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Support, Empathy, Truth

Old 01-13-2011, 12:16 AM
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Support, Empathy, Truth

I have been doing a load of reading around how to cope and communicate with someone suffering Borderline Personality Disorder. It seems there are big similarities with the alcoholic’s the behaviour, manipulation, low self worth, volatility.

What I have learned that if you adopt the S.E.T. (Support, Empathy, Truth) style when you communicate you will be more successful.
In responding or requesting, any one communication should ideally incorporate all three.

You initially say something supportive to show you do care. “Listen, I love and care about you and your well being”. Lays the stage to show your motives are good.

Next something empathetic: “How rotten it must be to be in your shoes. I can only try to imagine”. Shows caring, try not to say you know as this could be challenged.
These two lay the ground work of receptiveness.

Next comes the ‘Truth’ part. This is where you state the reality of the situation. “The way we are living in this house/family is unacceptable to me”, or, “The car is trashed after you drove into the gatepost last night. That’s not OK”

The Truth statement spells out the consequences, the Support and Empathy lays the foundations for the accepting of the truth statement.

Has anyone come across S.E.T. before? Maybe some of us have worked out the most productive way to communicate with our addicted loved ones already employ some of this stlye.

I read in the text I have that AA is based hugely around the Truth part. It adds that ignoring the Support and Empathy reduces the receptiveness to truth.

Anyway, I found it interesting and recognised I could employ it to avoid being manipulated, avoid provoking the alcoholic whilst conveying the harsh reality!
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Old 01-13-2011, 03:56 AM
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thank you so much!perfect timing-well, before last night would have been better

i have great need for improving communication with my son, as any attempts to talk seem to be from behind a great wall.

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Old 01-13-2011, 06:37 AM
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I am not familiar with the S.E.T. format specifically, but I spent waaaayyy too much time (as in years) being empathetic and supportive of him to the detriment of my own resolve. I think it is a fine method of communicating with a healthy individual by a healthy individual, but as someone with codie tendencies, it mired me in connection to him. I needed more separateness to be able to process my own boundaries and gain perspective. But that's ME. I have my own set of problems, and am obviously just now coming to realize how enmeshed I was.

In short (lol), I like the principle, but for me and my AXH, it would have kept too much focus on him and not enough on me.
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Old 01-13-2011, 06:43 AM
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It's just way too codie for me. If I have to examine everything that comes out of my mouth and analyze it to make sure I walk on the right eggshells, I am never going to simply LIVE.
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Old 01-13-2011, 06:55 AM
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Might work with BPD, wouldn't with my A. By the time I got from S to T, he would have forgotten everything in the S and the E and fly off the handle about me being "against him" and "unsupportive" and "a bad wife" for telling him the truth about how I felt about something.
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Old 01-13-2011, 07:13 AM
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I do mostly communicate like that. I learned it in college. It worked when it was real for me. It did not work in the last year or two because I was very very short on support and empathy. I can't convey what I don't feel. Detachment started then and the conversations mostly stopped. It wasn't detachment with love that al-anon talks about. It was complete detachment fueled by an ocean of resentment.

Also, I want to be clear that the SET method made communication more pleasant for both of us. There was no arguing really. It was all very reasonable. We'd have a conversation. He'd be reasonable, sincere(probably not really - he was agreeing to keep the peace not because he really agreed), etc. I'd take to heart his side of the conversation (which in hindsight was not real healthy because it generally involved smashing down another boundary). He'd say the right words, we'd have the 'right' conversation, but it had zero affect on the actual relationship. He didn't do anything different with the 'truths' regardless of how they were delivered. It never changed anything.

Once again it comes back to one of my favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." and I think that is true on both sides of the fence.
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:14 AM
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Haven't heard of it but thank you!

Don't start psych until the fall semester.
Bet I'll hear about it after that.

I liked reading that.
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by reefbreakbda View Post
Anyway, I found it interesting and recognised I could employ it to avoid being manipulated, avoid provoking the alcoholic whilst conveying the harsh reality!
I've found a much easier way.

I don't play the game.
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:27 AM
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SET is a productive way to communicate in my relationship with RABF. As long as he hears the S and the E, he feels safe enough to venture into the T. Since I sincerely do feel supportive and the empathetic feelings (now), it's an easy thing for me to do.

It doesn't feel like walking on eggshells to me, but more like a way of communicating my love for him. It does feel natural.

A few months ago, when all I could feel was resentment, it would not have felt natural, and I would've felt like a fraud if I attempted this approach.

Thank you for putting this strategy into words. I didn't even realize I was practicing it, but now that I think about it, it is working well.
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by reefbreakbda View Post
Anyway, I found it interesting and recognised I could employ it to avoid being manipulated, avoid provoking the alcoholic whilst conveying the harsh reality!
I'm sorry to post twice but I wanted to come back to this.

I don't think it conveys the harsh reality. It enables us to get it off our chest in a way that keeps the conversation somewhat peaceful because you are right, it is much less likely to provoke them. It does nothing to get them to see any harsh realities. IME a brain in active addiction is going to break from reality in order to protect the addiction. They are not particularly interested in our reality.

I also didn't find that it worked in anyway to avoid manipulation but maybe (probably) that is because I was very confused and 'co-dependent' so I was not in a good place.
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Old 01-13-2011, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by brokenheartfool View Post
It's just way too codie for me. If I have to examine everything that comes out of my mouth and analyze it to make sure I walk on the right eggshells, I am never going to simply LIVE.
Yup, I am a Class A eggshell-walker and over-analyzer, and frankly, I'm just trying to work on the "T" part of that equation--never mind the "S" and "E" I've got the support and empathy down pat.
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Old 01-13-2011, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by reefbreakbda View Post
I have been doing a load of reading around how to cope and communicate with someone suffering Borderline Personality Disorder. It seems there are big similarities with the alcoholic’s the behaviour, manipulation, low self worth, volatility.

What I have learned that if you adopt the S.E.T. (Support, Empathy, Truth) style when you communicate you will be more successful.
In responding or requesting, any one communication should ideally incorporate all three.
This might work with a BPD if the person is not in an active meltdown; therefore, I think it would be difficult to apply to one in active addiction as well -- unless you can possibly catch them when they are sober and talk to them then.

I have learned a lot about the similarities and correlatives between those who are mentally ill and those who are addicts. I've kind of had to --- I'm mentally ill and I dealt with my XRAB for almost 2 years. I have BPD as well as Bipolar disorder. And there were times when my xbf couldn't talk sense into me at all, just like there were times I couldn't talk sense into him. He would half-heartedly listen when he wasn't high; just like I would half-heartedly listen if I wasn't in a rage, major depression or suicidal at the time.

The thing was that even after my XRAB got out of rehab, we were together but neither one of us were working a program (I'm codependent too). After a few months, he got tired of dealing with my mental issues and left. He relapsed one weekend, but soon after, he got really involved in NA and started working a serious program. I also got serious about my illness and started seeing a psychologist, rather than simply trying to rely on my meds to take care of my issues for me.

We don't communicate at all anymore, and it's primarily my fault for behaving poorly due to my BPD, biploar and too many benzos.

However, I think this technique of communication could work really well for those who are actually taking responsibility for their issue, whatever it might be, and actively getting help.
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