About Randi

Randi Kreger has brought the concerns of people who have a family member with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) to an international forefront through her best-selling books, informative website, and popular online family support community Welcome to Oz.


Staying In the Moment Reduces Suffering

In the next few blog posts, we'll be looking at "mindfulness" with Gillian Galen, the assistant director of training and senior psychologist at the adolescent borderline personality disorder unit at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. Gillian is the coauthor (with Blaise Aguirre, MD) of Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder: Relieve Your Suffering Using the Core Skill of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

What is Mindfulness?

The practice of mindfulness is the practice of learning how to pay attention. Some call mindfulness "being present," "staying in this moment," "becoming aware of what's going on around you or within you," and "being in the here and now."

Biologist and author Jon Kabat-Zinn provides the most commonly used definition of mindfulness: "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." He believes mindfulness to be fundamental and attainable through practice, and describes it as "a way of being." Anything you can do mindlessly, you can do mindfully.

For example, you may be mindfully reading this blog right now. That is, you are paying attention with an open mind to what you are reading and not thinking about what you're going to have for lunch or wondering why the dog is barking. When you get distracted by thoughts, feelings, or things going on around you, purposefully return your attention to the words on the page. This strengthens the "mindfulness muscle," which is the capacity to catch your mind when it wanders and bring it back to the task at hand.

How Do I Practice Mindfulness?

Practice is a good word, because mindfulness takes practice, and practice takes time. Each time your mind wanders and you intentionally bring it back, you are being mindful.

Watch and Notice: Just observe without putting labels on the experience without reacting. Learning to observe the early signs of emotions in your body can help you to not be so surprised or overwhelmed by an intense emotion that it feels as if it came out of nowhere. The act of simply watching and noticing can quiet the mind.

Try this exercise: Spend two to three minutes examining your hand as if you've never seen it before. The idea with this practice is to examine and attend to your hand and all that you see. Look at the front and back of your hand. Notice your fingers and the lines and shades of your skin. Our hands are so integral to our day-to-day lives, and we pay very little attention to them.

Being present helps you become less reactive and opens your mind to finding joy and gratitude in daily activities. As you practice your awareness helps you find compassion for yourself and the important people in your life.

Gillian Galen, PsyD, is also an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. She specializes in adolescent psychotherapy, including DBT. She has a particular interest in using mindfulness and yoga in the treatment of BPD and other psychiatric illnesses.

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