Many different sorts of meditation retreats are available to the sadistic folks who want to spend several days alone with their own mind: vipassana, jhana, zen… the list goes on, and some are more specific than others.
For example, I attended a retreat this week focused especially on cultivating metta. Translation: Love Everything.
Well, it was 99.99% successful!
… I failed to love only one person. Myself.
If it were not already obvious, I will state it again: I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, otherwise known as Barely Persevering Disaster. Granted, I’m not as recklessly impulsive as others on a consistent basis, but to be diagnosed, one need only meet 5 of 9 criteria. If I remember statistics, we’re talking at least 27,360 brands of borderline.
(I consistently meet 4 and only occasionally 5 criteria.)
That’s a lot of borderline. The general underlying trait of these brands is a really shitty neurological capacity to manage emotions. If strong emotions hit normal folks like a semi, they hit borderlines like a nuclear missile– much stronger impact and much longer fallout. Thus the recklessness, the self-injury, the black and white thinking, etc. It’s also called Emotional Dysfunction Disorder, which is a lot less misleading than “borderline.” It used to mean borderline schizo-psycho, but it’s more accurately borderline-of-ecstatic-and-devastated. It’s sort of like being bipolar, only the swings can happen multiple times a day instead of every few days/weeks.
10 Things You Discover About Yourself When You’re Diagnosed with BPD: This is pretty spot-on.
It doesn’t give one a great self-image when one constantly falls apart at the slightest off-phrase. Honestly, I freaking hate myself, and that’s before I factor in the various screw-ups that contribute to guilt and grief and so forth.
In order to live like this, one must learn DBT = Dialectical Behavioral Therapy = Buddhist Psychology Distilled Into Shitty Worksheets. I went to buddhism instead to learn the skills to live my life. At the base, someone with BPD must be mindful of every emotion and action and response and impulse they have every minute of every day. And there is no cure or recovery.
That’s a lot. It’s exhausting, and we can’t do it all of the time. Any “recovery” experienced by a borderline isn’t really a curing or disappearing so much as a thorough conditioning of mindfulness such that the internal examinations start happening faster and easier, and the person learns which responses are appropriate and which aren’t. The genes didn’t go away. The emotional garbage truck doesn’t stop unloading at the brain dump. We simply must become exceptionally efficient and expedited trash-sorters.
Honestly it’s like you’re still a toddler trying to deal with the sensory and cognitive overloads of a new world. Fits still happen. Everything is a catastrophe. You’ll still shit all over yourself and everything nearby by accident, maybe stick your hands in it and fling it about for good measure. But at heart, really you just want to make your way and love everyone and be happy. You just have no fucking clue how to do it.
I went on a metta retreat in order to develop further my ability to treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect no matter what happens. As one of the teachers said, training metta is training the softening of the heart.
Problem is that my heart is already soft. It’s so soft it’s dripping through my fingers while I frantically try to hold it congealed together.
Feel lovingkindness toward your dear friends? Simple. Feel it toward the stranger off minding their business? Sure, why not? Feel it toward the people who have hurt you? Wait… okay, got it. (Idealisation/devaluation comes in handy sometimes!) Feel it toward all beings? Done. Mushy heart for everybody. Overwhelming warmth and compassion overflowing. Hugs for everybody!!!
Feel lovingkindness toward oneself? … What? FUCK NO.
You’re asking me to love my prison warden. I get that there are many inspiring stories of POWs that have forgiven their captors, that let go of their anger from day one, and that’s amazing. But that’s extremely difficult.
As I sat there on day two attempting to send love to myself, the monster in my head (let’s call him Jeff) was grumbling that I didn’t deserve a bit of it and suggesting where precisely I could send that love. (Think gross places.) As I sat there on day three sending love to my dear friends, Jeff started pointing out all of the ways I hurt these people with irrationality or psychosis or just plain being me. As I sat there on day four sending love to the neutral stranger, Jeff started shouting that they better stay away from me because I’m toxic. DAMMIT JEFF SHUT UP.
I ended up leaving after five days instead staying the full seven. I just knew Jeff would start pointing out how the difficult people I was to send my love were totally justified in being difficult because I’m such a piece of snail shit. And I’m not even sure snails shit! I wasn’t ready to take that, especially while my heart was so vulnerable, exuding love all over the place except to myself.
So, I need to learn how to kill Jeff.
Just joking– the wise borderline would learn to love Jeff, offer him some tea, and politely teach him manners. Does anyone have a copy of Manners for Monsters I could borrow? Is that a book I can have?
For the Love of Metta (… and the love of you my dear reader! Hugs for you! Yay!! And none for Gretchen Weiners.),