Today, you’re going to learn all about emotional permanence and how to cope with lack of emotional permanence.
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What Is Emotional Permanence?
Emotional Permanence is the understanding that emotions continue to exist when they cannot be observed.
Many people experience issues with emotional permanence, but it is especially a struggle for people with Borderline Personality Disorder and people with an anxious attachment style.
Emotional Permanence Deficit
Emotional permanence deficit affects someone’s internal experience of emotions. If the person is not actively experiencing an emotion (joy, sadness, hope, etc.), it is as if they have never felt that emotion.
The person who lacks emotional permanence will struggle to recall what an emotion felt like when they’re not experiencing it at the moment.
They may be able to know cognitively that they have felt that emotion many times in the past and may be able to describe the feelings based off outward symptoms but it feels as if they’re describing someone else’s experience rather than their own.
This tends to worsen states like depression where feelings of depression become magnified and the ability to recall other feelings like joy, or hopefulness significantly diminishes.
Related: How To Sit With Painful Emotions? (Top 9 Difficult Emotions)
Lack of Emotional Permanence In Relationships
Lack of emotional permanence is especially noticeable in relationships with others. People with BPD can find it difficult to recall their loved one’s love without them being present or without their reassurance.
During a fight, for example, it’s difficult for the person who lacks emotional permanence to reconcile the fact that their loved one can be angry with them and love them simultaneously.
Even with concrete evidence of their loved one’s love, the person with emotional permanence issues will still find it difficult to recreate, revisit, or reflect upon the emotions behind their loved one’s actions.
It’s not that the person who lacks emotional permanence doesn’t believe that their loved one loves them, for example, it’s that they find it difficult to hold onto the reassurance of their love in their absence or in the presence of a trigger that leads them to think they don’t love them (such as an argument).
Related: How To Overcome Avoidant Attachment Style?
3 Signs of Emotional Permanence Deficit
1. You Need Constant Reassurance To Feel Loved
People who lack emotional permanence can feel unnecessarily unloved and insecure for long periods of time.
This may lead them to constantly seek reassurance from their loved ones to make sure they’re not angry or resentful and still love them.
2. When Feeling Down, You Can’t Remember Ever Feeling Good
When you feel depressed, you can’t remember ever feeling hopeful or happy, and the opposite is also true.
You may be able to objectively describe a feeling you experienced in the past based off outward symptoms, but you can’t effectively remember what it felt like.
It’s as if the belief that an emotion other than the one you’re experience can really exist is lacking.
3. You Don’t Believe That Two Emotions Can Exist At The Same Time
You may find it difficult to believe that your loved one can be angry with you and still love you at the same time.
This is especially because people with emotional impermanence find it difficult to experience two opposite emotions at the same time.
How to Cope With Emotional Permanence Deficit?
1. Use A Mood Journal
A mood journal allows you to track your feelings.
A mood journal can help you recognize that difficult emotions you’re experiencing right now (sadness, frustration, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, etc.) aren’t the only thing you’ve ever felt.
Apps like Moodfit or MoodTools can help you track your feelings.
2. Talk About It With Your Loved One
Your loved one’s understanding can help you feel less worried about annoying them with your reassurance seeking.
Related: What Is Emotional Intimacy? (And How To Increase Emotional Intimacy In A Relationship?)
3. Change Your Perspective
Remind yourself that your loved one can experience two opposite emotions at the same time.
They can be angry with you and still love you.
It’s also important to remember that your loved one’s feelings aren’t always focused on you. Your loved one can be angry because of other things going on in his life.
Also remind yourself that having some distance between you and your loved one, doesn’t mean they’re abandoning you or will stop loving you.
4. See A Therapist Or Attend A Support Group
Therapy can help you work through difficult feelings of abandonment and fear and build a sense of trust.
Attending support groups for people who display symptoms of emotional permanence deficit, such as Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) support group, can also be helpful.
Pro Tip: Affordable Therapy
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Related: Is Online Therapy For Borderline Personality Disorder Effective? (+Top 7 BPD Coping Skills)
FREE BPD Resources
INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
Borderline Personality Disorder – Overview of symptoms, causes, and treatment. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) –Explains borderline personality disorder (BPD) including possible causes, how you can access treatment and support, and tips for helping yourself. (Mind)
What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)? – A comprehensive article with ten short videos. (Behavioral Tech)
Schema Therapy – This site presents information about the treatment method founded by Jeffrey Young, Ph.D.
BPDCentral It offers a wide variety of information about BPD, including articles, excerpts from books, links and resources, basic and advanced information about BPD and much more.
Facing the Facts: When a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder – An extensive site about BPD for family members. It contains a reliable resource list of links, support groups, and books.
Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified – This is an up-to-date site by Robert Friedel, MD, a leading BPD psychiatrist and author of Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified.
Touch Another Heart: Empathy and Listening Skills for Emotional Intimacy – This is an informative site about empathic acknowledgment – a key way to improve communication with individuals who have BPD.
BPDRecovery – An extensive site for people with the disorder, which features a message-board community.
Middle Path: Awareness, Compassion, and Support for Borderline Personality Disorder – This is a nonprofit online resource for people with BPD.
Florida Borderline Personality Disorder Association
#BPDChat on Twitter. is an encouraging and hopeful resource for many people who are seeking connection and encouragement.
Moodfit (Android/iphone): a free mental health app whose tools and insight are meant to “shape up” your mood. Moodfit also helps you learn new skills, like gratitude and mindfulness, in just a few minutes per day.
MoodMission (Android/iphone): the app helps people dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression. It recommends “missions” based on how the user is feeling. These missions include:
- Emotion-based activities like breathing exercises
- Behavior-based activities like learning how to knit, crochet, or sew
- Physical activities such as push-ups
- Thought-based activities such as learning how to reframe negative thoughts
Headspace (Android/iphone): a meditation app that can help you learn how to live mindfully with a variety of themed sessions on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety.
Happify (Android/iphone): a fun app that will keep you engaged while also boosting your mood. The games in the app are science-based activities meant to reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thoughts.
Breathwrk (iphone): The app presents a collection of breathing exercises based on your goal: falling asleep, feeling relaxed, feeling energized, and alleviating stress.
Therapy For Real Life Podcast (Anna Cedar, LCSW)
To Hell and Back (Charlie Swenson, MD)
Borderline talks back | Coral More
My identity crisis has a first name | Stephanie Vicente
Mindfluness: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes | Andy Puddicombe
Borderline Personality Disorder Books
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), © 2013 by American Psychiatric Association. All rights reserved.