Pathological personality traits in negative affectivity – Depressivity: Pessimism about the future

There is a phenomena called the Law of Attraction. If we think positive thoughts, good things happen. If we think negative thoughts, we invite bad things into our lives. As people with BPD, our feelings are often based on a poor self-image and the belief that we are unworthy of attracting good things into out lives. Our feelings create our thoughts; our thoughts create our actions; and our actions create the pessimistic lives we inadvertently choose to live.

Korn and others(1) designed a research study in which 21 BPD patients and 79 controls predicted the outcomes in 45 adverse life events. The BPD patients first demonstrated more pessimism, but like the controls, became more positive after receiving further information about the life events.

Let’s break this down into the two aspects of the trait of pessimism for those of us with BPD. First of all it shows once again our tendency to view life negatively. This creates negative energy which places us automatically in a defensive fight or flight mental framework. This in turn causes us to see life as a threat filled with negative consequences for most of our actions. This can lead to a tendency to slip into the helplessness and hopelessness of depression. The good part of this study is that this is merely a trait, we can overcome our pessimistic outlook by learning as much as we can about ourselves, our traits, and the possible positive outcomes of future events in our lives. We begin to focus on the positive. We change the Law of Attraction so that it begins to work for us instead of against us.

I recently read an article by Emily Esfahani(2) in which she refers to a series of studies by psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues where they brought young adult couples into a lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives (unfortunately I was unable to find the original articles). They found that couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they labelled as: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive. They noticed that people who were focused on criticizing their partners missed approximately 50 percent of positive things their partners were doing and they saw negativity when it was not there. By interviewing these same people two months later, they discovered that people who deliberately ignored their partner or responded passively damaged the relationship by making their partner feel minimized and unheard. People who treated their partners with contempt and criticism destroyed the love in their relationship, but they also hampered their partners’ ability to fight off viruses and cancers. They concluded that being mean is the death knell of relationships. However, they also discovered that the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to a mentally and physically healthier relationship. I think we can conclude that when we employ active constructive responding it frees us to change our outlook from pessimistic to positive which in turn lets us savor our partner’s joy and gives us an opportunity to grow positive bonds.

I know it is difficult for those of us with BPD to break these pessimistic outlook patterns, but by simply practicing Active Constructive Thinking, specifically generosity and kindness, we can begin to change and pour new life into our relationships.

Here are my five suggestions for Borderliners:

1. Embrace your borderline trait of pessimism. It is a part of your genetic makeup and your early life experiences. It is part of you. Recognize this trait for what it is. It is merely the tendency to see the possible negative outcomes of an action. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing that can keep you from doing things that could have disastrous consequences. In other words, think positively about your pessimism.

2. Take the focus off yourself and turn your attention to the people you love. Begin to observe and affirm the positive things they do, not just for you, but in life in general.

3. When they are going through a tough time, begin to listen to what they say and try to recognize the feelings behind their words. Just the fact that you are truly listening will begin the healing process.

4. Pay special attention to their positive feelings and actions. Celebrate their victories with positive words and actions.

5 Invite them into celebrating the joy of the positive things in your life.

 

[1] Korn, Christopher w.; Rosee, Liobala; Heekeren, Hauk R.; and Roepke, Stefan. Processing of information about future life events in borderline personality disorder. Psychiatry Research. 2016, Pages 719-724

[1] Esfahani, Emiily. Sciencesays lasting relationships come down to – you guessed it – kindness and generosity. The Atlantic. 2014.