Self-esteem. Anxiety.




Borderline Personality Disorder.


These are all good words.

They convey something.

They are pretty popular words.

Last week I wrote about how sometimes our thinking is desperate.

These words are some of the many words we cling to when trying to understand or express ourselves and our relationships (often very difficult ones) with others.

I think it is important not to let the words speak for themselves, however.

When I hear that someone has anxiety I want to know what that feels like for them. There is a broad category of human experiences that can be labelled anxiety. I want to know what is feels like - emotionally and physically. I want to know what prompts it, if anything. I want to know how often and in what way the person experiences their anxiety.

We can’t get away from language. We need it to communicate.

But we can use language to hold onto things as if they exist, too. Bullying does not exist as a thing the way my laptop does. Bullying is a relational activity. It arises from a complex context and happens differently every time.

The same is true for narcissism and borderline, and….

I have at times been interested in understanding labels as a way of understanding the behaviour of myself and those around me. This is natural and helpful.

What’s important is that we don’t stop there.

Therapy isn’t a thing.

Bullying isn’t a thing.

Narcissism isn’t a thing.

They aren’t things in the sense that we can’t reach out and touch them. And we can’t isolate them from their context.

And of course this conversation is a slippery slope of sorts. Nothing can truly be isolated from its context.

But when it comes to concepts such as these it is useful to loosen our grasp on them a bit. To remember that they are about relationship. About one person and another person. Or one person and many other people. Or one person and the world.

When the labels help you sink more deeply into something they are useful.

But when they are just in your head - when your experience is still swirling or persisting or living itself in some way - in this case your experience is asking to be seen. It wants you to be with it for a time. Without saying, “oh that’s because my boss is borderline.” He may well be. But what is it like for you to be in this relationship? What is happening for you?

I am sure there is a bit more to feel. To experience. To articulate. To be.

That’s you. That’s the part that is asking to live with a more-defined shape.

That’s the part that needs attention.