Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions

What have you got if you win?

In my book When Hope is Not Enough, I encourage people to be “effective” rather than trying to be right all the time. Here is an excerpt from the book on this point:

It is most important to be effective (rather than right all the time)

I say, “It is most important to be effective.” What does it mean to be effective? Before I could talk about effectiveness, I had to dismiss being judgmental, because it is a roadblock to effectiveness. Being effective is doing whatever is necessary to gain a positive outcome in any given moment. In the case of emotions, it is doing what is necessary to feel better in any given moment. The major difference between effectiveness and mere adaptive behavior (as mentioned above) is that effectiveness takes into account the consequences that are associated with a given behavior, not just the immediate effects. That is where the idea of “positive” outcome comes into play.

In the case of emotional situations, sometimes the most “conditioned behavioral” response is not the most effective one. An example of this is self-harm. Most often, self-harm – such as cutting, burning oneself or pulling at one’s own hair – functions to reduce pain, not to inflict it. In other words, it is an adaptive response to internal (usually emotional) pain. While you might not think that the behavior is “right,” it is a valid response to internal pain, because it works to reduce pain. Although it is adaptive and “works,” it is not effective, because of the significant negative consequences involved. It can lead to embarrassment, injury, infection or death. The potential negative consequences outweigh the effectiveness of the behavior.

So, doing what “works” is not always the most effective solution to a problem. Learning to identify the most effective solution is a skill itself, and I will discuss it at length later. The point of bringing it up here is that one must adopt an attitude of doing the most effective action in any given situation. You have to be dedicated to being effective.

Lately, I have been looking at what happens when a person decides that being right about a situation – or feeling that he/she is right – is considered more important than being effective. What happens when you want to be justified in your feelings, want to be right on a particular point, or want to punish the other person into admitting they are WRONG? What have you got if you win? What is the end result if you end up being right and they end up admitting they are wrong?

It is certainly something to think about.


  • Caz

    It’s all got to do with abusers disregarding your opinions and pleas for help as a kid. Of course we have to be right and acknowledged as fair – because we were persistently told by ignorant ignoring parents and abusers that we were stupid and wrong!!! A sense of immoral justice is what is at life-threatening stake here. Life-threatening because that’s how painful it felt to us kids at the time.

  • Caz

    People who weren’t hurt and abused and didn’t feel terrified as a child will not understand. It’s all to do with being validated and believed and understood and stood by. And not having cause to feel afraid in everyday life..Anyone threatens you – even your ability as a person or your capability as a parent will cause you to lash out because not only your ability has been ridiiculed and criticised but your very person and personality has and you know you can’t control your personality. So whoever hates you hates what you cannot help, and that;s soul destroying. No, ultimately utterly person destrioying. Why do you think we run away a lot?!!

  • Caz

    You have to remember that this oerson has never won. She’s been subjected to ‘winners’ her whole life. And she hates those winners and distrusts them and that’s why she hates and distrusts you. If a baby/toddler can’t trust her caretakers, why would men be so selfish as to expect their wives to trust them?!!

  • Caz

    By the way regarding my last comment I was in no way meaning that anyone hates anyone,I didn’t mean that at all.

  • Bon Dobbs

    Caz, I’m not sure that you understood the point of this post. Perhaps it was not clearly stated. I’m trying to ask people in relationships whether they will gain anything by being right vs by being effective. I think with anger, even justified anger, the expression of that anger can damage the person with the anger, the person it is directed at and the relationship. I’m wondering how you got to safety and security and abuse from that point. If that’s the way this post reads, I suppose it is a poor expression of my underlying point.

  • Caz

    It’s not coz you wrote it poorly at all, it would be my askewed brain.I’ll reread it and try and see if I can explain how I went down that road.

  • SeeingBothSides

    I think what Caz is saying is that when your childhood consisted of being invalidated and feeling lonely, what you gain from being “right” is a sense of knowing that at least YOU stand by YOURSELF…it’s an extension of validating the feelings you’re experiencing when you’re angry. “I feel angry. I have reason to be angry because XYZ happened. Yet if I don’t persist and hold on to it, and make the other person “get it,” I won’t even have myself and my own feelings to rely on.”

    Of course, couched in terms of effectiveness, this isn’t gaining anyone anything in the long run. Yet it’s a form of IIAMF. When you’ve been invalidated as a child, it can feel like as an adult holding on to your feelings for dear life is all you have. As if you’re validating the child inside you from where those feelings stem by having adult you stand up for child you. So, in short, you win not losing yourself through self-invalidation.

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