Recently, I read an article about how those of us with BPD are highly intuitive and perceptive due to our heightened sensitivity towards the mental states of others and ourselves. This innate gift strongly shines in many borderline individuals through their ability to be highly empathetic towards the people they encounter. I’ve spoken to some of these individuals and they truly are incredibly empathetic. However with that being said, there are a lot of us out there who struggle with empathy from time to time. We are able to identify “negative” feelings in others, like those who are highly empathetic, but our ability to empathise is often compromised.
It has been suggested that we only have trouble with the cognitive side of empathy. We are able to feel and express empathetic concern towards others, and we experience personal distress in response to their suffering (affective empathy). But we sometimes struggle to adopt their psychological perspective(s) (cognitive empathy). Sometimes this is because our affective response makes us feel so uncomfortable that we want to retreat, or it overwhelms us to the point where we can’t focus on anything else. And sometimes we just don’t know how to place ourselves in another persons position. To put it simply, we are able to emotionally connect with others when they are suffering, but we struggle to put ourselves in their shoes because our emotions take over, or because we haven’t experienced the same suffering. Our struggle with empathy is a result of our internal instability hindering our intuitive and perceptive nature. But with therapy, such as DBT, we can work on being able to fully empathise with others and embrace our innate gift.
While I’ve only read about how our heightened sensitivity allows us to intuitively perceive the mental states of others, and how our cocktail of emotional instability and defense mechanisms has an impact on our ability to empathise. There is another way our sensitivity and BPD characteristics influence how we respond to and interact with other people. Many of us borderline individuals subconsciously mirror the personality variables (interests, values etc.) and/or mental state(s) of the people around us, and sometimes even fictional characters. We involuntarily do this to connect with the people we like, to fit in, and in some cases because we identify with someone or find their personality and/or demeanor appealing. All of these motivations mainly stem from our struggle to gain and maintain a stable sense of self. Through our lack of identity, perceptive nature and perhaps also our fear of abandonment, we adopt the characteristics or mental states of others to bond with them. And through our lack of identity, perceptive nature and excessive self-criticism, we adopt the characteristics or mental states of others to acquire an identity that helps us feel secure. Mirroring other people to bring stability to our unstable sense of self is rather dysfunctional. But if we were to uncover our true identity beyond BPD, we could then make the most of our ability to mirror others by using it in a career such as Acting.
Everyone is born with an innate gift that, when nurtured and embraced, strengthens their character and positively influences their self-direction. Us borderline individuals are highly intuitive and perceptive. But as a result of being raised in a dysfunctional environment and/or subjected to abuse or neglect, this gift is buried between the lines of borderline personality disorder.
Link to article mentioned at the beginning of this blog post: https://medium.com/@imilo/i-wasnt-wrong-the-gift-inside-borderline-personality-disorder-bpd-91a6911ae81a