One of the basic ideas in Family Connections, the NEA BPD program for families of those who suffer from emotion dysregulation, is to make the most benign interpretation possible of a situation or someone’s intentions. Remember that idea from your class? Benign interpretations can be especially helpful when you are living under stress and in close quarters or living under stress and not able to have the supportive contacts you may be used to having.

John, 25, leaves the house telling his mom he’ll see her later. His mom is angry that he would go out during the pandemic. How could he risk her health and his family’s health by going out? His mom fumed the whole time John was gone. She kept having thoughts about how he never thinks and how could he be so selfish? He returned about 2 hours later.

When John returned, his mom was very angry. She was short with him and snapped at him for holding the refrigerator door open too long. When he asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’m just tired of how thoughtless you can be.” She throws her book down and leaves the room. John is confused.

When John and his mother talk later, when both are calmer, she learns that he just went for a walk. He wore a mask and practiced social distancing. 

Using benign interpretations could have led to more effective communication. Remembering to check the facts and to assume the best of each other can make a difference–but can be challenging to do!

Live a skill-full life. By Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 20, 2020