As we race towards the end of these 52 weeks of self-help we finally move onto the last of the DBT cores and that is Interpersonal Effectiveness. There are 4 parts to achieving this which are: Attend to relationships, Balance priorities versus demands, Balance the “wants” and the “shoulds” & Build a sense of mastery and self-respect. So we start with ‘Attend to relationships’. I will tell you what this is all about and of course how to achieve it in your daily lives…
When it comes to those of you reading this with BPD one symptom that causes major issues is “Unstable Relationships” and it is not just loved ones that can suffer when their partners have BPD, it’s just about any relationship! So that is why we start with ‘Attend to relationships’. The main part of understanding this is to try and work out how important a particular relationship is to us. With each relationship, you are trying to maintain you need to find out how you want that person to feel about you in order to keep the relationship healthy.
People often get confused with this skills module as they think it is all about loving, deep relationships, but it is more about how you communicate yourself to others rather than the type or quality of the relationship in question. When there are issues with a relationship (and one has BPD) the one with the mental health issues is often to blame, even if they feel like they are the victim and that is often VERY true with those with BPD (but not always).
Over the last few weeks, I have taught you a lot about mindfulness and inwards thinking, but we can often forget about any sort of self-skills training while talking to others. The good news is you don’t have to become some sort of public relations expert in order to grow your interpersonal effectiveness skill. With BPD there are two main issues in play when communicating with others. The first is your own inwards self-doubt that will mock you into being shy or appearing awkward and the other is the ‘Fear of Abandonment‘. Once again, many think the ‘Fear of Abandonment’ is only for loved ones, but those with BPD fear abandonment from anyone and everyone, even those who they have only just met!
Many of my own clients with BPD often report dumping emotional truckloads onto people they have only just met! When I ask them what they want in return the answer is nearly always “nothing!”. They don’t want sympathy, they don’t want validation, they just feel the need to unload on them. The problems start when the person (with whom they have just met) doesn’t know what do say and will often appear confused. Then, once again those with BPD will feel their ‘Fear of Abandonment’ issue kick in even if there was hardly any connection in the first place!
This is where the homework I set you in week 37 comes into it (don’t worry if you didn’t do it). I asked you to keep some bubble paper in your pocket and start popping it while someone was talking to you. All of a sudden you would have noticed it was hard to concentrate on anything the person was saying. Once you introduce yourself to someone new or indeed someone you know you should take in what they are going to say rather than yourself. You might miss them praising you which will make you feel good, or you might miss the tone of the conversion and appear rude or uncaring. By showing an interest in who they are and what they do will make it much more likely they will respond in kind. Even if it is someone you talk to every day why not take the time to really listen to them, even if it’s for a moment.
This Week’s Homework: I think that was a lot to think about, so we will leave that there this week. Just try to really listen to every conversion you have with EVERYONE you talk to. Even if it’s a stranger, even if it’s your bestie. Just open your eyes and listen because one day you might need them to do the same thing.