Those of us with BPD know that finding the right help, support and treatment is vital to breaking the vicious cycles of crisis and so many treatments and therapies fall short of providing that much-needed boost that can lead to recovery. Here Lucie shares how getting involved in performing arts has been therapeutic and helped her with understanding emotions…
I was diagnosed with BPD (borderline personality disorder) when I was 18. I have tried and tested just about every form of therapy and drug going – some help, some don’t. I guess for me it’s finding the balance of effective medication and therapy, and funneling this all into a form of support. One thing I’d never considered was a form of therapy most often used to encourage inward and suppressed personalities, chronic shyness and social problems. Though some of my emotional symptoms come out this way, I’d never made the connection so start looking at these therapies as an alternative.
My mum suggested attending a youth arts and performance group, as she’d read an article in a theatre news blog championing the activity as a therapy for personality disorders. I usually find theatre really awkward and a bit ‘cringe’ so apprehensive didn’t cover it -but if you never try then you’ll never know!
The idea behind it is that by taking part in a performance, taking control of a character, you’re able to practice control over an emotion of action, in a way you wish you could, which acts as a bridge between your own emotional control and the emotional control you wish you had.
So to my surprise and relaxation, I actually found that this group was used mostly by people who had personality disorders, depression to chronic shyness, schizophrenia so bi-polar. In fact only 4 of the nine members of the group were there because of a natural interest in theatre.
The first thing we were told to focus on was letting go of what other people thought. It was virtually impossible for the first session, but after a couple of weeks and a little extra confidence, it was such a release – to be in a place where you can feel really comfortable knowing you’re supported by those who have experienced everything you have, and they’re all there with the same goal, it’s an amazing drive to do well at something, as well as a great support network.
Most of the initial sessions focussed on creating a range of different characters – it couldn’t be just anything we wanted, we looked at specific characters such as Violet from Shakespeare’s 12th Night, we studied her emotion, her own emotional discrepancy and then came the key task – to become her. To actively focus on somebody else’s emotional issues, to step into their shoes and control how they react, how they interpret emotion etc was a seriously therapeutic exercise.
Another really interesting part of the therapy was an ‘emotional warm-down’ afterwards, it’s seriously tiring doing this for a couple of hours and afterwards you’re brain does need a bit of admin! Sitting down and talking through why and how characters react emotionally gives you excellent hindsight to your own emotions and feelings. In a way – it’s a form of therapy based on judging somebody else’s actions and emotions, interpreting this into your own world.
Our local group is supported by theatre companies and theatre ticket companies, so most of our funding came from them, which also meant we got to get involved with some of the live action.
We went to see some emotionally stirring performances which again strengthened our own insight into how emotions behave in different characters. Because these characters are created to be de-constructed there was no guilt, comparison or confusion when analysing their behaviour.
If you fancy taking up one of these workshops there’s bound to be one in your local area – we found mine in our local paper so I’d recommend that as the best place to start.
Also a tip from me, if you want to try going to the theatre and looking at other’s emotional intelligence and actions, then I’d really recommend getting some theatre tickets for twelfth night packed with amazing rather emotionally torn characters which is easy and obvious for you to both connect and disagree with, and plus it’s an amazing show! It never hurts…
Lucie is a freelance physio therapist and newly converted theatre lover.
Have you found therapy in an unusual source?
What has helped you most with your emotional control?
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