Narcissim and absence

Look at how we normally talk about the various kinds of mental illness or personality disorder. We say that someone “has” schizophrenia, or that they “suffer from” depression. It seems we think of mental illness as a thing, a malignant entity to which we are subjected; perhaps there is an echo of the old theory of mental illness as demon possession in there. Sometimes we also think of mental illness as a distortion, a “disorder”; the elements of the mind are thrown out of whack.

But perhaps a better way of thinking is that mental problems arise from absence. The things that make a full, abundant life are just not all there.

I’m no psychologist, of course, but in the past decade I’ve had a fair amount of experience dealing with people of various, colorful forms of mental health problems. The one I’ve struggled with the most is narcissism; of all the mental health issues, I think it’s the most destructive. Most of the time, people with mental health problems can’t do too much damage because they undermine themselves. Unless they can manage their problems, they can’t maintain a regular life, and stuff up themselves and those around them. This is always tragic, of course, but at least it is somewhat limited.

Narcissists, perhaps alone among those with serious mental issues, are often not dysfuncional at all, and in fact their conviction and forcefulness makes them very effective in jobs that require authority. Politics, business, celebrities, and yes, religions, are full of narcissists. They are singly focussed on getting and maintaining power, and are often much more successful at it than people with a more balanced approach to things. And when someone with a clinical narcissistic disorder is, say, running a country or a corporation or a Buddhist organization, trouble is never far away.

What struck me recently, though, is how predictable narcissism is. The same thought patterns, same ideas, same obsessions. If you’ve been bullied by one narcissist, you’ve been bullied by them all.

What kinds of things am I thinking of? Well, there could be lots of examples, but here’s one that I’ve noticed. A narcissist will always want power over others, who are inevitably seen as a threat, unless they acknowledge the narcissists unquestionable superiority. One way they assert power is to make some kind of criticism of the other. It doesn’t really matter what, anything will do. Now, there’s nothing unusual about that; just ordinary petty putdowns. Normally, however, this behavior is checked, because if the criticism is incorrect, the criticizer looks bad.

But this isn’t a problem for the narcissist. They just make the criticism and move on. While the other party is responding, they just make another criticism. The lack of factually is irrelevant. A true narcissist can never be wrong, for truth is defined by their utterance. Recall the words of the Bush aide (believed to be Karl Rove) talking to a journalist:

… when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.

This is narcissism in a nutshell. They are not subject to reality; reality is subject to them. I’m sure we can all think of plenty of other examples of this kind of thing in the political sphere.

So the usual patterns of thought, which pretty much all of us use, become ossified, hardened. We define the world by our thoughts; and those thoughts are mean, small, and hard. And incredibly boring.

This is a way of being human that is so tiny. We are capable of so very much, yet we fulfill so little of our promise. Making a self is hard work; that’s why the Indian traditions speak of “I-making” (ahamkara). Ego is not something that you have, it’s something you create, continually, every moment. And you create it by building boundaries; cutting yourself off from parts of yourself, limiting your possibilities.

If there’s any truth to this, perhaps it might be useful in thinking about how to help people with troubles. Maybe it’s not the ego as such that is the problem; its the absence of all the other things that make up a fully rounded person. Instead of fixing the “problem”, we should encourage growth. Become more, become fuller. The more round, more abundant our lives become, the less we feel the need to build such high walls to protect our selves.

30 thoughts on “Narcissim and absence

  1. Hi Sujato,

    I’m not entirely in agreement with what you say about how we talk about mental illness. Mostly people talk about “schizophrenics” or “psychopaths” or “narcissists” (identifying the person with the disorder) and it’s only a small proportion of reasonably well informed people who dissociate the disorder and the person in their speech. The distinction is promoted because it helps us to see the person rather than just the behaviour and I think the result has coincided with much more humane treatment of people with such disorders. The tendency to identify the person with the problem goes along with dehumanisation. “Narcissism” is a behaviour, and a “narcissist” is someone whom we have defined by that aspect of their behaviour. The label blots out other kinds of behaviours and focusses on the behaviour we don’t like or value. When we define people in terms of characteristics we do not value, it means we are the ones who are disconnected and cut off.

    One could say that so-called mental illness is an absence of something, for example depression was seen until quite recently as caused by a deficit of serotonin. I gather than low serotonin might now be considered a symptom rather than a cause. Absence is far from sufficient however, because the disorders manifest in positive symptoms as well as negative. Also where there are genetic indicators these are often the positive presence of a gene rather than an absence.

    Most of the newer definitions are linked to treatment regimes. Frequently new ideas for treatment change the paradigm of how we think about the problem. This was the case for the neurotransmitter theory of mental illness. Drugs that relieved symptoms made it seem that the thing we could measure (hormone levels in the brain) had a causal effect. I’m not sure where the “absence theory” implies in terms of treatment regimes.

    The early Buddhist texts are quite clear on the distinction between demonic possession and madness as the case of Gagga the mad monk shows (I discussed it some years ago: ). Demonic possession is a theme early in the Saṃyutta Nikāya – especially the Mārasaṃyutta. The approach in both cases is quite interesting.

    Foucault’s book Madness & Civilisation suggests that such distinctions were also made in Europe by at least the 14th century. The mad were generally tolerated when harmless and driven out of town when a danger to others. They were not subjected to any kind of generalised at least by the late Medieval period. With the advent of the Renaissance and Enlightenment as they were seen to have lost that most precious quality, viz reason and began to be systematically confined and “treated” in various ways and only in the late 19th century to come under the “care” of the medical profession, thanks largely to Sigmund Freud.

    Freud, whose translators coined the term “Ego” (he used the vernacular rather than Latin), saw ego as a function of the psyche particularly involved in reason, relatedness and conscious awareness. Ego moderates desires from the Id. Thus, despite Buddhist metaphysics, in psychological terms the ego is the opposite of what you say it is – it is a function rather than an entity. The ego function is what enables us to connect, especially in an aware and ethical way, with other people. Yes, it can be involved in defence mechanisms, but modern Buddhists grossly overstate the importance of pathology. As we know from observing people with developmental problems those with limited ego functions cannot interact or form empathetic relationships with others. Ego enables us to achieve our potential as human beings. What we Buddhists call “egotism” is usually an under-developed ego. This confusion between metaphysics and psychology in Buddhist discussions about the mind is all too common..

    For this reason and quite a lot or personal experience I’m extremely distrustful of amateurs and their opinions in this area. Buddhists and their views on the mind are often part of the problem. I’m especially distrustful of people who cast themselves in the role of psychological therapist and start theorising about how to fix people whose behaviour they don’t like. Funny how often it’s expressed in abstract terms and metaphysical theories instead of practicalities, when Buddhism can be so pragmatic. In theory the basic Buddhist response to others is: be generous, be kind, be tolerant (the first 3 pāramitās). The precepts are all phrased as first person statements about what “I” undertake – not second or third person statements about how to fix other people.

    In saṃsāra other people’s behaviour is never going to fulfil our expectations. Maybe the thing for Buddhists to do is just deal with their own reactivity towards other people’s behaviour without expecting them to change, and leave it at that?

    • Hi Jayarava,

      Thanks for the comment. I won’t respond in detail, but I think some of these points are related to things I’ve mentioned in other comments.

      I wasn’t really trying to propose that “absence” could be a complete theory of mental disorders, merely that it was a perspective that I hadn’t considered in that way before. If we think in terms of treatment, taking narcissism as an example, we wouldn’t, perhaps, worry so much about the causes of narcissism, but place the person in situations that call for a more empathetic response.

  2. Can’t help but to wonder what brought this post on? In my opinion we need to be fairly careful about allocating a medical diagnosis to those who we interact with, especially those who we don’t see eye to eye with.

    • Hi Peter,

      I’ve left spaces between the lines for your reading pleasure!

      But seriously, of course we have to be careful about pathologizing others; but what of those who are victims of bullying? How are they to cope? I’ve been subject to bullying by narcissists on multiple occasions. It took me a long time to even begin to recognize that this was what was happening, and only then I could only accept it when a friend pointed it out. I never see myself as a victim, and it took a long time and a lot of suffering before I could start to come to terms with it.

      We learn to deal with others because we can connect with and understand their behavior. You’re driving down the road, and everyone drives on the left (in sensible countries!) and stops at the lights. You don’t realize how much you depend on this orderliness, until you see someone who doesn’t keep the rules. Immediately there’s a sense of danger and chaos: how to cope? You realize very quickly that without that sense of predictability, no-one could even use a road. And you want to understand: is that person drunk? Are they mad? Are they rushing to hospital? If you have some idea what’s going on, you can begin to take back some sense of control.

      Same thing with people suffering from mental health issues. People do strange things, which are just incomprehensible. We can’t understand why they’re acting like that, so we get wounded and hurt, and don’t know what to do. Living or working with a narcissist can be hell. They are often very charismatic, magnetic personalities, who attract attention and devotion, and are highly skilled at manipulating others in order to get what they want and to crush dissent.

      As a Buddhist, the normal reaction is to try to be kind, to forgive, and to let go. But a narcissist cares no more for your kindness than God cares for the burnt offerings of his devotees. Giving a narcisisst what they want is merely acknowledging the true nature of the universe, of which they are the center. All kindnesses are theirs by right. So you give and you give and you forgive and you let go; and things just get worse and worse. When someone is being bullied by a narcissist, to tell them to let go and forgive is to be complicit in their bullying, and to reinforce the narcissist’s worst tendencies.

      It was not until I learnt of this disorder, and started to understand the dynamics of it, that I could learn to protect myself from such bullying. What I learned was that, when constant and repeated forgiveness and letting go merely aggravated the problem, what is needed is boundaries. Since a narcissist is the center from which all things in the universe stem, they are no more subject to the rules of others than God is subject to the Ten Commandments. To even begin to help them and protect yourself, you need to draw a boundary and insist on it. Every time they try to cross it, just draw it again. Don’t get into a discussion about it; they’ll just make it all about them. They just need to know that there are lines that they can’t cross.

      When they realize that you’re serious, they’ll be furious and attack you even more. This is expecially so if the boundaries are publicly known, as a narcissist is primarily driven by avoiding shame. At that time you just have to stand firm, neither reacting nor withdrawing. Soon enough they’ll realize they are not getting anywhere and they’ll stop, so as to avoid further loss of face. They will hate you, but there’s no avoiding that, you just have to remember that it isn’t your fault; this is just the best that can be done in an imperfect situation. Perhaps at some time in the future things can get better, but at least for the time being you’ve stopped the bullying.

      Anyway, this is just my experience and what has worked for me. I don’t really like talking too much about my personal problems in public; I tend to be a private person in many ways. But I thought I’d share this in case it was useful for anyone who is suffering from similar problems.

    • Dear Peter,
      Don’t you feel inclined to look deeply into human nature? Your own? That between yourself and others? That between others? I find this an amazing field of practice. This is practice!

  3. In Buddhism we understand anatta. And so we realize there is no “doer” or “chooser” of mental states or intentions or actions. Mental illness in terms of schizophrenia and clinical depression are diseases of the brain like having arthritis or arterial sclerosis. Most of our mental activity is simply various activities of the central nervous system and brain. To think otherwise is just magical thinking. Why do I say that? Because brain neuroscience through MRI and EEG research has been able to map many of our cognitive functions within the brain. No one is responsible for their behavior because there is no responsible self-entity that thinks or does actions. There are just collections of conditioned responses playing out according to dependent origination.

    • Hi Jackson,

      There’s a world of difference between saying that certain forms of mental activity are associated with certain forms of brain activity—which is all that can be said scientifically—and saying that mental activity is nothing more than brain activity. One is a scientific statement, the second is a metaphysical assertion.

      I was just going to say that there was no known neurological basis for narcissism, but luckily I quickly checked Wikipedia before posting, because an article has been published in the past year that gives the first indication of this. Specifically, pathological narcissists have “less gray matter in the left anterior insula, a region of the brain linked to empathy.” Like all such studies, of course, this tells us just one small part of the picture. We already knew that narcissists have little to no empathy, and there are many other aspects of the problem that still have no known parallels in brain activity.

      Still it’s a possibly useful finding, and potentially it may be a starting point from which an actual treatment for narcissism might be developed. One of the sad things about this problem is that very few narcissists ever acknowledge their problem and seek treatment, unless forced to by their loved ones. And conventional therapies have modest success.

    • “No one is responsible for their behavior because there is no responsible self-entity that thinks or does actions. There are just collections of conditioned responses playing out according to dependent origination.” Ack! The whole premise of practice is that we can embrace the patterns and recondition them. We can take the steam out of them. Soften them. Completely free ourselves of them. Develop new ones. And this is supported by neuroscience. If the faculty for empathy is missing, maybe another combination can function as a substitute.

  4. Sujato says

    The more round, more abundant our lives become, the less we feel the need to build such high walls to protect our selves.

    it can as well be the other way round, chisel the walls which protect yourself, erected by the ego, and your life will become more round and abundant

  5. The charge or label of “narcissist” could even be leveled against the Buddha, after all on several occasions He declared Himself to be a supreme person (yes a supreme type-of-person, but a supreme person nonetheless), the Buddha also criticised others and was a leader, a greatly respected leader, and for that; was disliked by his detractors, so the point is that the narcissist is better described as the one who is deeply in love with himself/herself without regard for others, typically these twin characteristics of self-embellishment and unkindness would be evident from his/her youth. So yes, association with narcissists should be avoided.

    • Well, if you really are the greatest, it’s not narcissistic to say so! But as you say, narcissism, like all personality disorders, isn’t just one quality, but needs to be assessed in the context of a person’s whole life. If someone is highly compassionate, kind, and overwhelmingly giving and helpful for all those around them, they’re not a narcissist.

  6. “… when we act, we create our own reality.”

    I would also add that the more intelligent people are the more modest they are, since they realize there is no limit to perfection (at least in this world, Samsara etc), and your wonderful personal reality may once turn out to be mediocre in comparison with someone else’s.

    • Hi Victoria,

      Perhaps we could subsititute here, “the more wise they are the more modest they are…” Narcissists, and, perhaps, people with certain other forms of mental disability, are often highly intelligent; in fact intelligence is one of the qualities that can be developed to compensate for the absence of a more fully rounded humanity. It is an intelligence that is divorced from compassion, and can become a highly destructive force.

  7. Buddhism has been dealing with these issues for a long time, and the sutras and shastras say quite a bit about these issues (in the sense of narcissism as love of oneself). Yogacara links four concepts: delusion of a self, perception of a self, identity with a self, and love of a self. These are all linked to manas (ordinary conceptual thought) and classified as defiled. Arhats, those in the nirodha samapatti, and those following the supramundane path are said to be free from manas. (Yogacarins grouped these qualities carefully so people can examine their own minds to cut off bad mental activities, and nurture those which are beneficial.) In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha repeatedly exhorts bodhisattvas to drop all notions of a self, notions of a person, notions of a being, and notions of a life.

    • Hi LLT,

      I would draw a fairly sharp distinction between narcissism as such, and the treatment of self/not-self in Buddhist texts. The Buddhist texts were primarily concerned with the metaphysical implications of the atman doctrine, and, as pointed out by Jayarava in his comment, this needs to be distinguished from the psychological problems of a disordered sense of self. In fact, the arahant is said to be bhāvitatta, a “fully developed self”. There is no contradiction as long as this distinction is bourne in mind. This is not to say that there is no relation at all between the two; it is just that the relation is complex and indirect.

      I’m not aware of any direct treatments of what we would call Narcissitic Personality Disorder in the early texts. Some of the bombastic utterances of Great Brahma can be considered as parodying the narcisstic rendencies of the inflated religious ego; yet he is also seen as being conscious of this fact, and capable of reflecting on it, something a narcissist would never do.

  8. Hi Bhante
    Thanks for the reply. I still think we need to differentiate between those with narcissistic tendencies (most of us at times) and those with a “personality disorder”. Those with a narcissistic personality disorder are often suffering deeply and would have a troubled history which at least should allow for some compassion and empathy. I don’t think that narcissistic people are beyond responding to kindness (in a positive way) and that kindness, forgiveness, and letting go will necessarily aggravate the problem.

    In the original post you mentioned that Politics, business, celebrities, and religions, are full of narcissists, which might be true but are these occupations full of people with narcissistic personality disorder? The Bush aide may be implementing a narcissistic policy but does he have a personality disorder?

    Being bullied is horrible and lines defiantly do need to drawn. we should not allow or facilitate or even take part in bullying, which I’m sure we sometimes do without even knowing it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Peter,

      Sure, and even if we are actual clinicians working closely with someone, it is difficult to make these distinctions.

    • Thanks Bhante and Peter. Your dialogue is very informative as I currently interact with someone with strong narcissistic personality traits. Peter though you said you “don’t think that narcissistic people are beyond responding to kindness” and I agree, I have found Bhante’s first reply to you to be true and right in that when “you give and you forgive and you let go; and things just get worse and worse. When someone is being bullied by a narcissist, to tell them to let go and forgive is to be complicit in their bullying.” As the practise of letting go and keeping precepts in my lay life deepen, it is exceptionally hard dealing with someone who is acutely narcissistic (clinically diagnosed or not) and they definitely can “often (be) very charismatic, magnetic personalities, who attract attention and devotion, and are highly skilled at manipulating others in order to get what they want”. Kindness has not worked. The response to the kindness is to manipulate ANY act as additional nutrient to feed their world which includes only them. It’s been an eye opener to learn that too open acceptance can be blinding and acceptance of narcissistic patterns of behaviour is where we must hold firm. Thank you for the timely discussion.

    • Hi Heidi,

      I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through this experience, it really is tough. Yes, you learn from experience, but it’s much easier if you can just read about it!

      I guess at the end of the day it’s not that kindness doesn’t work, it’s that we have to be kind in a very different way.

      The underlying psychology of narcissistic disorders is not widely agreed on, but one approach argues that they arise from a blockage or crisis at around age 6 in developmental terms. From then on, many aspects of the mind develop perfectly well, are enhanced even, while the sense of self, of entitlement, remains fundamentally infantile. If this is the case, the situation isn’t that there’s a broken sense of self; it’s that there has never been one in any recognizable sense. So, just as with young children we have to be kind to them by setting clear and consistent boundaries, we must do the same thing to narcissists. And just as a young chld will never understand why the boundary is there, we should get into arguing with narcissists about why they have to change their behavior, as long as they do.

      Like I said, there is no widely agreed on approach or theory of narcissism, but this is one that has worked for me. I can’t say whether it leads to a long term improvement for the people suffering from extreme narcissism, but I’m pretty sure that indulging them just makes it worse. And at least you can learn to protect yourself, and hopefully some others who are maybe suffering as well.

  9. Dear Bhante,
    “Perhaps we could subsititute here, “the more wise they are”

    I think we could, but what about multiple intelligences? According to some psychologists there are several intelligences including social and emotional ones that every man has. In this sense your «wisdom» may be a well- developed emotional intelligence. I am not a psychologist either but it seems to me that narcissists with disorders really lack some mental skills to adequately perceive and analyze their and other people’s emotions/motives. So I tend to consider them unintelligent (or unwise if you wish) in some sense. As for so called compassionate narcissists, that reminds me of beauty queens’ speeches on humanitarian issues. No, I rather agree with your viewpoint in the article: narcissism is above all boring.

  10. “Giving a narcisisst what they want is merely acknowledging the true nature of the universe, of which they are the center. All kindnesses are theirs by right. So you give and you give and you forgive and you let go; and things just get worse and worse.”

    Very true, they are just vampires.

  11. What a super interesting topic for this week’s discussion. I am glad that Bhante posted it, and it has lead to some really good comments. I have a particular interest in this area, having been involved for over 15 years with the subject of personality disorders in the context of families, relationships, and divorce and child custody. I worked with a clinician on his book, “Splitting” that discusses NPD and BPD and divorce, and collaborated with a writer named Randi Kreger that published probably the best known book on surviving relations with a BPD or NPD, called “Stop Walking on Eggshells.” As Bhante made clear, learning how to establish effective boundaries is key to managing or surviving relationships with a BPD/NPD. There are also communication techniques and survival strategies for dealing with a NPD/BPD boss, spouse, friend, or parent/sibling that are largely counter-intuitive, but effective.

    Interesting that Bhante mentioned Karl Rove. I read a study of his developmental life once that suggested he had a chaotic and invalidating childhood, and was raised by a stepfather with some sexual identity issues. In many people with NPD/BPD or sociopathic traits, there is a root of a dysfunctional, invalidating, or abusive childhood. Many toxic narcissists, for example, have significant ‘self-image/esteem’ issues, and compensate for their internal sense of inferiority by being controlling and denigrating. People with BPD can have traumatic histories, and their internal chaos causes them to project onto those close to them abusive, controlling, or rageful behaviors. Sociopaths ( and I might speculate that Rove and Dick Cheney and many CEOs might share some of these traits) have abuse histories and then abuse others without remorse, and actually feel a sense of internal control/wellbeing by controlling others with oppression, pain or injury.

    As I wrote many years ago in the first edition of “Splitting,” one must have compassion for the suffering of people with these personality disorders. Yet, the amount of harm that they can cause to those closest to them cannot be underestimated. I have found that in some cases, I can use the court system to create interventions and set boundaries, and a small percentage will then feel their only recourse to save face or their families is to seek treatment (such as DBT or similar therapy). In many cases, the best I can do is create outcomes that protect the children and the healthy parent, and extend Metta to these unfortunate, fragile, damaged, and sometimes dangerous people.

  12. A very meaningful post and discussion. Thank you, Bhante and to all of you who commented. But i feel there is something is missing here. That is the light of understanding the law of Karma. Why we are attracted to and come to connect/ associate with these (highly narcissistic) personality and suffer the abuses? if we have a clue of how things/people have come to be the way they are, then, we feel more tolerant to the problems and get out of the situation easier. The tolerance i talk here is not to give fuel to narcissism (as Bhante have discussed so far), but remain unharmed psychologically when we have to come in touch with or to be around such a personality.
    When we have a more complete knowledge of how the internal world and the world out there with its people and our relationships to them (and to yourself), we would not blame any body for how badly things have happened. Our relationships to people/events and things as well as to ourselves reflect different aspects of our level of (spiritual) development.

    • Thanks, that’s very useful. Even if we can’t understand the causes, we know there must be some. Perhaps it is not kammic, or not entirely kammic; in some cases mental illness is purely a physical problem. But in cases where there is little or no physical dimension to the problem, the kammic dimension should be taken into consideration. And it means that we’ve all been there; we’ve all been narcissists and psychopaths and schizophrenics; and hopefully we were around people who could respond to us with compssion and wisdom.

  13. “Humans are unique in that we create long-term connections with people of our species,” said Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist at Yale University involved in the study. “Why do we do that? Why do we make friends? Not only that, we prefer the company of people we resemble.”

  14. I could not resist posting this here.
    I do feel this is the age of Narcissus, or the age of the cult of Narcissus. It is something very hard to accept, because of the disconnect from reality that you mention, and yet, this disconnect is a major feature in the world we live in and in our human communities, so we have to learn how to deal with it! We simply cannot avoid working alongside or living in societies hijacked at some time or other by a Narcissist. I am sure we can all develop wiring that is narcissistic, especially in spiritual “seeking.” In my own practice, I try to look at tendencies, perspectives, responses, to find what may seem to have “ossified.” I often wonder, if in the full fledged narcissist, it is something that can really be undone. It seems in some people to be a feature that cannot be undone, a wiring that is complete, or an eye, an imagination or a faculty (such as empathy) that are simply missing. Like being born without a second kidney. Yet our Buddha’s teachings offer the possibility of all knots being untied…or?
    In my practice, I have also been looking at how we can stand up to Narcissists. A very small number of people can do such great harm in the world, in communities, in families, in couples and friendships. Standing up can bring a tempest of violence down onto the child or wife (or partner), the colleague, the besieged city, the climate scientists, etc. So standing up can be disastrous. But catastrophe follows when millions of small voices are not spoken, and when we do not stand up, and disarm the Narcissist (perhaps within, and without). Ironically, (since this has to do with boundaries) we must learn to stand in our own sovereignty and part of that means standing up against small and large injustices, otherwise, Narcissus can run roughshod over us and the world. The brahmaviharas, and paramitas are a wholesome and effective way to generate boundaries, which can empower us to stand in our sovereignty, and respond authentically and skillfully – and not to feel discouraged by selfishness, greed, and violence. But are they quite enough to disarm the Narcissist? Can spiritual teaching or immersion in a monastery transplant the eye, the imagination, the empathy that seem to be missing? Is this a view that itself is lacking compassion and wisdom? _/_

  15. Interesting, although I don’t think narcissists are that different to others. It’s probably just a matter of degree. The comment describing people as “a NPD/BPD” was, umm, a tad reductive. People suffer from something, they aren’t something. As someone who has struggled with dealing my emotions, I found rejecting labels like BPD an important tool in the battle to recover. It’s a notoriously sexist diagnosis and is often applied to survivors of trauma. Meditation, mindfulness, impermanence et al are helpful for recovery too. We all suffer from afflictive emotions; again it is just a matter of degree. Having boundaries is good for one and all.

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