Mindfulness: balance and joy.


An reader of this blog emailed me today with a question:

Do you feel you have found some kind of balance and joy in your life despite your personality disorder (BPD in my case)?

My reply:

I had to think this over a long time, because joy is an emotion that still eludes me most of the time.   I spend so much of my life wallowing in depression and anxiety, and sometimes boredom or irritation.  Joy seems like a foreign country only other people get to go to.

But I’m not a total stranger to it, not anymore.

So yes, I have, far more so than I ever did before I started all this work on myself (meditation, prayer, mindfulness, writing, and God–oh yes, and therapy!). For the first time in my life, I’m actually learning what I want, and who I am, and the mindfulness skills that always eluded me before are becoming so much easier. I haven’t raged (in an out of control, BPD way) in almost 2 years. Starting the blog got the ball rolling (and this is why I’ve been so annoyingly adamant about you writing down your feelings).

More and more, I’ve been experiencing moments–not many, but some–of pure joy. And you know what? That joy doesn’t come from good fortune, winning the Lotto, getting a new car, or people admiring you. It doesn’t come from anything from outside of you. It comes from yourself, from your true self, the one hiding in the shadows. This joy is so sublime and almost spiritual—so hard to explain. Okay, here’s a way to explain what I mean. It’s a joy that makes you feel almost like you’re limerent, only not limerent about a person but limerent about everything! Momentarily you just love everything. Maybe it’s the serotonin or dopamine or whatever, but I suppose it’s similar to an Ecstasy high. But it’s not a drug–the loving, expansive feeling is natural. It’s also spontaneous. You can’t plan for it. It just happens out of the blue, when you least expect it.

But there are things you can do that will make it more likely to happen. Do something you really enjoy. But it can’t be a passive activity,like reading or watching TV. It must involve connection of some kind, either with others or the world. There must be something you really enjoy—being with animals, being in nature by yourself, meditation, prayer, making music, painting or dancing or singing. If you’re an extrovert, be quietly with a friend. Take a long walk with them. Creativity opens the door to connection; so does quietly being with others or in nature.

You might be so overcome with pure, sublime emotion it could bring tears, especially since you seem like an emotional person to begin with–or maybe that emotion is just more accessible to you now than ever before. Use the grief you feel and paint, write about it, or sing about it. Sit and just observe what the grief (and the dissociation you’ve described) does to your body and perceptions. Give it a color or a name. Remind yourself it’s an emotion you feel, but it is NOT you. My therapist told me to imagine my feelings as things separate from myself, and that made it easier to allow me to feel them fully.

I still can’t cry in therapy not much anyway, and that annoys the crap out of me, because I want to so much. I feel like I need to sob in his arms and just have him hold me and give me the parental, nurturing love I never got when I needed it most.

I hope that helps answer your question, and I think it’s important you asked because it shows you want to embrace your authentic self, the one that connects and feels.


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