Saturday, 22 October 2016

Contagious Emotions



Most people with BPD are emotionally sensitive. Marsha Linehan (1993) uses a biosocial model to explain the development of BPD. In this model she describes a biological sensitivity combined with an invalidating environment as the two factors that lead to BPD. Lineman believes that people with BPD are born with emotional sensitivity, causing them to experience emotions more intensely, for a longer time, and with a slower return to baseline. Extreme emotional sensitivity is one of the things that leaves people with BPD feeling misunderstood, because other people in their lives cannot understand their deeply emotional experiences or reactions. They are often told that their reactions are 'Over the top', that they should 'Let it go already', or that something is 'not that big of a deal'. Do these comments sound familiar? Because emotional sensitivity is understood to be biologically based, mindfulness will not get rid of emotional sensitivity but will help you effectively manage and accept that characteristic. 

One of the challenges is that emotional sensitivity is not confined to your own experience; many times, it extends to the emotional experience of those around you. People with BPD can be extremely sensitive and aware of how the people around them are feeling. You can see how this can be problematic. Imagine being swept away by emotions that are not yours and that have little to do with whats happening in your life at that moment. Many people with BPD take on the emotions of those around them and, at times, confuse them with their own emotions. 

A most recent example happened to me at wok. I was out in the courtyard and I spotted two women sitting and comforting each other. One was crying profusely and I stopped to ask her if she was okay. Seeing her cry like that sparked emotional pain up in me. It also triggered past evens for me when I have sat crying in public and feeling ashamed for it. Luckily the women I was interacting with was very kind and grateful I had stopped to see if she was okay. The rest of the night she opened up more with her struggles and said she seemed comfort in me. She was so thankful when she left and I believe I used that characteristic in the right way which could benefit someone else. 

You can imagine that getting validation for such an experience from others would be challenging, because to many people, your pain makes no sense. This further complicated by the fact that intense feelings may last for hours or even an entire day due to a slow return to emotional baseline. Does that sound familiar? Do you find it difficult to tolerate being around people who are very sad, anxious, or angry? Emotional sensitivity, contagion, and confusion can be very painful and can be harshly judged by others. 



Source: Mindfullness For Boderline Personality Disorder by Blaise Aguirre & Gillian Galen 

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