Borderline Personality Disorder,  DBT,  DBT-FST,  Emotions,  Mentalizing

The power of “When you do this, I feel that”

Recently, in the ATSTP group we discussed the power of saying “when you do [whatever], I feel [whatever else].” This formulation of words is very powerful when dealing with an emotional person. It does a couple of things that are important. First, it lets the other person know that you have feelings as well. Sometimes someone with BPD will feel that they are the only one in the world with feelings to be hurt. DBT actually “encourages” this way of thinking IMO. Since DBT is all about the client’s emotions and behaviors, the “other’s” (the therapist) feelings and behaviors are not often taken into account.  This situation is not really ideal for a family member. Saying: “When you did [this], I felt [that]” often does the trick. It’s basically the “inserting your feelings” tool from When Hope is Not Enough. However, you need to make sure that you are communicating your feelings, not your judgments about the behavior. That is, use feeling words (sad, angry, afraid, etc.) and not judgment words (manipulated, disrespected, etc.). If you use feelings words, you can’t be argued with.


  • camilla rinbough

    my undiagnosed BPD husband found a very efficient tactic to overide this “when you do [whatever], I feel [whatever else].”
    his answer is ;
    “all you talk about is how YOU feel, you’re a selfish only interested in your own feelings, whatever you say you don’t care about me …” followed by usual BPD ranting

  • Bon Dobbs

    Are you still married to him? If so, perhaps you can reply to that with validation and normalization and then mindfully continue your point. One things that the first few skills in “When Hope is Not Enough” do is that they (generally) stop (or slow down) the ranting/raging, because applying those skills makes the person with BPD feel more “heard”. Have you read the book BTW?

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