This poem appears as the “Epilogue” in the humanist psychotherapist James F. Masterson’s book The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, a highly readable guide to the Narcissistic and Borderline personality disorders and focusing on their genesis, manifestations, and the methods of therapy used to heal these disorders. Dr. Masterson, unlike many (or even most) psychotherapists, believes these disorders can actually be cured, not just treated, and has had success with both NPD and BPD patients in his practice.
This poem was written by one of his patients, identified only as “L.M.” It is not specified whether she had BPD or NPD, but her poem is incredibly moving and hopeful.
I shied from what I considered real, building a world of my own…
impregnable, I was unaware of the slowly decaying castle,
a part of which would ebb away with every sudden storm.
Around the castle I had built a wall of sand,
within this, a wall of sturdy oak.
With grains of hate, I fortified the walls of sand,
yet I did not know that the blinding storm of tears
would dampen the sand, rotting the wood,
until suddenly, in a flash of lightning,
in a rumbling that shot and tore through the earth,
I, in my hate, attempted to destroy it,
ignorant of the consequences in my silent call for aid,
consciously rejecting all hands thrust in my direction,
I ran from my castle of dreams, attempted to escape from it–
the roaring of despair and the wind of self pity
swept about me, an I rushed to the wall…tried to scale it,
and fell back, exhausted…
for my fingers could not grip
and I slipped in the sand, moaning, crying in the howling
wind, crawling to a corner to await my own destruction,
caring no longer for myself, my world, those within it.
Through the foul air, through the whirling mist
that surrounded me, a figure approached. It did not beckon,
but waited for me…and it did not force me; it was I who
had the choice. And I, with tears of self-hate in my eyes
and venom in my lungs, confusion in my brain,
found, although I resisted, could not conquer it,
and defeated, surrendered my mind.
Surrender was not enough for him–apathy was not the answer.
I spoke through parched lips, parched from lack
of communication, I finally asked the question aloud,
slowly, meaningfully…”what is this?”
for he took my hand and led me back to the world I had created
and I a fugitive feared to return.
But his grip was firm, yet gentle, and slowly,
I gave him my trust–a gift I thought I did
no longer possess. Following behind him, I came to the ruins,
closing my eyes for I could not bear to look,
and blindly, I stumbled to the wall, refusing to face
what I, in my own image, had created. He took my hand and placed
it on the sandy wall, instructing me to dig, and I obeyed
joyfully, for he allowed me to do it myself–yet soon I tired,
for I could not understand why, and the answer, “to help you”
was not familiar to my moulding ears.
I cried out in the darkness, “help me dig!”
and he replied that it was I who must help myself.
My fingernails were caked with sand, and I continued
to claw away at the cold wet sand, damp from a million tears,
and a decade of winter winds. Then through the blackness,
I screamed with pain, for oaken splinters had pierced my
fingers, and then with joy as I realized what I had reached.
I whispered in awe, “what now?” and the voice calmly answered,
The wind began to howl, the wall began to rise,
and I faltered with indecisions. I moan with my inadequacy,
and with his aid, slowly pull apart the boards,
scraping my fingers on the nails I had once so proudly
driven. And beneath the boards, corroding with disease,
I found all human attributes thought so long ago
to be missing and presumed dead, and the realization surprised
yet frightened me. Time passed, and with the passage,
I accepted and no longer withdrew from
the world, pulling toward my soul
both the good and evil, so that I might
distinguish between them. I no longer wished to
return to the world I had once created, now it seemed
so long ago…I embraced the world totally and felt capable
to contribute to it while achieving what I wished from it.
Within it, I find all that was missing from the others–
mutual love, tolerance, understanding…caring.
I stir with the realization of the dawn.
Time’s libation has accomplished its desired effect,
and I hear within myself satisfaction’s sigh.
I rise, filled with the new-found freedom that was once
only tangible in my dreams.
Beyond domestic panes of glass
I viewed the golden crescent
and feel its warmth caressing my cheek,
blinding my eye with the strength of its love.
In the silence of the early morn,
I walked the deserted streets, rushing to keep my rendezous
with my newest love–the joy of living.
How many others share my love?
I am not selfish…
if only all might incorporate with my emotions!
Is it fair that I envision myself
as a free spirit, removed from the
human maladjustments that were once present within me?
It is fair to myself and fairer than I have ever been
…for I care.
My soul soars; I feel personally involved with others.
I stand alone now, yet am unafraid. No hand is held in mine;
I stand alone, independent…alive.
Viewing the dawn, I feel the blood surge through my body,
and laugh, grateful for the rebirth of my spirit.
But through the brightness of the dawn, memories still return.
There is a difference–they do not plague, but help to form
–L.M. (at the conclusion of her treatment)