I had a request on Facebook recently to talk about having a “favourite person” and how it involves splitting. They wanted me to talk about letting go of a “favourite person” and learning to validate ourselves. I am not an expert on BPD, just a peer in recovery but I believe that having a strong sense of identity helps in letting go of a “favourite person”
I had an experience several years ago with having to let go of a “favourite person” of mine. It did not go too well. I felt terribly abandoned and cried for weeks. This was after I had completed DBT. I am not perfect. This person left town all of a sudden and her friend told me that my “favourite person” had told her that it was all my fault. This was at Christmas time. If I’d had some time to prepare myself, it might not have been so bad. I did not have the validation of my husband at the time. We had never really discussed my BPD; I felt totally lost. Years later, we started discussing my BPD and he realized that I’d felt abandoned by my “favourite person” and I felt validated. We need to try to have that validation come from within.
Having a solid sense of identity really helps in this situation. I thought I had a sense of identity at the time.
In DBT, there are things called “Cheerleading Statements” They are statements that are very validating. They are not statements that feel impossible to achieve. We can practice saying these statements over and over to ourselves until they feel more real to us. The more we practice saying them, the more we build up our self esteem. The more we build up our self-esteem, the more we cushion the blow if we have to let go of our “favourite person”
How do we build a sense of identity? There are several parts to our identity: our likes, dislikes, values. Think about what each of these are for you to start building a sense of identity. This can be hard at first. Most of us with BPD are like chameleons; our sense of identity comes from other people. Try to think really hard about things about you that don’t change based on who you’re with. Those things are a part of your identity. Other things may include culture and heritage, race. For example, part of my identity is that I am a Canadian.
Part of your identity could be from work. It could be that you are a wife and mother. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, my husband and I were separated several years ago, just before my diagnosis. I was unable to see my husband or kids unsupervised. All of my identity was being a wife and mother. Suddenly, I was a wife and mother without a husband or my kids. I felt totally lost. I was like a zombie. Eventually, we got back together, through me doing a lot of hard work in an intensive DBT program for a year. It taught me that I really needed to try to build more of and identity for myself that just being a wife and mother. I needed and identity that was not totally based on people other than myself.
One part of my identity that I own is that I love Country music. I went through my rock phase as a teen but went back to Country music. I wanted to be liked by others as a teen and everybody else listened to rock music. I had no sense of my identity. I didn’t even know this at the time. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was about 35.
So, part of my identity is that I am a Canadian who loves Country music and am a wife and mother, and I am also a grandmother.
The thing about tying your identity to a certain “favourite person” is that, if that “favourite person” is no longer there for whatever reason, you’ll feel totally lost without them. When I was unable to see my husband and kids, I felt like my right arm had been cut off. A huge part of me was missing. I had no sense of my own identity without them. It took a whole year of intensive DBT to start finding my own identity that included more than just them.
I hope that this post helps explain a little bit. I’ll repeat: I am not a counsellor, just a peer in recovery. This is just my understanding of the topic. Feel free to contribute in the Comments below. Till next time,