One of the most unpredictable aspects of BPD is the expression of anger. It can come in many forms: some people outwardly explode in front of others and make dramatic scenes, others direct their anger inward and abuse themselves. It’s also worth noting that these two reactions are not mutually exclusive. Many BPD sufferers, myself included, have had both outward AND inward BPD anger episodes.
I’ve always wondered, how can I control my BPD anger? How can I avoid public BPD tantrums, which are usually the most embarassing for me, and have sent me to an in-patient psych ward? I’m Irish-American by descent, and a running joke in my family is that I have an “Irish Temper”. I think this is a creative way of saying that I have a short fuse, that is often very unpredictable.
As a result, I think the answer to heading off BPD rages lies in recognizing the warning signs that you’re about to crack.
The best way to explain my thought is by example, keeping in mind the fact that there is a small build up phase that leads to a completely unpredictable explosion, over the course of minutes or hours:
1) I’m using my computer’s printer, and for some inexplicable reason, the paper jams. Fixing this mess takes longer than usual, and I end up spending 30 minutes trying to print an email that should have taken 1 minute. Anger Level: Annoyed
2) Next, I hear from a business client, who reports that he can’t pay me for my month’s work due to lack of funds. This upsets me, because I’ve worked very hard for this client, and I deserve to get paid. Instead, he casually brushes it off as if I was a mosquito, suggesting he “might” be able to cover the bills next month. Anger Level: Insulted, Very Upset
3) To appease my stress level I go to the kitchen for a snack. While I reach for a plate, I accidentally nudge a group of glass cups, one of which hits the floor and bursts into hundreds of pieces. At first I’m just really FRUSTRATED, but this gives way to complete anger as I realize that it will take nearly an hour to clean up this mess, not to mention it is very possible that I might step on a shard of glass at a later date while up a night or preparing food in the kitchen. Anger Level: Pissed Off, Very Agitated
4) An hour later I need to make a run to the grocery store. I go down to the garage and open the door. As I’m backing the car out of the garage, an absent minded person driving by gets in the way and we end up having a minor collision. In truth, the damage is minimal, but by this point in the day, I’m LIVID. Anger Level: BPD Tantrum: I curse, swear, violently threaten the other driver, and begin to make a scene, such that random peopl around me are frightened and shocked, over what appeared to be a purely accidental car bump
At first you might say, well this is just having a bad day. In truth, my example above would lead many to this conclusion, but the point I’m trying to make is that the build up phase(s) to a BPD tantrum occur in a sequence of events over hours, days, or sometimes just minutes. Also, it’s important to note that emotional stress, arguments or disagreements with others, losing a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc, also act as catalysts for BPD outbursts, even though my example above may convey more innocuous accidental, “bad luck”. In reality, I find that emotional stress is sometimes more troubling than having a misfortunate day.
How can one control BPD anger? Honestly, once you’ve popped, that’s it: you’re flying off the handle and there’s not much that can be done.
The trick is to recognize episodes that lead up to your breaking point. Again, they can be in the form of any sort of stress: an annoying co-worker, you get yelled at by your boss, or maybe you had a fight with your spouse.
As a result, after having a couple of complete, full fledged BPD tantrums, think back and analyze what led to your outburst, or “inburst” if you resorted to self abuse, cutting, or otherwise harming yourself.
When you feel your stress level rising, even spiking, immediately leave the scene and find a tranquil place where you can sit down, exhale, and let some steam off. Kick the wall, punch a pillow, yell out loud, or if you’re really peaved break a plate. Whatever you do, don’t start hurting yourself or blowing your stack in public, which will only lead to even more stress and guilt afterwards.
If you’re at work, just leave the room and get away from the scene.
If you’re having a bad day, lay down for a nap.
If your spouse hurt your feelings, go for a walk or talk with a friend or therapist.
Most importantly, if anyone questions the fact that you’ve left the scene, criticizing you as “weird”, “strange”, or “immature”; do your best to ignore them. If it’s a boss, friend, or other person that you interact with on a frequent basis, resolve that you will talk with them MUCH LATER WHEN YOU’RE FULLY CALM. During your meeting, explain that you’re dealing with a lot of stress in your life and needed some space to avoid getting very angry.
Also, ask them rhetorically: “What would you prefer: that I storm out of the room and leave the office for an hour, or I start punching a co-worker and breaking office equipment?” Again, it may sound completely odd to the person you’re talking to, but they’ll get the point.
Remember, the fact that you have BPD is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS, unless you’re speaking with a spouse, son, daughter, brother, family member, or other person that is deeply connected to you in your life.
Random people will forget that you acted strangely one day at work, but they won’t forget you if your BPD anger got the best of you and the result was violence, property damage, and severely hurt feelings.
When it comes to contoling BPD anger, put YOURSELF FIRST. Afterwards, you’ll feel better that nothing damaging happened, and that your interpersonal relationships will continue forward as normal.