Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder/Great Day Houston

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BPD and Validation

Recently the Center for Faith and Healing gave Dr. Hall the opportunity to speak about BPD and Validation. Listen here if you are interested.

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Emotionally Sensitive Person–New Podcast on iTunes

Learning to accept yourself can be a long journey, but one that is worth it in so many ways.  In our new podcast I share some ideas about steps you can take.



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Healing Hearts of Families Conference


HHOF Banner

Join us on February 14, 2015 for a fabulous day with international experts who will offer skills for family members.  We start the day with information from someone who struggles with emotion regulation.

“Understanding Symptoms of BPD: Viewpoint of a Consumer”  Damon Lenahan

Then Kelly Koerner will offer DBT Skills for Family Members

“Courage: Validation, Compassion and Observing Limits”

Kelly Koerner, PhD
Creative Director and CEO, Evidence-Based Practice Institute

Elizabeth Newlin, MD and Peter Fonagy, FMedSci Ph.D. will discuss issues of trust. 

“Why Individuals With Borderline Personality Disorder Cannot Trust

Themselves and Cannot Trust Others: A View Based on the Concept of


Peter Fonagy, FMedSci PhD
Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis and Head of the Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London

“Taking a Mentalizing Stance: An Approach to Restoring Trust and


Elizabeth W. Newlin, MD
Program & Medical Director, Adolescent Treatment Program (ATP), The Menninger Clinic

Tami Green will share her story of recovery. 


“The Medicine of Love: Recovery from BPD”

Tami Green, Life Coach and Mental Health Advocate, MLS Wellness

Hope to see you there!

5 CEUs for LCDC, LMFT, LPC & Licensed Social Workers

Check-In and Breakfast: 8:00 am

Lunch Provided

The Hamill Foundation Conference Center at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston 303 Jackson Hill Street Houston, Texas 77007



$95 for Professionals (Including 5 CEUs) $55 for Non-Professionals
$110 for All Day-Of Walk-Ins
Visit www.council-houston.org to register or call 281.200.9333 for assistance.


Continuing Education: Provider approved by the TCBAP Standards Committee, Provider No. 0340-89. Five (5) hours general. Expires 8/31/15. Complaints about this continuing education provider or workshop content may be directed to the TCBAP Standards Committee, 1005 Congress Ave., Suite 460, Austin, TX 78701, Fax Number (512) 476-7297. TAAP and social work accreditation require that participants attend the entire session to receive credit. No partial credit will be given. Late arrivals will not be given CEU credits. Cancellation notices will be posted at The Council 24 hours prior to the training. Registration at the door is based on available space. Refunds will be given with 72-hours notice, less $15 processing fee. A fee of $25 will be charged on all returned checks.

5 CEUs




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The Challenge of Being Happy For Our Friends




Sam and Ellen were best friends. Together they shared movies, devoured pizza, and watched football. They talked about whatever thoughts came into their heads and they were comfortable with silence too. If  Sam needed help, he could count on Ellen. If  Ellen had a rough day, Sam was there to help her get past it.  When Sam couldn’t find a job, Ellen looked at ads and gave him leads she got through her friends. They supported each other through the hard times.


Then Sam won a contest. Soon after  he earned a promotion at work. He expected Ellen to be happy for him. Ellen tried, but she couldn’t quite manage to celebrate his success. In the beginning she hid her doubts, fears, and resentments but soon she began avoiding her friend and not talking as openly with him. She believed he had changed. She was sad, thinking she had lost her friend. They just didn’t have that much in common anymore. She spent less and less time with Sam and when they were together she felt uncomfortable.


Sam was confused.  He thought Ellen would be happy for him but she was pulling away. She seemed angry and withdrawn. He resented her attitude and was determined she wouldn’t pull him down. They spent more and more time apart, each blaming the other.


Sometimes, particularly for emotionally sensitive people,  friendship can be based on being needed. When someone is struggling you might be the first one to offer support. You know how difficult it can be to deal with life’s problems and want to help other people find their way. Shared struggles can help form a bond. Sometimes that bond helps us remember that life is hard no matter what we do.


When someone gets good news, that can be more difficult to support. You may resent their good fortune and at the same time feel guilty for your resentment.  You may not be proud of your thoughts, but they still come.  Maybe you wonder what your friend did that was so great? Why does he deserve such a break?  She’s not so great, how did she get such a great boyfriend?  You’ve tried harder, done more work, or waited longer. It should have been you.


What’s behind the difficulty in being happy for your friends’ good fortune? Maybe you see the world as made up of people who struggle and people who succeed, and your friend is no longer in the same group as you. Maybe if the two of you aren’t the same anymore  your friendship can’t survive. Maybe he won’t want to be friends with you anymore and you pull away to protect yourself. Maybe you get angry for the same reason.


Maybe you see his success as an uncomfortable challenge to you. If your friend can find a job, then it puts more pressure on you to do the same. You compare yourself to your friend. If he can do it, then you could too. That changes your view and pushes you to take more responsibility. Or maybe you judge yourself more harshly when a friend has good news. Your thinking becomes black and white, with you as the “loser.”


Celebrating a friend’s happiness, especially when you are struggling, can be a real challenge. It’s just as important as being there during hard times. Being happy for someone else’s success is part of friendship.  If this is an issue for you, then you might try letting go of comparisons. Comparisons often lead to judging and judging yourself or your friend is not helpful. If you do find yourself judging, just notice the judgments and let them pass. Throw yourself into being happy for your friend. Be fully there. Remind yourself that what happens for someone else is not a judgment of you. If you want the same achievement or experience that your friend is having, be aware of and honor that thought. His happiness does not take away from your efforts or chances to have the same result.


Photo credit:  Eric via Compfight

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Building Resiliency


Building Resiliency












When I was working in a Children’s Protective Services Shelter I met children who were scared from being whipped with extension cords, had suffered broken bones from being hit and who lived on the streets, surviving as best they could. I also met a young man, a former medical student, who volunteered at the shelter. He had hit his head when he dove into a swimming pool and was paralyzed from the neck down. Like this young man, some of the children exhibited an admirable ability to find joy and meaning despite the traumas and stress they had suffered. Those children shared similar qualities as this young man: they were resilient. Not only did they survive, but they were able to become passionate thrivers. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and stress, a key quality for your emotional and physical health.

Resilience is important for everyday stresses too.  In a recent article in Scientific Mind, the authors cite this 2002 quote by Dean Becker, a founder of a resilience-training firm:  “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.  That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s’ true in the Olympics and it’s true in the boardroom.”

Emotionally sensitive people are especially sensitive to stress. The good news is that resiliency skills can be strengthened according to authors Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney who wrote Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.

The first key is to be able to regulate your emotions. One effective way to manage painful emotions is through cognitive reappraisal, which means changing the way you think about a situation in order to change your emotional response. The strategy involves observing your thoughts and behaviors, challenging negative assessments of stressful situations and yourself, and replacing negative assessments with more factual statements. Ask yourself questions such as, “Am I thinking in black and white categories? What would be the gray or plaid way of viewing this situation?”

A second way to bolster your resiliency is to practice mindfulness. Staying in the present lowers your stress levels. Much of the stress you experience is due to worrying about the future or being upset about the past.

Increasing your positive emotions also will help you increase your resiliency. Creating joy in your life and creating positive experiences will add to your ability to cope well with stress. Developing realistic optimism, which means filtering out unnecessary negative information but paying attention to important negative information that is relevant to coping, will strengthen your ability to bounce back from stress and disappointment.

Avoiding stress may diminish your ability to cope. Using stress inoculation works to build your coping skills. Stress inoculation means taking on increasingly difficult challenges, much like gradually lifting heavier weights. If being out of your house is stressful for you, you might practice going to a small store a mile away before attempting to shop at the mall in the next town.

Exercise is always listed as a way to cope with stress and to improve your physical health. Walking is a simple way to start.  Having strong social support, and using that support,  also decreases your vulnerability to stress. Having friends to talk with, friends to play with, and friends who would help you out in a tough situation will lower your stress levels. Finally, having role modelswho manage stress well can give you inspiration and hope.

These ideas are not new. Sometimes when we hear suggestions that aren’t new we discount them when actually the fact that these ideas have been around for a while, been researched with many different groups, gives them credibility. Putting these strategies into practice will be difficult. Most of us would prefer an easier answer to being more content. But what if you practiced these suggestions for six months? Give it your all and do them to the best of your ability. If you need help, ask for it. Maybe you will be in a better place.

Self-Help Tool

Starting January 1, 2015 Dr. Hall’s self-help tool, Creating the Life You Want to Live, will be available. Dr. Hall will email subscribers daily coaching tips and ideas about research-based skills to help in your recovery.  See the details on this website (see the page for Creating the Life You Want to Live.  

Photo Credit:  ccThomas Levinson via Compfight

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Stop the Stigma

Stop the Stigma

Spread the word…NEA-BPD will be celebrating persons in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder throughout the month of October through their #BeyondBPDStigma social media campaign.

—This anti-stigma campaign will be conducted through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. People in recovery from BPD will be encouraged to talk about ways that they are empowering and advocating for themselves through text, photographs, and videos. Participants will be asked to use the hashtags #BeyondBPDStigma, #BeyondBPD, and #Imhelpingmyself. Peer advocate and family member Carl Dunn (@CarlDunnJr) and Amanda Smith, LMSW (@dialecticallife) will lead the campaign designed to bring awareness to the issues facing those affected by Borderline Personality Disorder. “This is an overdue effort,” said NEA-BPD president, Perry Hoffman, PhD. “It’s a positive message of hope, encouraging people to take charge of their recovery and support others in doing so as well.” To launch the campaign, an #BPDChat will take place on Twitter this Sunday afternoon, September 28, at 4:00 pm (EST) and 9:00 pm (BST). For more information, please email Carl Dunn at dunncarljr@gmail.com or Amanda Smith at amanda@mydialecticallife.com.

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Worry and Relationships By KARYN HALL, PHD

worry and relationships








Some emotionally sensitive people are worriers. Not just your everyday worriers, but world-class worriers. They worry when they wake up about what the day will bring. They worry about their appearance, they worry if they’ve done the right thing, and they worry about what might happen in the future. They worry about their family; they worry about their friends. They worry about people they love. They worry because they love. Some see worry as being part of  love and caring. They may not realize that their worrying can interfere with their sense of belonging and the closeness of their relationships.

Worrying Can Drain Happiness

Your daughter comes in to tell you that she’s been accepted to the college of her dreams. You had secretly hoped she wouldn’t get in because the college is so far away. You bite your lip and say in what you hope is an excited voice, “That’s great. Congratulations.”  It’s not long though before your brow furrows and you are asking questions like, “If you go there you won’t be able to come home as often, you know.”

Of course you don’t mean to dampen her excitement. You just want to be sure she is thinking of all the problems with being so far away. Truth be told (come on, now, admit it), you are thinking of the problems that you see happening and that bother you, not your daughter. She may respond with, “Mom, can’t you just be happy for me?  Just this once?”

Thinking of the pros and cons of a situation is a helpful way to evaluate choices that you have. Pros and cons are presented in a logical way though and worrying is filled with emotion, usually sadness and anxiety.

Worrying Communicates Lack of Confidence

Though you may not mean to do so, worrying about others communicates a lack of confidence. If they are uncertain about their decision or situation, your expressing worry can lead to their being more upset and uncomfortable. It can increase the tension that they already feel. If they are confident in their decision or situation, expressing worry will be seen as saying you don’t believe in them. Neither outcome is helpful and you may find they talk with you less and less about what is most important to them.

Worrying Can Be a Way of Avoiding Happiness

Sometimes people who worry are afraid of being happy. Most suffer greatly with their own worry and when they have let themselves be happy, losing that feeling hurt more than not feeling it at all. So when an event occurs that seems to bring happiness, they may automatically look for ways it could not be a pleasant experience. Sometimes they do this for other people too, perhaps not even aware of hat they are doing.

Most events in life are a mixture of both desired and less desired emotions. Graduating from high school can be a happy event with sadness about leaving friends. It’s usually pretty easy to find a reason to be doubtful about happiness. Winning the lottery could bring fears of tax problems and conflicts with relatives. Getting married can bring fears about losing independence.

While a realistic view considers both the advantages and challenges of events and decisions, not allowing celebration and not enjoying the positives limits your overall joy. Joining with others to celebrate joyful events is part of having a sense of belonging and strengthens relationships.

Worrying Affects the Way Others Treat You 

When you express worry about the decisions of others, they may see you as someone who can’t handle life. “Don’t tell her, she’ll just worry about it,” may be the mantra of your friends and family. They may discount what you say because they see you as worrying about everything. If others don’t listen to you, that can lead you to feel left out, which weakens the relationships.

You may be confused about how others react to your worrying about them.  You care so much and they don’t seem to understand that. If you’ve noticed that your worry is pushing people away, then you may want to try some ways to decrease your worry.

Ideas for Change

Find ways to be more aware of worry statements you make. Sometimes worrying is such a habit that you don’t notice when you are communicating worry. For example, ask others to point out your worry behavior to you. Statements of uncertainty can communicate worry. Asking others if they are sure about their decision, with a stressed tone and/or look, is an example. The television character Edith Bunker is an exaggerated example of communicating tension and anxiety to others through body language and tension level in addition to her tone of voice and the words she uses.

Once aware of your worry statements and body language, practice omitting those statements from your conversations. Practice having a more relaxed body.

Replace worry statements with supportive and congratulatory ones. “I’m so happy for you,” is an example.  You probably still have worries, but you don’t always need to express them.  If you do need to voice a concern, timing is important. Wait for some time to pass.

When you notice yourself being obsessed with worry, find an activity that gives you pleasure. Throw yourself into the activity.

Remember that productive worry is when worry gets you to take effective action, such as preparing for a test. Unproductive worry is worry over events that you have no control over and cannot change. Notice when your worry is not helpful and practice distracting yourself.

These are just a few ideas. Changing worry behaviors will not be easy and won’t happen quickly.

Bada Bing via Compfigh



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Emotionally Sensitive People Podcasts

We’ve just posted our second podcast on emotionally sensitive people in iTunes.


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Self-Validation: What Do You Do? By KARYN HALL, PHD












Validation is like relationship glue. Validating someone brings you closer. Validating yourself is like glue for fragmented parts of your identity. Validating yourself will help you accept and better understand yourself, which leads to a stronger identity and better skills at managing intense emotions.

Being out of control of your emotions is a painful experience and damaging to relationships. Knowing how to self-validate is important to learning to manage your emotions effectively. Self-validation means you can accept your internal experience as understandable and acceptable. But learning to self-validate is not so easy. How do you apply the six levels of validation to self-validation?  Notice that mindfulness and self-validation go hand in hand.

Level 1  Be Present

To be mindful of your emotions without pushing them away is consistent with Linehan’s  first level of validation, to be present. To be present also means to ground yourself and not dissociate, daydream, suppress or numb your emotions. Being present means listening to yourself. Feeling the pain of  sadness, hurt, and fear is most challenging and difficult. At the same time avoiding emotions results in quite negative consequences, while accepting allows emotions to pass and helps build resiliency. Being present for yourself validates that you matter and that you have the strength to feel.

Level 2  Accurate Reflection

Reflect means to make manifest or apparent. For self-validation, accurate reflection is acknowledging your internal state to yourself. Perhaps you reflect on what triggered the emotion and when. Maybe you reflect on the ways you feel the emotion in your body and consider the actions that go with the emotion. Reflecting means observing and describing, components of mindfulness. When you observe and describe your internal experience, you do not interpret or guess or make assumptions. You would say, “I feel angry and it started yesterday after my friend cancelled lunch. I sense tightness in my stomach, so maybe there is fear as well.”

Saying, “I am a total loser and no one wants to spend any time with me,” would not be stating the facts of your experience.  Stating the facts of your experience is validating and helps build trust in your internal experience.  Interpreting your experience in ways that you cannot observe to be true invalidates and leads to distrust in your internal experience and more

Level 3:  Guessing

Sometimes you won’t be sure what you are feeling or thinking. In these situations you may want to say something like, “If someone else were in this situation they would probably feel sad. Am I sad?”  You might also guess by looking at the actions you want to do.  If you want to hide, maybe you are feeling shame. Maybe you are thinking shame thoughts. You can notice where you feel body sensations, such as fear is often felt in the throat. If you are feeling fear, maybe you are thinking scary thoughts. Guessing your emotions and thoughts based on the information you have will help you learn more about yourself.

Level 4:  Validating by History

Sometimes you will have thoughts and feelings that are based on events that have happened in your past. Maybe you are afraid when people argue because in the past arguments led to your being hurt. Validating yourself by saying, “It’s acceptable and understandable that you are afraid of

Level 5:  Normalizing

Sometimes people who have intense emotions don’t see any of their emotional reactions as being normal. Everyone has emotions. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, hurt, ashamed, or any other emotion. The issue sometimes is that most people would not feel this emotion in this situation. That is important to realize. At the same time, it’s just as important to validate when others would feel the same way and accept that as well.  If you are sad because you didn’t get a job you wanted, remember that others would be sad if that happened to them. Check out whether what you are feeling is what most other people would experience and validate those feelings as such.

Level 6:  Radical Genuineness

In terms of self-validation, this means being your real self and not lying to yourself. It means that you don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. Rejecting who you are is one of the highest levels of invalidation. An important distinction is that who you are is different from what you do. You are not your behavior, yet changing some of your behaviors may alleviate some of your suffering.

Self-validation is one of the critical steps for living with intense emotions. It is part of forming relationships and thriving. Practice and more practice will help you self-validate automatically.

Linehan, M.M. (1997) Validation and psychotherapy. In A. Bohart & L. Greenberg (Eds.), Empathy Reconsidered: New Directions in Psychotherapy. Washington, DC:  American Psychological ASsocaition, 352-392.

Photo Credit:Creative Commons License Gerwin Sturm via Compfight

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