The Relationship Between Shame and Borderline Personality
In the video below, I’ll talk about my experience of feelings of shame and borderline personality disorder, as well as some tips for coping with the shame within borderline personality disorder.
When many people think of borderline personality disorder, they think of anger. Angry people with big angry emotions and inappropriate displays of rage, right? Well, not exactly. I like to think of shame as the closest cousin to anger. Shame can be defined as a "painful feeling of humiliation or distress." Shame and anger are two sides of the same coin for me living with borderline personality disorder. Underneath the visible displays of anger, I often just feel shame.
Anger and Shame Are Connected with Borderline Personality Disorder
It’s hard to see shame because it’s something we feel on the inside. Unlike anger and rage (a commonly and easily identified part of BPD), shame is something we often internalize. It’s not visible to those around us. For me, a lot of the self-harm associated with BPD came out of the feelings of shame I experienced. I felt very powerless over my own behavior, often like I was sitting outside of myself, watching myself spiral out of control with anger and hurt. This was predictably followed by deep and intense shame (cue self-harm, self-loathing, and self-destructive behavior). Over time, I’ve learned new ways of coping. The feelings of shame still come up often, but I have new ways of dealing with them.
Learning to Identify Shame and Its Triggers
The first and most important step to healing shame is learning to recognize it. Awareness is everything. Shame wasn't even a part of my vocabulary until I was maybe 26 years old. I knew one familiar feeling “I am just so angry.” When I went to treatment for intensive outpatient therapy during a particularly difficult part of my life with BPD, I was placed in a group therapy session that was called “Anger and Shame.” Truthfully, I didn’t understand what anger had to do with shame and vice verse. It gave me a new vocabulary with a trusted therapist to identify how these worked together. I’d feel deep shame and then act angry. I’d get angry and act out and then feel deep shame. They seemed to dance together.
It’s been important to identify situations, scenarios, and behaviors that trigger feelings of shame. Over time and in conjunction with a trusted therapist, I’ve started to identify common triggers and themes surrounding my shame. With awareness, I’ve had less of a need to act on it destructively. I’ve also learned to identify people and relationships in my life that seem to trigger the shame and reevaluate whether or not these are healthy relationships.
Learning to Accept Feelings of Shame with BPD
Many of us with BPD are encouraged to keep diaries and logs of our feelings. This is especially helpful around shame. We don’t really have a vocabulary (at first) other than “I’m angry”, which is very childlike. Children feel shame all the time and it’s common in homes with abuse and trauma and neglect like the homes many of us with BPD come from. We just aren’t taught to name it and deal with it.
Shame is often silent. It festers and boils inside until it comes out sideways. Learning to acknowledge shame, recognize it, and name it is half the battle in healing from borderline personality disorder. When shame comes up now, I talk about it with people I trust, I write about it, and I give it space to breathe. I remind myself: "there is no such thing as a 'bad' feeling."
With awareness of shame, comes acceptance. And from acceptance, comes compassion. As we heal from BPD, we begin to learn that every single one of our feelings is valid, even shame.
Easton, W. (2018, October 23). The Relationship Between Shame and Borderline Personality , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2018/10/the-relationship-between-shame-and-borderline-personality
Author: Whitney Easton
thank you for writing this post. When you said, you remind yourself that "there is no such thing as a bad feeling," I completely understand. And also suffer from a mild form of BPD. Shame is what stopped me from coming out and acknowledging the truth; the trauma in my family and what happened. You are spot on when you say that shame is invisible, and comes out sideways. For those who were as blind as I was, shame would come and knock me off my feet. I'd lose stability and want to run away, and many times I did use means to escape. Now I face the shame because I recognize it when it comes up. Since my trauma is permanent, I have to be aware of this every single day. I found that most people carry some kind of shame. Carl Jung called it the human shadow. God calls it sin, in the Bible, and I hope you don't mind that I used those references. I found a lot of help through spiritual work, during my recovery. Psychology helped me to understand the more intense people in my family and personality disorders in general. Shame is like a deep burn inside the soul. For myself and others whom I know, who are also recovering, we felt shameful for having a disorder that is unacceptable in general. I thank you for coming out and posting your experience and thank you for giving me a place here to share mine. I want to leave you with the greatest lesson I am still learning, one day at a time, and that is BPD is a disorder of negativity. Not that being negative doesn't have it's place. It's directly linked to shame. Pete Walker wrote the book "The Tao of Fully feeling" and I found it was the best book to help me during trauma therapy. The shame made me feel that I don't have a right to dislike the behavior of the people who hurt me. One day at a time, i release that shame as I choose to be around healthier people. When you said that, I knew we were on the same page. I wish you a healthy and positive recovery.
I'm not the original author of the post but I'm the new blogger for the More than Borderline blog.
Thanks for taking the time to read and leave your experiences about living with shame. I agree that it can be a big part of living with BPD and one of the hardest things to move past, which makes facing shame a big part of the recovery process for some people with BPD.
Your words totally make since. Thank you for your help.
Thank you so much you are so brave… I would read your memoirs! These posts are so helpful to me. I struggle with shame all the time. But I look at you and I have hope that not all of us with BPD are doomed to have terrible lives and each conversation we can have about our own experiences are so helpful! There are days when just reading the posts here and watching your videos gets me through thank you
Talia, Thank you for your reading and for your kind words. It means a lot when people write and comment and share their experience in reading these posts. It helps me to keep writing and sharing and one day I will write my books!! We really don’t have to live doomed lives at all with the right resources. Sending much warmth to you,