Best of,  Emotions,  Resources,  Validation

Talking to someone with emotional issues

I actually wrote this message on WTO some time ago. I think I am going to post some of my “Best of” message postings from WTO and from ATSTP lists – after removing any personal information from other posters. I’ve posted so many messages I would be worth it (I think) to share some of that information to the Internet public at large through this blog. So here goes (the Best of #1):

Actually, these communication methods work with anyone, anytime.
They will work in normal communication and during “OZ” – and I am
trying to always be in this mode. It is difficult and takes a ton of
effort, because it is against my normal way or interacting. At first
it will seem really awkward, but, with practice, it becomes easier
and more natural.

I used every one of the methods with my BP-ish (In other words,
emotionally sensitve and ashamed) pre-teen daughter last night.

Here’s the situation (I’ve compressed it slightly because it was
longer than this):

I come home from work and she’s all smiles. Then, she asks me where
I was late the night before (I was at a training group) and I
say “Uh, um (trying to think of the right words) … I was at a
course that I take…”

She says, “You’re lying.” (Because of the “uhs”).

I say, “Why do you say that?”

She says “Because you said ‘um’…”

So, I say “You seem sad and angry about people lying to you. Do you
think that someone lied to you today?” (Acknowledgement, I
recognized her feelings and identified them, not based on what she
said, but how she said it) See, it was not about me or the current

She says, “When people lie they say ‘uh’ a lot and people lie to me
all the time.”

I say: “Boy, that must make you feel really angry and sad to feel
that people lie to you. (Validation of her feeling) If I thought my
friends were lying to me, I’d feel pretty angry and sad too. Anyone
would feel angry and sad if they felt they couldn’t trust their
friends (Normalization, meaning, it is normal to feel this way when
you perceive that situation).”

[OK, quick aside – you will notice I didn’t try to 1) fix it or 2)
deny how she feels. It could be that her friends are not lying to
her at all. In the past, I might have said – “I don’t think their
lying to you, you must be wrong…” (invalidating). But that is
poison, because she actually FEELS like they are lying, whether they
are or not. Also, I can’t fix her feelings. So, trying to fix it
(“I’ll have to talk to these kids and …”) is not the answer –
because it is about her FEELINGS, not about what “really” happened.]

She says, “Yeah, I guess so, but it still makes me really angry.”

I say, “Yes, I can see you’re really angry. Maybe you can think of
something to do when you think people are lying to you.”
(redirection, I put the responsibility for feeling back on her and
suggest she come up with a course of action)

So she says, “I guess I could just ignore them.”

And I say, “I guess you could, are there any other things you could

So, we got no real conclusion. But what this conversation kicked off
was a very open, sharing conversation with her right before bed in
which she shared with me her shame about being lied to (that is,
that she thinks that other people think she is a bad person and that
is why they lie) and many of her feelings (almost all of them
negative BTW). In that conversation, I continued to use those
techniques to acknowledge what she said and validate, normalize and

Usually she will just say “I don’t want to talk about it”. So,
by doing this I got my foot in the trust door. BPs don’t trust you
enough to reveal their feelings. Why? Two reasons: 1) the shame is
too great to tell the whole truth, because they think that you’ll
think they are a “bad” person and 2) You have never listened in
the “right” way before, so they don’t feel heard at all. Has your BP
every said “No one understands me” or “You don’t understand me”?
They don’t feel heard/connected to you (or anyone).

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