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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Extinction Bursts  (Read 61094 times)
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« on: December 01, 2008, 10:09:11 PM »

Extinction Bursts - Important to Understand when your Loved One has BPD.

We all know that life is a journey and that it’s important to have focus and objectives. This can become difficult if the person "traveling" with us has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Because of the associated impulsiveness, hypersensitivity, and dysfunctional coping, people with this disorder often "wander off the path". And we often feel compelled to chase after and cater to them, which, in turn, diverts our focus and often results in anxiety, abuse, and dysfunction for everyone.

According to bpdfamily.com, extinguishing this pattern isn’t easy, yet it is an essential first step in having a healthy relationship.  Taking care of ourselves may feel like a selfish focus - but as the emotionally healthier one, it’s important  that we not get bogged down in BPD induced dramas.  And it's important that we understand that our BPD loved ones aren’t mentally fit to be leading the relationship.

So what do we do?  When the person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes dysregulated or depressed. bpdfamily.com recommends that you give them the space to self sooth - not try to do it for them.  Take a deep breath and politely and non-aggressively disengage. It’s not easy to block out the distraction and emotional pleas for our attention, yet it is only with a critical pause that we can really stay on a constructive and healthy pathway.

This act is called extinction. We essentially remove our reinforcement in an attempt to stop the  behavior. We simply stop rewarding the behavior.

When our partner doesn’t get the expected response (reinforcement by us) it may scare or anger them and they may try harder to  engage us using threats, violence, destruction, intimidation, name calling, belittling, promises of withholding necessary things, retaliation, or any other painful thing they can think of to get us to engage.   This escalation is know as an extinction burst.




Extinction Burst - The term extinction burst describes the phenomena of behavior temporarily getting worse, not better, when the reinforcement stops.

Spontaneous Recovery - Behavior affected by extinction is apt to recur in the future when the trigger is presented again. This is known as spontaneous recovery or the transient increase in behavior. Be aware of this eventuality. It is a part of the extinction process. Don't be discouraged.





This is OK, as long as we anticipate it, understand it, and are prepared for it.  The same is true for spontaneous recovery.

They won’t like this, but it is a necessary for them to experience and to learn to self sooth their own frustrations in life.  It is what will bring on the opportunity for change.   When we do it, we block this opportunity for change and we subvert our own emotional health.

We can not allow others to lead us astray on our journey. In time, if we stay committed to our path our partners will adjust.  And we won’t be subjecting ourselves to as much pain.  

Co-authors: United for Now, Skip
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2008, 10:50:14 AM »

Here is a 2 min video on youtube on how extinction burst works

www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqHfEJt1ZV4

Common Trap: Remember, you don't want to inadvertently give them intermittent reinforcement to dysregulated behavior. This is easy to do, and once established extremely difficult to unlearn.

Intermittent reinforcement: slot machines use this. They pay out on irregular schedules. You never know when you will win, but you know that if you keep pulling the handle that sooner or later a pay out will occur. It may happen on the third pull or the twentieth pull, but you will win if you keep trying. The fact that you KNOW that you will eventually win, keeps you hooked into trying.

What does this mean? If you tell your partner that you won't answer the phone while at work, and they call you 20 times, and you answer on the 21st attempt, you have just inadvertantly given them intermittent reinforcement. Now they know that if they bug you enough, that you will always eventually respond. This actually escalates the behavior you are trying to stop. They believe they can win if they just keep pulling the lever, even if they go broke trying, they will keep at it. The more irregular and unpredictable your response to them, the more they will keep trying. It is the combination of hoping they will get their way and not knowing when it will happen that keeps them trying.

How to discourage dysregulated behavior.?

Consistency in not responding is the only way to discourage undesired behavior...

Your partner has to learn that  when you say no, that you mean no.  Any hint of weakness is a reward, encouraging him/her to continue trying.
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2008, 01:10:30 PM »

 IT works just takes time, like with my uBPDh he will call once i leave several times and leaving messages i never pick up, i use to just because i thought if i let him rage on the phone but not listen things would get better but it didn't it stayed the same.. i let him know once i know he has calmed down i will call him back, i listen to the messages and as soon as i can tell he is still angry i just erase it, it takes several times at first but sooner or later he calls and is much calmer so then i call him back.  and this puts the responcibility back on him, if i call and he starts in again which has happend i hang up.  now in time i am noticing lately since i don't pick up when he calls and i am back to reinforcing he needs to calm down his phone calls to me leaving me messages are less, he still leaves me angry messages but not as many. he is taking time to calm  down.i am seeing a differnce with inforcing the boundary of i will call back once i see you have calmed down and i will listen but not till then, things are better.. now i can say i started this boundary and inforced it more after i started here . so thanks to this site that part got better...and in time maybe his rages will even get less then they are now... or maybe i won't be out shopping as long  cry               
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2009, 11:53:41 AM »

As enablers, we play a role in the bad behavior in the relationship by rewarding or accepting it.  We don't do this intentionally, but when someone pushes our buttons and we respond with the desired result, then we are effectively rewarding the behavior.  This is human nature.

As a result, dysfunction is often programmed into a our relationship -  by this continued repetitive interaction of the partners.

Now, as United for Now says, if we suddenly you change our response - even if the change is for the better (e.g., we don't engage) - or partner make accelerate the conflict (burst) trying to get the typical response.  This is human nature, too.

The important thing for us to know is to expect the acceleration (burst) and understand that it will often extinguish if we stay consistent with or improved behavior.


Extinction burst

While extinction, when implemented consistently over time, results in the eventual decrease of the undesired behavior, in the short-term the subject might exhibit what is called an extinction burst. An extinction burst will often occur when the extinction procedure has just begun. This consists of a sudden and temporary increase in the response's frequency, followed by the eventual decline and extinction of the behavior targeted for elimination.

Take, as an example, a pigeon that has been reinforced to peck an electronic button. During its training history, every time the pigeon pecked the button, it will have received a small amount of bird seed as a reinforcer. So, whenever the bird is hungry, it will peck the button to receive food. However, if the button were to be turned off, the hungry pigeon will first try pecking the button just as it has in the past. When no food is forthcoming, the bird will likely try again ... and again, and again. After a period of frantic activity, in which their pecking behavior yields no result, the pigeon's pecking will decrease in frequency.

The evolutionary advantage of this extinction burst is clear. In a natural environment, an animal that persists in a learned behavior, despite not resulting in immediate reinforcement, might still have a chance of producing reinforcing consequences if they try again. This animal would be at an advantage over another animal that gives up too easily.

Despite the name, however, not every explosive reaction to adverse stimuli subsides to extinction. Indeed a small minority of individuals persist in their reaction indefinitely.
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2012, 10:21:01 PM »

Wow!  I got this!  I'd been hired, years ago, to work with a big dog that was threatening people who came to visit it's owners.  Everytime the owners tried to "soothe" the dog by offering it biscuits.  They followed my instructions to not give biscuits for aggressive behavior, and the dog became very quite and sweet instead.

So, I guess I need to pay attention to what and when I'm giving my husband "biscuits".  Thanks for the advice.
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 09:08:47 PM »

My confusion with this thread is that because my exBPD, without explanation, withdrew and gave me the silent treatment, it was I who actually did the extinction burst!

This makes me feel as though I was the one with the problem.

When they disappeared, I must confess to a fairly angry reaction...which had no effect.

But on paper, reading about this extinction burst info, I feel like I was the one who did it and that they were the healthy one and did as the reading suggests, and did not respond.

Again - all of it adds to the confusion and self-blame. It all blurs the line between what I should own and what they should own.

We all bring stuff to the dance, but given I was never able to coldly walk away, was my stuff worse that theirs?

? ? ?

bb12
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2012, 08:21:44 PM »

Extinction Bursts are part of a larger Extinction Curve.  My therapist told me every animal does it.  He drew out a diagram to explain it to me and it looked like this one below:



In the extinction burst behaviors escalate, this can include a lot things.  Yelling, breaking stuff, sending increasingly nasty emails, the last ditch efforts of the "silent treatment".  Sometimes the person will quit the relationship (temporarily or permanently) because there are negative advocates, or enablers, who will meet the immediate negative needs.

It is important to have "skills" during the burst period.  Validation, SET to encourage positive replacement behavior, boundaries, time outs, etc. And the smaller spikes in the graph above are the spontaneous recoveries.  

Understanding how to manage an emotionally volatile relationship takes stamina and awareness.  

It's important to remember
Quote
Despite the name, however, not every explosive reaction to adverse stimuli subsides to extinction. Indeed a small minority of individuals persist in their reaction indefinitely.

If it's not a deal breaker for you, or something so destructive, it may be best to learn to accept that this is how this person behaves and part of who they are. 

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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2012, 11:38:21 AM »

Dear bb12,

"My confusion with this thread is that because my exBPD, without explanation, withdrew and gave me the silent treatment, it was I who actually did the extinction burst!

This makes me feel as though I was the one with the problem
."

No one said this would be easy or that us non-BPD's don't have our own issues.  You are not alone.  We have to be willing to be alone over being in an abusive cycle, I think, to really pull this off.  Are there some self-soothing techniques you can use when you withdraw or are shut out?  I need some, too.  Positive activities for me would include exercise, cleaning, working on my book, playing with the kids, reading, and going/venting on this message board.   grin

Take Care,

Beachtalks
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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2012, 06:26:36 AM »

This is essentially what you do in terms of "Behavior Modification" when trying to eliminate undesired behaviors.  If possible (not dangerous) you DO NOT REWARD the behavior (ignore it) and over time it will eventually stop.

When I studied psychology and education in college, many moons ago lol, I was trained in this technique and when I was a preschool teacher I used this technique.

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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2012, 02:35:28 PM »

Do extinction bursts occur and then fade out, just within the specific situation? Or can they happen again later? I'm NC, and my ex's most recent burst, while very intense for a period of weeks, has seemed to stopped now. She hasn't contacted me for a while. Will something trigger her off again, memories perhaps? Or whichever triangulations she's in now, when they don't work out, will she perhaps focus the next round on me because I'm staying NC, and I was such a frequent target for her in the not so distant past? Is it 'out of sight, out of mind' when it comes to extinction bursts?
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2012, 07:56:22 PM »

Do extinction bursts occur and then fade out, just within the specific situation? Or can they happen again later? I'm NC, and my ex's most recent burst, while very intense for a period of weeks, has seemed to stopped now. She hasn't contacted me for a while. Will something trigger her off again, memories perhaps? Or whichever triangulations she's in now, when they don't work out, will she perhaps focus the next round on me because I'm staying NC, and I was such a frequent target for her in the not so distant past? Is it 'out of sight, out of mind' when it comes to extinction bursts?

Myself they can occur again when stimulus triggers the conditioned coping mechanisms.  When you see it again after an extended period of time it's the "spontaneous recovery".  It's not uncommon to see this. It makes weathering difficult.

It's important during one of these to not give intermittent reinforcement.
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2012, 10:50:53 PM »

Skip,

Thank you for posting this!  I have experienced this with my adult son.  I found that when I don't accept his pleas or listen to him (not take his phone calls), he does better.  So I have learned that I need to let him figure it out.  He doesn't like it, but he does figure things out as well as he can.  Very hard to do when it is your child, but in their best interest.  I won't always be here anyway.

Thank you again,

lostchild
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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2013, 08:31:00 AM »

How can you not reward silent treatment? how can you get that behaviour to stop? by going silent yourself?
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« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2013, 09:02:17 AM »

Ruthi2,

I also have the same question as you have. How not to reward silent treatment? Its confusing..

some say you should "leave the door little open" and say I will talk when you are ready...  

others say go silent  and wait for her to contact. Will some one clarify.
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2013, 06:07:35 AM »

Extinction Bursts - Important to Understand when your Partner has BPD.

So what do we do?   When the person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes dysregulated or depressed. bpdfamily.com recommends that you give them the space to self sooth - not try to do it for them.  Take a deep breath and politely and non-aggressively disengage. It’s not easy to block out the distraction and emotional pleas for our attention, yet it is only with a critical pause that we can really stay on a constructive and healthy pathway.

This act is called extinction. We essentially remove our reinforcement in an attempt to stop the  behavior. We simply stop rewarding the behavior.

OK, I understand this, and it is in fact  something that I discovered naturally on my own, without knowing the real name for it.

However...  

When I 'disengage', as you put it, my wife calls it 'becoming emotionally distant'.  And she interprets it as a 'provocative act' in our relationship.  Another form of conflict, if you like, just more like a 'cold war', perhaps, than a 'hot' one.

In other words, from her perspective, she sees this disengagement as a sign of me being uncaring, unfeeling and unresponsive to her needs.  And further she sees it as a sign that I am the dysfunctional one, because I am choosing to behave in this 'strange' way towards her, and am not responding correctly, as she sees it, to her emotional pleas.

We keep coming around all the time to the same fundamental question - which one of us is unwell, and which is merely struggling to respond appropriately to the dysfunction of the other?

Sadly, I don't believe my wife will ever accept that she is unwell.  She always believes she is the innocent victim, and any dysfunctional behaviour on her part is merely an understandable response to the pressure she believes she is under from me, and other members of her and our family, who are truly the dysfunctional ones.

If there was a 'litmus test' for BPD, things would be a lot easier. Because I think she really would accept the results of a blood test, or brain scan, or whatever.  But as long as it is possible to shift responsibility for her actions onto other people, she will do it, because ultimately that's far more palatable that owning your own behaviour.  'I had a rage - it wasn't my fault - the things my husband said were so upsetting, than anyone would do the same'.  She can always argue that it someone else's fault.   And to her, I'm sure I must seem like I'm doing the same thing - blaming someone else for our marital problems - her. 

Life would be a lot easier if there was some objective way to easily demonstrate who has the dysfunctional emotional response.  But of course, that also gets tricky, because by hanging around with people with BPD, one's own emotional response starts to get flakey too, something the BPD is usually quick to pick up on.

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« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2013, 02:29:11 AM »

Extinction Bursts - Important to Understand when your Partner has BPD.

So what do we do?   When the person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes dysregulated or depressed. bpdfamily.com recommends that you give them the space to self sooth - not try to do it for them.  Take a deep breath and politely and non-aggressively disengage. It’s not easy to block out the distraction and emotional pleas for our attention, yet it is only with a critical pause that we can really stay on a constructive and healthy pathway.

This act is called extinction. We essentially remove our reinforcement in an attempt to stop the  behavior. We simply stop rewarding the behavior.

When I 'disengage', as you put it, my wife calls it 'becoming emotionally distant'.  And she interprets it as a 'provocative act' in our relationship.  Another form of conflict, if you like, just more like a 'cold war', perhaps, than a 'hot' one.

In other words, from her perspective, she sees this disengagement as a sign of me being uncaring, unfeeling and unresponsive to her needs.  And further she sees it as a sign that I am the dysfunctional one, because I am choosing to behave in this 'strange' way towards her, and am not responding correctly, as she sees it, to her emotional pleas.

Sadly, I don't believe my wife will ever accept that she is unwell.  She always believes she is the innocent victim, and any dysfunctional behaviour on her part is merely an understandable response to the pressure she believes she is under from me, and other members of her and our family, who are truly the dysfunctional ones.

'I had a rage - it wasn't my fault - the things my husband said were so upsetting, than anyone would do the same'.  She can always argue that it someone else's fault.   

Traddad--this sounds so exactly like my husband!

GreenMango or Skip or somebody: The thing I don't understand how to "give him space" on is that he TRIES to get me to leave him alone. I don't know how to give him space when space is what he wants, to not have me asking him any questions even if I try to say that I only want our relationship to be better/happier. He's pretty good at getting me to go away. he can talk a streak about his job or other people's situations etc, but bring up US and it goes to a new level!
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« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2013, 07:30:07 AM »

I'm with you on this one DreamFlyer99

There are two main borderline types from what I understand: the acting out pwBPD and the quiet borderline. One rages and the other goes passive aggressive.

If trying to manage a quiet borderline who demands space...  Perhaps too much space...  much of this coping advice does not apply.

I contributed to this thread some time ago out if confusion. And as much as I am clearer on BPD, comprehending this issue remains elusive for me. If anything, when my quiet borderline wanted space, it was I who did the extinction burst. My respect for his space turned into days, weeks, months of silence and I reacted angrily to the deliberate and cruel ignoring of my request to communicate. 18 months later and not a word. And threads like this make me feel like the borderline!

Bb12
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« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2013, 11:40:32 AM »

I'm with you on this one DreamFlyer99

There are two main borderline types from what I understand: the acting out pwBPD and the quiet borderline. One rages and the other goes passive aggressive.

Bb12

WELLLLLL...  

I guess my H is both then, raging AND quiet! Cuz he pushes me away if I try to talk about us learning some communication skills, but if I keep trying to have the conversation he'll roar! It's confusing. Maybe i'll ask this question on a different board, and someone can help straighten this out. (I hope!)
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« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2013, 05:58:40 AM »

Traddad--this sounds so exactly like my husband!

The thing I don't understand how to "give him space" on is that he TRIES to get me to leave him alone

In my view, the thing that makes it impossible is the inconsistency.

Sometimes my wife wants me to leave her alone.  So I get criticised for not leaving her alone.  She will claim I'm pressurising her, 'emotional abusing' her, often just because I tried to have a particular conversation that needed to happen, that for some reason she didn't want to happen.  She will sit on the sofa and literally ignore me - refuse to comment on anything I say, read the newspaper, surf the web, whatever.

On the other hand, if my wife wants my input, she will march over to wherever I am and whatever I am doing, she will interrupt and demand my attention.

Sometimes she will just spontaneously decide that she wants to play 'happy families' for no apparent reason.  And you can tell when she's in these moods, because she suddenly tries to be all considerate. For a while.   If you don't play along, often because she very recently did something quite horrible to you, then it's your fault, because you're refusing to be nice.  She doesn't understand that your feelings towards her have been coloured by all of the unpleasant and thoughtless things she's done lately. Instead, she thinks you're being unfair, by not putting all of that behind you, and restarting from scratch, when she wants to.

It's this push-pull, go-away-come-home experience that is so frustrating, and I believe is often called 'The Dance'.  It's always about their needs, and their mood at the time - never about yours. If you don't respond quickly enough when the dance tempo changes - it's your fault for being a bad dance partner - never theirs for putting a different record on.
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« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2013, 01:16:49 PM »

Extinction bursts can include things like turning up the projection machine.

Part of getting out of these bursts is learning more sophisticated ways to handle these things.  It is hard to deal with this day in and day out out.

Some of the ways to handle these are validation, boundaries, and reflective listening.

It's good to question why we don't start to change our approach - sometimes its fear, sometimes its exhaustion, and learning new stuff is hard at first.

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« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2013, 03:40:39 PM »

Extinction bursts can include things like turning up the projection machine.

Part of getting out of these bursts is learning more sophisticated ways to handle these things.  It is hard to deal with this day in and day out out.

Some of the ways to handle these are validation, boundaries, and reflective listening.

It's good to question why we don't start to change our approach - sometimes its fear, sometimes its exhaustion, and learning new stuff is hard at first.

I feel like I'm only barely getting to understand "extinction bursts" let alone put the "validation, boundaries, and reflective listening" into use. And I definitely don't do some things at some times because I'm so freaking tired, and I don't want to put up with what may turn into The Litany (of my wrongs.) And that makes me inconsistent which is not helpful.
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« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2013, 03:08:24 AM »

If you've been together a long time and the pattern is to put the other persons needs first for whatever reason and you start to change the "unspoken" norm the other person will react.  This goes for humans in general.

With a person with BPD the emotional reaction to this change can be overreaction.  It's likely they don't have the coping skills to deal with the stress.  They've been conditioned to a response by part on our actions.  Change in this respect can be shocking to a person with BPD.  Good savvy communication skills are a must in these early stages.

Part of it is weathering the burst with new approaches that hold this boundary of taking care of yourself too.   This is where the validation and reflective listening comes in - not solving it.  If they get abusive you take a time out. It takes practice and repeats.

Likened it to when a kid a tantrums or pushes for something.  They keep trying going past their normal range they would normally get what they want.  Eventually they give up, learn to solve it, self soothe or they go find a way to get it somewhere else.

Try posting a particular event you need help on for validation on the staying board.  The seniors are really good at working through them. smiley

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« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2013, 01:49:42 AM »

Thank you, GreenMango, for all your helpful suggestions!

I do remember from my earliest learning about boundaries the concept of "any time you begin to enforce a new boundary there will be resistance." That sure is true. Lately (because i'm trying to learn better how to take care of me and my fibromyalgia and myself after recent surgery) I've been consciously saying "no" to myself when I start to do one of my usual "helpful" (translate: enabling) things like see some food item in the kitchen when i'm getting a drink of water and feel like "oh I should offer some of that to my H." because while I thought I was being lovely and hostessy and thoughtful I was actually teaching him that I was his mommy and maid and he didn't learn at all to take care of his own snack needs or whatever. I actually was crippling him in a way and teaching him he didn't have to take care of himself. Der.

It's a brave new world alright. smiley
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« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2013, 07:15:51 AM »

It's pretty amazing when you zoom out and look at the dynamic between all the people involved.  It can really give us a sense of where we can work and change our part and a little emotional distance to see it clearly.

Many times that change alone is a catalyst for other changes.  Sometimes its not always what we imagine it would be - but if you are doing healthy things for you, learning about values and fulfilling your own basic needs first, healthy limits and being mindful of compassion - we can be more resilient and better equipped to handle tough situations.

Try to be compassionate to yourself too - its a lot to learn and nobody here expects that you have a grip on this stuff overnight. 
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2013, 01:35:48 PM »

It's pretty amazing when you zoom out and look at the dynamic between all the people involved.  It can really give us a sense of where we can work and change our part and a little emotional distance to see it clearly.

Many times that change alone is a catalyst for other changes.  Sometimes its not always what we imagine it would be - but if you are doing healthy things for you, learning about values and fulfilling your own basic needs first, healthy limits and being mindful of compassion - we can be more resilient and better equipped to handle tough situations.

Try to be compassionate to yourself too - its a lot to learn and nobody here expects that you have a grip on this stuff overnight. 

TRUTH, GreenMango, truth, there is so much to learn!

That "zooming out" thing alone is important, and something I wasn't able to do before. I so appreciate my T and her work in that regard--before I think I was just reactive to whatever was in the emotional-soup-of-the-day with my uBPDh, and couldn't step back. The past couple of years my T and I have done some seriously hard work to learn to pull back and observe. BUT I still have to remind myself! Being able to look at the bigger picture has been helpful and has taken much of the burden off of me as I learn better boundaries between my H and myself. I have been so entangled as to be incapable of seeing what is his and what is mine. Now that i'm getting better at that it's definitely time to get hold of the communication skills and other things on this site. If i'm to be in this r/s longer termed than the present 37 years, I need to learn how to not let the craziness stir up my adrenaline because I will stay healthier. At least I think i'm finally understanding what I can and cannot expect from him. It's a good step.

i'm going to go read awhile on the site and then I think i'll do what you suggested about putting a specific (and common!) situation on one of the other boards to get some input. Thanks so much for your clear-headed words. smiley
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« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2013, 11:28:52 PM »

this is a good reminder that yes it does work. My UBPDH had gotten better and today he slipped back into a depressed state. I think it has to do with me taking back my diet and getting healthy. Also asking for my own desk. Currently he has taken over mine.
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« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2013, 03:29:40 PM »

Yep, Marcie, there's that "putting into place a new boundary" and the resistance the pwBPD will react with!

It's funny, even in the brief time since I wrote on this thread I feel different and more sure of myself. it's all a learning process with loads of practice at putting the tools into play.
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« Reply #27 on: November 01, 2013, 01:38:01 PM »

"So what do we do?  When the person with Borderline Personality Disorder becomes dysregulated or depressed. "

I disengage if they are aggressive.

I absolutely reassurance and comfort if they are distressed or depressed.

I am sorry, but I have seen great improvements in various BPD youth who have been given constant affection, reassurance, and comfort.

I believe this sort of social support, along with understanding and tolerance, in time, helps greatly heal people with BPD.

I am not saying they should be dependent on you, I am not talking about jumping in to deal with every drama for them, but they do respond in time to an intensely support and validating mindset.

They need to develop a certain consistency and level of validation and positive affirmation in their lives. Once this is achieved and persists for a while, the effects start to become permanent.

I absolutely believe than intense social support, and validation of their worth (affection, belief in them, and tolerance) and CRITICAL to long term recovery.

I know because i Have helped turn the lives around of people diagnosed with this, not cure them entirely (they come from the most severe backgrounds of abuse), but they have stopped being suicidal, and greatly improved overall.

I have calmed down the most out of control BPD teenagers most people could imagine. Seriously these teens (or when they were teens) would have smashed most people houses to pieces in minutes if they do not know how to handle them right. They were arrested many times and locked up, many overdoses, cutting, smashing of lots of windows etc, very dangerous behavior, huge dramatic scenes with knives, threatening to throw themselves off tall buildings.

The young people I met, including the various ones officially diagnosed with BPD, they need love, validation, and understanding above ANYTHING else in their lives, I can tell you that.

One of the girls, who smashed my unit to pieces (all the windows) etc when she was a teen, dramatic episodes with knives, many overdoses, cutting galore, slept with around 150 men by age 14, injected with meth at age 12, smoking pot daily at 11. She has done meth many times from a young age, was tripping on LSD at 12, drunk, stoned CONSTANTLY at that age. She would dress like a prostitute and get in ANY guys care late at night that would pull over. She had various highly trained CPS professionals in TEARS, I personally comforted them. She was detained many times in psych wards. She was OUT OF CONTROL.

She is now 21, employed, in well reasonably stable relationship, HAPPY, never self harms, she lives with me at the moment. She is clean, her room is clean, she cleans the house (I am the messy one), she is doing fantastic. She had no therapy, she has never been willing. I am her main support.

I also have another very out of control teen living with me (now 23), she was considered uncontrollable as a teen, I took them in cared for them for years personally.

Don't be bullied around by BPD emotions, but from my experience, they need strong support and reassurance.

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« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2013, 06:29:47 PM »

hi Modafinilguy--

Well, if one of the pwBPD's main beliefs is in their unworthiness (as my uBPDh believes) and so often that comes from those first formative years, then knowing someone does believe in them and their worth can make a difference. It's great to see that you are able to work with young people who are still receptive! I believe where the different wordings of how to deal with a pwBPD comes into play is that often the pwBPD has spent years and years getting more deeply entrenched in their flawed belief system, and have by that time developed their flawed coping strategies (name any one of the BPD traits.) PLUS, some of those pwBPD have had other flawed and damaged people in their lives for years, enabling their inappropriate behavior (raising my slow-to-learn hand here!) Those of us who have been codependent and enabling have so many new and more appropriate skills to learn, so for instance, ME, i'm having to learn appropriate boundaries, and less inflammatory responses to my husband's rages. It gets complicated! Some of us have been hurt so deeply by the actions of our BPD loved one that we're learning to deal with our own issues on top of theirs, yunno? Find the part where we are responsible for change?

The main thing is, our attitude as the one who loves someone with BPD can be both "I believe in you" and "I understand you're upset,  i'm not feeling safe and I need to leave the room."

I think it's so awesome that you have the opportunity and are willing to work with those kids who maybe haven't had anybody model to them "I love you and believe in you, also in your ability to make healthier choices."

There can be variations in how compassionate someone feels about a loved one with BPD depending on how much damage has been inflicted on them by the pwBPD, but most importantly WE ARE ALL IN PROCESS, we are all learning, and we are all in different places in the journey. smiley

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« Reply #29 on: January 14, 2014, 07:12:14 AM »

Wow I had to reply to this old thread. Can’t be a coincidence that after I told my therapist about the interactions with my ex BPD and how crazy I felt by calling constantly and texting while he was a raging lunatic she called it the “extinction burst.” I had never heard that term before. Somehow I came up to this old thread this morning when I couldn’t sleep of course. It’s interesting as some of the people who posted here said, I was the one who did some of the behaviors that make me feel crazy when my ex gave me the silent treatments. Over the years I told him it was abusive and not a way to have a healthy relationship. The silent treatments got worse when he felt ashamed of something he did or he knew he got caught with drugs again and I called him out. He would usually rage and then give silent treatments. He KNEW that I would end up being the one to track him down, act like a lunatic myself and engage in ways that made me feel guilty for the things I said and did out of anger. What a game. A HUGE light bulb just went on for me by reading about this.

Well, I wonder what he’s feeling now? This actually makes me feel a little better today for some reason. He knew I always protected his butt. When he was on probation for a drug charge he would have been thrown in jail for a year for doing any drugs, any domestic violence, etc. I of course never told the police anything. I never involved the legal system. He in turn called the police to come to my house recently when he felt he was not in control and then would have a false claim made to CPS. He knew inside I think I would never retaliate using the legal system…….at least that’s what he thought.

After his last raging at me telling me he wants me dead because I told his mother he was still abusing drugs (which is the truth!) I ended up filing for a restraining order. I am sure he is beyond any form of coping at this point. I’m sure he has trashed me, lied about me, and wants nothing but hateful revenge. The reason I say I feel better is at least he cannot contact me. He is no longer in control of me.

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« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2014, 05:53:13 PM »

How can you not reward silent treatment? how can you get that behaviour to stop? by going silent yourself?

Hi guys,

From what I read on a forum once, silent treatment is a message itself. It means: leave me alone. "I never want to see you again!" also means: "Please give me some space, even though I can't communicate this to you now."

My DBPDbf wants to temporarily leave the earth when he's feeling overwhelmed and angry. It's like a bucket of emotion filling up, feels it's getting fuller and doesn't want good people to be around when it's flooded. He hates it about himself which adds to the negative vortex. He needs space to experience the emotion and make it disappear.

Think of it as if it were yourself: when someone has just hurt you, for the next hour / day or so you don't want to hear from them. Anything they will say will keep you angry, regardless of the content of your message. This same process happens to a pwBPD, it just takes longer. Instead of a few hours/day, they might need a few days / week.

My therapist tells me to always send two signals in these moments:

1) it's okay to feel this way, I will give you space, take your time

2) you are always safe and welcome with me

If the pwBPD is really giving a silent treatment in the way that they are not picking up phone calls or allowing you to see them, just send a text message that states the above two points. In that way they are validated in their feelings, but also know they can return to you once the guilt, shame and fear of abandonment becomes more important than their initial anger.

Last week I had a combination of two: at first I got a complete silent treatment that usually just lasts for a day. I ignored that by sending voice messages (will NEVER do that again), which resulted in "I never want to see you again! Apparently it's the only way to make things clear to you: I N E V E R want to see you again!". I left him alone for 24hours and sent a text the next day. That I feel bad he's feeling this way, he can take the space he needs, I'd call him on Thursday (4 days later) if I didn't hear from him, but that he was always welcome to contact me earlier than that.

> He didn't expect that response. Not from me (given past behaviour), not from what he was used to (with his ex). I learnt this by talking to one of his best friends ho has known him for over 6 years.

+2 days I received a text saying he really didn't want to continue our relationship. Obviously the silent treatment is a cry for rest, but there is a limit to it. The fact he texted me and opened up communication was a sign for me he was ready to communicate again. The content did not matter.

> The content was the extinction burst. I reacted calmly saying that I was a bit shocked by his message, because it contradicted earlier statements from him, but that I would accept it if he would say it to my eyes. "Why are you not mad?" he even asked, which clearly stated his expectation that I did not meet.

+2 hours I ended up going to his place, still validating his need to end the relationship. Once I got there, he hugged me to death and started crying. "It really hurts so much", "please never leave me".

Does this help at all to understand the silent treatment? It's a combination of giving yourself some space (nobody want to argue with an angry BPD), giving the pwBPD some space, but also always sending out a message of validation and trust.

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« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2014, 06:35:32 PM »

Hi ziniztar!

Thanks for your post!  I haven't considered the "two signals" you describe, and so I am very grateful. 

I came across this thread and was very interested in the comments about "silent treatment".  I previously came across a thread by STWarrior about "enjoy the silence," and I am thinking about combining it with the two signals.

My thinking is that after communicating the signals, one can simply "enjoy the silence" (while "giving yourself some space" as you put it) and not anticipate or be pulled further into the behavior. 

I am thinking about this because with my uBPD mother, the ST can go on for a very long time. 

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« Reply #32 on: April 02, 2014, 10:30:16 AM »

My husband has been in therapy for 4 1/2 years for BPD traits. A lot of times, he'll do something that really hurts me, and when I tell him it hurts, and I want to talk about it, he gets really angry and says things like, "Nothing's ever good enough for you! All you ever want to do is talk about our relationship!" Then I feel even more hurt, and that's when he freezes me out.

When I ignore his behavior, it turns into a battle of wills. He knows me well enough to know I'm hurt, and he just keeps upping the anti.

The weekend after next, I'm finishing a renovation project that's taken me 7 months. I want to have a little party and show our friends, because I've been talking about it a lot to them, and I want to celebrate finishing it.

My husband gets really triggered by both renovation projects and parties. He's been pretty emotionally abusive to me with this project. The other day, he casually mentioned to me that he's going out of town with some friends the weekend after next.

This puts me in a bind. Do I have the party without him? If I do, he'll probably feel rejected, even though he's the one pushing away.

I'm also noticing how scared I feel about celebrating without him here. It's a weird mixture of relief at not to having to deal with his volatility around parties, and pretty big insecurity at doing it alone.

This project is really significant for me. It's going to enable me to make money and hopefully expand my work. I've been the stay at home mom for our 3 kids for years, and this is the first time I've had the courage to step out on my own. My husband has always been threatened by me doing anything that he doesn't feel in control of.

When he acts unsupportive of me, a lot of feelings of worthlessness come up. I want to be free of feeling like I need his support to feel ok. But breaking free feels really scary for some reason. It's weird because I know that ultimately he doesn't have power over me, but inside I feel weak and helpless without him. I have been more courageous and that's good, but I want to support him too. I want it to hurt less when he freezes me out and when he doesn't support me.

This thread has helped, because I think it's true that he's just asking for space, because he feels overwhelmed. But he also wants me to be there and cater to his feelings way more than I can, without sacrificing myself in the process. How do I find the balance between supporting him and supporting myself?

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« Reply #33 on: April 02, 2014, 02:04:02 PM »

Hi Durgq,

This seems difficult and IS on the inside, but the theory is simple:

You support him by taking care of yourself.

In two ways:

1. A pwBPD is not helped by overprotective behaviour, part of recovery is experiencing real life set backs and overcoming them. This builds self esteem.

2. When you are stronger, you feel better. Which is better for you, and for him.

Organize the party alone, build your self esteem. He needs to accept you can have your own life, friends and activities, while understanding this does not mean you'll leave him. In the mean time you'll feel stronger and less needy of his approval.

Expect some struggle but let it happen. It is scary for him that you are getting stronger, acknowledge that and let it happen. The only way for him to find out that it is not the end of your relationship, is by experience.

Good luck smiley
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« Reply #34 on: May 17, 2014, 06:27:38 PM »

I too have been one who has gone mildly "crazy" when given the silent treatment.  It took a long time for the silent treatment to start being used.  When it was initially used, I didn't contact him at all...    and he would contact me within a couple days...    but at some point in the last year, when it started, I began going nuts.  I didn't rage and freak out on him - I would beg him and plead with him.  All while reinforcing his behavior of shutting me out. 

Ziniztar - your post truly helps explain a different way to think about the silent treatment.  Rather than thinking it's an absolute - as it feels every single time - I will try to realize that he does need his space.  Not that I didn't know that rationally before, but the pain of being shut out and that abandoned feeling would truly crush me to the point of causing me to beg for him to talk to me.

Anyway - just wanted to thank you for posting that response.
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« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2014, 06:32:00 AM »

How can you not reward silent treatment? how can you get that behaviour to stop? by going silent yourself?

I believe this question needs to be addressed thoroughly as many members have this

problem in their relationships

Some advice from senior members will be appreciated
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« Reply #36 on: June 20, 2014, 01:46:39 PM »

Rather than thinking it's an absolute - as it feels every single time - I will try to realize that he does need his space.  Not that I didn't know that rationally before, but the pain of being shut out and that abandoned feeling would truly crush me to the point of causing me to beg for him to talk to me.

I hear you.. I think a lot of people here do. I'm glad to read my post helped you, it did the same for me when I read it. Luckily I didn't get a silent treatment since then. I think it's because he knows it doesn't work on me anymore. Lets hope it stays this way  angel.
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« Reply #37 on: June 20, 2014, 02:03:39 PM »

How can you not reward silent treatment? how can you get that behaviour to stop? by going silent yourself?

I believe this question needs to be addressed thoroughly as many members have this

problem in their relationships

Some advice from senior members will be appreciated

I might not be an official senior member but I do have some thoughts on this. In any type of relationship communication is key. In a relationship between non's, silent treatments are given too; it's not a pwBPD-only behaviour and I think it's very important to understand that. When someone is retreating from communication irrespective of the the reasons behind it, you can't do anything about that. All you can do is honour it and respect their need for space.

Let's say there can be two main motives for people (with BPD) to give a silent treatment:

- out of resentment/anger, trying to punish you

- because they are exhausted on the inside and are dealing with their own emotions

The thing is, and I think Take2 describes that very well, "the pain of being shut out and that abandoned feeling" is what makes us demand for communication. So what becomes our response when faced with the silent treatment? Not accepting it, feeling abandoned, hurt, and demanding communication.

Now let's see how that influences someone that is trying to punish you. That would be rewarding, right? To see you suffer. Which feeds the silent treatment and chances are high it will continue for a while (depending on the level of resentment and anger).

And how does that influence someone who is exhausted and dealing with their own emotions? As an even bigger proof that they're worthless, incapable of living in this world or dealing with relationships. It sends a message they can't find the calm safe place that they are looking for in you, as your demands are only adding to their inner pressure.

Stay grounded, accept their emotions, accept that you are in this relationship and that you have a choice to leave whenever you want. The control in this situation is in your hands as it is in any kind of relationship. Even though you might feel hopeless, controlled; there is always a choice.

As I've written before, and I think this really helps:

"My therapist tells me to always send two signals in these moments:

1) it's okay to feel hopeless/angry at me/unhelped by me, I will give you space, take your time = VALIDATION  Doing the right thing

2) you are always safe and welcome with me

If the pwBPD is really giving a silent treatment in the way that they are not picking up phone calls or allowing you to see them, just send a text message that states the above two points. In that way they are validated in their feelings, but also know they can return to you once the guilt, shame and fear of abandonment becomes more important than their initial anger."
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« Reply #38 on: June 19, 2015, 08:48:37 PM »

That is helpful. Thanks smiley
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« Reply #39 on: September 09, 2015, 12:27:44 AM »

Here is a 2 min video on youtube on how extinction burst works

www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqHfEJt1ZV4

Common Trap: Remember, you don't want to inadvertently give them intermittent reinforcement to dysregulated behavior. This is easy to do, and once established extremely difficult to unlearn.

Intermittent reinforcement: slot machines use this. They pay out on irregular schedules. You never know when you will win, but you know that if you keep pulling the handle that sooner or later a pay out will occur. It may happen on the third pull or the twentieth pull, but you will win if you keep trying. The fact that you KNOW that you will eventually win, keeps you hooked into trying.

What does this mean? If you tell your partner that you won't answer the phone while at work, and they call you 20 times, and you answer on the 21st attempt, you have just inadvertantly given them intermittent reinforcement. Now they know that if they bug you enough, that you will always eventually respond. This actually escalates the behavior you are trying to stop. They believe they can win if they just keep pulling the lever, even if they go broke trying, they will keep at it. The more irregular and unpredictable your response to them, the more they will keep trying. It is the combination of hoping they will get their way and not knowing when it will happen that keeps them trying.

How to discourage dysregulated behavior.?

Consistency in not responding is the only way to discourage undesired behavior...

Your partner has to learn that  when you say no, that you mean no.  Any hint of weakness is a reward, encouraging him/her to continue trying.

Can I just ask why someone would want to work so hard to make a relationship work with such a difficult person? Why not abandon ship and find someone easier to get along with?
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« Reply #40 on: September 09, 2015, 12:29:09 AM »

IT works just takes time, like with my uBPDh he will call once i leave several times and leaving messages i never pick up, i use to just because i thought if i let him rage on the phone but not listen things would get better but it didn't it stayed the same.. i let him know once i know he has calmed down i will call him back, i listen to the messages and as soon as i can tell he is still angry i just erase it, it takes several times at first but sooner or later he calls and is much calmer so then i call him back.  and this puts the responcibility back on him, if i call and he starts in again which has happend i hang up.  now in time i am noticing lately since i don't pick up when he calls and i am back to reinforcing he needs to calm down his phone calls to me leaving me messages are less, he still leaves me angry messages but not as many. he is taking time to calm  down.i am seeing a differnce with inforcing the boundary of i will call back once i see you have calmed down and i will listen but not till then, things are better.. now i can say i started this boundary and inforced it more after i started here . so thanks to this site that part got better... and in time maybe his rages will even get less then they are now... or maybe i won't be out shopping as long  cry               

Can I ask if this behavior existed prior to the marriage and if it did did it bother you at that time?
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« Reply #41 on: September 09, 2015, 12:45:07 AM »

Extinction bursts can include things like turning up the projection machine.

Part of getting out of these bursts is learning more sophisticated ways to handle these things.  It is hard to deal with this day in and day out out.

Some of the ways to handle these are validation, boundaries, and reflective listening.

It's good to question why we don't start to change our approach - sometimes its fear, sometimes its exhaustion, and learning new stuff is hard at first.

I feel like I'm only barely getting to understand "extinction bursts" let alone put the "validation, boundaries, and reflective listening" into use. And I definitely don't do some things at some times because I'm so freaking tired, and I don't want to put up with what may turn into The Litany (of my wrongs.) And that makes me inconsistent which is not helpful.

I can totally relate. Reading all of this I'm like why? What's the point? Is anybody truly worth that much? No relationship should have to be that much work.
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« Reply #42 on: September 09, 2015, 12:52:10 AM »

hi Modafinilguy--

Well, if one of the pwBPD's main beliefs is in their unworthiness (as my uBPDh believes) and so often that comes from those first formative years, then knowing someone does believe in them and their worth can make a difference. It's great to see that you are able to work with young people who are still receptive! I believe where the different wordings of how to deal with a pwBPD comes into play is that often the pwBPD has spent years and years getting more deeply entrenched in their flawed belief system, and have by that time developed their flawed coping strategies (name any one of the BPD traits.) PLUS, some of those pwBPD have had other flawed and damaged people in their lives for years, enabling their inappropriate behavior (raising my slow-to-learn hand here!) Those of us who have been codependent and enabling have so many new and more appropriate skills to learn, so for instance, ME, i'm having to learn appropriate boundaries, and less inflammatory responses to my husband's rages. It gets complicated! Some of us have been hurt so deeply by the actions of our BPD loved one that we're learning to deal with our own issues on top of theirs, yunno? Find the part where we are responsible for change?

The main thing is, our attitude as the one who loves someone with BPD can be both "I believe in you" and "I understand you're upset,  i'm not feeling safe and I need to leave the room."

I think it's so awesome that you have the opportunity and are willing to work with those kids who maybe haven't had anybody model to them "I love you and believe in you, also in your ability to make healthier choices."

There can be variations in how compassionate someone feels about a loved one with BPD depending on how much damage has been inflicted on them by the pwBPD, but most importantly WE ARE ALL IN PROCESS, we are all learning, and we are all in different places in the journey. smiley

This is brilliant and gets at what I was talking about in another thread, the degree of compassion one feels for someone is dependent on the degree of damage they have done to you.

In DBT compassion is one of the opposite actions to anger and its hard to feel compassionate for someone who has hurt you, and I don't know that you should. However I do like what you said about "I understand how you feel, however I feel unsafe so I'm going to leave the room now." That would send my pwBPD into a rage!

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« Reply #43 on: September 09, 2015, 12:55:40 AM »

How can you not reward silent treatment? how can you get that behaviour to stop? by going silent yourself?

Hi guys,

From what I read on a forum once, silent treatment is a message itself. It means: leave me alone. "I never want to see you again!" also means: "Please give me some space, even though I can't communicate this to you now."

My DBPDbf wants to temporarily leave the earth when he's feeling overwhelmed and angry. It's like a bucket of emotion filling up, feels it's getting fuller and doesn't want good people to be around when it's flooded. He hates it about himself which adds to the negative vortex. He needs space to experience the emotion and make it disappear.

Think of it as if it were yourself: when someone has just hurt you, for the next hour / day or so you don't want to hear from them. Anything they will say will keep you angry, regardless of the content of your message. This same process happens to a pwBPD, it just takes longer. Instead of a few hours/day, they might need a few days / week.

My therapist tells me to always send two signals in these moments:

1) it's okay to feel this way, I will give you space, take your time

2) you are always safe and welcome with me

If the pwBPD is really giving a silent treatment in the way that they are not picking up phone calls or allowing you to see them, just send a text message that states the above two points. In that way they are validated in their feelings, but also know they can return to you once the guilt, shame and fear of abandonment becomes more important than their initial anger.

Last week I had a combination of two: at first I got a complete silent treatment that usually just lasts for a day. I ignored that by sending voice messages (will NEVER do that again), which resulted in "I never want to see you again! Apparently it's the only way to make things clear to you: I N E V E R want to see you again!". I left him alone for 24hours and sent a text the next day. That I feel bad he's feeling this way, he can take the space he needs, I'd call him on Thursday (4 days later) if I didn't hear from him, but that he was always welcome to contact me earlier than that.

> He didn't expect that response. Not from me (given past behaviour), not from what he was used to (with his ex). I learnt this by talking to one of his best friends ho has known him for over 6 years.

+2 days I received a text saying he really didn't want to continue our relationship. Obviously the silent treatment is a cry for rest, but there is a limit to it. The fact he texted me and opened up communication was a sign for me he was ready to communicate again. The content did not matter.

> The content was the extinction burst. I reacted calmly saying that I was a bit shocked by his message, because it contradicted earlier statements from him, but that I would accept it if he would say it to my eyes. "Why are you not mad?" he even asked, which clearly stated his expectation that I did not meet.

+2 hours I ended up going to his place, still validating his need to end the relationship. Once I got there, he hugged me to death and started crying. "It really hurts so much", "please never leave me".

Does this help at all to understand the silent treatment? It's a combination of giving yourself some space (nobody want to argue with an angry BPD), giving the pwBPD some space, but also always sending out a message of validation and trust.

Can I ask why somebody would want to put up with this kind of behavior? Especially if you had to depend on this person for some kind of family situation? Its hard for me not to see the silent treatment as some kind of luxury or bad behavior.
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« Reply #44 on: September 10, 2015, 02:49:38 PM »

I guess if you'd want to support someone in a healing process, or would want to understand them. It's like forgiving agressive people that they show their emotions through anger while they are actually afraid. I would only try to look at it his way if your SO is also trying. In my case, he was in therapy and working very hard on his recovery, albeit not hard enough for me (in the end).
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