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 Deficit
- Lack of Emotional Permanence In Relationships
- 3 Signs of Emotional Permanence Deficit
- Causes of Emotional Permanence Deficit
- How to Cope With Emotional Permanence Deficit?
- How Unresolved Trauma Affects Emotional Permanence?
- FREE BPD Resources
- Borderline Personality Disorder Books
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What Is Emotional Permanence?
Emotional Permanence is the understanding that emotions continue to exist when they cannot be observed.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
#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
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.
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