Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Repair Trust with BPD: Part 2

So we’ve established the things we need to focus on in relationships to develop trust. Developing trust, with trustworthy people, from the start is incredibly important. 

We all have existing relationships though, relationships we may not have been able to do this with, or weren’t aware that it was necessary. It’s too late to start from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start. It’s never too late.

But what do you do when there has been a betrayal of trust?  Repairing trust is, unfortunately, more difficult than developing it.

There are two things we need to be aware of in ourselves. Two things we need to ask ourselves when it comes to feelings of betrayal. Are we:

  1. Reacting to an actual betrayal of trust?
  2. Reacting to a perceived betrayal of trust? Or reacting disproportionately to the situation that created the feelings of betrayal?

If it’s a true, serious breach of trust (cheating, abuse, violation of privacy, kicking your puppy, outright lying and deception, etc.) then you need to seriously consider if this is a relationship you should continue with. I know from experience how difficult it is to extricate yourself from a person you love, you think you love… the thought of leaving someone is almost as bad as being abandoned by them. I get it… but this isn’t really the post for that train of thought.

What I’m more concerned with is when you decide to stay. How do you deal with those feelings of betrayal?  How do you come back from that? Or even, is it possible?

We need to learn to distinguish between situations where our feelings are warranted and when they aren’t warranted. Where repairing trust is viable, and when it’s time to step away.

Next, there are a few more things we need to dig further with. By this point I don’t think I need to dance around the fact that we can sometimes, kind of, yanno, overreact. Sometimes things happen, and when we look at them cognitively we know they /shouldn’t/ be a big deal, but they sure as hell FEEL LIKE A BIG DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Be mindful of how you react. Step away from the situation. Communicate a need for time to calm down and come back to the situation once you’ve been able to process it a little less emotionally… if that’s what you need to do. Then ask yourself a couple things:

Was [whatever happened] done in ignorance? Was it an accident?

Sometimes, especially when you’re still getting to know someone, people hit your triggers without knowing. They say or do something, joke around about something, that to them is something innocuous, but to our heightened sensitivity and bad experiences can be something different altogether. It’s our responsibility to make new people aware of our triggers. Once you do, once you make it known that you’re hurt, take a look at their reactions. Are they genuinely apologetic? Are they remorseful? These are good signs. A person that cares and is worthy of being trusted won’t want to continue to hurt you. So keep your eyes open. If they clearly make an attempt to work with you and not do what they did again… then this is the kind of behavior that is healthy and caring. Give them another chance. When you’ve lived through as much trauma as we tend to live through, it’s hard not to feel like the world isn’t out to get you, but it’s important to remember that all people, all of them, are human. People do make honest mistakes without an abusive intent. We need our partners to work with us, but we also have to work with them. We need to recognize when our emotions are running away with us, take a step back, and learn to trust our heads when our hearts are going a bit wonky. We have both for a purpose. It doesn’t come easily because feelings are so much stronger than that voice on your shoulder whispering reason, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  And give yourself time.

The bottom line is, if something happens, and the person that breaches your trust genuinely wants forgiveness and wants to make things better… they probably deserve the chance.

  1. Communicate the problem.
  2. Do they act in a way that shows they are apologetic and want forgiveness?
  3. Do they make active choices to not repeat the hurtful behavior?
  4. Give the wound time to heal.

Feeling are valid even if they tend to be overblown. It’s okay. Just recognize it! Work with it! Our partners can only do so much. At some point we have to do work on ourselves as well. That’s the only way we’ll get through with the least amount of damage.

Now, if it keeps happening though? That’s a problem. Did they have prior knowledge that something is upsetting to you yet continue to do it? Even after apologizing previously? Did they do it again purposefully (or purposefully the first time to get a reaction)? Those are red flags and indicators that a person doesn’t have your best interest at heart. If you communicate the problem, and they keep triggering you, despite knowing how hurtful it is, this is a problem and they might not be worthy of your trust.

Forgiveness and trust is earned. If a person doesn’t show proper indication that they are willing to earn your trust, well, then it’s pretty obvious that don’t deserve it. Even if we WANT them to deserve it. It’s up to us to separate what we want and what we hope, from what actually is. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes trust can’t be repaired.

It’s important to make a distinction between reasonable triggers and unreasonable ones as well. Sometimes we’re triggered by things that are normal, acceptable behaviors for a person’s life (for example: when people go out without us sometimes), these are deeper issues that we need to work on within ourselves, probably with therapy if possible. If they haven’t otherwise given you reason to mistrust their going out, the feelings are being triggered by events in your past, and are maladaptive to your current relationships. It’s important to increase your self-awareness so you can make these distinctions.   

It’s also important for us to be reasonable about our triggering requests. We often have a lot of triggers, I mean A LOT of triggers. Some major, some less so. It’s a lot for someone to be aware of and constantly remember. Sometimes people forget, sometimes they just can’t live every second of their life toeing around our issues. We need to cut our loved ones some slack sometimes. Keep the big triggers as priorities, and while you can keep in mind the smaller ones, also keep in mind that just because a trigger is tripped, it doesn’t mean it was meant to intentionally wound.

 Here are some basic steps that you can take to begin working on repairing a broken trust.

  1. Acknowledge what happened. You can fix something you don’t recognize what happened.
  2. Admit your role in causing the breach of trust. Ego and pride can often get in the way of healing. Feelings of guilt and shame are even bigger problems. It takes courage to own your actions.
  3. Apologize.
  4. Assess the situation. Figure out where trust broke down. Take a look at that list I posted yesterday in developing trust as a place to start. Where did things go wrong?
  5. Make amends. Decide what you need to repair the damage that was done. It’s important to demonstrate that you mean what you say.

Forgiveness takes two as well. One person to receive it. One person to give it. 

Everyone disappoints us at some point. People are people and people are never perfect. It’s important for us to work on being more flexible and accepting of human nature. Trust might not be perfect either, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still worth a lot. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to Repair Trust with BPD

Last week I talked about the Trust Debt that depletes the foundation of relationships in our lives. This usually occurs because of actual, true to life problems that have legitimately betrayed our trust and necessitated the defense mechanisms that eventually overrun our lives. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, we are able to get away from those situations as we grow up and become more capable of making our own life decisions. That doesn’t mean those defense mechanisms go away though, which is where they become a problem for us. 

So how do we learn to cultivate and restore trust in our current relationships when we have such a depleted ability to trust?

There are two areas where we need to focus in the development of trust.

  1. Before trust is broken
  2. After trust is broken

For those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder that are prone to impulsive emotional dysregulation we are often quick to react with fear in pain to a perceived problem. In regards to 2. After Trust is Broken we can further break this down into:

     1. After Trust is Broken.

         a.  Reactions to a perceived breach of trust
         b.  Reactions to an actual breach of trust

This second one has a little more nuance for us. We need to keep in mind that how we feel is how we feel and that feelings are valid. But we should also keep in mind that feelings aren’t always logical and because of our history of abuse and faulty defense mechanisms we may be reacting out of proportion to the actual situation. We have to ask ourselves some questions and learn to recognize situations where we are reasonably emotional in feeling betrayed, and when we are applying more emotional weight to a situation than is really necessary.

So let’s begin.

Trust is a two way street. Like so many things it takes two. All of the responsibility for having a trusting relationship is not all on one person. Both people in a relationship must contribute.

The first step in learning to develop trust (because we may have never properly learned how to do this) is to take an honest look at the people we have in our life, and the people we allow to come into our lives.  

Trust takes Two.
I’ve said approximately a million times: Borderline Personality Disorder is a disorder of relationships. People make us crazy because it’s people that tend to trigger us and we react to those triggers. Don’t mistake that as blaming though, it’s our responsibility to learn our triggers and to take responsibility for our actions. Anyways.

Who we allow into our lives is important. Not only for general living, but specifically in regards to our mental health. If we allow negative, abusive people into our lives we are obviously going to be triggered more often and generally more reactive and behaviorally more destructive. In my own life I’ve seen these patterns over and over. When I’m around nice, content people – I am more content. When I am around more destructive people – I am more destructive. We tend to be very sensitive to the people around us and the environments we are in. We feel that energy. We pick up on it. It’s like an air born toxin, poisoning our lungs until it’s in our blood and we didn’t even realize it until we’re acting out of our own emotional control. It hurts. Us and everyone around us.

1.      The very first step in learning to develop trust is to make a conscious decision about who deserves your trust and who you spend time with.

I know it’s not always possible to choose who you see; family, coworkers, friends of friends, etc… we don’t always have a choice about. But you do have a choice in regards to how much you share with these people and you do have a choice to limit your time with them.

It sounds simple doesn’t it? Don’t let douchebags in your life and you’ll be better off! Not rocket science here. But most people don’t walk around with a giant D on their forehead. It takes time for a person’s true colors to start showing.

2.      Take your time in getting to know someone.

Again, not as easy as it sounds all of the time. If you’re anything like me, you meet someone that grabs you and you throw yourself into a whirlwind of excitement and new experiences. You don’t even think about it. Before you know it you’re completely intertwined with them… AND THEN the cautionary fear kicks in. Like, thanks buddy, you couldn’t have showed up 2 months ago? Where were you before I started throwing my heart at this person? Answer: Drowning in the endorphin rush of excitement, that’s where. It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the high of new relationships, new love, and following your heart to live in the moment of ecstasy, that the thought of slowing down how good those things feels seems counterintuitive. Why would you want to lessen such good feelings? Because too much of a good thing, like alcohol, leads to something like alcohol poisoning for us.  Love poisoning. We rush in, and then before our brains have a chance to register our need for emotional safeguard, we’re jumping the fence into a minefield of emotions. Then we see the giant CAUTION sign and start to freak out, but now we don’t know where to step because the territory is unfamiliar.

TAKE YOUR TIME. Go slower. I know it’s hard. It’s tough to resist. But relationships begin at the beginning. So that’s pretty much where you need to start with the development of trust as well. Take your time to learn who each other are, so you can gauge whether or not it’s appropriate to place trust in this person.

Because when we don’t take our time, when we throw our lives in with someone that’s not trustworthy, when we bury our heart in their hands, it becomes so much more difficult to extricate ourselves from hurtful situations. If you’ve ever had a difficult time leaving an abusive relationship because you’re stuck in a love-hate cycle, you know what I mean. I wouldn’t have been so tormented by The One or by Evil-Ex if it was easy to follow what I cognitively knew what would have been best for me.

Our hearts are fragile. We need to be more careful with them. It’s worth it to invest more time understanding who the people in our lives are, before we give them something that’s proven to be so easily breakable.

Relationships are dynamic. Trust goes both ways. However, relationships aren’t tit-for-tat. They’re not about keeping score.

3.      Relationships are not about keeping score.

If you approach the development of trust in a: Well I told you this, but you’ve only told me something like this. Or I’ve done all of this, but you’ve only done that…. It will lead to a lot of resentment, anger, and ultimately the Dark Side of dysfunctional.  There’s no time limit on developing trust. Other people may not have the same needs or be as sensitive to their own emotional needs as we are, so they simply don’t emphasize things the way we do. It’s hard for us to remain calm about relationships we don’t know where they’re going or where they’ll end up. {Insert platitude about relationships are about the journey not the destination, blah blah blah}… but really it’s true.  When we keep score, put up a time limit, and try to force the play… we end up with, well, just another awful sporting event, and not what a healthy relationship should be.

4.      Communication is important.

If you begin to feel like things are a little too one-sided in a relationship or that they’re not as invested in something as you are, it’s important to communicate your concern in a mindful, caring way. Usually I let this stuff build up until it becomes a seething ball of anger and resentment in my chest waiting to burst forth like a xenomorphic Alien that we need to call Ripley in for to eviscerate. Then all you’re left with is a hollow shell of a dead relationship, and that’s pretty much the opposite of what we want.

5.      Demonstrate the trust you want to receive.

We are also responsible for being a trustworthy partner. Our behaviors and actions need to be trustworthy if we hope for the people in our life to be trustworthy. Here’s a list of things that are typical in developing trust. These are good to remember to do yourself, but to also be aware of in other people.

-          Do what you say will do.
-          Never lie.
-   Volunteer information. Clipped, quick responses with no elaboration make appear closed off and unapproachable. If you don’t want to share, other people won’t feel invited to share either. That doesn’t mean you need to overshare or share information you’re not comfortable sharing yet, but instead of a one word “fine”, elaborate on what lead to that conclusion.
-          Don’t Omit important details. This comes pretty close to lying. Or actually lying by omission. But
-          If you do have secrets, or it’s something you aren’t comfortable talking about… let that be known. You are well within your right to tell someone you’re not comfortable with the subject. Everyone is entitled to privacy. The key to being trustworthy while also maintaining your privacy is to make the boundary clear.
-          Set appropriate boundaries. Boundaries are important!
-          Don’t mask Truths. Again in the vein of never lying is not to mask the truth. Just because you can “morph” a truth into something that’s “technically” truthful doesn’t mean it’s honest.
-          Keep secrets. I mean keep other peoples secrets if they give you’re their trust. Do. Not. Gossip. When you gossip about other people, it’s automatic for me to believe you will also gossip about me. How you treat other people is how I expect you will treat me. Even if someone says, “I’d only tell you, or I would never tell your stuff”… I wouldn’t believe because I will believe you’ve told that person the same thing.
-          If you do lie, admit it.  Sometimes it feels unavoidable to lie. Especially when we’re so often fearful of being hurt or being taken advantage of and we feel the need to protect ourselves. For us this is often the result of a snap emotional response. When you’ve had time to calm down and re-evaluate the situation, ‘fess up. And explain why you did it. If you just continue to deny it, it will only reinforce the idea of not being trustworthy.
-          Speak your feelings. Communicate!
-          Tell the Truth. To be seen as someone that is trustworthy, you need to be seen as someone that tells the truth. So being honest is necessary.
Along those lines, if you don’t feel that you can be truthful with someone, that may be a red flag that they themselves are not trustworthy and you may need to re-evaluate their position in your life.
-          Honor your promises. Do not break your promises. Be dependable. If you act contrary to what you say, people will see it, no matter how good your excuses are.
-          Show openness. This isn’t easy for us because it implies relying on a person to you honesty as well. Be receptive to others, so they in turn feel capable of being receptive to you.
-          Be consistent in your behavior. This one is also often difficult for those of us with BPD because we are some of the most emotionally inconsistent people ever. I’ve written about that before, check it out. But you can…
-     Show your loyalty. This refers to your ability to protect others (not necessarily above and beyond protecting yourself, but you can do both), and to be on the same side… in their presence but most importantly in their absence.
-          Demonstrate a strong moral ethic. This is particularly important in relationships. You don’t want to others to betray you, so you need to be mindful that your own behaviors don’t falter or show signs of betrayal. Don’t give reason for people to doubt your ability to be true or dedicated.
-          Be fair. It’s often hard for us to remain objective when we feel slighted, which is why we need to work on our Mindfulness. Being 100% fair 100% of the time, is a little difficult to judge, but it’s important to remember that there are two of you in any given situation and both of you have basic human needs and rights. Be fair.

How about you? What helps you feel someone is trustworthy? What do you need from someone to help gain your trust?

Stay tuned. Even when trust is broken, actually or perceived to be, there are things you can do…

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thoughts from the Borderline

Accepting other people is easier than accepting myself. 

Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ)

Let’s take a break from the reading today for a bit of interactive fun! I’ve been talking a lot about rejection sensitivity this past week or so. I’ve presented much confirming evidence that people with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to be more prone to rejection sensitivity then usual. I don’t know about you, but  that makes me wonder just where I would fall on that scale. Fortunately the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ) was developed to do just that. (I keep trying to link to the direct source and cite the research but the site is down for maintenance so I’ll have to come back and do that later).

The questionnaire developed by Downey and Feldman is a two dimensional assessment of 1. The degree of anxiety or concern about the outcome of a proposed situation, and 2. The expectations of acceptance or rejection. 

To answer the (Adult Version) Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire click HERE. You don’t have to sign in or anything, fill in the dots and get your results.

I’m not sure how high the scoring goes but this was my result. I answered with a mix of how I used to feel and how I currently feel and still got:

Your score is: 22    (Man I wonder what it would have been a couple years ago?)

You have very high rejection sensitivity. You tend to have greater concerns about social rejection than most people. You tend to worry excessively about social interactions and what others might think of you. You tend to fear, and expect, rejection and disapproval by others. This often leads to misinterpretation of social cues and problems interacting with others due to the misinterpretation. In addition, you may tend to have extreme anxiety in social situations and tendency to avoid many situations due to discomfort or suffer through the situations with high levels of anxiety. If the anxiety and avoidance interferes significantly in your life it is possible that you may have Social Anxiety Disorder and it may be helpful to you to seek therapeutic advice to reduce anxiety and change some of the irrational thoughts related to social interactions and disapproval. 

Ta da! Pretty much what I expected. Though much better than what it would have been years ago, and I am able to recover much quicker now with much less fall out. How about you? What do you get?

** There’s also a young adult version that you can take HERE.

I took this one too and tried to remember how anxious I would have been in college. I got a 25 on this one. Some things were tough though because they were things I wouldn’t bother to do and some things I just don’t care about. I tend to be much more anxious when it comes to romantic relationships than platonic friendships. I’m more anxious about teachers/employers than I am about my parents. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Irrational Jealousy and Borderline Personality Disorder: Part 2

What causes irrational jealousy? 

Like so many things in life, the things that cause our irrational behaviors can usually be traced back to a time where it was a very rational behavioral response to a threatening situation. Except when the situation where the rational emotional response ends… those feelings don’t end with it; they stay behind. They hang on. They sit on your shoulder ever at the ready for the next time. Hoping to spot a threat before it becomes too damaging. Trying to protect the greater Self. 

From Excel At Life we get this explanation :

“Frequently, an individual who is prone to irrational jealousy may have problems with low self-esteem, feelings of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or fear of abandonment. A person with low self-esteem may feel so undeserving of being loved, that he can't believe that his spouse could possibly remain faithful to him. Perhaps these feelings stem from some abusive past relationship in which he was unloved and made to believe that he was at fault. For instance, if a teenager is told, "If only you were more like your brother, then maybe you could get a girlfriend" he comes to believe that there is something wrong with him. Many times we are given messages, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, as we are growing up that shape our beliefs about ourselves.

Feelings of insecurity may stem from the low self-esteem or may be related to instances in which we have previously been hurt. The same is true with fear of abandonment. When we have experienced profound loss from which we haven't had an opportunity to recover, we may develop an extreme fear and avoidance reaction to similar circumstances. However, as indicated earlier, this avoidance may bring about the abandonment that we fear.

A fear of vulnerability is the inability to let our guard down, to let another person know us completely. This fear usually derives from a fear of rejection due to the belief that if we let someone else truly know us, we will ultimately be rejected. Again, the fallacy in this belief, is that if we don't allow our spouse to know us, if we don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are preventing the development of emotional intimacy which is essential to any relationship.

Emotional intimacy is the most important type of intimacy in a relationship. It is required for the relationship to fully mature. Without it, all we have is the initial surface attraction to the other person which cannot be maintained indefinitely. However, when we find emotional intimacy with another person, we discover the most intensely fulfilling experience that exists. And that is, the full acceptance of our self by another person. 

Finally, the individual needs to determine if there are certain behaviors from herself or from her spouse that may contribute to the development of these fears and beliefs. For instance, perhaps a spouse is reluctant to share personal information because he will then be subject to questioning and accusations. As a result, emotional intimacy in the relationship declines. The person who is jealous will often take this as further evidence of cheating in the relationship, when, in fact, it is a result of the questioning and accusations. Or, for example, a jealous person has repeatedly harmed relationships through his accusations which he takes as evidence that women can never be trusted.

The more you are aware of your behaviors and other's behavior that may maintain the beliefs, then you will be able to make better choices that can allow you to control the jealousy. In fact, the development of awareness can't be emphasized enough. You may need to spend some time at this point to assess your jealousy, the behaviors, and the outcomes based on the behaviors.”

I’ve talked about the Threat of Intimacy before. So often what we crave is true emotional intimacy but because there’s so much fear and vulnerability surrounding that process instead of trying for the real deal we just try to get close enough instead. Close enough to not feel alone, but far enough to remain protected.

It’s so strange that all of these dysfunctional behaviors come from a sense of self-preservation that has taken itself too far. Given the environmental nature of abandonment, neglect, and abuse that often accompanies the inborn chemical sensitivity of BPD it’s no wonder it runs away with itself. When everything is black or white, good or bad, self-protect or self-destruct… figuring out how to find a happy medium feels like foreign territory that our brains aren’t programmed to navigate.  

Jealousy isn’t envy. It’s not about wanting something you don’t have. It’s about holding onto what you already do have.

Irrational jealousy is the fear of abandonment Acting Out. 

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