Understand Emotional Permanence, Build Stable Relationships

Someone who lacks emotional permanence may frequently have thoughts like:

“Is he going to leave me?”

“Has she started to hate me?”

When their loved ones are not around them, these people may feel unwanted or abandoned. So they constantly seek validation and reassurance to feel loved.

“Promise me you’re not going to leave me ever?”

“Tell me you love me at least five times a day!”

Emotional stability is the foundation of fulfilling relationships. Sadly, not everyone has the emotional resilience to bounce back from bad moods and feel good on their own.

This is where emotional permanence comes in. Developing a healthy emotional permanence can give your relationships emotional stability and resilience, while also helping you maintain healthy boundaries.

emotional permanence and impermanence

What Is Emotional Permanence?

Emotional permanence is a psychological concept that describes the secure feeling of being loved even when our loved ones are not physically around. It tells us that feelings come and go, but our essential self remains unchanged.

  • Emotional permanence assures us that our feelings and connections with others have not come to an end when we do not get to see them, but continue to exist even when they are away from us at the time.
  • It allows us to bounce back from life’s sad moments on our own, maintain meaningful relationships, and experience joy without seeking validation from anyone else.
  • It allows us to approach our emotional experiences in a more healthy and helpful way, instead of becoming overwhelmed or consumed by the presence or absence of the person causing them.

Most of us have emotional permanence.

Some people, however, lack it. These people need, even demand, to be told every so often that they are loved; else, they may assume the love has gone.

They also struggle with controlling their moods and may have extreme emotional ups and downs.

A lack of emotional permanence is called emotional impermanence or emotional permanence deficit.

Emotional Permanence Deficit (Emotional Impermanence)

An emotional permanence deficit is when a person cannot understand or appreciate an emotion if they are not actively experiencing that emotion.

They know that they have experienced that particular emotion several times in the past. They may even explain what symptoms people show when they have that emotion.

But they find it difficult to describe how it feels to go through that emotion themselves.

  • A person who lacks emotional permanence cannot feel what joy is unless they are happy at the moment.
  • If they are sad, they continue feeling sad because they cannot recall how they make themselves happier by remembering the many shades of happiness and joy they felt in the past.

Most such people have an anxious attachment style, borderline personality disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Those with BPD often struggle to recall a loved one when they are not present, or to feel what love is without being assured.

They may keep feeling rejected or abandoned when their friend or partner is not physically around.

Signs of Emotional Permanence Deficit

Overall, people with emotional performance deficits have problems maintaining stable relationships.

  1. They seek constant validation and reassurance.
  2. They get caught in extreme emotional turmoils.
  3. They can’t remember feeling good when being sad.
  4. They have difficulty regulating their moods and emotions.
  5. They don’t understand how two opposite emotions can coexist.

2 Odd Effects of Emotional Permanence Deficit

A lack of emotional permanence causes two strange things:

1. They cannot understand the simultaneous presence of two opposing emotions.

First, they cannot reconcile with the fact that a person close to them can love them and still be angry with them sometimes.

Perhaps because they drove home instead of getting a cab while drunk. Now, when she’s angry at him, he might think, “She can be angry at me because she doesn’t love me.”

They may find it difficult to revisit or reflect upon the tender emotions that their loved one has for them while they are angry at the person lacking emotional permanence.

2. They repeat the cycle of needing reassurance and feeling the urge for rejection.

Second, these people ultimately wear off the constant validation of the other person’s love which they need in the first place. Their minds begin to reject the reassurances after receiving them a certain number of times.

Now, since they cannot recreate the feeling on their own, they feel unloved once again, and start craving validation again.

This creates a cycle of reassurance and rejection of the other person’s validation.

This behavior can be traced to a fear of abandonment instilled in early childhood. It can create relationship issues like clinginess and neediness to numbness and isolation to avoidance and sabotage.

Did you know about the dark side of ADHD?

How To Develop Your Emotional Permanence

Here are some helpful ways to cultivate our emotional permanence:

1. Self-assurance

It is okay to ask sometimes, “Do you care about me?” But remember, your value does not always need validation from others. You can assure yourself too.

Assure yourself with these,

  • “I made a mistake because I’m not perfect. It does not mean I am unlovable.”
  • “They may be angry at me, and saying harsh things, but they still do love me.”
  • “They may need to be away from me for some time, but they will not leave me. So, I don’t have to be afraid now.”

2. Mindfulness

Regular mindfulness practice increases our awareness of our thoughts and feelings, allowing us to approach unhelpful thoughts in a more balanced way.

3. Reframing

Reframing negative thoughts and emotions can help us see our negative thoughts in an objective or even in a positive way, thereby minimizing their impact.

4. Self-reflection

Regular self-reflection allows us to gain insight into our emotions and thought patterns, thus allowing us a better awareness of our own emotional landscape.

5. Gratitude

Practicing gratitude helps us in focusing on the positive things we have in our lives, rather than craving for things we don’t have, thereby decreasing the impact of unpleasant emotions.

6. Consult A Mental Health Expert

Consult a mental health counselor if you feel overwhelmed by your insecurities when your loved ones are not present.

Personal Insights (Do Not Take As Professional Advice):

  • To help people build emotional stability, I suggest they identify and name their emotions, and explore their root causes. Recognizing emotions clearly can help better emotion regulation.
  • To grow emotional permanence, I emphasize they make time for themselves and engage in activities they enjoy to increase their self-worth and self-confidence.
  • I also ask them to practice open communication* with their partner. It may help reduce feelings of abandonment and build trust without always asking for it.

*Open communication is a two-way dialog that enables people to exchange information in a clear and candid manner.

What Are The Benefits of Cultivating Emotional Permanence?

There are several benefits to cultivating emotional permanence:

  1. Increased emotional stability: By viewing emotions as temporary, individuals are less likely to become overly invested in their feelings, leading to increased emotional stability.
  2. Improved relationships: Emotional permanence promotes a more balanced approach to relationships, allowing individuals to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in a healthy way.
  3. Better decision-making: When individuals are not ruled by their emotions, they are better able to make rational decisions based on logic and reason.
  4. Increased resilience: The ability to bounce back from life’s challenges is at the heart of emotional resilience, and emotional permanence is a key component of emotional stability and resilience.
  5. Better Mental Health: Cultivating emotional permanence can have a positive impact on our mental well-being. When we are good at regulating our emotions, we are less likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety. Growing it can also build a strong foundation for personal growth and success.


What Is Object Permanence?

Object permanence is a skill that develops in early childhood. It indicates the knowledge that an object exists even if it is hidden from sight. To have it, a child must be able to build a mental representation (or schema) of things.

For example, if you show a child a toy and then hide it in a towel, they will search for it under the towel if they have developed object permanence. Another example is the boisterously happy expressions you get when playing peek-a-boo with an infant.

Object permanence is similar to emotional permanence.

Infants lack object permanence up until the age of 2. Between 2 and 4, a child can understand, remember, and picture objects in their mind without having the object in front of them.

According to Piaget, there are four stages of normal intellectual development.
1. Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)
2. Preoperational stage (2-7 years)
3. Concrete Operational stage (7-11 years)
4. Formal Operational Stage (11 years to adulthood)

What Is Object Constancy?

Object constancy is the ability to retain a bond with another person — even if you find yourself upset, angry, or disappointed by their actions.
It is the ability to maintain an emotional connection with and have positive feelings for people we care about even when we are physically apart from them, or when they have hurt us.

Narcissists lack object constancy and whole-object relations, which means they cannot form a stable, realistic, and nuanced view of others.

The lack of these two together makes a narcissist fluctuate between devaluing and idealizing themselves and others.

So, when narcissists are away from their partners, they may feel a total emotional disconnect from them.

A short absence may signal total abandonment to a narcissist. It is not just a phenomenon of out of sight and out of mind, but also out of the heart.

Final Words

Emotional impermanence may make you have false beliefs like “I am unlovable.”

That can stop you from investing in a relationship since you fear you’ll be ultimately abandoned.

But you don’t have to believe everything that your mind conjures up, as they are not always telling you the truth.

Remember, your emotions are temporary, even insecure ones. Bring mindfulness, self-reflection, and gratitude into your daily routine.

Finally, it is absolutely okay to seek the advice of a psychologist, so don’t hesitate to reach out whenever it’s hard to handle life’s struggles.

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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy — a medical doctor and psychology writer, with a unique focus on mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoicism. His empathic expertise has helped many mental abuse survivors find happiness again. Co-author of ‘Critique of Positive Psychology and Positive Interventions’.

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