Life in a Bind – BPD and me

My therapy journey, recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I write for welldoing.org , for Planet Mindful magazine, and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org.


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The power of personas

I wanted to share with you a fantastic article that my therapist sent to me last week.

I emailed her with a link to my post ‘More thoughts about inner parts‘ and she replied with this:

“I read this yesterday and thought of you:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jun/21/ziggy-stardust-persona-therapy-david-bowie-oliver-james-mental-health

Of course my attention was immediately caught by the words ‘…and thought of you’  – it was good to know that she had thought of me outside of session! But then I read the article itself, and was even more grateful to her for sharing it.

Although its title is ‘Embrace your inner Ziggy Stardust – the power of personas in therapy’, the article itself makes the point that for most people, embracing that ‘power of personas’ does not require years of therapy, and that understanding and using our different personas is valuable for everybody.

When I first started to think in more depth about the different parts of me, and to actually identify them and acknowledge the internal dialogues that were going on between them, it felt strange, and ever so slightly ‘illegitimate’. On the one hand I didn’t want to ‘trespass’ on the language and concepts of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID); on the other hand I felt slightly foolish about (in essence) talking to myself, and then trying to interpret those conversations.

But the article helped to underscore for me, the validity and helpfulness of what I was doing. It talks about the value of writing down a list of our personas, and naming them, as I attempted to do in a light-hearted way in my post ‘Parts of me‘. It acknowledges the fact that with self-awareness, you can watch these different personas ‘come out to play’, and importantly, can learn to choose which one takes the stage at any one time. It describes how we can better come to know the different parts of ourselves and identify the origin (very often in childhood) of each of them, and therefore understand the needs that lie behind each one. And for anybody who is already engaged in that process of getting ‘a dialogue going between our different parts‘, you may well empathise with what the article describes as David Bowie’s experience of using personas to ‘comfort himself and address his fears‘. Recently, I have been trying to use the awareness and power of my internal dialogues to try and identify which parts (or personas, using the article’s phraseology) are feeling distressed, and trying to help them feel better.

A final note about terminology – I like the word ‘persona’, but will continue to use the word ‘parts’ to describe my own inner personas, for a number of reasons; though I want to make it very clear that I am using the term only in its most ‘ordinary’ sense, and not as a descriptor or short-hand for DID (which I do not have). A couple of people have suggested that the term ‘role’ might be a good alternative, because it sounds less like I am talking about discrete entities. However, my use of the word ‘parts’ aligns with the ordinary way in which I talk about them in therapy, and how any of us might describe our thought processes to each other, for example: “part of me really wants to go to bed, but another part of me really wants to go out with my friends”. Or, “part of me feels really angry with you, but another part understands where you’re coming from”. I mean the word to be taken in no more discrete a sense than that. Plus, for me, the word ‘role’ implies something that I inhabit with fair regularity, and something that is visible, as well as potentially being something I ‘put on’ or ‘take on’, without it necessarily being a true expression of myself; and all of those are connotations that don’t feel quite right, when I think about some of my ‘parts’. For example, I inhabit the ‘role’ of mother, for most of my waking life, but the internal part I think of as the ‘maternal’ part of me, is incredibly small and uncertain and vulnerable and underdeveloped, and not at all like the ‘role’ I attempt to play on a daily basis. And some of my parts exist mainly as thoughts and feelings, perhaps manifesting more as ‘moods’ than as fully blown ‘personas’.

I hope that for many – and particularly perhaps for David Bowie fans! – this will be an interesting and helpful article, which perhaps will encourage you to start to explore ways of getting a dialogue going between your own different personas, if you haven’t already!