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Emotional Permanence: Top 6 Ways to Cope (+FREE Resources)

Emotional Permanence

Today, you’re going to learn all about emotional permanence and how to cope with lack of emotional permanence.

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.

Emotions worksheets

Causes of Emotional Permanence Deficit

There are several potential causes of Emotional Permanence deficit, including:

1. Childhood experiences: Traumatic or neglectful childhood experiences can interrupt the normal development of emotional regulation skills, resulting in difficulties with emotional permanence.

2. Genetics: Research suggests that genetic factors may play a role in emotional regulation and the ability to maintain emotional permanence.

3. Mental health disorders: Certain mental health disorders conditions, such as narcissistic personality disorder, BPD, and paranoia may impact emotional regulation abilities.

4. Substance abuse: Drug or alcohol abuse can impair emotional regulation and lead to difficulties with emotional permanence.

5. Brain injuries: Injuries to the brain, whether caused by traumatic events or medical conditions, can affect emotional regulation and permanence abilities.

6. Environmental factors: Stressful or unstable environments, such as experiencing ongoing trauma or living in poverty, can have a negative impact on emotional regulation skills and the ability to maintain emotional permanence.

How to Cope With Emotional Permanence Deficit?

#1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help you focus on the present moment, which can be particularly helpful when dealing with intense emotions.

Mindfulness Exercise

1. First, find a comfortable seated position. Sit up straight with your feet on the ground and your hands resting comfortably in your lap.

2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, filling up your lungs entirely. Hold the breath for a moment, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Take a few more deep breaths this way, focusing on the feeling of the air moving in and out of your body.

3. Now, bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort, and see if you can release them on the next exhale.

4. Shift your focus now to the sounds around you. Without judgment, observe the sounds you hear: traffic outside, birds chirping, the hum of the refrigerator.

5. Finally, take a moment to cultivate a feeling of gratitude. Think of one thing you’re grateful for in this moment, and hold that feeling in your heart for a few breaths.

When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes. Take a moment to notice how you feel after just a few minutes of mindful

#2. 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.

#3. Talk About It With Your Loved One

Reach out to family and friends who understand your struggles and can offer emotional support.

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?)

#4. 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.

#5. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Try to identify the negative thoughts that contribute to feelings of emotional instability and challenge them with positive affirmations and self-talk.

The following are some common negative thoughts related to emotional permanence deficit that you may be experiencing:

  • “I’ll never be happy.”
  • “I always feel empty inside.”
  • “No one really cares about me.”
  • “My relationships are all doomed to fail.”
  • “I can’t trust anyone.”
  • “I’ll never find real love.”
  • “My emotions are out of control and will never stabilize.”
  • “I’ll always feel lonely.”
  • “My life will always be a struggle.”
  • “Nothing ever goes my way.”

To challenge your negative thoughts, imagine what you’d say to a friend having the exact same thought and say it to yourself!

#6. 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.

Related: Is Online Therapy For Borderline Personality Disorder Effective? (+Top 7 BPD Coping Skills)

How Unresolved Trauma Affects Emotional Permanence?

Unresolved trauma can have a significant impact on emotional permanence.

Emotional permanence refers to a person’s ability to experience emotions in a stable and consistent manner, regardless of their current circumstances.

When someone experiences unresolved trauma, it can create emotional instability and difficulty regulating emotions.

For example, someone who has experienced trauma may struggle with intense feelings of fear or anxiety that seem to come out of nowhere.

They may also experience emotional numbness or disconnection as a way to cope with past traumatic experiences.

This can lead to a sense of inconsistency in their emotional experiences, making it difficult to feel stable or secure in their emotional state.

Furthermore, unresolved trauma can also lead to patterns of avoidance or self-destructive behaviors that further undermine emotional permanence.

Without addressing the root cause of these behaviors, the individual may continue to struggle with emotional regulation and ultimately have difficulty forming healthy relationships and maintaining overall well-being.

FAQ

What is the difference between emotional permanence and object constancy?

Emotional permanence and object constancy are two separate concepts that are related to emotional development in human beings.

Emotional permanence refers to the ability of an individual to maintain a consistent emotional state, independent of external circumstances.

In other words, emotional permanence means that a person’s emotional reactions are stable and predictable over time, despite changes in their environment or relationships.

Object constancy, on the other hand, refers to the ability of an individual to understand that people and objects continue to exist even when they are not present or visible.

Object constancy is important in developing close relationships because it allows individuals to maintain a sense of connection and security even when their loved ones are physically absent.

In summary, emotional permanence relates to an individual’s internal emotional state, while object constancy relates to their understanding of the external world and the continuity of relationships with others.

Related: Emotional Dysregulation Test [A Quick Test]

How does emotional permanence impact our relationships?

Emotional permanence plays a crucial role in our relationships.

When individuals have emotional permanence, they are better equipped to manage their emotions in a healthy and effective manner.

This enables them to communicate more clearly, express empathy towards others, and maintain a stable emotional presence in their relationships.

Emotional permanence fosters an environment of trust, understanding, and emotional support, enhancing the overall quality of relationships.

Is emotional permanence different from emotional stability?

Yes, emotional permanence and emotional stability are distinct concepts.

Emotional stability refers to the ability to remain relatively calm and composed during challenging or stressful situations.

It relates to maintaining a consistent emotional state rather than experiencing extreme mood swings.

On the other hand, emotional permanence refers to the capacity to tolerate and accept a wide range of emotions without becoming overwhelmed or reactive.

It involves having a stable emotional foundation that allows individuals to navigate their emotions effectively over time.

Is emotional permanence the same as emotional intelligence?

No, emotional permanence and emotional intelligence are not the same things.

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It involves skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social awareness.

Emotional permanence, as previously mentioned, refers to the ability to endure and accept a broad spectrum of emotions without being consumed by them.

While emotional intelligence can contribute to emotional permanence, they are separate constructs that influence different aspects of emotional well-being and functioning.

Related: Top 19 Emotional Intelligence Activities (To Improve Low Emotional Intelligence)

Do narcissists lack emotional permanence?

Narcissists are often characterized by a lack of empathy and the inability to recognize or understand the emotions of others.

While it is not necessarily true that they lack emotional permanence entirely, they may struggle with maintaining stable emotional connections with others and tend to focus primarily on their own needs and desires.

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

NETWORKS

#BPDChat on Twitter. is an encouraging and hopeful resource for many people who are seeking connection and encouragement.

APPS

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.

PODCASTS

Therapy For Real Life Podcast (Anna Cedar, LCSW)

To Hell and Back (Charlie Swenson, MD)

TED TALKS

Borderline talks back | Coral More

My identity crisis has a first name | Stephanie Vicente

Mindfluness: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes | Andy Puddicombe

Negative Thoughts Worksheets (2)

References

  • 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.

By Hadiah

Hadiah is a counselor who is passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards mental well-being. Hadiah not only writes insightful articles on various mental health topics but also creates engaging and practical mental health worksheets.