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Author Topic: 1.14 | How To Be More Empathetic To The pwBPD In Our Life?  (Read 50926 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.  :)on'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 pwBPD as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, which 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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« 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.

Excerpt
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.

Excerpt
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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« 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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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 05:09:31 PM »

I am wondering if it is easier to feel empathy for BPD child? Do you think when that child grows into an adult we have less ability to feel empathy?
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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2013, 03:43:56 AM »

I am wondering if it is easier to feel empathy for child? Do you think when that child grows into an adult we have less ability to feel empathy?

That's the innocence factor,  which is why an immature adult is rarely treated as immature in anything other than a derogatory way.
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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2013, 08:59:08 AM »

Empathy is basically "listening and hearing" skill.

In reading on this site for a few years, there is are two discussions that reoccur quite frequently regarding empathy.

The first one goes like this "the pwBPD in my life has no empathy - how can they be like that with someone they supposedly love". Sometimes it's a bit more colorful with words like selfish, evil, psychopath, vampire, etc.  

The second one is "Should we be empathetic? I'm the one that needs the empathy! Why should I... .".

If being empathic is a primary measure of emotional intelligence and lack of empathy is one of the 4 criteria proposed by the DSM architects to be used as a screen for personality disorders, what does this say about us?  I'm not asking this rhetorically or suggesting that there is a universal answer - I don't think there is.  I'm am suggesting that this might be a good question to ask ourselves.

Scotty Peck does a good job of conveying the feelings that could motivate us to be empathetic... .



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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2013, 01:18:42 PM »

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.

My defense system gets so easily triggered, most especially by dxBPD daughter (27), when she is in distress and projecting extremely intense blame onto me. I find myself talking over her - I do not even want to hear what she has to say or deal with it.

She has been writing me letters. First read - lots of anger and denial on my part. If I go back, imagine I am sitting with her, feeling what she is feeling, seeing what she is seeing, hearing what she is hearing... .really let go of my self and sit inside her skin, then I can go back and read the heart of the letter and not the words. Only then can I find a response puts her needs in the center. Only then can I think of validating questions that might help her form a solution, and how SHE perceives I can support her in her solution.

Now I can talk on the phone, I have this letter as a kind of script in my head, and there is love between us. The problems are still present - they belong to her now.

This feels like an example of following a path toward empathy. I needed the physical space from her before I could approach this inside myself.

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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2013, 04:34:52 PM »

Letting go of our own self-centeredness is a prerequisite to being open to true empathy
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2013, 06:36:11 PM »

Empathy is a good subject for a Workshop; that video above with Scott Peck is really good (I watched it three times). He says (if I transcribed correctly):

"Empathy means that you actually stop thinking about yourself, stop making judgments and conclusions, and start listening to the other person so you are in his or her own world."

When my non-Son34 & his uBPDWife are talking or even yelling about something that doesn't involve me, I can do this easily. I'm really good at it (many of us are, I would guess).

But, one thing that I tend to do--if the complaints or hurts he has are related to something I've done or do all the time--is hear their story and see my faults and failings through their eyes. I can feel horrible about myself and withdraw; it's easy for me to "lose myself" in it and think that maybe I don't know my own motives and "goodness" anymore. It truly knocks me for a loop, and I become a wide-eyed listener, tallying up my faults as he and she see them.

Sometimes, in a really traumatic event of his & her rage or pain, I remember every slight or human failing related to me, and get depressed, thinking I'm terrible. Because (in hindsight) the rage has come like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, I'm off-guard and for some reason very willing to absorb the blame for almost anything, real or imagined. I've done this over and over with every BPD in my life since I was young, and I'm wondering if the video means I should even take my own self out of a situation like that when I'm listening to them... .

Just listen to them, be in their shoes, see myself and my actions as they see me and my actions, and not let it touch me personally? Not get caught up in it and hate myself for causing so much apparent pain (even when it doesn't even actually make any sense)? I'm aware of refusing to J.A.D.E. (Justify, Argue, Defend & Explain) during such an event, but that doesn't seem to be my problem as a rule... .Getting depressed and feeling like a "bad" person tends to be my reaction at first; it usually isn't till later that I can look at the situation clearly and realize that I might not be perfect, but I'm not the monster they think I am.

I'm sure that empathy doesn't mean that I have to agree that I'm the worst person in the world, when that actually isn't true... .I suppose if I could separate myself from the situation and think "S.E.T" when responding during one of those rages directed at me, I could avoid the depression and self-recrimination. It's tricky... .
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2013, 07:11:58 PM »

I think once you have achieved a high degree of Acceptance, and by that I don't mean of them but of your own shortfalls and accepting that you are not perfect and ok with that, then is easier to let go of your defensiveness and listen.
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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2013, 07:42:26 PM »

I think once you have achieved a high degree of Acceptance, and by that I don't mean of them but of your own shortfalls and accepting that you are not perfect and ok with that, then is easier to let go of your defensiveness and listen.

What's hard is that, knowing already that I am a flawed human being capable of mistakes, I tend to absorb the charges--however skewed by the BPD perception of the rager--and feel like I've committed the sins assigned to me. I do that even while totally confused and knocked for a loop because none of the accusations even make sense. It might be defensiveness, but it feels more like internalizing or feeling guilty as charged, no matter how weird the charges may be. It's always later, after having the chance to think clearly about it all, that I can see that I needed to not do that.

It's actually been a while since an event like that has happened; now that I've been on this site longer and have read so much and learned so much, I'm hoping if (when?) there is a next time, I'll be able to listen empathetically while not taking it all personally. And emerge without the guilt and resulting depression afterwards... .So far, using the communication tools and other techniques I've learned here, I've avoided the rages directed at me. It's a lot easier to deal with those that are not directed at me personally; no resulting guilt to tie myself up in knots about.
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2013, 08:36:13 PM »

How do we protect ourselves in the face of our grown child's rage projecting all their pain and distress onto us? While at the same time they are desperately reaching out for us to rescue them from this very pain and distress. Guilt and depression hit us unless we can shield self from this assault.

I just realized this is the partner board:undecided. Well my BPDDD27 is in many ways a 'partner', and I am searching my soul with the question of choosing my path - as in the sidebar.

I think once you have achieved a high degree of Acceptance, and by that I don't mean of them but of your own shortfalls and accepting that you are not perfect and ok with that, then is easier to let go of your defensiveness and listen.

As a parent, there is a deeper biological layer to this acceptance. A big part of being the parent is guiding, modeling, teaching... . When our child is so distressed it is so easy to take it on ourselves from a very deep, unconscious place. Finding a path of awareness - what is mine and what is my child's - has to come before the work of acceptance can really take hold. And it is one of those life processes that never really 'gets there'.

It is so important to build support around me for those times when I cannot care for my self - where I can reach out for reassurance that I am OK. It is so easy to become isolated. I also have to accept that I will need others support, I cannot do this on  my own. I need others to be empathetic/validating to meet my needs too. And I cannot look to my pwBPD to be involved in this. My support network is there to help me with this.

Choosing a Path -- this is a powerful step to becoming a person with the capacity to be empathetic in the face of a raging, blaming pwBPD that I love.

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« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2013, 12:54:14 PM »

if the complaints or hurts he has are related to something I've done or do all the time--is hear their story and see my faults and failings through their eyes. I can feel horrible about myself and withdraw

How do we protect ourselves in the face of our grown child's rage projecting all their pain and distress onto us?

The topic is about becoming more empathetic - listening more, listening without an agenda, or fear, or preoccupation.  But like all the tools, its not an overnight thing, a 100% thing, and it's never about enabling.

The challenge, of course, is defining that line.

When your son/daughter is dysregulated, when anyone is dysregulated, the line is clear, there is no communication.  The best thing to do is to step away as benignly as possible and let the pwBPD resolve.  And above all, don't take anything said personally.  One of the most fundamental things we teach here is how important it is not to take dysregulation personally.  We know that when a person with BPD feels pain, they can attack others close to them to project the pain.  

When your son/daughter is talking about things not related to you, the line is clear here too.  As you say, you already do well in these situations.  This is the best place to start building your empathy skills.

When your son/daughter is calm and collected and says things that are derogatory about you, that is the harder call.  Sometimes this is where opening up and listening can be painful... .but ,in time, beneficial.  Sometimes its not constructive at all.  You have to make that call - mutually if you can.

  • Often negative feelings may have hardened and taken a life of their own over the years because no one was listening and that is going to take some time to work through.  If your son says you beat him (and you didn't), maybe he has been exaggerating the real pain (because he didn't feel heard) which is that he was humiliated by some of you punishments as a child that has never been resolved.  Listening may help get to the bottom of this over time. It may open up enough to make peace and to even share your own hurt.


  • Sometimes the pwBPD in our life is just angry and there is no direction to it... .or their anger / resentment toward us has gone to an extremely elevated state and its not going to resolve.  Maybe you just agree to compartmentalize some topics for the time being and be an empathic listener for others.


  • Sometimes its impulsive and best to let the other person self-sooth and not involve you.


Good mental health is hard and it takes a great deal of strength.  That is true for all the tools.

There is a lot of hurt in a bpdfamily.
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« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2013, 05:16:40 PM »

I appreciate this workshop.  I believe practicing empathy requires compassion and imagination.  I agree with others who stated empathy is best practiced when we are emotionally healthy or in a positive space.  For me, without such a foundation, it is very difficult to experience empathy, as I am too involved in my own emotional turmoil. 

Active listening helps with empathy, which may involve asking validating questions to better understand the individual at hand.

But how can we really know what someone else is feeling?  I don't think we can, but we can sometimes get very close.  This is where imagination can help.  I also feel that some people have a stronger innate sense for what others might be feeling/experiencing.  Or possibly this sense was partially learned in an environment that called for empathy when the person was young.  Compassion ties in to this for me.

It helps me to understand that all humans undergo suffering, thus we are all equal on that playing field and so can understand each other on those terms.
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« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2013, 09:08:35 PM »

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.

I think the #1 inhibitor to having empathy is a history of painful experiences with a person... .not just a pwBPD.  When we carry around the pain with us and accompany the pain with unresolved problems it can  certainly block our ability to empathize.  Being mindful (in the moment) that this situation can be different than times before can open us up to communication and the opportunity to be empathetic.   When  we see the emotions underneath the behaviors and not focus on the behaviors themselves then we are one step closer to empathizing.  It may be difficult to focus and stay in the moment and we can refocus as many times as it takes during a conversation.  

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.

Not personalizing!  That can be a big job when you are the target of rage by your child.  A general rule that helps me is to remind myself that my daughter is hurting and needs me to hear her pain regardless of the words she uses or who it is directed at.  

Be Present/ Be an Active Listener - Listen to the person in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening.  :)on'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.

Reminding myself of the goal before the conversation/event gets too far "My goal is for her to know she has been heard and understood"... .the same internal conversation I had with myself when learning how to be validating.

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.

Relating to experiences that are unfamiliar to us can be difficult.  I use the phrase inside my head "imagine if you felt this way".

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've never tried this technique... .I imagine it would be highly effective. Smiling (click to insert in post)

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.

So... .I have come back full circle to the first point... .painful history... .let it go and leave it in the past for a chance at a better future.  Replacing the pain, anger, and fear with empathy was a life changing process for my family.

When those difficult moments come... .I am able to respond with validation,  nonjudgment, compassion... .empathy.
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« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2013, 05:24:13 PM »

It is one thing to be genuinely empathetic and validating of our BPDs, and I most certainly have done so with my BPDw and with everyone in my life as long as I have lived. What I am finding is resistance due to my BPDw's desire not to be close. She stays away, involves herself with this and that, and will be verbally abusive. So, the questions I wish to pose are the following: how do we do remain being empathetic to and validating of the BPD who continuously wishes to be away from empathy and validating? How do we remain when they stay away? How do we remain when there is obvious verbal abuse? You may say not to take it personally. Yet, when is it time to leave when there is resistance?
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« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2013, 09:26:56 PM »

You may say not to take it personally. Yet, when is it time to leave when there is resistance?

Samuel,

I imagine this is a different answer for each of us. Logic and emotional tuning goes only but so far in this relationship complexity. Intuition has got to kick in to make major decisions regarding the relationship.

For me as selfish as this sounds, I chose to leave the relationship when I was losing more than gaining... .this was something only I could barely grasp (value of my relationship) though and made no sense to others.

That said, "leaving" is not black and white.
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« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2013, 09:29:36 PM »

I don't think I can be truly empathetic before I am consistently selfish.
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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2013, 11:55:51 AM »



       

... .the other person is not being empathetic to me?

... .the other person is devaluing me?

... .I'm the one that needs the empathy?

... .I tried - waste of time.


Fair question.   Smiling (click to insert in post)

If we realize that being a good listener (empathetic listener) is more than we want to contribute to the relationship, or if we need the other person to do it first, or we have been doing it for a long time and it's not helping, then that's helpful information in itself.

At the same time, it takes a while for the tools to have an effect on the relationship -- there is a deprogramming process if you will -- and sometimes we are not as competent at a skill and we might think -- and that is why we workshop a topic like this.

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« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2013, 02:37:14 PM »

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've 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


  • Remove Ourselves / Gain Perspective


  • Be Present/ Be an Active Listener


  • Getting Beyond the Facts / Relate


  • Talk to the Person's Inner-Child


  • See Empathy as a Lifestyle, Not an Event

I am happy to report that this is working. Now. In real time for me! I had the opportunity to put these rules in place on Saturday night, during a (what could have been a very contentious) phone call with my non-Son34 & his uBPDWife. And then again today, when I was able to reach out to my uDIL in the correct way, with the result being a rational, friendly email back.

As mentioned up-thread, I've had a hard time communicating with them when the issues being discussed are my supposed "betrayals" or slights against them. I've always retreated from the discussion after absorbing their complaints and feeling guilty for my misdeeds. When my Son34 (on speakerphone with DIL in background) called me Saturday night about plans to visit with them next weekend, the conversation digressed (yet again) to the issues they need to "hash out" with me--going back years and most recently, months. I have always reacted in fear and frustration over that; I don't like to dwell on anyone's dealings with me that might have hurt me in the past, once I've forgiven them, and actually resent others holding my past over me.

Saturday night I remembered this Workshop, and detached enough from my feelings, and I listened. Really listened to their complaints. I validated their feelings, used S.E.T. to gently let them know the situations that hurt them from my own vantage point, and continued to validate. For almost an hour. With a visit coming up with them this coming weekend, I knew I had to contact my DIL somehow first; all of the actual hurt feelings are hers. I listened so well on that phone call, that I heard my Son say many times in many different ways, that it is his Wife with the anger, pain and hurt feelings. Obviously; I should have always realized that. He is not BPD; he is trying with all of his good heart to help his wife find peace and happiness in her pain.

Last night I had the epiphany... .I had to take my own self and feelings and truth out of this situation, and contact my DIL as I would a poster on this site. I needed to validate her feelings, support her in her pain, and offer myself as a sounding board. So, this morning I emailed her, using my intense listening revelations of that phone call to realize what her inner child has been crying for. I looked at her complaints about me as I would a poster on this site; the "Mother-In-Law" in the equation wasn't me, but some source of angst for her that I needed to understand and offer comfort for.

I actually never mentioned any of the complaints in this morning's email, I just used them as a basis for my compassion. And, in the end, my realization in all of this drama is that she is mostly lonely, overwhelmed with a new baby, and feeling abandoned by my son who has to work 70 hours per week, and by me, as family who lives too far away to help her out. As a former stay-at-home-mom myself, I commiserated with how she was feeling, offered myself as part of her continuous support system (we both have avoided phone calls and emails in the past due to this pain she's attached to me for so long), and then even suggested that we put aside some time this weekend for her to tell me how she feels about the issues she has with me.

I promised to listen to her, understand her feelings, and suggested we get past this and have a better relationship from now on. Prior to this email this morning, I would never actually willingly offer to make a specific time to actually talk about her complaints about me (I find them skewed and unreasonable), and I like to avoid confrontation at all costs. But, because of this Workshop, I realized that this will need to be the way I deal with her forever; I can't hide from her and just hope her behaviors will go away someday, so I will have to face her and risk this coming conversation.

And you know what? I expected either no email back from her, or maybe something that would lash out and list every single supposed slight from the last 10 years (this is a recurring thing). And I was OK with that; I planned on detaching from it, and using the same techniques I used in the phone call and email, and I knew I would live through it. Well, she emailed back:

"Thank you for reaching out to me... .[insert several lines of chit chat here]

I agree it would be great to chat and clear the air a bit... .Let's try to find a moment this weekend.

Have a great week, and drive safely on Saturday!

Love, DIL"  

And I will be able to have that chat, now, and I will be empathetic in a way I never could before. I see her as a person in pain who needs my compassion, understanding, love and support--not someone who is attacking me for crazy reasons that make me feel guilty and horrible. I see her as someone I could reply to and listen to on this site. I truly never thought I could do that before. I am amazed... .
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« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2013, 06:34:30 PM »

Rapt Reader - thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this expereince. It is so helpful for me today,.

qcr
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« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2013, 08:40:57 PM »

I have thought about how empathy fits in with the other tools.

1. How empathy can help with other tools:

Others mentioned dysregulation and rages - in these occasions we may have to disengage and take a time-out.

However, using empathy in this case helps us understand what is going on with that person, and we have a better chance of disengaging with compassion.

I am not sure if this qualifies as speaking to their inner-child - but for me personally it helps if I imagine the pwBPD as a toddler in distress (angry, sad, or scared - and screaming their head off). It then allows me to go into a different mode - focusing on what approach will be helpful and effective.

2. How other tools can help us be more empathetic:

When I learned more about the disorder, and the ways of BPD thinking, it helped me understand better what is going on.

That in turn helps with tunning-in to the person, listening to their experience with detachment, rather than focusing on their actual words of accusation (which may be inaccurate, or a manifestation of another issue that they are dealing with). I can look at their world and focus on what's going on with them - their experience. It has nothing to do with me (for the moment). It frees me to be more empathetic.
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« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2013, 10:01:59 PM »

2. How other tools can help us be more empathetic:

When I learned more about the disorder, and the ways of BPD thinking, it helped me understand better what is going on.

That in turn helps with tunning-in to the person, listening to their experience with detachment, rather than focusing on their actual words of accusation (which may be inaccurate, or a manifestation of another issue that they are dealing with). I can look at their world and focus on what's going on with them - their experience. It has nothing to do with me (for the moment). It frees me to be more empathetic.

#2 is really helpful for me. Esp. the part I can look at their world and focus on what's going on with them - their experience. It has nothing to do with me (for the moment).  When I am attuned in this way it does free me from sinking into a distressed place myself. It really is not all about me.

qcr
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