To pick up where I left off a few days ago, let’s reiterate:
How you feel seems like it should be pretty straight forward. But when you often have all of these conflicting things bouncing around in your head at once, it quickly becomes convoluted. It’s confusing to not have emotional consistency…
And that’s a big problem.
There’s no consistency. I try not to make assumptions of what people without BPD experience, but I’m going to pose a mental scenario. To me it seems that when you have a series of experiences you should develop sort of a repertoire of reactions. When something happens one way, you react a certain way. When something similar happens, you probably react in a similar way. Of course making allowances for self-reflection, growth, and adjustment to better your responses, but in general certain events, cause certain reactions, so there’s a consistent idea of what will happen. This is especially important for the people around you because they have an idea of how you will react given a situation. However, with BPD this can be almost non-existent. How we react to one thing one day, can be entirely different from how we react to the same thing on a different day.
Every time can feel like a brand new experience. It’s the emotional tie between situations and lacking proper object constancy. At least that’s where it seems to stem from for me. It’s that sense that each event is unconnected to previous situations so every reaction is brand new. And how we react is going to be colored by how we’re feeling in general.
If I’m detached and dissociated, then I might not have much of reaction at all. This can appear like I don’t care (which to be totally honest, I might not in that particular moment until I can reattach to my feelings). It can appear like I’m not actually very bothered, and that something isn’t even a big deal because I’m not really reacting… so in the moment things seem okay from an outsiders perspective, but when I do reattach to my feelings, hours, maybe days later, that’s when it hits and I might get upset about something and it seems like, “What the hell, you were fine about this a couple days ago, where did this come from?”
If I feel threatened and am depressed I might be more concerned about repairing the situation or making the other person happy so they don’t leave… so I gloss over the severity of how things affect me to make the other person more comfortable. More passive and accepting, even accommodating.
Then again if I feel threatened and angry, it’s likely there will be a lovely explosion of just what I think of you and the situation. I can be quick to go on the defense.
And sometimes, there are even days when I feel in an okay place emotionally so I’m able to face conflict pretty reasonably.
Those are just a few examples. Pretty much everything going on in our heads can affect this; if I’m depressed, dissociated, if I’m more anxious than usual, if my self-image is worse than normal. On top of which reactions can change as our emotions cycle.
Reactions and emotions can change depending on if we’re just texting, talking on the phone, or in person. I’m more likely to get angry and detached via distant communicating (text, IM, phone), and more likely to be more emotionally responsive in person. To me this makes sense because if I’m not in your presence my connection to you already feels stifled and vague.
Reactions can change as our thoughts ruminate on different things. If we’re experiencing a particularly strong positive memory or really afraid of being abandoned or rejected, we can be flooded with positive emotions and consider just letting any issue go in favor of just getting back to the good parts (I Love you, don’t leave me!). While at the same time still being upset by what caused the conflict and the build-up of events that lead to it (But I hate you, we’re not right for each other, and I never want to see you again). I think this might be a pretty normal relationship experience in general, but the intensity of polarity we experience is what makes it disordered.
It’s frustrating for us, and I imagine, confusing as hell for the people around us. It’s difficult to know how to handle or respond to someone that isn’t even moderately predictable. People are accustomed to a certain amount of consistency and predictability, which has to be reevaluated when you’re in a relationship with someone with BPD. If you are in a relationship with a Borderline and hold us to the same consistent standards that apply to most people it’s going to be even more frustrating for the both of you. When we tend to experience each situation as if it has no prior emotional context, approaching a situation with predetermined ideas of how it will turn out makes expectations and reception limited and more rigid. Flexibility can be important.
What’s even more important is communication; being able to work through a situation, discuss discrepancy in interpretation and, not shut down and allow for false assumptions on anyone’s part. But as you know, identifying the real issues, not being great at emotional expression, a tendency to avoid conflict or to have volatile impulsive reactions… can make this very difficult. Developing effective communication skills isn’t easy for a lot people of people in general. Patience and discussion after there’s been time to calm down and reflect on the situation is useful as well.
Consistency is not an emotional strength, ironically the most consistent thing about us is our inconsistency haha. Unpredictable. Sometimes this can be good though. I’ve been in a number of situations where people thought I /should/ be upset, and I wasn’t really phased and able to manage them better than other people around me. If the emotional investment in a situation is low, odds are that the level of predictability will be higher and reactiveness will be lower. If emotional investment is high, if we care, that’s when things can get, er, interesting. At least you know we’re invested, right? Ugh.
Side thought: Not having reactions tempered by emotional consistency can also lead to a sustained level of passion. Heat and intensity is often greater. That can be bad, but it can also be wonderful.
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