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In the series BPD Symptoms Explained I would like to show you one by one based on the "official criteria" of the DSM the Symptoms of borderline personality disorder introduce. As with all contributions on my side applies: here it is about my world, about my experiences, about my opinions. Today it goes to Criterion N°8:
Inappropriate, very violent anger or difficulty controlling anger
The second to last symptom on the list is anger . And that is an anger that is often far too violent, comes suddenly and is difficult to control. But not letting it out is not the solution either – because then it accumulates inside. A tightrope walk.
There it is again – the anger. As an old acquaintance and constant companion of mine, it has already crept into various other articles. Especially with symptom N°2 she has already interfered properly, she has an intimate relationship with tension and of the roller coaster from symptom N°6 she is obviously a big fan. So now it finally gets its own text.
When the rage comes?
Anger is definitely a central theme in my everyday life, my life. And to say when it will come is difficult to impossible. It really happens from one moment to the next – as with all feelings and emotions on the roller coaster. Just a moment ago everything was nice and happy, and suddenly I seem to be changed, I have a huge ball of hatred, contempt, anger and rage inside me that takes control and uses me like a puppet. I think and say things I can’t believe myself.
What follows is the usual shame, self-reproach and so on. What has just happened to me again?? And why didn’t I do anything about it? I am a bad person and no one should be around me! And so on.
Anyway, that’s one variant. That I let out the anger, the moment it comes over me. It is usually not very nice for me and my surroundings (mostly Arvid), but the whole thing is over quite quickly after that.
The second variant is the one with which I actually have more experience. And with this variant the anger must not come out. Outwardly I hardly notice anything. But inside me it’s boiling and raging and screaming. That I am much more familiar with this variation than with letting it out is mainly for two reasons:
- My Ratio. My mind. My upbringing. My superego. My mind’s in a spin – no matter what I call it, what comes out comes out the same: I am well aware, That there are situations, places, environments and moments when it is just not appropriate to freak out. Ranting. Getting loud. Saying unkind things. This is not the case with other sufferers, and their behavior always puts them out of business. For me, not letting it out has other consequences, as you will read in a moment.
- Before my diagnosis – and partly still now – I just didn’t want anyone to notice anything. Notices that I am "strange. Notice that I am "crazy. Notices that I am not feeling well. I wanted by all means avoid that someone asks me questions. Questions about me. And unfounded outbursts of anger or similar anger-motivated behaviors would definitely have led to questions.
Not let out..
… is also no solution. Because Just because I don’t show the anger doesn’t mean it’s not there. And especially not disappearing just like that. No, quite the opposite. Not paying attention only makes the anger bigger. The anger gets angrier. And then comes out again at a moment when my defenses are down.
What it looks like when I yell or get loud or rant can probably be easily imagined. But how it feels to keep this huge black lump inside me – that’s where it gets harder already. When the whole body is raging and throbbing and wants to burst, but you keep looking calm. When brain and mind form words, throw around crass thoughts. When the feelings and emotions like a horde of hungry attack dogs want to get out of the facade prison. When the heart beats so wildly that the blood feels like it’s made of lead, because you can feel it everywhere and you can feel every single pulse beat.
And then not notice anything.
For a long time it went like this with me. I swallowed the anger. Swallowed again and again. Just don’t let it out. Just don’t show it. Keep a low profile. No questions asked. The result then resembles a boiling pot. The more anger, the fuller the pot. The more often I lock in anger, the hotter the record becomes. Until at some point the pot becomes too small and the rage finds its way in. This was then often the moment when self-harm or other self-harming behaviors enter the stage.
Then I turn all the anger that I used to have towards others towards myself. Instead of throwing nasty words at others, I break myself down. And unfortunately helps resp. once again, this works pretty darn well. The hole was there. The pot is empty again. The game can start all over again.
Oh yeah, you’re probably still wondering: Anger at what? At myself, at others, at life, at a little thing, at a word, at a sentence, at a look, at an event, at nothing. There’s no prescription. Or to put it another way: nothing, really nothing, is safe from the rage. Not even "nothing" is safe from anger. Because often that is exactly the trigger. Nothing. Nothing in particular. Nothing tangible. Nothing objective. But it’s just there.
But that’s not quite true. Because as I have since learned, anger in me and many other borderline sufferers is actually a Follow-up feeling.
Sequelae are a tricky thing because they are so good at hiding the actual origin. Rage likes to lay over their fellow emotional beings. Especially often about grief, insecurity, fears, pain and similar cronies. Because all these feelings are (for borderliners) even more unpleasant than anger. Anger can be dealt with. Anger can be shouted out. You can find words for anger.
Dealing with the actual feelings is even more unpleasant. So it happens, for example, that I yell at Arvid when I am actually scared, sad or hurt. Recognizing this takes a lot of practice and doesn’t help much right now.
What you can do, though, is ask yourself after an angry outburst if there was a reason for the anger or if there might be something else behind it. This is how you gradually get to know yourself and your mechanisms better and can work on sore points, which were simply brushed over with anger for a long time.
For victims and their relatives it is therefore enormously important to try to look behind the anger.
My anger way
Anger gets in the way – but the more I get angry at it, the more it rejoices. So what to do? I can always try to take it by the hand and bring it back to its room. And close the door. Locking up doesn’t work. I threw away the key. Because for a while, that’s exactly what I tried: As soon as the rage was there, I sent her to her room. Door closed. Keys around to keep the peace outside. But that didn’t make the anger go away. She sat in her room and sulked. And secretly sent invitations to their friends.
So very soon, not the same anger, but a very similar one was standing in front of my door. I could not tell the difference, So for me my anger was soon back, surprisingly and unexpectedly. This game is then repeated a few times. Until eventually the room gets too crowded and the rage-bagage throws an impromptu, illicit party and sends me to the hole.
What meditation, self-care and co can achieve is that the anger no longer wants to come out of their room so often. I arrange the room nicely for the anger, so that it doesn’t want to come out anymore. Especially when such hard-working bouncers as serenity and mindfulness are waiting outside. At some point, even the friends who are angry no longer want to come over.
My anger has changed in the meantime. She has more or less grown up. For a long time there was only one way for anger – inwards. And then out again through self-harming behavior. This still happens today, but only 4 times a year instead of 4 times a week.
On the one hand, today I have others, better, more effective, healthier ways to release pent-up anger. Especially sports. And writing. And secondly, mindfulness in particular has helped me to not be quite as helpless a victim to anger outbursts as I used to be.
Today I am able to take a step back more often. Quasi from the outside to observe what is going on with me. I can take distance from my feelings and see like this, That I have a choice.
Today I judge much less than before. Also a consequence of mindfulness and meditation. Because "Evaluation is the way into feeling". When I think the person in front of me is going much too slowly. And surely he does it to annoy me. And already there is a negative feeling. Objectively, the person in front of me goes slowly. And then I have the choice to get angry about it, to overtake him, or to go slower myself too.
This freedom of choice is a great gift and hard earned. And has made my life enormously easier.
borderline anger or normal anger?
At this point I also have the feeling to express a "warning" again. And that is a warning that after a borderline diagnosis every feeling and every word is put on the disturbance scale. Borderliners are also – and first and foremost – just people. Who are also allowed to be angry.
If someone is unfair to me, attacks me or there is any other reason to get angry, I am allowed to do so. Without having to be afraid of borderline right away. Like anyone else, I can get angry or rant about the people around me.
The difference with borderline anger is that with "normal anger" there is a reason to be so angry. And an objective reason that most other people can understand. Quite different with borderline rage. Often a (flimsy) reason can be found here, but why exactly you are so incredibly angry at that moment, you can’t really explain at all. In addition to this groundlessness, borderline rage is characterized by inappropriate timing and intensity.
What to do? | Relatives
With anger-variant 1, when it is allowed out, the stupidest thing is that for me as a sufferer it often goes just as fast as it came – a well-known problem with borderline personality disorder: I am already five emotional and thought worlds ahead again while my counterpart is still trying to digest what I have just said or thrown at him.
This means for the relatives once again: Keep calm. If somehow possible. Let your little Rumpelstiltskin rage for one, two or even five minutes. Put on imaginary soundproof headphones, think of a funny movie or recall moments in your mind when it was nice and relaxed with your borderliner. Try to see behind the anger facade of the disease and look for the person you care about. Don’t get carried away by the black current – you probably know better than anyone that your boat will be back in calm waters in a few minutes.
But if the anger does not show itself outwardly at all, then there is little you can do as a family member at first. What you can try working with your borderliner is to go back the way you came after an outburst of pent up anger, talk through situations, clarify misunderstandings and so on.
What to do? | affected person
I would like to advise two things in particular to those affected:
- Lower your base tension, because then the rage can break through also more rarely. I know, just lowering your baseline tension isn’t in – but through good therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and a dose of self-care, you can move and achieve a lot. I will not and cannot promise you that you will get rid of the rage. For me, all these things as well as tension and anger are very closely connected. But I have found for me and with me that anger does not carry me away as often as it once did.
- Do not make any decisions, news, purchases or other things that are hard to take back. If the anger is standing or sitting or walking next to you, accept that in the moment. And be clear that you are not yourself right now. But under the influence of it. Anger wants quite a bit of attention – so if you accept it and ignore it as best you can, it will quickly get bored and go away again.
Goals of a treatment must be
- find other outlets for the pent-up anger – skills instead of self-harm
- To find out with professional help which feelings are hidden behind the anger
- Learn through mindfulness to stop letting anger take control so easily
On borderlinepersonalitytreatment they have put together a few more tips on how to deal with anger as a victim.
So, dear anger. I hope you are satisfied with your article. Now go to your room.