Emotional Baggage

Stupid Old Habits

Do you ever just wish you could delete something from your personal regime?  Whether it be a physical activity, an obsession, or a recurrent thought in your head, I’m sure there has got to be something…

I’ve been trying so hard to break this stupid pattern of thought that I have quite frequently, yet only in certain situations.  I can’t really put a name to it, but it is eerily similar to a psychological behaviour called “splitting.”  According to Wikipedia:

Splitting is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defence mechanism used by many people. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground.)

Splitting is commonly seen in people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  I’ve had quite a bit of personal experience with this phenomenon because my sister has BPD.  I see it in action all the time and quite frequently I have been the victim of splitting.  What is surprising to me (and it’s really all just coming together as I write this post) is that I tend to do this often in my head – I know it’s a stupid way to think, and I know it’s something I need to stop doing, but I just feel so compelled to do it.  My mind just goes there before I even have a chance to realize that it’s happened.

People with BPD can be very sensitive to the way others treat them, feeling intense joy and gratitude at perceived expressions of kindness, and intense sadness or anger at perceived criticism or hurtfulness.

In the context of BPD, this way of thinking is harmful because some people don’t realize they are doing it.  They then act on those thoughts and treat people overly graciously when they feel good and then they treat them extremely poorly when they feel bad.  In my case, I don’t really let these feelings affect the relationships I have with people; instead, they just grind away in my brain, confuse me, anger me, and leave me feeling like I need to sort out this “shit.”  Although my initial response when I feel criticized or rejected is to be angry at the person, the anger very quickly shifts to myself.  I get angry with myself for letting my mind go into this unhealthy train of thought.  Being angry at myself just makes it harder to work on my positive self esteem and positive self talk.

So, how do I deal with this situation?  My options seem to be to either learn how to appropriately deal with this unhealthy way of thinking, or to just stop putting myself in positions that lend themselves to this kind of thinking.  The problem with the latter solution is that it pretty much means that I have to stop interacting with the people who are important in my life… That’s no real solution.

So, how do I stop this instinctual response?  How do I not get overly hurt or upset when something benign happens?  Sometimes I can be so sensitive that someone not responding to a important (at least in my mind) text message can bring up the feelings.  Is this just a matter of retraining my mind, or is it more deep seeded in my self-esteem, or do I have to somehow go deep into my psyche and re-learn a mature coping mechanism to replace this immature defence mechanism?  I really don’t know.  What I do know, however, is that this just has to stop.  It’s not good for me.

Please, tell me, what do you do to deal with your stupid old habits?


11 thoughts on “Stupid Old Habits

    1. I guess if life was easy, it would be no fun, right? We have to believe that we can make things better with all that hard effort.


  1. “Is this just a matter of retraining my mind, or is it more deep seeded in my self-esteem, or do I have to somehow go deep into my psyche and re-learn a mature coping mechanism to replace this immature defence mechanism? ”

    It’s a little bit of both, I think. Have you considered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? You appear to have a pretty good understanding of where your thought patterns originate and how they affect your mood, so I think you’d be a great candidate to try CBT. It basically trains you to understand the cognitive disotortions and re-frame them from negative to positive/neutral. It’s worth a look.

    Good luck!


    1. Yeah, I’ve tried CBT before and I’ve found it quite helpful in some situations. I could try it here too, but I think I need to make more progress in the other areas that I’m working on. I have a sneaky suspicion that as those get better, this might too.
      I guess the important thing is that I know the triggers and I recognize how detrimental that thought process is for me.


  2. I don’t know if what I do would be helpful to you, but when those negative thoughts invade my mind, I make a point of twisting them into positive thoughts. For example, if I’m upset because no one calls me, I’ll tell myself that I will feel better soon or some such statement. Experience has told me that my moods, good and bad, never last forever, so I can easily believe an affirmation that states the another feeling will happen in the future and I just chant it to myself to shut my negative brain up! :-).It works for me.


    1. Yes, I try very hard to redirect my thoughts, and while it takes me a while, it does often work. What I wish to avoid is the negative and harmful thoughts coming to my mind in the first place. I think mostly its insecurity, but only time and effort will tell!


      1. Aren’t most of us insecure at some level? I don’t think I know a completely ‘secure’ person. I also believe that everyone has bouts of negative and harmful thoughts invading their mind, the difference comes with the choice they make as to how they should deal with those thoughts. Good luck. I know it isn’t easy.


  3. Have you ever tried “mindfulness”? I never actually heard about it until med school (of all places, lol), but basically it’s like training yourself to meditate (or accomplish some approximation thereof) really in order to distract yourself from stress/negative thoughts/the world. I mean, I don’t go all out Buddhist monk by any means, but I have found it helpful. Basically, you simply train yourself to recognize when you are doing something that’s bad for you (for example, for me, it’s being really hard/down on myself). Every time you catch yourself doing that behavior, you (“lovingly”) redirect your own thoughts to something else. In this class I’m taking, we’re being trained to focus on our body — our breathing, how our feet feel in our socks, how our posture feels against the chair — which I’ve found is very neutral, calming, and grounding. I can send you some of the links or “guided meditation” mp3s if you’d like.

    Since I’m a fairly calm and non-anxious person anyway, I don’t really get much from the calming side of it, but it has been really useful in disrupting negative thought processes. I was skeptical at first, too, especially since it involved no element of “proving myself wrong” — but maybe that’s the point. 😉

    *hugs* and I hope you find good coping mechanisms! Just remember, you aren’t alone!


    1. It seems that Mindfulness in Medicine is a huge thing these days. I have heard a lot about it, I’ve just never given it much of a try. Perhaps I should start! I know there is a huge push for it at my med school, I’ll just have to get in touch with the right people!

      If you’d like to share those mp3’s feel free to email them!


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