Addressing Fear, Worry, and Anxiety
Everyone I know, myself included, wants to feel that we are normal as much as the next person. But what is expected in society to conform and reach normalcy?
Are we all mentally ill, intellectually deficient? Do we exhibit borderline personality disorders due to our unique neuroses and psychoses?
A recent article by Kristen Lawrence, Psychologists Find Link Between Childhood Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder, provides insight into what I have intrinsically known, call it intuition, maybe even common sense since childhood about my dilemma.
Previously known as Borderline Personality Disorder, the condition has rebranded itself as the Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
My childhood and early adulthood led me into a path of study regarding human behavior.
In essence, because of what I experienced as a kid, I wanted to find a way to sit at a table with people, even those I didn’t like, and talk with not at them about their problems and issues and my own. I have been on a life-long journey seeking understanding.
Eventually, this need to understand my behavior led me to develop a process and model we have used for 50-years to engage people on their terms in their place, in their time, and to seek and develop mutually acceptable understandings of thinking and feeling. We call that model Collaborative Informed Consent.®
In my world, I wanted to know why people act, react, think, feel, and believe as they do.
Was I abnormal because I felt or thought differently from those around me, and was that based on my childhood experiences or some brain malfunction?
Was I mentally ill because others were different in their normal state than me, or were they the dysfunctional ones?
Why, for example, in my family, would my father only take me fishing twice in his entire life despite loving to fish himself?
What was it about me that he disliked so much that he didn’t hug me?
Why was he promiscuous and angry towards my mother?
I found out more about my father than I really wanted to know in my teens. My father was a handsome man, and women were attracted to him. I don’t know his behavior with them. I can only surmise that it was significantly different from his relationship with Mom and me.
He died, and I never understood our relationship. His behavior, or lack of appropriate behavior, as I define it, toward me caused me to question my self-image and self-worth for decades. It also caused me to seek father surrogates all my life.
Even now, at 71-years of age I wonder what I could have done differently to change his behavior.
Did these life experiences lead to my depression, moodiness, self-image issues, and relationship challenges?
Did I fear abandonment all those years when I was becoming fiercely independent?
Did my unstable and passionate relationships in my single years alternating between “I love her!” to “I freaking hate her!” reveal the early onset of personality disorder symptoms?
When I was younger, did my reckless behavior of fast cars, impulsive sex, and excessive drinking result from a disorder or lousy decision-making?
Were those feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and often barely controlled anger the foundation of a bent personality?
Was the severity of these issues sufficient for a diagnosis of EUPD?
As I review my family history and delve into my psyche, I realize that EUPD is like any other illness; it can consume you unless addressed.
Any illness, physical or mental, is typically always a combination of our genetics, environment, family histories, and brain structure.
Yes, studies in 2000 and 2008 concluded that borderline personality disorder could be inherited about 50% of the time, which even surpasses the rates for major depression.
My father certainly had issues with significant depression until he had a near-death experience (NDE). After the NDE, one could argue his old self walked out to be replaced by a newer and better self. We all liked his better self more.
And that brings me to the need to examine my childhood traumas.
Did my father experience childhood traumas? After all, he ran away from home at age 16 to marry my beauty of a mother who was 21. I married at 19 to be independent and get out of the house. That marriage lasted for ten years.
Did the family secrets and childhood traumas lead me into such an ill-thought-out decision?
In Frontiers in Psychology, researchers conclude that females are four times more frequently impacted by childhood trauma resulting in EUPD than males.
Was I an exception?
I don’t think so.
Like many children of the 1950s, I came to grow up faster because of the adverse events of my life. And now, at 71-years of age, I reflect that I survived, albeit it may be with more neuroses than some in my generation.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), 75% of people diagnosed with EUPD are women. And I don’t find that to be unusual.
Women and their cultural lifestyle in society have been an ongoing evolvement since the 1960s. As women’s roles evolved from homemakers to professionals, significant questioning had to occur within those women.
Such evolutions, primarily when a man or woman examines the totality of their lives, often bring forth histories, family secrets, and suppressed memories.
As with myself, the unwillingness to confront those issues and seek help to talk through them and see them for what they are can lead to unnecessary neuroses. I speak from experience as I sit here waiting to facilitate an online meeting with anxiety building in my stomach.
For example, in my family, my mother denied the affairs my father had; when they always fought loudly, they would slink to their corners and become passive-aggressive.
As a child, I would isolate myself in the attic bedroom with a fan and radio turned up loud enough to drown out their sparring matches. Therefore, early in my life, I sought to avoid conflict.
When I entered the professional world in the 1970s, I quickly realized that conflict was a part of the business world and unavoidable. I had to find a way to cope.
After a shotgun was pulled on me by an angry fellow, I realized the importance of predicting, preventing, managing, and resolving differences. Shotguns have a way of getting your attention.
My life experience led me to ask why do we feel and think as we do about ourselves and others?
What do we base our feelings on, and is it normal?
Maybe, the better question is who amongst us isn’t abnormal in these regards?
Indeed, the German study cited in the article makes me stop and realize that environmental factors from our childhood traumas often contribute to our severe questioning of ourselves as adults.
However, I believe this is good for us. We can’t undo our history; as the old saying goes, life is not a dress rehearsal; it is what it is. Our failure to confront our demons and fears can only lead to an unsettled anxiousness and fear within ourselves.
After all, we are emotional people. Like all of our life, I believe emotions come from a Higher Source.
And in my life of seven decades, the hardest and sometimes harshest lesson I have learned is to “Let go and Let God.”
With our wishes and prayers for peace,
Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong