Thought Control is Mind Control

I found an article written by Dr. Amen who’s a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and brain-imaging specialist. It’s about how to conquer negativity and encourage positive thoughts. It’s not about Borderline Personality Disorder per say. It’s aimed at people that do have negative thoughts but are basically ‘normal’ (meaning: don’t have a personality disorder). However I found what he had to say runs parallel to BPD.
The article is about negative thinking, what he calls ANTs = Automatic Negative Thinking. These are thoughts that automatically pop into your head, but don’t necessarily have any rational hold. Or if they do, they run away with you instead of allowing for the ability to come up with solutions instead of dwelling on them. The thoughts that jump into your head automatically after something triggers them and refuse to go away. For me these thoughts run rampant and spin me down into a dark hole that I can’t climb out of.
He goes on to say that powerful thoughts can lead to physical reactions. Negative thoughts actually release chemicals in your brain that do make you feel bad. The opposite is true too, the happy, the positive can lead to chemical release that makes you feel good.
Therapists have identified 10 ‘species’ of the automatic negative thoughts. (I think the term ANTs just sounds ridiculous. I can’t take it seriously.)
1.)  All or nothing (thinking in black and white).  This is what Splitting is.
2.) Always thinking (overgeneralizing). Well, yeah.
3.)  Focusing on the negative (ignoring the positive). When things are always bad, when nothing turns out how you need it to, when every little thing shakes your foundation, it’s hard to think about the positive. On the other hand, if you swing {hyper}manic, it’s the opposite, everything can be positive, everything is superhuman, everything is achievable. I think the mood swings of someone with BPD can be a little too changeable for this, but generally speaking I think the principle here is true.
4.) Think with your feelings (believeing negative feelings without evidence). Obviously. BPD is all about emotional dysregulation. Emotions that take control, cloud your judgment, and make you act in ways that most people wouldn’t.
5.)  Guilt beating (thinking in words like “should”, “must”, “ought to). I do this a lot. Believe I should be other than I am, should have done something better, was not good enough at something else, failed myself in some way… I tell myself that I’m not good enough if I can’t be perfect.
6.)  Labeling (attaching negative labels to yourself and others). For someone with BPD I think this is an extension of Splitting. I label someone as all good (ex. Roommate). I label someone as all bad (Friends wife). It may be both all good, or all bad for the same person at different times, depending on the last interaction (ex. Friend or myself).
7.)  Fortune Telling (predicting the future in a negative way). Hopelessness, abandonment, believing that eventually everyone will leave, things will always turn out devastatingly wrong. Just walking into a situation and knowing it’s going to turn out bad for you. I find this usually happens worse when it’s something I really want.
8.)  Mind Reading (believing you know what someone else is thinking). This goes hand in hand with hypersensitivity. When you’re so attuned to what someone does, if there’s any variation, anything to shake that tenuous stability, there’s no helping the wild thoughts that run away to figure out why someone has changed in some way. Even if that change is miniscule.
9.)  Blame (Blaming others for you problems). If he just did this, if she felt this way, if I wasn’t so misunderstood… these tend to be the kinds of thoughts I have to give ‘reasons’ for my negative feelings. 
10.)               Denial (refusing to admit you have a problem). Heh, I don’t think this is really my issue, or anyone’s issue that has BPD and is seeking help or treatment. Well, maybe. Identifying ALL the areas that need helping I can see where there can be denial.
The first step is to realize these things are a problem. Keeping in mind that these thoughts happen may help figure out how to change them.
Everybody lies
To combat these he makes a good point: Thoughts can lie; they lie a lot. However you don’t have to believe every thought that pops into your head. But how do you determine which thoughts you can believe? All things in life aren’t positive, some things are negative. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong, sort of thing. The problem is they feel like the truth. These are what automatically popped into my head, and it’s pretty obvious to me that they’re self-defeating in term of incorporating a helpful idea. I often fight against things that are good for me, and I don’t know why.
In order to get ahold of these thoughts and recognize which ones are not rational he makes a suggestion. Write them down. “The simple act of writing down your thoughts helps get them out of your head and begins to diffuse any negative feelings so you start to feel better”.  This is something I do almost daily. I’ve kept journals since I was 12/13 years old. For me it only tends to be a temporary fix. It doesn’t help the irrational thoughts from coming back in the future, or even the next day, but it does help me get ahold of them and allow me to work through them at the time. I can’t always write as soon as I have ridiculous thoughts, so often they  stay with me for days, weeks. When I do have time to write I do feel calmer. I’m able to look at the problem and try to sort things out. If nothing else, it reminds me of the things I need to talk about in therapy. My therapist encourages me to write every day. If I’m comfortable I read what I’ve written in session so that we can work on these things.    I try to write everyday but sometimes I’m just too busy or I don’t want to… and sometimes I want to dwell on my problem. I want to hold things to me, believe that these things are true, not my fault, feel misunderstood so I can believe these kinds of thoughts are justified. I know this isn’t rational but sometimes I hold things to me and don’t want to let them go.  I know this is something I need to work on. I can generally get my thoughts down on paper, and it does help me put things into perspective for a while.

Continue with: write down the ‘negative’ situation that brought about the negative thoughts and feelings, identify the moods felt during the situation, write down the automatic thoughts that were experienced when that certain mood was felt, identify the evidence that supports these thoughts, identify the evidence that does not support these thoughts, next identify the fair and balanced thoughts about the situation, and finally observe the new mood and think about what to do.

The problem with this article, for me, is that when you have a personality disorder you can’t just think your way out of the barrage of overblown thoughts that accost you . Beat you into submission mastered by your emotions.  You feel them whether you want to or not and no amount of telling yourself otherwise alleviates them. If it was as simple as remembering a few principles**, PDs wouldn’t be a problem for anyone that wants to change.  I can’t internalize a lot of these, and unless I read them every single day, my neurotic thoughts will crowd out the helpful ones. Maybe other people can remember them and use these techniques to keep some calm. Find a little relief. A way of infusing some rational explanation into the irrational behavior.  
** This is the point of therapy. However therapy realizes that it takes time, practice, and work to change these behaviors. It’s not as simple as reading an article.

6 comments on “Thought Control is Mind Control

  1. Writing definitely helps, but like you said it is extremely temporary for me. The most it does for me is to help keep me from cutting which I guess is not necessarily a small thing. I get that same rush of release from writing as I do from cutting almost, but it doesn't remove the negative thoughts for me. They are still there just less loud I guess. I don't think this is the be all end all fix for people with PD, but it definitely could be a part of the whole.

  2. Definitely not the be all end all. Idk, I read stuff like this. Really positive, helpful things, words of wisdom, ways to change your way of thinking and I'm always like "Oh! Yes! That's such a good idea!" For about 10 minutes until my mind moves somewhere else and it gets pushed out by thoughts of other things. I'm pretty distractable though, so I figured it might be encouraging for someone else. Writing is one of the few things that has stuck with me through the years. I'm glad it helps you too. And no, that is no small thing! Don't undermine yourself, anything that helps is good for you =)

  3. Haven, I know exactly how you feel. The temporary relief of writing is better than nothing, I've kept a journal since I was 10. And I love reading things like this, too, for the same reason…for about ten minutes its like "That's what I need to do!"You said "I try to write everyday but sometimes I’m just too busy or I don’t want to… and sometimes I want to dwell on my problem"…what I realized is that I do this because I'm afraid of letting my hurt go. I want it to be validated, and if I let it go, it's as if it never happened. It's like the pain is all you have that keeps you grounded in reality. Have you read about IFS therapy?

  4. Exactly. I want those feelings to be validated. I already find it to be impossible to hold on to what's happened before since I have almost no object constancy. I just, I want to know that what I feel is real, not just something I've made up in my mind. ::nods:: Feeling that pain is constant, it's something visceral and real. I can feel that and know I'm not just floating disembodied through my existence. I'm actually here. No, I haven't read about IFS therapy. What's it about? Thusfar I've focused on CBT, Schema, and DBT.

  5. IFS therapy stands for Internal Family Systems…its about recognizing the different "parts" inside of you and learning how to take care of them…at first it sounds a little crazy, but I've been trying it and it helps. I posted two blogs about it, one with the research from the website and another about my experience with it thus far.Hopefully some day we can feel like we exist by experiencing those foreign objects, like contentment and happiness =P

  6. What do you do when you get stimulated too much for one reason or another, and you know whatever made you feel this way or that way doesn't last? Is that dissociating, or is that just "fuckit, whatever" or "I'm just obsessing over stuff that has little to do with anything of great importance in the short term of myself on a whole?" ? i view myself as one or two or three large exposed nerves. The synapses rule. That's all I can come up with. I know nothing of absolutes. I can feel my way around everything. If it makes my stomach twitch, I go the other way. It's the stupidest way to live, and yet I think there are people out there who envy this. If only I did not have a brain. But I do. I just like to change the channel sometimes. Doesn't everyone?

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