As we continue on with our investigation into Borderline Personality Disorder, we arrive at symptom seven on the DSM IV: chronic feelings of emptiness. On the DSM 5 it is listed under: Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
“Identity: Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image, often associated with excessive self-criticism; chronic feelings of emptiness; dissociative states under stress.”
When we seek to define emptiness, we come up with adjectives such as hopelessness, loneliness, and isolation.
In a study by Klonsky (2008), he concluded that emptiness is characterized more by low positive affect rather than high negative affect. In layman’s terms, it is not so much having negative thoughts and feelings related to negative events, but rather just being empty of, or having a lack of, positive aspects to our lives. Klonshy came up with some interesting observations. As expected, he noted a substantial overlap between emptiness and hopelessness, a subsequent robust relationship with depression, and an important relation to suicidality. By including a sub study on self-harm through self-cutting, he noted a pattern that suggested that chronic emptiness contributes to the development of suicidal thoughts and feelings, but may not predict progression to an actual suicide attempt.
This brings out an interesting point about the progression of BPD symptoms to suicide and other self-harming activities. It would appear that there may be two aspects to poor self-image that may lead down two different paths. As we have seen in past blogs, there is a strong correlation between BPD, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Traits such as self-criticism and dissociative states may lead to chronic anxiety and down the path to suicide; whereas the emptiness trait may lead to a form of self-harm where one is attempting to create some feelings to jar them back to a functional reality. And then, because no two people are exactly alike, there are numerous combinations of traits.
Back to my case study of my “self”, I had continuous feelings of emptiness as well as self-criticism. Therefore I had one foot on the path of anxiety and suicidal thoughts but the other on the path of hopelessness. To resolve my problem, I shut down my own wants and needs and stubbornly plowed forward trying to cure and heal anyone I could get my hands on, never getting any real satisfaction for doing any good for anybody. During profound periods of emptiness, I tried to fill it up with dangerous, risk taking gay sexual behavior. It worked for me for twenty-five years until my mind became overwhelmed and crashed. Even though I had suicidal thoughts, I never really took any steps to actually doing away with myself. I just grinned and bared and waited for the shoe to fall.
Looking back here is what I should have done. My five suggestions for bisexuals with BPD and with symptoms of emptiness:
1, We find some way to fill up the emptiness and the way to do that is to simply remove the veil that is keeping us from seeing that we have a higher self.
2. We simply shut down the noise of our wounded ego, the “woe is me” voice, and open our mind to the always present presence and power of out higher self.
3. We wait for the emptiness to be replaced by a sense of this presence. We will always feel a sense of joy when our higher self connects with our brain and sends an impulse through the pleasure centers.
4. Whenever we feel down we repeat this process until we sense our higher self.
5. We fill up and expand our sense of fullness on a daily basis. We spend fifteen minutes a day in mediation by focusing on the power and beauty of our higher self.
(Klonsky, David E. WHAT IS EMPTINESS? CLARIFYING THE 7TH CRITERION FOR BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Journal of Personality Disorders, 2008.)