considering the train of thoughts in her mind, I could understand why she was so tormented. As a child, negative focus was  their coping mechanism to protect themselves from continuous disappointment, and they bring this destructive mental habit into adulthood. If you forget your cell phone and are coming home late, they will imagine that you died in a car accident about 50 times, and will be intensely angry with you when you show up as you purposely tried to hurt them. They also experience chronic feelings of emptiness and loneliness. The PBPD has a tendency to ruminate about traumatic events over and over again. The rumination not only perpetuates the crises, but can generate new crises whose relationship to the original crises is often overlooked. A PBPD is a bit like an overtired child on a family outing. Once overtired, the child may become upset at every minor frustration and disagreement, crying and having tantrums at the slightest provocation. If the parents focus on trying to resolve every individual crisis, little progress will be made. It is far better to attend to the original problem— lack of sleep and rest. By the same token, it is often more effective to help the PBPD regulate her state first than problem solving right away what she is afraid about. As Albert Einstein said “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them” so focusing first on improving the PBPD state is sensible.

Narcissism

1506013728080Any human being in a state of survival stops caring for others, so when a borderline is experiencing an emotional crisis, they may appear narcissistic. It is not so much that they stop feeling others but rather their internal pain is overriding their natural empathy for others. They are naturally quite empathic and compassionate people as they are hypersensitive and feel other people’s pain better than most. However this stops once they get triggered. This is why after they come back to a calmer state, they often experience intense guilt about the harm they caused others during their crises. Or alternatively, they can block their conscience and demonize the other in order not to feel this guilt. However, this type of denial will worsen their mental health.

NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is different than BPD, however these two disorders originate from attachment traumas. Both PNPD and PBPD have intense fear of abandonment, self-loathing and low self-esteem (covert for the NPD).

For this reason, it is common for PBPD, especially the “successful” ones to display NPD symptoms:

  • An exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and achievements
  • A constant need for attention, affirmation, and praise
  • A belief that you are unique or “special,” and should only associate with other people of the same status
  • Persistent fantasies about attaining success and power
  • Exploiting other people for personal gain
  • A sense of entitlement and expectation of special treatment
  • A preoccupation with power or success
  • Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of you
  • A lack of empathy for others

In this case, BPD and NPD symptoms will fluctuate in the same individual as different personalities. It is sometimes hard to comprehend how the same person can go from a state where they want to commit suicide, as they feel so completely worthless, to a state of grandiosity where they can get into full rage if others do not consider their superiority. It is simply two sides of the same token where the self feels deeply insecure and unworthy of love. They feel they do not exist or embody evil as they carry an unstable self-image or sense of self and suffer from identity disturbance. Devaluating oneself or devaluating others is in a sense the same thing. This is why so many PBPD have narcissistic traits. They follow a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

The inability to let go of “being right” in favor of achieving goals is, of course, related to borderline patients’ experiences with invalidating environments. I would often ask my BPD partners if they would rather be right or be loved. This question would irritate them as unmistakably, being right feels the most important thing to them.

Just like with PNPD, when friends, therapists or acquaintances try to share helpful tips or recommendations, they are often experienced as discouraging or as manifestations of lack of love and appreciation. They overact to mild criticism or rejection, so gross that it suggests paranoia or even outright delusion.

Struggling with Accountability

shutterstock_230943745.jpgWe saw how the step of validating the hurt inner child is so critical as it helps neutralize shame in the PBPD. However if all we do is to dwell on the pain, and identify with the hurt inner child, we will just end up being controlled by an angry, depressed, immature and sometimes mean (internal) little boy or little girl. Recently, a woman posted in a forum how horrible was another woman to get a high margin from her work as a personal organizer, that she felt exploited and decided to go on her own. I praised her for her decision to start her own company but went to educating her on the reality of business not realizing she only wanted validation. She became very angry at me and started personal attacks with a clear intent to hurt. All she wanted to hear was how bad the other woman was and that she should rot in hell. There was no interest in any other perspective and while I made the mistake of not feeling into her before commenting, redirecting her anger to someone else without any self-awareness was not going to support her healing.

The PBPD is often stuck between complete powerlessness and anger, with anger being a higher state. We can think of ourselves as a trinity: inner child, adult and higher self. When we fully identify with the deep emotional pain of the inner child, whether it is loneliness, depression, despair, or anger, it is important to bring our adult and higher selves without abandoning the inner child. The inner adult can bring wisdom and encouragement to the hurt inner child, while the higher self can remind us of our innate perfection and ultimate nature as love. We have to teach all three to work and support each other. Suppressing the inner child is the most dangerous thing to do, as it will manifest externally as tragedy. And I am speaking from experience. The inner child contains our shadow but it is also the seat of the soul and the key in understanding our divine nature. As you dive deeper into it, you will actually meet the internalized aspects of the shadows of your primary caretakers within the inner child. You may be a high-energy successful executive and have a repressed depressed aspect from your mother and a repressed addict from your father side. Under duress, these repressed aspects may take over abruptly to the astonishment of your friends and family. These shadow aspects within ourselves have to be met consciously and ultimately loved for true integration to take place. This is where the step of accountability is so important. It will allow the PBPD to move from anger to sadness with self-awareness, which is where healing actually starts. If the lady mentioned above had gone there, she could have said for example “I am sad that I do not fit into this business world. I am terrified at the idea of finding my own clients and this could involve a lot of rejection. I am afraid to start my own business as the level of administrative complexity overwhelms me”. After experiencing her sadness and fears, she can then naturally move into problem solving.

This is easier said than done. This is why PBPD suffer from inhibited grieving. They have a tendency to inhibit and overcontrol negative emotional responses, especially those associated with grief and loss, including sadness, anger, guilt, shame, anxiety, and panic. For this reason, they are unable to grieve as they compulsively find a way out of experiencing the negative emotion consciously. This is why clinical trials with MDMA or DMT have showed efficacy in treating patients with PTSD. The plant medicine forces them into experiencing the trauma because every resistance is met with unsustainable torment so they have no other option than letting go. Inhibited grieving is understandable among borderline patients. People can only stay with a very painful process or experience if they are confident that it will end some day, some time— that they can “work through it,” so to speak. It is not uncommon to hear PBPD say they feel that if they ever do cry, they will never stop. Indeed, that is their common experience— the experience of not being able to control or modulate their own emotional experiences. They become, in effect, grief-phobic. In the face of such helplessness and lack of control, inhibition and avoidance of cues associated with grieving are not only understandable, but perhaps wise at times. Inhibition, however, has its costs. Borderline individuals are constantly re-exposed to the experience of loss, start the mourning process, automatically inhibit the process by avoiding or distracting themselves from the relevant cues, re-enter the process, and so on in a circular pattern that does not end. For healing to take place, the PBPD has to learn to grieve deeply in order to end grieving.  Through accountability, the PBPD needs to confront rather than avoiding the crises they are experiencing.

The slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering for the borderline. Yet, on the other hand, life is movement. Healing, at its best, requires both movement and touch. Thus, the process of healing itself cannot fail to cause intensely painful emotional experiences for the PBPD. The PBPD must have the courage to encounter the pain that arises. The experience of their own vulnerability that sometimes leads borderline individuals to extreme behaviors such as suicidal behaviors. This work is better facilitated when they are surrounded by loving friends, family members or a skilled compassionate therapist. Ultimately, however, they are the ones that need to experience these painful emotions consciously with a slow breathing and a relaxed body. No one else can do this work for them if they are going to learn to regulate their own emotions internally rather than externally. It will feel like at first that they are jumping into the abyss but overtime they will build confidence with this process of healing.

PBPD lack of accountability is often expressed as active passivity behaviors. They have a tendency to passive interpersonal problem-solving style, and not engage actively in solving their own life problems. They make active attempts to solicit problem solving from others in the environment while rejecting all suggestions. This translates into learned helplessness. When they experience intense emotional pain and vulnerability, the PBPD frequently believes that others (friends, family or therapist) could take away the pain if only they would. If they attempt to bring back the responsibility of their emotional state to the PBPD, they will be met with rage as this will trigger the PBPD immense shame of regulating her emotions. Once triggered, PBPD are often unable to distract themselves from the emotion. I had a borderline partner that always wanted to be on the same page. She could not agree to disagree, or postpone the resolution of the conflict to another time. She could not sleep if something was not resolved so intense discussions could go well into the middle of the night leaving us completely exhausted by the morning. When people currently involved with PBPD also fall into the trap of inconsistently appeasing her (basically their matching codependent partner) — sometimes giving in to and reinforcing high-rate, high-intensity aversive emotional expressions and other times not doing so— they are recreating conditions for the person’s learning of relationship-destructive behaviors. For this reason, codependents will make the PBPD mental health worse. They will never incentivize their borderline partners to become accountable too as they benefit from the dependency.

MV5BMTQ0MjIwODY3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjkzNzM3Ng@@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Another trait of PBPD making it hard to step into accountability is apparent competence. They have a tendency to appear deceptively more competent than they actually are. These individuals are typically very gifted and talented in some specific areas so people assume mistakenly a high degree of functioning in all aspects of their lives. As a result, they experience intense shame at behaving dependently in a society that cannot tolerate dependency, so they have learned to inhibit expressions of negative affect and helplessness whenever the affect is within controllable limits. It is hard for a PBPD to step into accountability if they know they are going to be judged and possibly rejected when they share in a vulnerable way their actual limits.

DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) developed by Marsha Linehan is the most effective therapy for BPD that does not involve drugs. It has been called a “blackmail therapy” by some, as patients that do not improve can be let go by their therapists on the basis that “Continuing an ineffective therapy is unethical”. Actually, the real goal is to get PBPD into accountability even if this means triggering their abandonment issues. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) mostly fail with PBPD because it focuses on changing the patient which is invalidating. On the opposite, DBT is based on the patient’s inherent ability to get out of the misery of her life and build a life worth living. It promotes autonomy and the DBT therapist finds and plays to the patient’s strengths, not to her fragility. The therapist believes in their patients and coaches them in how to resolve the problems themselves.

you-are-not-aloneReading these two articles on codependents and borderlines may just have increased your powerlessness and anxiety, as you are likely to find some of these aspects within yourself. This is why the third and last section of this series will focus on solutions and how we may be able to heal from these conditions. Actually 98% of the population is struggling with some light or severe form of the 10 personality disorders defined by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) so we are not alone out there. The same 98% of us have a hurt inner child that requires healing, re-parenting and integration. So we are in an essence a bunch of hurt kids just pretending to be adults 🙂