Spontaneity Is Overrated

by Sarah Myles

I recently had a conversation in which the other person observed that I rarely arrange impromptu activities. My response was: "Well, I’m not an impromptu person." Everyone is different, after all.

This conversation stayed with me, however, rattling around inside my paranoid brain. And then something wonderful happened. A paranoid spiral began to build, and my 'wise mind' began to literally talk myself out of it, and back into rationality. It occurred like a natural, involuntary physical process - like breathing. Almost before I was conscious of it, I began asking myself a series of questions that made me consider my behaviour deeply, and look hard at myself. This process ultimately prompted an epiphany of sorts, increasing my understanding and acceptance of my own illness and behaviour. Here’s how it went:

“They’re absolutely right – I’m not spontaneous at all. I never suggest impromptu stuff – that always comes from others - and I rarely accept those invitations. That must be really disappointing for them. So, why can’t I be an impromptu person?”

“I don’t want to be an impromptu person. Why is that?”

Honest realisation: “Spontaneity, impulsiveness and impromptu arrangements make me very uncomfortable. I feel highly anxious and panicky in those sorts of situations.”

“Why is that the case?”

Honest observation: “Well, I am an obsessive compulsive person. I have to meticulously plan everything out in my head before I do it. Impromptu arrangements do not allow me the opportunity to do that, and so I immediately become anxious and panicked. I am simply not able to ‘throw caution to the wind’, nor can I ‘fly by the seat of my pants’.”

"But, why am I an obsessive compulsive person?"

"Because that's how I cope with the emotional dysregulation caused by Borderline Personality Disorder."

Conclusion: “It is correct to observe that I rarely make impromptu arrangements, and the fact is this will not change in order to make other people feel better, because the point of this behaviour is to make myself feel better. While I would dearly love to not have Borderline Personality Disorder, I do have Borderline Personality Disorder, and my obsessive compulsiveness is my main coping strategy. So, while I may occasionally hide this tendency by perhaps, arranging something several hours in advance, the fact remains that, at my end, I will still be frantically trying to cram all my planning and panic avoidance into those few hours, in order to maintain a healthy social life.”

"Shouldn't I be trying to challenge these behaviours to improve my mental health, instead of retreating into well-worn patterns of avoidance?"

"Unless I'm in the depths of a BPD crisis so debilitating that I require medical intervention, it is my responsibility to manage my illness as I see fit. If the worst method I currently use is avoiding spontaneity, I think I'm doing OK."

And the point is?

Just because you cannot see the battle being waged on the surface, does not mean it is not being fiercely fought on the inside.

Spontaneity is overrated. But rationality is a very nice place to be.