For so many years I believed that just because I was borderline that I had no control over my emotions.  They were so intense all the time.  My depressions were "rock bottom" and my happiness was "over the moon".

I have been through several hospitalizations, psychiatrists, social workers, licensed counselors and psychologists with many different therapies.  Among those were psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Transference-focused therapy (TFP).

All of these therapies have failed to help me with mood swings, impulsive behavior, irritability or self-destructive actions.  They would work temporarily and my hospitalizations would steer me back to stability but only briefly.  It wasn't that I didn't put in the effort.  It was just that these therapies did not work for me.

Let me share with you two therapies that are working for this 45 year old borderline daughter, mom and wife. The first, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. REBT is focused on helping clients change irrational beliefs to rational ones.  The second, Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.  The combination of these two ideas have not only helped me take ownership of my emotions but has given me the tools to change my perception and thought which in turn give me control over my emotions.

I am not saying there won't be events that will test your skills and even your therapist's patience even on the best of days. It is practice and dedication to REBT and EI that will prepare you for those occasions.

REBT is designed to produce results by helping clients manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.  My current therapist, who studied under Albert Ellis, has taught me that my emotions are not caused by an event but rather my thoughts and perceptions of that event.  To explain this process there is a formula for visualizing the process of solving our emotional problems.  A + iB = C which has been enhanced upon by Michael Cornwall to A + iB = C/D > E.

 EI Formula

This may look like a difficult equation but let me try and break it down for you the best that I can.

A = Activating event

iB = Irrational belief

C = Consequence

D = Disputation

E = Emotional Evolution

The formula is taking an (A)ctivating event + an irrational(B)elief = an Emotional (C)onsequence which can be divided by (D)isputation for a greater (E)motional outcome. [CORNWALL, MICHAEL. "Chapter 6." GO SUCK A LEMON. S.l.: LULU COM, 2016. 61-62. Print. ]

For a person who suffers from borderline disorder and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I want to give examples of activating events of a typical borderline personality. 

A typical (A)ctivating event for me would be "Robert won't call me back".

The irrational (B)elief would be "Robert must be mad at me".

My emotional (C)onsequence is I am sad, angry and afraid (of abandonment).

Here is where the work comes in with (D)isputation.  You have to challenge your beliefs through disputation and hold them to a rational standard. For example:

My self-talk (D)isputing would be "Is it true that Robert must ALWAYS return my calls? or Is it true that Robert will abandon our friendship because of a phone call?"  If we are successful at disputing our irrational beliefs, then we will be able to exchange our (E)motional response to something more manageable like:  None of what I am telling myself is true.  It is true that I can live content even if my friend does not answer my phone call.

As a PTSD client also I would like to suggest that triggers can act as activating events.  One such trigger for myself is the smell of beer.  Let me explain.

Say we went to a baseball game and the person next to me orders a beer.  I then SMELL the beer (our activating event) and it reminds me of my dad who beat me when I was younger.  The irrational belief may be "I am not safe and need to get away".  The emotional consequence would be "I am afraid and scared".  The disputation could go like this "Melanie, is it true that I am not safe at the baseball game?" "Where is the proof in that statement?"  The answer to the improved emotional response to our disputation would go like "it is true that I can be content in this moment.  Just because he smells like beer does not mean he will hurt me. I don't have to be scared."

The emotional evolution or change in perceptions will depend on how well you use disputation to make rational sense of your self-talk.

I would like to take a moment and thank Michael Cornwall PsyD PhD for his hard work and dedication in his use of REBT and EI to help patients understand that their emotions are a product of their thoughts and perceptions.