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Author Topic: 1.14 | How To Be More Empathetic To The pwBPD In Our Life?  (Read 27686 times)
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« on: October 01, 2013, 11:16:02 AM »

How do we become more empathetic to the pwBPD in our life?

Empathy is one of the main components of emotional intelligence.   Empathy is often confused with sympathy - but empathy it is distinctly different.  Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You effectively place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Seeing things from another person's perspective isn't simply understanding their point of view -- it extends to understanding, without disclaimers, why they feel their point of view is just and appropriate and honest.  Empathic people are skilled in placing themselves inside the shoes of others and seeing the world through another person’s perspective.
 
The problem most of us face with empathy isn’t the failure of understanding the importance of empathy  - it is a lack of knowing how - and a lack of discipline to see it through when it matters most.
 
The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the lessons we have all learned on our journey to be more empathetic with our family members and what we have found that works and what does not work.
 
To get us started, I'v listed some things we often need to do to effectively place ourselves inside the shoes of another and see the world through their perspective.
 
  • Set Aside Personal Beliefs, Concerns and Agenda - Just for now, at least. Go into the conversation empty handed—with no personal expectations or goal of fixing anyone.  Be willing to have your mind and perspective changed. Your only agenda is listening and trying to understand the other’s point of view.

  • Remove Ourselves / Gain Perspective - When you take things personally, you cannot separate yourself enough to feel the other person’s pain. Detach enough so that you are not in a emotionally heightened state— do not allowing the other person’s behavior to upset you or trigger you.

  • Be Present/ Be an Active Listener - Listen to the person in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening.  Don't jump ahead, re-frame what they are saying and compare it to a personal experience you had, don't rush to project ahead, or to frame a response.  When we do this we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

  • Getting Beyond the Facts / Relate - When the other person begins to share, focus on their feelings.  Think of situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar.  Just think about this - connect with it - don't share it.  This will deepen your emotional insight into the other person’s plight.

  • Talk to the Person's Inner-Child - When we visualize our child as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, that will then allow us to want to preserve the relationship and communicate in an effective way.

  • See Empathy as a Lifestyle, Not an Event -  Make an effort to heal the past hurts, to remember to accentuate the positive, and to nurture the relationship on a daily basis.  Most importantly, be mindful that when we are angry we can do a lot of damage and set things way back.

We look forward to everyone's comments.  Please remember, this is a workshop - we are here to discuss concepts - not personal matters- please limit personal comments to examples to clarify your points.

Please see video: Listen with Empathy - A Powerful Life Skill
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123Phoebe
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2013, 03:00:45 PM »

I've had to learn how to be empathetic toward myself, before being able to truly empathize with anyone else.  Denying my own feelings in lieu of FOG short circuited this ability.

Getting out of the mindset that people are doing things to me, i.e., taking things personally (fiercely attaching), has helped tremendously.  Instead of building bridges, this creates gaps.  All of a sudden there's an agenda and that is to get them to STOP doing these things!  To deny them the very right to have feelings of their own.  Blah.

Standing separately with an open heart and mind allows space for things to simply 'be'.  This 'be'ing space/state is the actual connection, and I am learning to respond to it, with no rush or flurry to fix for my immediate relief and faux comfort.  I do not expect to get it right every time and that's okay.  As long as I'm aware, I can always get back on track.

Knowing that it sometimes takes (me) a while to work through a feeling, to really process it... Why would I think it would be any different for anyone else?

If someone is sharing a part of themselves with me, don't I owe them the right to their own perspective?  And to at least try to understand it?  Even if it makes me uncomfortable?

Digging into my own uncomfortable feelings, uncovering why they exist in the first place and empathizing with myself (my inner child), has given me a window of opportunity to step into someone else's shoes and experience...

To be able to really connect by empathizing
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2013, 06:34:27 AM »

As understanding creates intellectual closeness, I believe that empathy is a gateway to emotional closeness.

For some reason, we are born with the desire to be known AND accepted by others. If that happens on the intellectual level, great. If that happens on an emotional level, it is deeply satisfying.

PwBPD often feels alone (not connected), misunderstood (intellectual disconnect), and invalidated (emotional disconnect). Furthermore - they fear intimacy, because they fear that if we really knew them, we would abandon them.

What better gift can we give them (or anyone else for that matter), than to empathize - connect on the emotional level in an accepting manner?

However it is such a difficult task, because we ourselves have to have the extra capacity to leave ourselves behind and to focus on the other person... That doesn't happen if our capacity is taxed by conflict, troubles, stressed, unhealthiness.
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2013, 05:16:21 PM »

What you are saying is that empathy is only as healthy as the mind providing it. So get yourself healthy first.
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2013, 08:05:08 PM »

I've had to learn how to be empathetic toward myself, before being able to truly empathize with anyone else.  Denying my own feelings in lieu of FOG short circuited this ability.

I like this. I don't think I deny my own feelings as much as ignore them... and I suspect that pattern goes back through most of my life.

I don't see myself as someone with a huge store of empathy for others.

  • Be Present/ Be an Active Listener - Listen to the person in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening.  Don't jump ahead, re-frame what they are saying and compare it to a personal experience you had, don't rush to project ahead, or to frame a response.  When we do this we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

Hmm... I think I've done this one a bunch of times, often not noticing how I'm switching the focus back to myself.

Thanks for giving me stuff to think about folks!
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2013, 08:23:42 PM »

What you are saying is that empathy is only as healthy as the mind providing it. So get yourself healthy first.

Or at least be able to recognize the unhealthiness of my own perspective/experience at times.  When my mind starts going to thoughts that have nothing to do with the situation at hand.

Quote
Remove Ourselves / Gain Perspective - When you take things personally, you cannot separate yourself enough to feel the other person’s pain. Detach enough so that you are not in a emotionally heightened state— do not allowing the other person’s behavior to upset you or trigger you.

Quote
Getting Beyond the Facts / Relate - When the other person begins to share, focus on their feelings.  Think of situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar.  Just think about this - connect with it - don't share it.  This will deepen your emotional insight into the other person’s plight.

These 2 points go hand in hand.

Thinking of similar experiences/feelings from my own past (while saying nothing), INSTEAD of how this shared information is going to affect me or is affecting me right now (and reacting to it).  It's such a selfish staNPDoint, the complete opposite of 'relating', when I'm latching onto someone else's plight with ways to 'fix' them through my own discomfort.  Or expecting them to feel the same way as I do in that moment, when the moment isn't even about me, other than I am there.  In a way, demanding empathy and understanding from the very person who could use a little.


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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2013, 09:31:52 PM »

I think one of the biggest hurdles is the endless nature of it. The feeling that I am burying my own reality in order to keep the peace wit my wife.

First of all to be successful you have to actually mean it. You need to be genuinely interested in their world. To act empathy only sets you up for a fall when you can't maintain the act and it just become patronizing.

Being empathetic to a Disordered partner is a lot different to the average person, an acquaintance, or even other members on this site. As it can be all day and everyday in some cases, in all areas from small issues to large issues. Even with best intentions you can stop listening and run dry. A facade of empathy will not last long at all, and you will become inconsistant

This often means before you can be successful at this you need to have worked on yourself first, feel good in yourself, know your own truth so that you dont feel it is being buried. Not be afraid to clearly state you are not up to discussing something if you are not.

This ties in with a subject I have been thinking about recently, and that is respect. Do you really respect your partner? Respect cant be bought by words or gifts. It is earned by moral standards and a willingness to put yourself out for others without personal gain. Both of these virtues are often missing for pwBPD.

If you don't have that deep respect, it becomes difficult to maintain the desire to be genuinely empathetic in a continuous way. Maintaining empathy for someone you respect is a lot easier than feeling empathy for someone you feel like you are just doing your duty of caring for, let alone if you are simply doing it keep the peace.

So if you can learn to respect your partner, and you will have to deal with your own baggage and acceptance skills first, then you will be in a far better place to provide genuine and effective empathy.

Empathy is not about you, even if they are talking about you. It is about their feelings. Do not try to bandwaggon on their issues with a whole lot of "me too" then hijacking the discussion onto your experiences in a misguided attempt to make them not feel alone.  The empathy then just becomes an intro link to you stealing center stage. Very invalidating.

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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2013, 09:37:13 PM »

Seeing things from another person's perspective isn't simply understanding their point of view -- it extends to understanding, without disclaimers, why they feel their point of view is just and appropriate and honest.  Empathic people are skilled in placing themselves inside the shoes of others and seeing the world through another person’s perspective.

I think a big part of this becomes easier when I've fought to set aside my ego. I am no better than anyone else, we all have our individual challenges.

  • Set Aside Personal Beliefs, Concerns and Agenda - Just for now, at least. Go into the conversation empty handed—with no personal expectations or goal of fixing anyone.  Be willing to have your mind and perspective changed. Your only agenda is listening and trying to understand the other’s point of view.

Letting go of fixing things and our expectations can sometimes be a challenge but it's doable.

  • Remove Ourselves / Gain Perspective - When you take things personally, you cannot separate yourself enough to feel the other person’s pain. Detach enough so that you are not in a emotionally heightened state— do not allowing the other person’s behavior to upset you or trigger you.

Bpd or not, this point has been a growth area. It's difficult not to take things personally when someone is talking to you and is upset, or when you expect their past behavior escalating. Expectations play a role here too in being able to detach I believe.

  • Be Present/ Be an Active Listener - Listen to the person in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening.  Don't jump ahead, re-frame what they are saying and compare it to a personal experience you had, don't rush to project ahead, or to frame a response.  When we do this we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

Practicing active listening has been really good for my relationships. It's actually easier to form a response after you hear what is said in mho. It has had a calming effect for me, to not expect the worst. Half the time in the past I geared up to defend myself instead of just hearing someone out first. That made it difficult to formulate any questions to better my understanding of the goal of the conversation in the first place.

  • Getting Beyond the Facts / Relate - When the other person begins to share, focus on their feelings.  Think of situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar.  Just think about this - connect with it - don't share it.  This will deepen your emotional insight into the other person’s plight.

Ugh, this has been one of my downfalls. Sharing my experiences to relate. I know I do this, I also know that ends up seeming I'm making a conversation about me. Not my intent though it's a hard habit to break. 

  • Talk to the Person's Inner-Child - When we visualize our child as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, that will then allow us to want to preserve the relationship and communicate in an effective way.

I use this technique often and it is very helpful. In fact, it has been one of the most effective ways to deepen my empathy.

  • See Empathy as a Lifestyle, Not an Event -  Make an effort to heal the past hurts, to remember to accentuate the positive, and to nurture the relationship on a daily basis.  Most importantly, be mindful that when we are angry we can do a lot of damage and set things way back.

I make it a practice to try to approach someone quickly that I may have hurt. My hopes are that this shows the relationship is meaningful to me and that I do think of them. That I give someone else's thoughts thought.
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“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” ~Jacob M. Braude
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2013, 09:43:48 PM »

It is interesting that the architects of the DSM 5 recommended that a personality disorder be diagnosed when a person has diminished skills in two of the following -- either "empathy or intimacy" and either "identity or self direction".
 
The words they use to rate impaired empathy are telling (each one is part of  rating):
 
  • See others as controling

  • Excessively self-referential

  • Unawareness of effect of own behavior on others

  • Unable to consider alternative perspectives

  • Threatened by differences of opinion

  • Bewildered about peoples’ thoughts

  • Destructive motivations frequently misattributed to others

It might be eye opening to see how family members score you (and each other) using this scale.
 
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DSM 5 Empathy Assessment Levels
 
Healthy (0) Capable of accurately understanding others’ experiences and motivations in most situations. Comprehends and appreciates others’ perspectives, even if disagreeing. Is aware of the effect of own actions on others.
 
Mild impairment (1) Somewhat compromised in ability to appreciate and understand others’ experiences; may tend to see others as having unreasonable expectations or a wish for control. Although capable of considering and understanding different perspectives, resists doing so. Inconsistent is awareness of effect of own behavior on others.
 
Impaired (2) Hyper-attuned to the experience of others, but only with respect to perceived relevance to self. Excessively self-referential; significantly compromised ability to appreciate and understand others’ experiences and to consider alternative perspectives. Generally unaware of or unconcerned about effect of own behavior on others, or unrealistic appraisal of own effect.
 
Very Impaired (3) Ability to consider and understand the thoughts, feelings and behavior of other people is significantly limited; may discern very specific aspects of others’ experience, particularly vulnerabilities and suffering. Generally unable to consider alternative perspectives; highly threatened by differences of opinion or alternative viewpoints. Confusion or unawareness of impact of own actions on others; often bewildered about peoples’ thoughts and actions, with destructive motivations frequently misattributed to others.
 
Extreme Impairment (4) Pronounced inability to consider and understand others’ experience and motivation. Attention to others' perspectives virtually absent (attention is hypervigilant, focused on need-fulfillment and harm avoidance). Social interactions can be confusing and disorienting.

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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 04:09:15 PM »

The problem most of us face with empathy isn’t the failure of understanding the importance of empathy  - it is a lack of knowing how - and a lack of discipline to see it through when it matters most.

It's a matter of desire and practice, I think.  You have to be at a place where you sincerely want to improve a relationship with someone you love, but who has caused you real pain and heartache in the past.  

It's especially hard to be empathetic when you are still processing the problems of the past, or working through your own strong feelings of anger, resentment or other emotional pain. But working through these feelings is worth the effort, both for the relationship and for yourself.

For me, it's hard to feel a lot of empathy for my wife when I feel things aren't fair to me somehow.  My natural inclination isn't to "put myself in their shoes," its to think "here we go again."  But, that's really just me choosing to focus on myself at that moment.    

   

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