Misinterpretation and Misunderstanding in BPD – Step 2 (slide set 3)

**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. Any uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer

Author: Peter Miller

When you can’t “see yourself in action” by developing an ability to do so, a very natural long-term consequence is to become chronically defensive, or even slightly paranoid. It can be like living your life as though you are “always under attack” and need to be saying and doing anything and everything possible to stay safe. After all, these “awful feelings” keep getting activated whenever you are around people and life situations, and “this just isn’t right or tolerable!” **The feelings are tolerable; you don’t know it yet.

Recall from previous slides the everyday process that 1) life events happen, 2) you form YOUR interpretations as to what the events mean, 3) YOUR emotions get experienced, and then 4) there is a behavior of some kind (words, actions, etc.) that may or may not be)wise/effective. Without being training in these skill areas, the chances are excellent that your behaviour will often be unwise/ineffective and not produce a desirable outcome.

It can be VERY HARD to realize and take full responsibility for this 1,2,3,4 reality of BPD, and that is why people tend to blame others for their feelings and frequently be in conflict with others… uttering such things as “YOU MADE ME FEEL THIS WAY” or “HOW DARE YOU!”. If you are suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), then this tendency to blame others can remain extremely strong because the emotional experience (and the ongoing need to manage emotion) for someone with BPD is usually much “bigger and stronger” than the average person.

And what happens if you’ve got two (or more) people who have no idea what’s happening or how to take care of these perceptual/emotional issues? You guessed it… loads and loads of drama! Then eventually when people have experienced these perceptual/emotional difficulties repeatedly with each other, they may resort to “solutions” like punishment or avoidance and usually break relationships more than were broken before.

The truth of the matter is that many of these interpersonal difficulties are rooted in lack of self-awareness, unrecognized patterns, lack of individual thought/emotional skill, and lack of relational skills when emotional sensitivities or disorder may be happening.

If you are frustrated as you are learning about all this, I hear you!! I know how real it can SEEM that others are “the cause” of our feelings… because things happen so fast and the emotions FEEL intense as they happen. I get it!! We can feel SO STRONGLY about our perceptions that they seem like “the truth”… as though they are indisputable and everyone else is wrong.

And while it may be true that others have an influence on the way we feel (being a stimulus), the BOTTOM LINE REALITY is always that we end up feeling a certain way because of the way WE have interpreted the information taken in (the words, the looks, the tones, the gestures, etc.). Therefore, our perceptions are ALWAYS ONLY ONE of many possibilities, ALWAYS OUR OWN, and very possibly influenced by past trauma we may have experienced, hence the over-estimation of a threat as indicated in the last slide of this page. Starting to see what I mean?

It isn’t your fault that you have emotions, because after all, it is just part of being human to experience these things. The problems start to happen when you haven’t developed an awareness of your emotions, all of the many related thoughts, and how these things may influence your behaviour for better or for worse. Also as you can see in the slide below, it makes sense that you could start to become anxious (or even paranoid) about living life when these problematic emotions keep getting experienced, when difficult life situations keep happening, and when there is no effective way to work things through.

When no awareness or skill has been developed with regards to emotions and how emotions function in relationships, people may opt to “blame emotions” for causing so much difficulty in life (unwanted outcomes, fights, etc.). Therefore, when others show emotions or when you start to notice emotions arising within yourself, the default response may be to “shame the emotional experience”… merely trying and shut the emotions out, or shutting them down.

Ignoring emotions like this is not only hurtful to the soul and spirit, but it can also result in an accumulation of emotional energy that eventually bursts out of the body in some shape or form (perhaps an extreme behaviour). It can leave a person ineffectively seeking out opportunities to process emotion (e.g., bringing things up for conversation in inappropriate situations and in ways that others find annoying or disturbing), and it can do surprising damage to the body and contribute to disease processes of all kinds (mental and physical).