We have already seen that most frequently because how they were made to feel about themselves by parents/primary care-givers whilst growing up, one of the most painful, demoralizing and soul-destroying symptoms those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) must strive to endure is irrational feelings of self-hatred, self-loathing and self-disgust. (If you would like to read my article entitled: ‘ Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’, please click here.)
Indeed, many individuals with BPD suffer from frequent, intrusive thoughts such as: ‘I am a terrible person’; ‘I am of absolutely no value to anybody whatsoever’ and so on…
In other words, their self-esteem is extremely low and sometimes it is hard to change such deeply entrenched, negative self-views through therapy, at least at the beginning of any such therapy. (If you would like to read my article entitled: ‘Childhood Trauma: A Destroyer of Self-Esteem’, please click here.)
However, one effective way of breaking into, and disrupting, this profoundly ingrained and seemingly perpetual cycle of self-derogatory thinking may be to develop first an attitude of SELF-ACCEPTANCE.
In relation to this possibility, Huber (2001) suggests that, in order to develop an attitude of self-acceptance, we can start off simply by trying to attain ‘a single moment of self-acceptance.’ For example, instead of thinking a thought such as :
‘I am a terrible person‘, we can try to replace it with the self-accepting thought :
‘Given how I was made to feel about myself as a child, it is completely understandable why I view myself as a terrible person.‘
Gradually, we can try to increase the frequency with which we modify our self-lacerating thinking style so that, when negative thoughts arise, we compassionately accept why we are having them as a matter of newly acquired habit.
The advantages of developing a self-accepting style of thinking, as outlined above, has been backed up by research. For example, Neff (2009) found that self-compassion is more positively correlated with psychological health than self-esteem is.
Neff also points out that, whilst self-esteem, at least in part, depends upon how we perceive others’ evaluation of us and how well we perceive ourselves to be succeeding in life’s myriad aspects at any given time, self-compassion (by definition) is self-generated and comes entirely from within; it is always available to us no matter what the external circumstances. Because of this, it is more reliable and dependable than self-esteem and can comfortably co-exist along with feelings of inadequacy or, even, gross inadequacy.
However, we need not equate self-acceptance with ‘standing still in life’ and with not trying to improve ourselves – indeed, self-acceptance can be a great aid to self-improvement as it allows us to take a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when we face inevitable setbacks on our journey of personal development (as opposed to despising ourselves and giving up).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).