(This article was inspired after reading an article by Patrick Walker and Jayashri Kulkarni of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia)
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a highly stigmatized condition. BPD individuals (75% of whom are female), may be better served when BPD is thought of as a complex response to trauma rather than a static personality condition.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) does not mention trauma as a diagnostic factor in BPD. Relabeling would provide a sense of hope that trauma can be resolved, which the current labeling does not offer.
Hypnosis is all about focused awareness, which helps people resolve triggers to trauma, regardless of when the trauma occurred.
“Consulting Hypnotists help ordinary, everyday people with ordinary, everyday problems using individual hypnotic techniques”.
- Mission of the National Guild of Hypnotists
Currently, BPD is not viewed as ordinary and much of our mental health system is designed to treat BPD without good outcomes. If we were to consider a new understanding of BPD – one in which early trauma is the dominant ingredient, would we have more success with treatment outcomes? After all, an essential component of hypnotherapy is helping our clients perceive situations more accurately. So, should we as professionals, consider a similar perceptual move?
Shifting the label to one of “complex trauma” indicates that there is fluidity to how people respond over time, not just static limitations such as a personality disorder indicates.
Hypnotherapists work with behaviors that develop over time, called habit patterns. These patterns are repetitive responses to stimuli. However, responses can be neutralized, rewired and redirected in order to create more appropriate behaviors and more desired outcomes. This is the domain of hypnotherapy.
For example, if a client wants to eliminate her anxiety (a hallmark of BPD) using hypnosis, then she and the hypnotherapist would work to eliminate those triggers and the client would no longer experience anxiety in unwanted ways. Previously, she might have suffered from sleep disorders, nightmares, overeating, stuttering, drug or alcohol abuse (as self-medication), overreactions, defensiveness, control issues or any one of dozens of symptoms that describe anxiety-related behaviors.
Other hallmark symptoms of borderline personality disorder such as deliberate self-harm could be addressed in a similar fashion; by confronting earlier scenes of abuse that caused the client to feel angry, shameful and disempowered. The shame experienced by BPD clients can often be directly related to their self-harming behaviors. As 5-PATH hypnotherapists, we help people to release erroneous beliefs, which redirects self-sabotaging behaviors and allows greater use of the client’s resources, energy and motivation, directed in a more positive trajectory.
Working with this level of trauma may require more than just a hypnotherapist. It may be advisable for the hypnotherapist to work with a team such as a psychiatrist and/or mental health professional. Instead of spending years in therapy however, the client may indeed be able to feel relieved and stabilized after a short course of hypnotherapy.
Women diagnosed with this condition often have early life traumas. These include incestuous sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse (such as criticism, comparison and judgment), separation, neglect, deprivation and/or abandonment. People who were sexually abused as children often feel that they did something wrong; that they are to blame for being abused and that they’re inherently bad people. They often feel as though there’s something wrong with them or that they are defective. This worthiness issue is a misperception of the child. 5-PATH hypnotherapy works with this misperception to restore it to accuracy as part of the average five sessions.
Externally, lack of validation or family denial often conveys the message that abuse is indeed, the child’s fault. This very deep level of guilt (“I did something bad to someone else or myself”) often carries a belief that they deserve punishment, which their acts of self-harm speaks to. 5-PATH hypnotherapy addresses this issue as well by providing the inner child with accurate information, which will generally alleviate a sense of wrongdoing and guilt.
Ultimately, clients will come to understand how these environmental conditions impacted them and realize that they are still lovable, worthy human beings. These qualities cannot be taken away by people or conditions, but certainly can be buried under a mountain of shame, guilt, rage, fear and other emotions so that the client feels disconnected from her essential goodness.
5-PATH hypnotherapy utilizes highly structured technology to discover the root cause of these feelings and re-orient the meaning of these feelings within the context of accurately perceived experiences. When clients become aware of these feelings against a backdrop of accuracy, they generally will be experienced as useful feedback. “All feelings are good” (5-PATH Master Hypnotist and Trainer Cal Banyan in “The Secret Language of Feelings”) and help guide the individual through life and resolve issues that require their attention.
A BPD client’s anger or rage, which often occurs in response to apparently small issues, may be totally justified in her mind albeit outside exist of her conscious awareness. This expression of anger is often triggered from an early episode of abuse. The triggering occurs because of a concept called “resonance”. Resonance means that something unresolved from the past is being triggered by something in the present because the mind/body identifies the current situation as a perceived threat - having a similar vibration to the earlier event. These overreactions occur for many people, not just BPD.
The resonant activity is occurring at a Subconscious Mind level. Hypnosis works primarily with the Subconscious Mind, making it the go-to modality for resolving overreactions and long-standing issues. Hypnosis will bypass the Conscious Mind or Critical Factor as we hypnotherapists call it (a kind of gatekeeper mechanism) and deal directly with the Subconscious Mind because it is much easier to make changes at that level. The Subconscious Mind is more receptive than our waking or Conscious Mind.
When we attempt to make changes at the Conscious Mind level, this requires willpower and even though willpower is an excellent mechanism, it’s better used for short-term efforts. Over time, willpower, a function of our Conscious Mind, resides, leaving us drained.
Our Subconscious Mind, which is unlimited and captures every single thought and event in our life experience, is a much better strategy. The Subconscious Mind is like working with a fleet of forklifts on steroids moving warehouse items as opposed to moving those items individually, by hand.
Another hallmark of BPD or trauma-related responses are memory blanks and out-of-body responses, which are the body’s way of protecting itself from the realities of abuse. It’s a means of escape through self-protection. Our mind is always working at all levels to protect us from perceived threats. Using hypnotherapy techniques, we can access the necessary details of past experiences vis-à-vis the Subconscious Mind and correctly identify the child’s misperceptions about those events, shedding new light on the meaning of previously held thoughts and beliefs. The Subconscious Mind now possesses new information from which to operate. Once we have new information, our behavior quickly improves.
Imagine a world of individuals restored by the technology of 5-PATH hypnosis. These individuals are healed because the condition formerly known as BPD is now considered treatable and recoverable. They are now capable of becoming unified, whole and contributing members of society because as we all know, perception is reality.
Note: The author, Annie Alexander, Ph.D., CH has worked with BPD for many years as a psychotherapist in private practice as well as in community mental health centers as a treatment professional and clinical director. She specializes in trauma-related issues.