Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Borderline Personally Disorder can indeed be cured. What I am not suggesting is that it is merely treatable. Rather, it is curable.
Once I knew what I was dealing with, had an accurate understanding of what it is, and how it works, I myself became cured of it. I’m now a fundamentally different person, in dramatic, healthy ways that I once believed were impossible. In all, I reckon it took me about seven years of focused effort to get completely rid of it.
How unfortunate that there are so many people trying to convince you that the opposite of what I have just told you is true. This chatter of misinformation, misdirection, optimism-sapping, pointless speculation comes from every direction you can imagine, including from the professional community. This sea of people, weighing in on what they don’t authentically understand, is itself a major obstacle to those trying to educate themselves. Their claims that Borderline Personality Disorder is something you will have to deal with for the rest of your life is a created self-fulfilling prophecy.
I remember being at the beginning of the recovery process and feeling overwhelmed by the dozens of seemingly impossible, individual things awaiting my attention. In reality, there are not dozens of things. There is only one thing.
You must be able to distinguish symptoms from cause, which is something the professional community as a group regularly fails to help their clients do. This is inexcusable on their part. If you have a headache because of a brain tumor, the headache is not your problem. The tumor is your problem. The headache is simply a symptom of the problem.
I remember the frustration of not knowing where to start, and comparing it to working on a car. If your car has trouble – let’s say somebody points out that you have a flat tire – you can get your hands on it. You take out your physical tools. You physically remove the lug nuts and you put the donut on. Later, you take the old tire, find the puncture, and stick a physical plug in it. As human-beings, we’re used to repairing things with the help of visual cues and tactile feedback.
However, at the beginning of fixing an emotional disorder, you feel that if only you had a physical place to start, something solid to set under a light and get your hands on, you could start fixing it. But because the out-of-alignment gears in this case are all intangible, and imaginary in a sense, it can really be overwhelming.
The entirety of Borderline Personality Disorder is rooted in something called distorted core beliefs; that is, erroneous, subconscious, fundamental perspectives which we adopt as children sometime between birth, and four or five years of age. It’s a curse, but it’s also a blessing; for it means by fixing one thing, you have fixed all things.
Core implies something at the very center, or at the foundation; that which underlies everything else. The singularity from where everything else grows. Imagine a tree: The core in this case would be the base, or the roots. From there, everything else sprouts upward; the trunk, and all of the many branches.
The trunk and the branches, the part of the tree we see, are your behaviors, additional beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
One can spend their time focused on the branches of this tree - in other words, its symptoms – and ultimately get nowhere. I see a lot of people with Borderline Personality Disorder, at no fault of their own, talking about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and other things, as the grand remedy. No, none of these things are your answer. Nothing that focuses on the symptoms of a problem, rather than its cause, is ever going to be your remedy. Things like ‘managing’ emotions, and ‘learning’ coping skills, only superficially address symptoms.
This is one area of serious contention I have with the professional community: Their failure to educate about what DBT is and what it is not. As a group, they have proven to be either deceptive in this regard, or incompetent. One of their greatest priorities should be in helping people distinguish their problem from their symptoms, and they simply do not do this. As a result, people focus all of their energy and hopes on a therapy technique that has no possibility of bringing about a permanent, authentic, cure.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy literally means therapy for your behaviors. What place do behaviors occupy on the tree in our example above? They are branches. They don’t spontaneously exist. They must originate from somewhere. But instead of getting to the very bottom of them, the therapist wants to therapeutically alleviate them. This does absolutely nothing to get to the root of where that behavior sprouts from. It is like the man with painful headaches again, because of a brain tumor, taking aspirin, and thinking it is curing his tumor.
All attempts to control or alleviate symptoms is misdirection. I’m not saying there is never a legitimate reason to alleviate your symptoms in the short term - and this may be a greater need for some than others. However, no matter its validity, it can still be described as misdirection, because you could be using that same time, energy, and focus, toward addressing and rooting out the cause; the poisonous seed at the center of the disorder – on ridding yourself of Borderline Personality Disorder once and for all.
Folks sometimes ask me if the time I spend in the woods has been good for helping me rid myself of Borderline Personality Disorder, and the answer is no. Time in the woods does nothing whatsoever to address my problem. Yes, it’s refreshing, and I’m passionate about it. But if I carry those distorted core beliefs with me into the woods, they’re still my core beliefs when I leave. Focusing on ‘learning’ empathy is superficial and does not address the core. Trying to ‘manage’ emotions is superficial; it does not address the core.
The smart individual bypasses the branches and focuses on the cause - the tumor, so to speak. This is the answer to everything involving Borderline Personality Disorder. If you fix your distorted core beliefs, the branches – the symptoms – will take care of themselves. They have to. Because it is from there that everything else originates. Like the guts of a clock, nothing can turn without the primary gear. Locate and eliminate that primary gear, and the machine stops turning.
What are the two fundamental, distorted core beliefs that everybody with Borderline Personality Disorder shares?
1. My feelings are inherently irrelevant and shameful; devoid of worth. This leads directly to the formation of the next distorted core belief…
2. If my feelings are irrelevant and shameful, then I myself must also be inherently irrelevant and shameful; devoid of worth. Because your feelings are you. They are what make you, you.
Most of your other distorted beliefs sprout from the two I just mentioned, as well as the great majority of your unhealthy behaviors, reactions, thoughts, and feelings. At the bottom of everything you’re dealing with are these two, subconscious, erroneous, foundation certainties you carry within yourself. This is regardless of whether you are immediately aware, or accepting, of it or not.
Your number one priority then is to understand why and how you came to form these fundamental certainties. And for that, we must start at your beginning. For you see, all children receive their emotional education from their immediate caregivers during a sensitive period of development when they are quickly laying down a foundation understanding of life for use in getting started navigating within it. If you haven't done so already, I recommend reading the first article in this series What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
For now, suffice it to say that it is not trauma, nor ‘fear of abandonment’, nor sexual abuse, nor physical abuse, nor genetics, nor any of the things you have been told, that cause Borderline Personality Disorder. It isn’t a thing at all. Put simply, it is the inherent messages in any attitude and behavior by parents that regularly communicates: Your feelings are inherently irrelevant and shameful; devoid of worth.
Now that we have established where the distorted core beliefs came from, and how, the next step is to comprehensively examine the following, in the context of your specific experience:
Why did my parents communicate that message? How did my parents’ behaviors communicate that message? Why was it so convincing? Why did I accept that message? How could I have lived with these destructive beliefs for so long unaware? How have these two beliefs shaped all of my behaviors, my approach to relationships, jobs, my family, confrontations, my handling of money, food, self-image, parenting, responsibility – my entire perspective and approach to life?
I will tell you now, this can be painful work, because it involves seeing, and accepting the reality of what our parents truly did to us. Another way of saying this is that it is working to escape denial. Learning to see things not as we wish they were, but under the light of harsh, unsoftened truth, and then accepting the reality. This will mean redefining our perceptions of many relationships with people we may have spent a lifetime admiring, because we were willing to gloss over, or not think about, the gravity of some of their behaviors and failures – which, in the context of their inherent responsibilities as parents, towards their own, innocent, dependent children, was abuse.
One of the most rewarding aspects of your work will be to trace the undeniable path, the connection, between your distorted core beliefs, and your specific behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and reactions, in real time. To mindfully observe the distorted core beliefs doing what they do, while they are doing it. To witness their effects in action while they are actively affecting you. This can be exciting. Certainly I found it to be some of the most practical, effective, and enlightening, work. There is nothing quite like perceiving the effect of the two distorted core beliefs in live action to convince you that you are on the right track, and that this is no longer an intangible idea, but by golly, this is real.
By the time you have exhaustively done the various things I have spelled out here (it can take several years), you will be rewarded with clarity, understanding, wisdom and balance. You will have traded distorted core beliefs, and all of their related ills, for core beliefs based in reality and good emotional health. Borderline Personality Disorder will lose its steam, wither and die, because it always depended on your total ignorance and inattention to exist in the first place.
Eventually, the intense, exaggerated emotions become – not a thing you are constantly wrestling with to keep under control with superficial tricks – but rather, they become a fundamental impossibility. They simply no longer have the causes behind them that they once did. The blockage which has always prevented you from experiencing true empathy dissolves, and empathy is allowed through. Other destructive behaviors fade and die, because you realize exactly where they are sprouting from, and the root belief from which they originally grew no longer exists.
The new roots you have planted will have sprouted entirely new branches; new beliefs and behaviors. Healthy ones.