Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Don’t Tell Me How I Feel

I was reminded the other day of something that used to happen quite often. I huge pet peeve of mine that trips my anger incredibly quickly: Don’t tell me how I feel and don’t assume you know how I’ll react.

It absolutely does not matter if you know. It absolutely does not matter if you’ve seen the situation a million times. It especially bothers me if you don’t actually know me that well, and/or it’s a situation I’ve never been in and you’re only speculating. You have no clue, Do. Not. Assume. I have a temper, and this pisses me the hell off.

The funny thing about this is, often with my parents or my idiot Exes, they would assume I was angry when I felt perfectly fine. It wasn’t until they started assuming how I felt and started telling me how I felt that I actually did start getting angry. It feels like I’m being pre-emptively attacked for a feeling I haven’t even had yet and I’m not even being given the chance to act how I would have wanted to act or could have acted. I’m being judged for something that hasn’t happened at all.

Keep your assumptions to yourself.

Here’s why:

It doesn’t allow for the opportunity to change. It doesn’t allow for growth. It doesn’t allow for someone to have their own emotional autonomy.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be cautious or discuss it, but you absolutely should not tell someone else how they feel or who they are, even in a moment. For example: Instead of saying, “I know things like this piss you off.” How about asking, “Do you have any reservations about doing this?” That allows us to express our own opinions and feelings about the situation without feeling attacked. Do you see the difference between the two statements? The first one is aggressive and takes away the persons ability to make up their own mind about how they feel about the situation. The second statement is engaging and allows for open discussion, if there’s anything to discuss, and doesn’t take away anything from anyone.

Too often our Loved Ones think they know better because they’ve seen our reactions oh so many times. I’ve noted it before, but they don’t typically realize what exactly it is we’re responding to, and occasionally it’s something that they’re doing, and not the situation that they’re hypothesizing about. That’s not to cast blame because ultimately we are responsible for our own actions. That’s to shed light on the fact that we need to shift focus on where work needs to be done and how communication needs to be handled. 

Edit: As an addendum to keep conversation productive on both sides here is a useful tip for those of us with BPD if we find our loved ones falling into these habits of assuming what our feelings or emotions are: Consider that perhaps it's not necessarily a bad thing because they have been paying attention to you, they have been listening and learning about who you are as someone they love and care about and have your best interest at heart. If, however, they have made an incorrect assumption, take a deep breath, and say something along the lines of: "I appreciate you having learned that about me, but I've worked on trying to change that about myself, or that's not how I'm feeling about this situation, I'm different now." That way you can show them that you are working on things and hopefully they will be less likely make these same assumptions in the future.


  1. Very interesting, made me think :)

  2. Its not always a bad thing. I can see how it would be annoying. But if you just change your mindset about it, like for instance is this person someone you love that has your best interests at heart? Then what they are doing is listening and learning about you. Thats a great thing. If and when you change just mention, I appreciate you having learned that about me, but now Im different. Simple exchange. It really is a sign that someone loves you and has listened and learned. So teach them again!

    1. Aww your outlook on it is a much more positive less cynical one. That's a good way to think about it. I agree tbh.

    2. I think if someone loves your they will do research on your illness and try to understand. Most of the time, once people know you have 'mental' issues they equate everything with that. It gets extremely ANNOYING.

    3. I agree, this is a good mindset. However, it's good to be mindful that with BPD changing our mindset is not such a simple thing. Our emotional reactions happen quickly and often in a volatile way, which is why I made this post. This is something that is good to remember for us though to aid in productive communication, and I think I should make an addendum to my own post to add this in as well =)

  3. I agree that there is probably a good chance your SO is not trying to be judgmental about how you feel. If they have tried to understand BPD, they are probably doing the best they can. Most of the books on BPD urge the SO to try to figure out what feeling you might be experiencing but not expressing and say 'its okay to feel ____' or something to normalize the experience. The other thing that happens is we (SO) might become extremely/overly cautious on how we react to what you do/say so we don't cause more conflict, and theres a good chance you get annoyed with that too. Overall, it seems my incredibly awesome gf :) has gotten more upset when it seems I don't know how she is feeling/what to do than the 51% of the time I'm right in figuring out what it is. Even then, the 49% of the time deconstruction when you're wrong can be pretty painful

  4. Dear Haven,
    I am Jay and I have been married for almost 6 years with my wife whom I have started to believe has BPD. I discovered the illness thanks to the researches she had been doing while she has left our residence. As a matter of fact, she is still out and she is even asking for divorce now. Anyway, longs story short: I have liked your website and I wish my wife had told me about her researches before it was too late. However, one thing that bothers me is the way you talk about your exes because too me it seems you are still devaluating them and not acknowledging how maybe your condition may have affected the relationships.

    1. I am perfectly capable of accepting where my problems caused issues in my past relationships. I own it. I acknowledge it. It however, does not change the fact that some of my exes were extremely abusive without provocation from me and it was only because of the abuse done to me, that triggered my unpleasant reactions and responses.

      Trust me, I know how I have affected my relationships in the past and am keeping a clear eye to them in the future. Abuse, is abuse however, and yes, I do still devalue some of my exes because they were abusive, bad people.

  5. Haven,

    Would really love some advice. My incredible gf and I have been going thru a split-free past 3 months. I've been really excited about how well she is handling the unexpected in life but just this week I (concerned about her lack of sleep/long work days) asked her about going to bed one too many times and she got extremely angry at me. To the extent that she told me she wouldnt be available on my birthday as punishment for being so annoying. I tried meeting her at work offering to drive her over to the venue and she refused. She says she doesnt want to see me for a long time and I am pretty devastated because I know when she gets this feeling it can go for a month and it cascades because it prevents planning occasions that involve both of us. I've read Stop Walking on Eggshells, Loving Someone with BPD, to try learning validation strategies and those seemed to help over the past 6 months (after a very tumultuous/confusing 18 months prior). Shes got a ton of stress in her life from an intense new work environment, family loss, and anxiety about people/love. Shes saying she just doesnt want to try anymore, that I tire her out. I can see how she stresses harder about the people she is close to more than anyone but I want to do everything I can to support her without being pushed out of her life. Do you have any advice / suggestions on what to do in this situation? Any advice for helping her seek treatment - she has never spoken with a doctor about her feelings :-/

    I see regularly how incredible she is and I want to support her in the best way possible. Thank you for taking the time to read through.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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