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Borderline Personality Disorder: Mindfulness and Acceptance with Rude People

I was recently at a social function and eagerly went up to this woman I work with, touched her shoulder and said, “Hi, how are you?”  She stared at me, looked very uncomfortable and frantically searched around for either someone more interesting to talk to or someone to rescue her from me.

This is a woman I have found curt, abrupt, dismissive, snappy and abrasive in the past.  I have never had an interaction with her where I have left feeling as though a warm breeze has blown through me, but rather a cold, icy wind that has left my whole being feeling fractured and discombobulated.

I knew this and yet I still went up to talk to her because, as a chronic masochistic people-pleaser, I unfailingly seek approval and acceptance from totally wrong and inappropriate graceless women.  I cannot bear the pain of rejection and abandonment from anyone even though I did not like her and essentially had split her into the “bad” part of the good and bad.  I always had an intense negative emotional reaction to her, felt deflated, empty and questioned who I thought was, and after an interaction with her I wanted to throw myself off a cliff. 

I would get angry and paranoid all out of proportion because she had an unconscious, emotional stranglehold on me that was exciting, frightening and intensely stifling.  All this from a series of unpleasant interactions from a woman one colleague wryly described as: “takes a long time to warm up.”

I was so upset I rang my mother who told me in no uncertain terms, “you are such a slow learner, Sonia.”  So I emailed my therapist and said maybe I was a slow learner after all.  She replied, not unkindly, that perhaps my mother was right.

My experience with my therapist has been that she never says anything to me unless I am ready to hear it whereas my mother just tells me whether I am ready for the truth or not.  But the fact of the matter is, that yes, I am a slow learner.  After fifty years I still expect frozen, rude and caustic women to instantly warm to me because I am attracted to them.

So if they are not going to change then who has to do the changing?  Why me of course.  I am the only person I can change.  After years of transformative therapy I knew this social blanking incident was not about me, it was about her.  I knew her reputation as being “hard to warm up and hard to warm to” yet this strange part of me felt compelled to turn her from Evelyn Harper into Carol Brady.

Luckily, I have education, knowledge and insight into why I want to turn every cold-hearted ice-queen into my warm, nurturing therapist.  It’s this repetition-compulsion Freud talked about where we unconsciously (and consciously) want to master our environment and change the past into something more palatable to our cognitive and emotional limbic system.

So what did I do at this social function where I was overtly blanked for ten seconds by this woman?  I stood there uncomfortably and realized she was not going to utter a single word; so I pivoted on the balls of my feet, made a 180 degree turn, walked off in the other direction, decided it was about her and not me and found someone else to talk to.  I did not look back.

That is until I saw her again, but I did not acknowledge her till she said hello to me and I may have nodded in her direction.  She said hello to me again the next day and the day after that and again, it is alleged I may have nodded in her direction.  I got on with my job and to my surprise rarely thought about her for the rest of my week.

I am finally cured of my unconscious desire to change crabby, fractious, rude people into happy, smiling, polite people unless I gave birth to them and they are between the ages of 16 and 18 and live in my house.  Self-empowerment is self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence.

The refreshing and liberating power of radical fundamental change from within when it comes to imposing strict personal social boundaries on oneself regarding hostile others cannot be underestimated.

NB:  My computer crashed, burned and died recently – along with some email addresses.  Could “D” whom I have had a long-term email relationship with please email me?

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Borderline Personality Disorder: Mindfulness and Acceptance with Rude People

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Borderline Personality Disorder: Mindfulness and Acceptance with Rude People. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Oct 2011
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