Go to your room. You’re Grounded! – Dysfunctional Parent Modes

Rotten, right to the core. You don’t deserve to have this. You’ll never be good enough. If you weren’t so worthless you could do that. If you weren’t so dirty I might love you. You deserve to hurt for what you did (didn’t do), bleed for that, cut for that, so next time you remember to be better.
Hello. Meet the Dysfunctional Parent mode.
This mode fucking sucks.
Dysfunctional parent modes are internalizatinos of parent figures in a person’s early life. When someone is in the Dysfunctional Parent mode, they become their own parent and treat themselves as the parent treated them when they were younger. They often take on the voice of that person in their ‘self-talk’.
There are two common types: the Punitive Parent and the Demanding Parent.
Punitive Parent
The Punitive Parent angrily punishes, criticizes, or restricts the child for expressing needs or making mistakes. The most common associated schemas are Punitiveness and Defectivenss. This is especially prominent in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder or severe depression. Patients with BPD have a Punitive Parent mode where they become their own abusive parent and punish themselves. “I’m bad, I’m evil, I deserve to be punished”… and as a result may cut or self-harm.
The function of this mode is to punish the person for doing something “wrong”, such as expressing needs or feelings. The mode is an internalization of the parent figures rage, hatred, loathing, abuse, or subjugation of the person early in life. Signs that you’ve slipped into the Punitive Parent mode are things like, self-loathing, self-criticism, self-denial, self-mutilation, suicidal fantasies, and self-destructive behavior. In this mode all you hear is that angry, punishing voice that rejects the good and shines a spotlight on the bad. You might become angry at yourself for having or showing normal needs that your parent didn’t allow you to express.
Demanding Parent
The Demanding Parent pressures the child to achieve unrealistically high parental expectations. The person feels the “right” way to be is to be perfect and the “wrong” way to be is fallible or spontaneous. This is often associated with Unrelenting Standards and Self-Sacrifice schemas. When someone falls into this mode they shift into a mindset where they set high standards for themselves and drive themselves to meet them. The Demanding Parent mode isn’t necessarily Punitive though. The Demanding Parent expects a lot but may not blame or punish. Most frequently, the child recognizes the parent’s disappointment and feels ashamed.
Many people have a combined Punitive and Demanding Parent mode, in which they both set high standards for themselves and punish themselves when they fail to meet them.
That would be me.
I’m so familiar with this dysfunctional parent mode it’s almost tragic. I definitely speak to myself in a harsh, punitive manner, but I’ve found that I’m primarily mired in a state of Defectiveness. Feeling defective is my default setting and being punitive is how I try to ‘correct’ my defectiveness. I have a very strict idea of what and who I should be. I often feel the need to punish myself when I feel like I’ve failed at something I’ve set out to do, or I need something that I don’t know if I have a right to need, or I can’t stop feeling some way that I wish I didn’t feel. This was one of the primary reasons I would cut and burn myself. I talked about this as a reason I would cut months ago.  It’s a little bizarre to see myself, my thoughts and patterns, reflected in the reading and research that I’ve been doing. It’s also kind of reassuring to know that there’s been a lot of effort put in to understanding where these thoughts and actions come from.
I have to say though, while my father was often very critical, he was never cruel or harsh. He may have been insensitive to the emotions needs of his first female child, but he was in no way abusive and I know he loved me a lot.  Demanding, not Punitive. I truly believe that there is something in my inborn temperament that made me particularly susceptible to his criticisms. My earliest memory of him was a constructive criticism (a drawing I did when I was 3 years old) and so many of what memories I have are of him pushing, guiding, teaching us to be better at whatever activity or pursuit we were participating in. In fact, until my BPD and depression really started presenting when I was 12/13 years old, I rarely remember him being angry at all except for the occasional spanking when I did something really objectionable. Of course, once I started acting out, I ACTED OUT, and the screaming fights between us were epic. Still, he never hit me. I pushed and pushed and while he got monumentally pissed at me, he never stopped loving me. I wonder if this isn’t some subconscious standard I have for a partner. If I can be a monster and they still stay, maybe that ‘proves’ that they really love me and won’t leave? No need to tell me how ass backwards this kind of logic is.
Someday
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2 comments on “Go to your room. You’re Grounded! – Dysfunctional Parent Modes

  1. "I don't want to be perfect, just happy"Yes. The promise of momentary "happy" just lures me into self-destuctive impulses. Feels so good in the moment. And, oh, I see the forest through the trees! I just chose to conveniently compartmentalize them away. It's a vacation, not to mention LIVING a little. This was a helpful post, Haven. Thank you.

  2. I relate to all of this. Especially the part of partner staying through your crazy fits. Now that’s me in a nutshell. It’s only now, after three years as a couple, half a year as fiances…. One year flatmates, that I believe he’ll stay. He is immune to my self sabotaging.

    And now, more than ever, I am afraid of losing him. I know he loves me for sure now, and so I go numb imagining him change his mind. Jeez, this disorder might very well be the death of me.

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