Learn more about boundaries and relationships as an emotionally sensitive person in this online Interpersonal Effectiveness DBT class.
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We can’t end all suffering everywhere. We can’t eliminate or even lessen the suffering of some. But, for many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder, and others who are just naturally very emotionally sensitive, we may feel a substantial burden to do so, which inevitably causes US to suffer more.
I’ll give you an example. I have two cats who I love as my children. I recently began volunteering to help manage a feral cat colony. We provide fresh food, water, and treats to the cats, help socialize them, and clean up their poop. I feel it’s an honor to do this and have already grown very fond of the cats. I think about them when it’s not my day to care for them — especially when it’s raining. I worry about them. Recently, when getting worked up about it, the thought occurred to me: these cats have been doing well in all types of weather before I came along. They are survivors, and I need to trust that I don’t have to be their messiah. They will continue to be okay. I don’t have to get worked up about this.
Progress in this area of emotional boundaries, not taking on the intensity of the suffering of others, and trusting that others will carry the baton so that I don’t feel that I am somehow (quite unrealistically) responsible for helping all suffering beings, was seen during the recent Nemo blizzard in the north eastern United States.
A thought occurred to me as I followed reports of the storm and got phone calls from family. I mentioned to my Mom, “Oh my gosh. All the homeless people. What are they going to do?” My mother told me that measures were taken to open tons of additional spaces as shelters so that the homeless would be protected. I felt calmed. Almost immediately, the next thought came: “Oh my gosh! What about the homeless animals?!?!?!” My mother didn’t have an answer.
I took some deep breaths and realized: there are caring groups and organizations here in California caring for homeless and feral animals. There are certainly similar organizations such as this in the Boston area, and those people would be looking out for the animals in Boston. I didn’t have to start calling organizations out there to make sure someone was doing something. I could just calm down and trust that there are many people doing their part, collectively, to help humanity and animals.
Even though I am very sensitive emotionally, often must rein in my emotions, and am working on boundary issues, I can learn to trust that I alone am not singularly responsible for everyone and everything. It’s an important lesson to learn and master.
Recently, in hypnotherapy, we used imagery to imagine that I have a boundary bubble up. I get to decide how much can penetrate it or go out at any given time. I even imagined a plastic, interlocking belt for added protection. 🙂 I also imagined passing a baton to others when it isn’t possible for me to help in the way that I would often like to. I imagine other capable, loving, helpful people taking the baton and performing those acts of kindness and help that must be done. I call upon this imagery when emotions get really intense around boundaries, and it helps! Of course, I hold the baton and do these thing on my own when possible and when not at serious risk of my own health and well-being.
Can you relate? When you see suffering or hear of others in need, do you feel compelled to do something to help and then feel helpless or anxious if such helping is beyond your ability or control? What Wise Mind thoughts do you engage in to help you through such situations?
Thanks for reading.