Identity Disturbance is a relatively and equally fascinating new term to me and since I haven’t researched it to my satisfaction to be able to write about it, I thought I would begin here by re-blogging this article from The Bernard Bert-A Borderline Adventure. This author did a great job of streamlining and breaking down the components of this condition. Hoping this continues to shed some light on the many shades of mental illness and reduce the stigma attached.~~Thanks! Little L~~
Identity Disturbance, November14, 2013
Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.
“Identity disturbance has many different aspects/features making it a very complexed issue even if it is a lone problem, but with the added factor of other BPD symptoms, it can be an overwhelming and complicated thing to understand and deal with!
In a 2000 study of patients with identity disturbances, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, and Drew Westen identified four types of identity disturbance:
Role absorption (in which patients tend to define themselves in terms of a single role or cause),
Painful incoherence (a subjective sense of lack of coherence),
Inconsistency (in thought, feeling, and behavior),
Lack of commitment (e.g., to jobs or values).
A stable sense of identity means being able to see yourself as the same person in the past, present, and future.Identity is quite broad, and includes many aspects of the self and is probably made up of your beliefs, attitudes, abilities, history, ways of behaving, personality, temperament, knowledge, opinions, and roles.
A healthy identity includes the ability to choose an appropriate avenue for industry, achieve intimacy with another, and find a place in the larger society by having developed a sense of continuity over time; emotional commitment to a set of self-defining representations of self, role relationships,and core values and ideal self-standards;development or acceptance of a world view that gives life meaning; and some recognition of one’s place in the world by significant others.
“Who are you?” – If asked this question, many people with BPD would be unable to answer and will only be able to reply with – “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” or “It depends on who I’m with.” This uncertinaty makes them feel empty and lost, confused and lonely.
Considering that identity is comprised of stability, continuity, understanding and acceptance of ones self over time, it is painfully obvious to see why this doesn’t happen in the self identity of someone with BPD.Nothing is stable, everything is changing and totally reactive; all that is left is a fragmented self left with a chronic feeling of inner emptiness caused by the inability to integrate into a coherent sense of self identity.
These unanticipated changes can range from relatively minor things, such as changes in appearance, to aspects central to the life of the individual, such as gender, sexuality and life goals.
People with Identity disturbance may experience:
Experiencing frequent changes in sense of self-worth.
Difficulty committing to roles and occupational choices.
Feeling conflicted or unsure about own gender or sexuality.
Feels as though he or she is a different person depending on who they are with.
Does not know who own self is.
Tends to feel empty inside – hollow, something ‘missing’ and a desire to fill the void.
Who they would like to be are unstable and ever changing.
Views & feelings of self change rapidly or unpredictably .
Has memories only available under certain states sometimes feels unreal.
Tends to feel like a “false self” whose social persona does not match inner experience.
Some of the noticeable changes for those who know the person with the identity issue are:
Lack of consistently invested goals, values, ideals, and relationships.
Their personality changes dramatically periodically.
They are “chameleon-like” depending on who they are with.
Values tend to change frequently / does not seem to have a constant set of core values.
Difficulty choosing and committing to an occupation.
Beliefs,actions and behaviors often seem contradictory.
Has trouble committing to long-term goals or aspirations.
As a way to ‘fit in’ they may:
Identity seems to revolve around a “cause” or shifting causes.Defines self in terms of a label that provides a sense of identity.Depend on relationship to a charismatic other. Tends to be in the orbit of a strong personality.People with BPD can be very “chameleon-like” in an effort to integrate.
The tendency to confuse one’s own attributes, feelings,and desires with those of another person, especially in intimate relationships, means that when a breakdown in a relationship occurs it can lead the person with BPD to fear a loss of personal identity.
The large inconsistencies in behavior,over time and across situations, lead to difficulty integrating multiple representations of self, a lack of a coherent life narrative or sense of continuity over time;and a lack of continuity of relationships that leaves significant parts of the BPD’s past “deposited” with people who are no longer part of the individuals life , and hence the loss of shared memories that help define the self over time.
One contributing factor to borderline identity disturbance is dissociation. When we compartmentalize our experiences rather than integrating them into one meaningful whole, our sense of self fragments causing us to feel lost, empty, and confused.
As this empty feeling and loss of inner self becomes more problematic and chronic (in some cases) a refuge world or fantasy self can at times take the stage by means of dissociation from the painful reality the BPD is forced to live in if they remain in their current state consciousness/awareness – making it similar but not the same as DID – Key points of difference are that those who suffer DID (dissociative identity disorder) usually remain unaware of their other fragmented selves (referred to as alters) which are more concrete, unique individuals, accompanied by blacked out memories/loss of time, whereas BPD’s remain more coherent through their changes in persona.
Identity disturbances in individuals with BPD usually reflect efforts to preserve a sense of self-worth in the presence of interpersonal turmoil.
Because of the inconsistencies in what the person with BPD is doing and saying, non BPD’s may accuse them of “faking it” “Lying” or “putting it on” but this really isn’t the case, they just may not be aware of it and by saying these things to them may actually hinder their progress in changing thier behaviour by making them doubt themselves,their worth and their relationship with you and others.
Other issues that may arise are eating disorders, substance misuse or reckless/impulsive behaviours, (these may also a seperate issue for people with BPD regardless of whether or not the have identity disturbance); all which may feel like a form of control over their lives that they are lacking in other areas.
If you have the associated,emotional instability,impulsive behaviour and black and white thinking of BPD you may have difficulty forming a coherent sense of self because your internal experiences and outward actions are not consistent. In addition, many people with BPD come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds which may contribute to unstable sense of self. If you determine who you are based on others’ reactions to you, and those reactions have been unpredictable and/or scary, you have no framework for developing a strong sense of identity.
However, it’s not all bad, on the positive side of things not knowing who you are allows you to start from scratch, experiment, explore and to build yourself up into the person you want to be!
So how do we tackle this issue and find out who we are?
Treatment/therapy with a trained professional is the most highly recommended way to deal with these issues as they can help to guide you through the process of self discovery; but there are also things you can do yourself too.
One way is by observing your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, in addition to others’ reactions to you.
Questions and reflection on things like:
How do I want to be seen by others?
What are the things most imporant to me?
Who do I admire and what positive traits do they possess that I respect and could incorperate into my own life?
What am I passionate about?
What talents/attributes do I have?
Another way is to try and work out which areas you would like/need to focus on by writing a list which includes:
How would you like to act/react to each section? What can you do to make this possible?
These are the things that help to give us identity and allow us to form a more stable sense of self. Due to the complexity of the issue, the road to ‘finding yourself’ is a life long journey of discovery and one which may take you to some upexpected, intense and even pleasurable places emotionally!
No one can tell you who you are, they can discribe you but ultimatly it is up to you, you are the one who can make the changes, the one who can decide as to how you act and what you believe and stand for. Who/whatever you decide to be/do, remember that you are worthy of love, to be treated with respect and to live a life that you want and deserve.
I hope that this helps explain a little of what and why we feel this way and, fingers crossed, we can start to finally build the jig-saw of ourselves that has been in so many pieces for so long! ~ Emma.”
The Bernard Bert