Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions,  Parenting,  Shame,  Validation

On My Side

Are you and your BP on the same team?
Are you and your BP on the same team?
I often hear people with BPD/ERD say that they feel that their loved ones are “not on my side” or that the loved ones are “supposed to be on my side.” This phrase stuck out at me when I read the story about the suicide of Megan Meier (the “MySpace suicide” case), because, although I have no insight into Megan’s mental health, clearly when she was insulted and rejected on MySpace, and she was emotionally dysregulated. She came to her mother, and after her mother admonished her for the use of foul language on MySpace, Megan cried and said, “You’re my mom. You’re supposed to be on my side!” (This according to her mother’s reports).

When someone is highly emotional, they need to know that they have an advocate and that someone is on “their side.” I often ask my consulting clients (especially partners of people with emotional regulation issues) if they feel that their partner and they are “on the same team.” Many times the answer is no. Why does someone have a desire to have someone on their side, even when the “sides” are not desired, intended or even clearly delineated? The answer in my mind comes down to shame and rejection sensitivity.

If a person has shame (or even low self-worth, which is similar), then the person is likely to have a high level of rejection sensitivity. Being rejected by others is painful, especially for emotional people. Having an advocate of their “side” of the issue, which is essentially answering, “I am on your side no matter what the situation,” is tantamount in these highly emotional, social interactions that involve rejection. One can be “on their side” emotionally without condoning whatever behavior that one doesn’t agree with.

There are teaching moments and there are times that one doesn’t teach. If you try and teach, punish or impart values during a period of emotional dysregulation, the relationship will be damaged and nothing effective will be accomplished. Instead, emotional validation and support can be used to cool the bonfire. Once it is cool, then a teaching moment can present itself.

One Comment

  • John Lucas

    Bon, my wife has said this to me too. I think “on my side” means “care about how I feel”. In that sense, it’s hard for me to give a simple answer to the question, “Are you and your loved one on the same side”? I believe that I am on my wife’s side; she is trusting more and more that I am on her side; I don’t think that the notion of her being on my side is really on her radar; and I don’t see my wife as being on my side, though I recognize that it is not maliciousness or a lack of desire, only that she hasn’t thought about it and its importance to me because she is distracted by her own pain. This reminds me of a lyric from The Eels: “I never thought enough of myself to realize/ that losing me could mean something like the tears in your eyes.”

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