A comment on the title of my book, When Hope is Not Enough. I’ve had several people say the book is perfectly titled and others say they don’t like the title. I decided to title it that because I believe that you need more than love to help someone with BPD and to help yourself. The problem with love is that saying “I love you” to someone with BPD can be invalidating. Saying “I’m proud of you” can be even more invalidating. And saying “You can do it” even more so. Let me explain.
Validation is about the other person’s emotions (the BP). It is not about you and your feelings. The statements of “I love you” or “I’m proud” of you are about you. A person with BP needs to learn that their emotions are normal and that everyone feels that way from time-to-time. If they feel weird or broken, healing cannot begin. In fact, the likelihood of poor (even suicidal) behavior follows those feelings. A simple of expression of your love for them could spiral into a session of self-hate. If you say, “I love you” in response to their poor self-image, a likely reaction (in their minds) is “then you’re stupid, because I don’t love me.” When someone feels like they are not able to cope, telling them they CAN cope breeds mistrust. In other words, if you express positive feelings or “positive mental attitude” statements, they are likely to not trust you, because, on the inside, they believe they CAN’T do it, and you’re not seeing their feelings for what they are.
So, love is NOT enough. What you need is skill. In the book I try to teach the skill (through attitudes and tools) necessary to start the healing – for the BP and for you.