What is the past vs present in borderline personality disorder? Each person diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder is often re-experiencing his or her past in what would otherwise be his or her here and now. There is a high cost to this. The person with BPD continues to live a very painful, often isolated, life. Life can pass one by. It is important to confront and work through the past to be fully alive and present to the here and now. That is the way for anyone with BPD to find his or her lost self and begin to address working toward solving his or her legacy of abandonment – a legacy that is re-experienced and re-lived until it is faced.
One major issue for anyone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the reality of the presence of the past in the here and now.
The problems with the past vs present in borderline personality is often more a part of a borderline’s present-day reality than the present itself. Why? The answer has all to do with triggers that cause dysregulated emotions that can severely interfere with relationships. The borderline search (often a subconscious one) to meet their unmet needs from childhood also negatively impact here and now relationships. When you have BPD and have many unmet needs stacked up from your past along with trauma and or unpleasant and negative experiences overwhelming you from your past your here and now suffers, as do you.
What keeps the past so alive is not facing your feelings. Continuing to abandon your pain not only keeps you stuck in that pain and reacting to it but it also means that you are more invested in your past victimization than any present-day empowerment you can learn to choose. Along with thinking, you are emotionally back in your past experiencing interpersonal relational dynamics as you experienced a relational rupture that amounted to the experience of abandonment adds to the cognitive distortions that you allow yourself to continue to react to. What you think will dictate what you do – how you relate – how you react. Not the other way around. You are responsible for both what you think and for what you say or do.
In order to move out of the past and into the here and now you must learn to change the way you think and the way you act and or re-act to how you feel by learning more about how what you are actually thinking affects those feelings. No matter how much pain any one of us has suffered in the past one does not have to continue to live his or her life back there with that pain and fear. That pain and fear that has at its core the trauma and legacy of abandonment Abandonment and the shame of abandonment does not have to continue to negatively impact self-image or how you relate to others. Peeling back layers of defense mechanisms and letting go of what have become patterned and almost automatic ways of relating can feel very scary too but it is so freeing. Letting go is a choice. In order to let go of your past you will need to go through the feelings that you have and work them through in therapy. It took years for you to build up the fears and feelings and ways of behaving that you know have. It will take some time to unlearn these and then to learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.
Often borderlines will experience triggers. Things in the here and now that are just like situations and or experiences from the past that were very painful and or traumatic. Situations that create dysregulated emotions that those with BPD do not have effective coping skills to deal with in age-appropriate ways. It is here that the real work must be done. Each time one is triggered, it is crucial to work through the reality that what you are feeling from the past, while very real, is not necessary in the present. If you have BPD, you need to learn how to take personal responsibility for those feelings and how you react to them. When you were a young child and you could not take care of yourself or protect yourself, you may well have been the victim of abuse and violence and or neglect. Now, however, in your present, you are an adult. This means that you can (or you can learn) to take care of yourself. You do not have to be re-victimized unless you allow that to happen. It is all a matter of not playing out and re-playing out past patterns. It is difficult and painful to make changes to these ingrained patterns but it is not only possible but necessary if you are to leave your past behind you.
Living in the here and now is much more satisfying. It is also much more manageable. Taking the time to distinguish between the past and the here and now can mean the difference between a successful and pleasurable experience with others or a conflictual and painful experience with others. Remember, only you can be the adult that you are and take care of yourself. Others really can’t do this for you. Even if it seems they are willing to try, in time, your seeking to be taken care of by someone else will stress, if not end, friendships and relationships.
The past can only live on if you let it. Your past can produce real pain and flashbacks for you in the here and now. The challenge that you face is not so much trying to control that but letting it happen and then taking care of yourself in response to it. The past truly only has the power (now) that you give to it. Refuse to continue to give your past more power than your here and now. The difference in giving the “now” power is that you will find yourself and know yourself and learn to believe in yourself. Do not let your life be defined by your past anymore or by those in your past who so let you down or hurt you and who defined you in abusive and unfair ways.
Step into each day secure in the knowledge that each time you grapple with the past in your present you are taking a big step forward and a freeing step to changing your life for the better.
© Ms. A.J. Mahari – August 9, 2001