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Author Topic: BEHAVIORS: Extinction Bursts  (Read 6884 times)
ziniztar
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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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ziniztar
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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 Smiling (click to insert in post)
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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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ziniztar
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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  .
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ziniztar
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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 (click to insert in post)

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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Daniell85
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« Reply #38 on: June 19, 2015, 08:48:37 PM »

That is helpful. Thanks Smiling (click to insert in post)
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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  :'(               

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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unicorn2014
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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. Smiling (click to insert in post)

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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unicorn2014
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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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ziniztar
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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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« Reply #45 on: November 08, 2017, 03:30:00 PM »

It seems you don't have to have some sort of disorder for this to apply to you.  "Normal, mentally healthy" people experience the same thing.  It feels we are all conditioned that if you do a certain thing repeatedly and received what reward/response in the past, you expect it to be like every time.  Maybe people with BPD just experience the extinction bursts more severely than mentally healthy people. 

If I put money in the soda machine, push the button and nothing happens.. what do I do? I try again.  I will try a couple times, maybe smack the machine, but then shrug it off and accept the fact it doesn't work.  My BPH will do that, except he will try more than a couple times.  Probably even kick, repeatedly punch, and scream at the machine, demanding it give him his soda.  If he's in a particularly foul mood, maybe even take a heavy duty tool to try to bust if open.

 
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« Reply #46 on: September 06, 2018, 12:21:47 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

Same here - after some pretty disturbing episodes of her acting out and throwing unfounded accusations, she ended the relationship abruptly. I was fine (or in shock) for the first couple of weeks, then it slowly started to sink in and all the abuse I had endured kept coming back. The silent treatment was brutal because I wanted some reasonable explanation or closure, but the more I tried to reach out, the worse it seemed to get. In the end, I was the one acting crazy. I am currently suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks. Spending so much time with someone who is very emotionally volatile is kind of contageous.
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