The shaky, unstable relationships associated with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are not limited to romantic relationships, or even to relationships with family members and friends. This symptom of BPD also extends to relationships with co-workers and superiors.
It’s no surprise that the inability to regulate emotions can be especially detrimental when you’re in an environment in which you’re expected to maintain a professional attitude.
However, workplaces are often fraught with situations in which regulating your emotions can prove extremely difficult, whether or not you suffer from the symptoms of BPD. Confusing protocol, seniority, the glass ceiling, feeling as if your work or opinions are being ignored, all of the above and endless other conflicts so common in the workplace can lead to emotional meltdowns for anyone.
The skills learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the core treatment for BPD, can help in these situations. If you find yourself in an emotionally charged moment at your workplace, see if you can practice a few of these skills to get you through the conflict in a healthy way.
If the conflict is playing itself over and over in your head like a broken record, practice distraction. Do something engaging enough that it takes over the negative thoughts. Find a small task on your to-do list that could be scratched off, giving you a feeling of accomplishment. Do a crossword puzzle. Even something as mundane as filing can break the cycle. Keep a list handy of what distractions work best for you.
If you can, remove yourself from the intense situation and find a quiet place to regroup. Go for a quick walk. Listen to a favorite piece of music on some headphones. Look at a photo of a loved one. Whatever it takes to get you to a place in which you can take deep, relaxing breaths. Unfortunately, the typical response to a stressful situation is shallow breathing which, in turn, creates more stress.
See things as they really are. Observe your reaction to the conflict. What part of your reaction is subjective? How does the situation look from the perspective of the other person?
Mindfulness is a tool that, once practiced, can be wielded like a weapon against negativity. Being deliberately aware of any given situation gives you power over your reaction to it and combats feelings of helplessness or victimization. Step back and look at the choices you are making in a situation. This skill truly is at the core of DBT, and strengthens the above skills.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills can be considered a toolkit for a more fulfilling life. Practicing these DBT skills in the workplace can make for a happier – and healthier – work environment.