People with BPD, or people in general, may be prone to assuming the worst in a whole range of situations. The reality is that whatever we go through in life, whatever comes our way, an infinite number of interpretations can be made which may or may not be fitting.
For example, I am walking down the street and someone bangs into me slightly. What are the possible explanations for this?
- They were trying to rob me
- They are partially sighted
- It was a genuine accident
- They wanted to hurt me
- They were rushing for the bus
- They were distracted by their phone
- They thought they had recognised me and were going in for a hug
- They misinterpreted how overweight they are
It is often intuitive and natural for people with sensitive and mistrusting dispositions to cling onto the most catastrophic interpretation possible. Doing so enables us to create an image of the world which matches the negative beliefs we have about ourselves and our environment, even if there is little solid evidence to support this.
For example, if I text someone and don’t hear back for a number of hours, I may get really upset. Whilst someone like my sister may just forget about it or assume the other person is simply busy, my interpretation would be that the recipient hates me, doesn’t care about me or that I’m too X Y and Z for them to be friends with.
Practicing benign interpretation means attributing the most neutral explanation, which carries the least amount of weight or blame, for what is happening in objective reality. For example, perhaps the person’s phone has run out of battery, or maybe the text didn’t go through.
It is a helpful way to check the facts about a situation, especially if the reality is that we have no idea what is actually going on. Instead of jumping to the most catasptrophic conclusion within a given situation, it is helpful to try and train oneself to consider any alternative explanations.
And perhaps, more often than not, we will find that the most benign one is actually the most fitting of them all.