Dancing Along the Borderline – Living in the Solution

Written by: Lynn Shaw

Published: 13/04/2018

Lynn is a dancer from Aberdeen who has shared her story of recovery and self management through dance and film.

“Live in the solution – not the problem.” This is one of my favourite mantras from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Programme. Anytime I give attention to the chaos in my head that’s exactly what I get – a multitude of disappointments, regret, self-loathing and shame!

After a series of turbulent life events I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it is potentially highly destructive and extremely hard to treat. The NHS defines it as being problematic in four key areas; emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking, impulsive behaviour and intense but unstable relationships with others. Since my diagnosis I have successfully received Mentalised Based Therapy and regularly attend a 12-step alcohol recovery programme.

Speaking out can be daunting but ultimately freeing. In 2016, I co-directed a documentary “Borderline” with Film Director Lindsay Goodall, Producer Robbie Fraser and Professional Dancer Vince Virr.  The documentary explores my journey of BPD through contemporary dance. The film has helped me reach others, raise awareness and give a voice to an often-voiceless community.

I watched a Ted Talk (this link will take you away from our website) by Emliy Esfahani Smith that I cannot recommended enough. She summed up in four parts exactly how I was maintaining my recovery. I was living in the solution. Here are the four pillars of meaning Smith, E refers to which I believe solidifies how I try to manage on a daily basis;


We all crave a sense of belonging. My daughter, family, friends, colleagues, fellow artists, unexpected strangers that appear in precious little moments, mentors, people that inspire you, individuals that “get” you and individuals that you admire and respect. People that know the real you, the screwball you, the vulnerable you, the free you. Belonging is feeling safe while being purposefully pushed. It is not having to say anything OR needing to dissect everything.

The feeling of belonging is something that I have been blessed with all my life, however, I only realised this when I reached crisis point. Now, I appreciate and (try to) embrace all humans with an open heart. I also try not to selfishly forget who held me when I needed it most.


Personally this has been in the form of recovery, self-discovery, awareness and reaching out to others.  Researching those who suffer from BPD, and translating their journeys through dance, including the making of ‘Borderline’ enables me to lead a purposeful life.


Going beyond our physical limitations and prior state. Connecting to our spiritual values. I see this repeatedly in the rooms of AA. We come in broken and beat and if we stay around long enough we slowly grow into someone whole, oozing curiosity for our new life, a big heart and if we are really lucky, peace of mind.


“What kinds of stories are you telling yourself about yourself? Which stories are you bringing to life in your very being?” (Gawne-Kelnar, 2017)

In this last definition of meaning, according to Smith, E. the concept of storytelling invites a vast internal and external view of self and others. Change your story, rewrite your story, delete parts of the story that no longer serve you or others. It’s your journey and your life! Storytelling and the arts is a powerful combination. Bold statements, quiet gestures, creative collaborations which aim to change perceptions.

Artists invite people on a journey to see, participate or feel. Sometimes the artist recreates someone else’s journey, often their own life story and very often the story is created in the artists imaginations. Either way storytelling can benefit oneself, others in communities, explore creativity, encourage self-awareness and promote positive relationships.

LOVE – Emily Smith sneaks in a fifth concept which encompasses all the above. She talks about love being a motivation and a driver for change and development. My love for my daughter inspires me, drives me but also calms me. She gives me patience to listen and be in the moment. Being a mother and an artist is a blessing, but I need both to be the best that I can be.


Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2017). Writing The Story Of Your Life: Narrative Therapy And Healing. [online] Psych Central.com. Available at: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapist-within/2011/09/writing-the-story-of-your-life-narrative-therapy-and-healing-psychotherapy/ [Accessed 19 Sep. 2017].

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