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going with the flow

Dissociation, Flat Affect and Feeling Empty with BPD

What do Zen Buddhism and Borderline Personality Disorder have in common?

Zen Buddism and BPDNothing.  Not really.  But the whole “clear your mind and think of nothing” thing that Zen Buddhism claims can be a path of enlightenment?  Well, we’ve got something close, but much, much worse.

We can’t think of nothing, but we can become nothingness itself.

For me, this happens right on the heels of an abandonment incident.  I allow the other party to become such a part of me that when they leave, they take what was me with them.  I’m kind of in that sort of a state now.

“The Empties” as I like to call them are what your doctor will call “flat affect” or “dissociation.”  Basically, it’s a feeling of not being real.  When the Empties hit, we walk through life with expressionless faces.  We have no opinions on anything.  We eat only because our bodies tell us to, because food really has no flavor.  Movies, books, games, friends… none of them hold any real interest and none can hold our attention for long.

We drift like rotting logs in a fetid river, just going with the flow, remaining alive, but not really living.  Even zombies have it better, because they at least want something and seek to get it.  Not for us.  For us, life is over, or more to a point, life is on hold.

This is another time when we are likely to hurt ourselves.  Not because we want to escape our pain, but because we want the pain.  We want to feel something, anything again.  The thin red line drawn by a razorblade on a bicep or inner thigh is a source of comfort.

“I’m bleeding.  Only living things bleed.  Therefore, I am alive.”

That’s the mindset of self-injury… well, some of the time, anyway.  If you’re cutting yourself and hoping someone will notice, that’s a desire for attention.  If you’re cutting yourself deep and hoping to hit an artery, that’s a desire for peace.  If you’re cutting someplace no one will see and not deep enough to kill, that’s a desire for life.

Sick, isn’t it?  I’ve said it before.  You’ve got to hurt to heal.  But I promise you, self-injury isn’t the way to do it.

You see, your body isn’t where you need to hurt.  Your heart is where you need to hurt.  And I know how sick you are of hurting, my friends.  God, how I know!  But you’ve been hurting the wrong way.  You’ve been hurting in unproductive ways.  And you’ve been hurting alone.

It’s time you stopped.  It’s time you let the real hurting, and the real healing, begin.  And we’ll get to how to do that soon.  I promise.  But first, we’re going to make sure Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is really what fits.

Until next time, keep your chin off of the floor.  Rug burn isn’t attractive.

Your brother in arms,


Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

Borderline Personality Disorder and Zen Buddhism