An enduring memory from my youth is my infatuation with Lewis Carrol’s story of Alice in Wonderland. I loved the characters– Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts and all the other denizens of the wonderfully weird world that lay at the bottom of a rabbit hole.
I was especially taken with the hookah smoking Caterpillar. I can still see that imperious insect looking down from its mushroom stool demanding that Alice identify herself while simultaneously spewing out letters formed from exhaled smoke – “W-h-o-o-o R-r-r-r U-u-u-u?”
Who are you? That just might be the ultimate existential question, and probably a question that many people have asked themselves at one introspective time or another. Throughout human history philosophers, pundits and prophets have offered answers to that question, but not many of those ideas have put down deep roots, likely because they are too complicated for most people to comprehend.
I think therefore I am. Really?
A more easily understood response may be one proposed by a 14th Century English Friar, William of Ockham. Its named Occam’s Razor and states that more often than not the correct answer to a vexing problem is the simplest one.
In this case the simplest reply to Who are you? is You are you.
The simple truth is that you are the only you to have ever existed. There are currently more than 7 billion individuals who occupy the planet Earth and, like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two are exactly alike. Not even identical twins who have the same DNA are exactly the same. Why? Because every individual is shaped by millions of different ideas, experiences and interpersonal interactions over the course of our unique lives.
How does this relate to Borderline Personality Disorder?
People who live with BPD are too often labeled as attention seekers, manipulative and self centered. These are terms that others use to stigmatize people who are struggling with a disorder they never asked for and would do anything to be rid of.
Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), has been studying and treating people with BPD since the early 1980’s– a time when people with BPD were widely considered untreatable. Dr. Linehan noted a common theme in her groundbreaking approach.
“The real problem, particularly with borderline personality disorder, is their sense that they’re being misread all the time. And the bottom line is– they are. Consistently and constantly, being misread. And so they get more disregulated as they go.”
In response, Dr. Linehan asks people dealing with BPD to find a new perspective regarding their situation. She calls it Radical Acceptance.
“Learning how to radically accept the life that you have, and also yourself as you are– because maybe you’re not the person you want to be. The facts are whoever you are, you’ve got to radically accept.”
So the lesson to be learned is that you are unique and radically accepting exactly who you are may be the beginning of your own journey of discovery through your personal Wonderland.
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