Practicing assertiveness in dangerous situations can help a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) stay safe
I belong to a Facebook group called The Assertive Woman Community hosted by certified Assertiveness Training coach,Sarah Lenzini who also happens to run her own website called The Assertive Woman. Although I have been practicing assertiveness for a very long time, this group has been invaluable to me because it helps validate that using assertiveness is an important tool. It is extremely important for people who have been diagnosed with BPD because many of us do not know how to voice our feelings.So, what are the ways that practicing assertiveness can help keep you safe?The most significant way is that it can keep you from being dragged into situations that can harm you:For example, if you are out at a bar and your ride has been drinking too much, being assertive can prevent you from getting into the car with them when it is time to go home.
How do you do that? By saying something like, “Mary, I think you have had too much drink tonight. I feel uncomfortable riding with you and will take a taxi home.” Pure and simple. Or you can say, ‘Mary, when you drink too much I feel worried that riding with you will put me in danger so I will take a taxi home.” You must follow through on your statement.It can also keep you safe in situations where you might be out walking at night and think someone is following you. How would a scenario like that play out?By saying, “You have been following me for quite a while now and I feel uncomfortable. I am asking you to stop doing that.” They may or may not but you will have given them the message. If they do not follow through, that is your cue to call the police.
Another way is if you are in an argument with your domestic partner and you are worried that things are getting out of control. In a situation such as this, you can say, “When you shout at me, I feel very threatened. I am asking you to stop.” Again, if they do not stop, that is your cue that it’s time to involve the police.None of us ever wants a confrontation to spiral out of control to the extent that law enforcement needs to be involved but using assertiveness in dangerous situations can sometimes be the first step to calming down a situation because it brings attention to the fact that things are, in fact, spirally out of control.
Why is it important to practice assertiveness?
As the Mayo Clinic says, Assertiveness is an important communication skill. It helps us reduce the stress in our daily lives. Being assertive in a workplace environment is important because it helps reduce the following feelings:
3) Feeling victimized by coworkers
5) Seething anger
Anger that seethes inside you and
6) Any desire to try to get revenge on the perpetrator.
Body Language is key when delivering an assertive message
It is equally important to deliver the message as how you say it, however. When you are delivering an assertive message, you must always be aware of both your tone and body language. This is extremely important when you are trying to confront a situation you feel is putting you in danger.Changing Minds, a site out of Great Britain says that it is important to be in control and not appear submissive when using assertiveness in a dangerous situation. You must also be very firm when delivering your message. This can be difficult to do when you feel physically threatened but it is very important to do so.
If all this fails and you are still reluctant to involve law enforcement, what are your next steps?
Time to assess the potential perpetrator’s behavior
Larry Yatch, a trainer with Sealed Mindset in Minnesota says you must assess the following,” strength: by observing the individuals hands. If they are clenched or have a lot of scars which may indicate past history of fighting, threat is a bad sign. If they are raised, that conveys intento harm you. If you can assess their eyes, that will give you a good indication as to whether or not they intend to lash out and harm you. If they appear to be tracking your movements, that is a good sign that you are in a potentially dangerous situation.
All these body language cues tell you that you should take the following steps:
Increase the distance between yourself and the potential threat by physically moving away.Try to put some kind of barricade between yourself and the other person such as a chair or, if outdoors, a car.Look for an exit. If you are indoors, know where the doors are and calculate how long it will take you to move toward it. If you are outdoors, look for another person or a different street you can move toward. If none of these strategies work, prepare to defend yourself.Obviously, the most important thing here is to keep yourself as safe as possible. No one wants to find themselves in danger. Remember though that physical danger is different from emotional danger. Assertiveness is always the best course of action when you find yourself threatened emotionally. Being able to recognize feelings of distress in oneself is the best way to arm yourself against emotional danger. Hilary Jacobs Hendel writes about why it is so important not to ignore one’s feelings in an article she wrote for Time Magazine in February 2018. She says that most people are controlled by their emotions without ever realizing it. She notes a case study of someone named Frank who was very distressed because he could not afford a certain kind of car. This frustration caused a lot of physical problems for him such as stress which led to stomach troubles.
This why DBT teaches us to practice mindfulness
Tara Guest Arnold outlines this beautifully in her blog piece called “Core Mindfulness: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).” because practicing mindfulness teaches us to be “present” in the moment. This skill is especially important when you are perceiving danger but it not enough to just be aware of the sense of danger which will activate your fight or flight response, it is also important to know how to take steps to remove yourself from the dangerous situation.
If none of these measures work, prepare to defend yourself.
For more information on why assertiveness is such an important skill to know, please see this article.