Invalidating environment


For Borderline to develop you need at leat two “magical” ingredients: emotional reactivity and an invalidating environment.

An invalidating environment basically means that you grew up not having your feelings and emotions, states, wishes, wants validated…

Say you’re three years old, you finally learned how to say “I want” and you want to practice it.. but your parents tell you that it doesn’t matter what you want, that you shouldn’t want that because it’s stupid..that you’re small and they as adults are the only ones that know what’s right.

You’re outside and asking your folks to look at you ride the bike, or run, or see you climb that tree. The answer is always: I can’t right now, I’m busy… which translates into “you’re not important”

Say you fell and got hurt, you bruised your knee tripping over the bike.. the answer is “see what happens if you don’t listen to me, see what happens if you do what you want?”

When you are upset because someone didn’t want to play with you, the response is “well, you deserve it, you shouldn’t trust others, and don’t be upset, there’s no reason to be upset, you shouldn’t be upset”

You’re sad because your friend couldn’t come to your house to play. The response you get is “there’s no need to be sad, that’s stupid, you’ll see him/her next time. Don’t be sad”

What if you’re actually angry because they’re not listening to you…you’re sad and they keep telling you that there’s no reason to be… and stop pestering me with your silly need to be heard. children don’t have a say, they shouldn’t be anything but happy”

Ok… you’re on a trip, say to the seaside or a pretty town, but you feel tired and exhausted and just want to be held.. and your parent (like always) tells you “do you have any idea how much i had to give you to bring you here, you ungrateful brat”

You’re tired, it’s been a long day, and you want to be caressed…. your parent starts screaming at you to leave him/her alone.

You have a friend that you like to play with…. but your parent tells you that she’s no good. You don’t know what she means, because you like playing with her and you have fun, but she insists that your friend’s no good, that you shouldn’t have friends because they will fail you, they will leave you when you need them, you shouldn’t trust them.. there will always be a fault with the friend, mostly imagined, but you’r 5 or 6 and you don’t know any better but to trust your parent so you start believing… and each time you get close to someone you are a bit weary…

You are excited about something you did at school, getting a good grade or making a great presentation, or you succeeded at a sport, winning something … yet the answer is “what’s the big deal”

Yet if you come in second, it’s the end of the world “why couldn’t you try harder, why are you so incompetent, such a loser, such an idiot”

Here’s a classic one: you’re clearly upset, and you start crying or throwing a fit… and the classical response is “shame on you for making me look bad… look, everyone is looking at us”

So what do you learn?

Do you have any clue what emotions you’re feeling? Or why?

Do you even know that you’re allowed to feel? Do you even know that you and everyone else has emotions?

Given that you have no idea that you’re allowed to feel, how are you supposed to know how to regulate…? So when you do feel… you either hide it, or you hide it and burry it till it explodes, and when it does, it’s full of fireworks (not in a good sense 😛

Given that you have no clue what emotions are, or what you feel, given that you have no idea how to regulate, how could you know how to control yourself?

So basically one way the environment is invalidating is through the complete lack of emotional support.

Therefore… it’s not that silly to truly consider BPDs at the emotional level of a three year old.. and if you want to help a BPD you must treat them emotionally like you would a 3 year old…starting with “I understand that you are angry / sad / happy now” … first step: label the emotion….

and then the rest…. recognizing, regulating, expressing…. and so on.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Friends she approved of … | Borderline & PMDD
  2. Trackback: 31 DAYS OF BPD: DAY 6: HOW’S YOUR LOVE LIFE? | Borderline & PMDD

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