Look at Me, Look at ME! – Approval-Seeking/Recognition Seeking

Today I’m doing another Schema. I really just want to get these done. This one isn’t something I relate to so much. I think it’s more a characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder than Borderline Personality Disorder. But it’s on the list so I feel obligated to include it. Feel free to skip to the end and just read my musings. The next few I’ll talk about are the good ones.
Approval-Seeking/Recognition Seeking
Typical Presentations of the Schema
These people place excessive importance on gaining approval or recognition from other people at the expense of fulfilling their core emotional needs and expressing their natural inclinations. Because they habitually focus on the reactions of others rather than on their own reactions, they fail to develop a stable, inner-directed sense of self.
There are two subtypes. The first type seeks approval, wanting everyone to like them; they want to fit in and be accepted. The second type seeks recognition, wanting applause and admiration. The latter are frequently narcissistic patients: They overemphasize status, appearance, money, or achievement as a means gaining the admiration of others. Both subtypes are outwardly focused on getting approval or recognition in order to feel good about themselves. Their sense of self-esteem is dependent on the reactions of other people, rather than on their own values and natural inclinations.
Alice Miller (1975) writes about the issue of recognition-seeking in Prisoners of Childhood. Many of the cases she present are individuals at the narcissistic end of this schema. As children, they learned to strive for recognition, because that was what their parents encouraged or pushed them to do. The parents obtained vicarious gratification, but the children grew more and more estranged from their genuine selves – from their core emotional needs and natural inclinations.
The subjects in Miller’s book have both the Emotional Deprivation and the Recognition-Seeking schemas. Recognition-seeking is often, but not always, linked with the Emotional Deprivation schema. However, some parents are both nurturing and recognition-seeking. In many families, the parents are very child-oriented and loving, but also very concerned with outward appearances. Children from these families feel loved, but they do not develop a stable, inner-directed sense of self: Their sense of self is predicated on the responses of other people. They have an undeveloped, or false, self, but it is not a true self. Narcissistic patients are at the extreme end of this schema, but there are many milder forms in which patients are more psychologically healthy yet still devoted to seeking approval or recognition to the detriment of self-expression.
            Typical behaviors include being compliant or people-pleasing in order to get approval. Some Approval-Seekers place themselves in a subservient role to get approval. Other individuals may feel uncomfortable around them because they seem so eager to please. Typical behaviors also include placing a great deal of emphasis on appearance, money, status, achievement, and success in order to obtain recognition from others. Recognition-seekers might fish for compliments  or appear conceited and brag about their accomplishments. Alternatively, they might be subtler, and surreptitiously manipulate the conversation, so that they can cite their sources of pride.
            Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking is different from other schemas that might result in approval-seeking behavior. When patients display approval-seeking behavior, it is their motivation that determines whether the behavior is part of this or another schema. Approval-Seeking/Recognition- Seeking is different from Unrelenting Standards schema (even if the childhood origins may appear similar) in that patients with the Unrelenting Standards schema are striving to meet a set of internalized values, whereas approval-seeking patients are striving to obtain external validation. Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking is different from the Subjugation schema in that the latter is fear-based, whereas the former is not. With the Subjugation schema, patients act in an approval-seeking way because they are afraid of punishment or abandonment, not primarily because they crave approval. The Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking schema is different from the Self-Sacrifice schema in that it is not based on a desire to help others one perceives as fragile or needy. If patients act in an approval-seeking way because they do not want to hurt other people, then they have the Self-Sacrifice schema. The Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking schema is different form the Entitlement/Grandiosity schema in that it is not an attempt to aggrandize oneself in order to feel superior to others. If patients act in an approval-seeking way as a means of gaining power, special treatment, or control, then they have the Entitlement schema.
Most Approval-Seekers probably would endorse conditional beliefs such as “People will accept me, if they approve of me or admire me,”  “I’m worthwhile if other people give m approval,” or “If I can get people to admire me, they will pay attention to me.” They live under this contingency: In order to feel good about themselves, they have to gain approval or recognition from others. Thus, these patients are frequently dependent on other people’s approval for their self-esteem.
The approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking schema is often, but no always, a form of overcompensation for another schema, such as Defectiveness, Emotional Deprivation, or Social Isolation. Although many patients use this schema to overcompensate for other issues, many other patients with this schema seek approval or recognition simply because they were raised this way; their parents placed a strong emphasis on approval or recognition. The parents set goals and expectations that were not based on the child’s inherent needs and natural inclinations, but rather on the values of the surrounding culture.
There are both healthy and maladaptive forms of approval-seeking. This schema is common in highly successful people in many fields, such as politics and entertainment. Many of the patients are skillful in intuiting what will gain them approval or recognition and can adapt their behavior in a chameleon-like way, in order to endear themselves to or impress people.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Demonstrating the importance of expressing one’s true self rather than continuing to seek the approval of others is the first step. It is natural to want approval and recognition, but when this desire becomes extreme, it is dysfunctional. Patients can examine the pros and cons of the schema: They weight the advantages and disadvantages of discovering who they truly are and acting on that versus continuing to focus on gaining other people’s approval. In this way, patients can make the decision to fight the schema. If they continue to put all their emphasis on money, status, or popularity, then they are not going to enjoy life fully, they will continue to feel empty and dissatisfied. It is not worth it to “sell one’s soul” for approval or recognition. Approval and recognition are only temporarily satisfying. They are addictive and not fulfilling in a deep and lasting sense.
I don’t know. I don’t really have anything to say about this. In terms of this schema I think I would be someone that overcompensates. I prefer to avoid attention and therefore approval. I stay in the background so people won’t notice me. I am purposefully contradictory. I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate, even if the devil is a decision I don’t actually believe in. If I can push someone away, there’s no chance that they’ll be able to get close enough to hurt me. It’s not until someone becomes an obsession for me that I need their approval and recognition, but this comes from all those other places I think.
Oddly I think my brother falls into this category. My father pushed us so hard in athletics and activities. All these sports had judges and prizes. My brother was the golden child. He was the star athlete. He won every trophy, every blue ribbon, and every gold medal. His face was constantly in the newspaper. He was the leader, the head of the team, the president of his fraternity. He emphasizes wealth and status to a degree I can’t even fathom. I don’t care about these things at all.
In high school when I was a senior, he was a freshman. At that point I had fully rebelled against my parents, wore nothing but black and shock rock makeup/piercings, was completely Goth, the only Goth in my entire district in fact so I was terribly, ostentatiously different. Misunderstood by everyone. My brother was the golden child, star athlete, in his pressed and sporty clothes, whom everyone adored. Everyone knew us both, for very different reasons. We avoided each other. Me because I simply didn’t care and was consumed by my own preoccupations. Him, because as he once told me, he was embarrassed by how I dressed, “Why can’t you just be normal”. Why would I want to be?  To anyone that took the time to talk to me I was actually a very nice person with a lot of interesting things to talk about. I was sick of guys only interested in using me for my body or my looks. If you wanted to get close to me, you had to display a willingness to overlook the superficial and get to know me. Was that so bad? I don’t think so.
My brother and I get along fantastically now. I calmed down my outside image, and he has a more accepting mind towards things that are outside of the norm. I definitely think he falls into this Schema, but I don’t think it’s entirely maladaptive. Or unwarranted. I mean, he definitely has a need for attention and approval, but this is how we were raised. And to his credit, he’s also exceptionally good at the things he does and leading a life that is quite successful. I know he struggles with depression though which is a big indicator that all isn’t well in Beaver Cleaver land.

Until There’s Nothing Left – Self-Sacrifice

As it turns out I didn’t leave my Schema book at home, I just buried it in exactly the place it should have been ::headdesk:: There’s this new thing I’m trying, it’s called: Opening my eyes, before I fluster myself up too much. ::sigh::
So let’s bang on! Next Schema is Self-Sacrifice.
Self-Sacrifice
Typical Presentation of the Schema
People with this schema, like those with the Subjugation schema, display an excessive focus on meeting the needs of others at the expense of their own needs. However, unlike patients with the Subjugation schema, these patients experience their self-sacrifice as voluntary They do it because they want to prevent other people from experiencing pain, to do what they believe is right, to avoid feeling guilty or selfish, or to maintain a connection with significant others whom they perceive as needy. The Self-Sacrifice schema often results from what we believe to be a highly empathic temperament – an acute sensitivity to the pain of others. Some people feel the psychic pain of others so intensely that they are highly motivated to alleviate or prevent it. They do not want to do things or allow things to happen that will cause other people pain. Self-Sacrifice often involves a sense of over-responsibility for others. It thus overlaps with the concept of codependence.
Hmmm, I often do things for other people but not because I empathize with them. I do things because I’m afraid I’ll lose their approval and therefore my connection to them. If I’m honest it’s kind of selfishly motivated.
It is common for patients with this schema to have psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain, or fatigue. Physical symptoms may provide these patients with a way to bring attention to themselves, without having to ask for it directly and without conscious awareness. They feel permission to receive are or to decrease their care for others if they are “really sick”.  These symptoms may also be a direct result of the stress created by giving so much and receiving so little in return.
Nope. Not even a little. If I’m sick I refuse to admit it. I have an unreasonable tolerance for pain (I mean, hi, I’m a cutter). If I’m injured it’s likely that I’ll go even further out of my way to do something for other people just to ‘prove’ how little pain I’m in. In retrospect this strikes me as overcompensating. I have a severe aversion to letting people see manifestations of weakness in me.
People with this schema almost always have an accompanying Emotional Deprivation schema. They are meeting the needs of others; but their own needs are not getting met. On the surface, they appear content to self-sacrifice, but underneath, they feel a deep sense of emotional deprivation. Sometimes they feel angry at the objects of their sacrifice. Usually patients with this schema are giving so much that they end up hurting themselves.
Ah. Now here’s something I fight with. Here’s something I fight with a lot. I believe this is part of why I’m still as close to Friend as I am. Being around him and the wife is still heart wrenching for me, yet I go out of my way to do elaborate things to take care of them, or him specifically and her by default because there’s no way to avoid it if I want to take care of him. Half the time I’m over at their place I’m flipping moods between emotionally numb, angry, jealous, hurt, and intense frustration at the their cluelessness when they intentionally stab at my emotions. Do I show it? Do I tell them? No, I suppress. It’s not my place so I suffer inside and don’t let anyone know. This is where the wine comes in handy.
Often, these people believe that they do not expect anything back from others, but when something happens and the other person does not give as much back, they feel resentful. Anger is not inevitable with this schema, but people who self-sacrifice to a significant degree, and have people around them who are not reciprocating, usually experience at he least some resentment.
Gold Star for the psych book. This is a HUGE deal for Borderlines. I didn’t recognize this in myself for a very long time. I didn’t really see what I was doing until I recognized it in a Borderline friend of mine. She would give and give and give, proclaim her selflessness, and then hold up all her examples of giving as a reason why someone else should want to choose her or do something for her, and proceed to melt down when she wasn’t made the priority, even though she did all these things when no one asked it of her. That’s not to say her efforts weren’t appreciated, they certainly were, but her expectations that the other people should put their life on hold, or rearrange their heart for her because of all of these displays was just unreasonable. I have this problem too.  Where she would break down into a sea of tears and despair, I would rage and resent. She would redouble her efforts to win back their love and attention and make them appreciate her more. I would withdraw my attention, my affection, lash out (more subtlety now), guilt and show how hurt I was… you won’t do this one thing for me after all of that? Fine, fuck you, you don’t deserve anything anymore, ever, you’re not the person I thought you were, clearly you don’t give a shit about me or what I need, you’re a terrible friend that was probably just using me for your own purposes any…. Check out the Splitting! Either way, it’s something I now recognize as that classic Borderline manipulation. We don’t do it on purpose, but the wave of emotions that crash over us when we feel we’ve been taken advantage of because our needs aren’t being met after we’ve sacrificed so much is overwhelming.
As previously noted in Subjugation, it is important to distinguish self-sacrifice form subjugation. When people have the Subjugation schema, they surrender their own needs out of fear of external consequences. They are afraid that other people are going to retaliate or reject them. With the Self-Sacrifice schema, people surrender their own needs out of an inner sense or standard. Subjugated people experience themselves as being under the control of other people; self-sacrificing patients experience themselves as making voluntary choices.
My ordeal with Evil-Ex was Subjugation. My need to take care of everyone else in my life is Self-Sacrifice. At least I think it is. I recognize that my actions are my choice, which makes them voluntary, but there’s always a motivation behind it. That motivation is fear of losing the people I care about. Fear of being abandoned by the people I need around me. If I don’t do something for them, don’t give them a reason to need me in their life, what could possible make them want to keep me around? My shining personality? I don’t believe it, I need to make myself indispensable to someone’s life or else I’ll be easy to replace.
The origins of these two schemas are different as well. Although the two overlap, they are almost opposite in their origins. The origin of Subjugation is usually a domineering and controlling parent; with the Self-Sacrifice, the parent is typically weak, needy, a childlike, helpless, ill, or depressed. Thus, the former develops from interaction with a parent who is too strong, and the latter with a parent who is too weak or ill.
My father = too strong. My mother = too weak. I have always had a need to impress, please, and rebel against my father. My mother just makes me angry.
People with the Self-Sacrifice schema typically exhibit behaviors such as listening to others rather than talking about themselves; taking care of other people, yet having difficulty doing things for themselves; focusing attention on other people, yet feeling uncomfortable when attention is focus on them, and being indirect when they want something, rather than asking directly.
There can also be secondary gain with this schema. The schema has positive aspects and is only pathological when brought to an unhealthy extreme. Patients might feel a sense of pride in seeing themselves as caretakers. They might feel that they are good for behaving altruistically, that they are behaving in a morally virtuous way. (In contrast, sometimes the schema has a “never enough” quality, so that no matter how much self-sacrifices do, they still feel guilty that it is not enough.) Another potential source of secondary gain is that the schema might draw other people to them. Many people enjoy the empathy and help of the self-sacrifice. People with this schema usually have many friendships, although their own needs often are not being met in these relationships.
In terms of over compensatory behaviors, after self-sacrificing for a long time, some patients suddenly flip into excessive anger. They become enraged and cut off giving to the other person completely. When self-sacrificers feel unappreciated, they sometimes retaliate by conveying to the other person: “I’m not going to give you anything ever again.”
There we go. Yeah, I do this. It doesn’t usually last long. More often than not I get paranoid that if I withhold myself for too long I’ll be  abandoned and no longer needed so slip right back into the mode of doing things for other people. Only this time there’s an added layer of resentment underneath.
Goals of Treatment
One major goal is to teach that all people have an equal right to get their needs met. Even though these patients experience themselves as stronger than others, in reality, most of them have been emotionally deprived. They have sacrificed themselves and  have not gotten their own needs met in return. Therefore, they are needy – just as needy as most of the “weaker” people they devote themselves to helping. The primary difference is that these people do not experience their own needs, at least not consciously. They have usually blocked out the frustration of their own needs in order to continue self-sacrificing.
Which makes it important to help these people recognize that they have needs that are not being met, even though they are not aware of them; and that they have as much right to get their needs met as anyone else.
It’s also important to decrease the sense of over responsibility. Often these people exaggerate the fragility and helplessness of other people. If the person were to give less, the other person would usually still be fine. In most cases the other person is not going to fall apart or experience unbearable pain if the patient gives less.
Remedying the associated emotional deprivation is also important. To do this the person must learn to attend to their own needs, let other people meet their needs, ask for what they want more directly, and be more vulnerable instead of appearing strong most of the time.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Awareness of other schemas that underlie Self-Sacrifice is important; Emotional deprivation for instance. Defectiveness is also a common linked schema: These people “Give more” because they feel “worth less” (Ugh, a world of yes). Abandonment can be a linked schema: People self-sacrifice in order to prevent the other person from abandoning them. Dependence can be a linked schema: Patients self-sacrifice so that the parent figure will stay connected to them and keep taking care of them. Approval-Seeking can be a linked schema; People take care of others to get approval or recognition.
Emotional Deprivation: Check
Defectiveness: Check
Abandonment: Check
It’s important for people with this schema to become aware of their emotional deprivation. Expressing sadness and anger about their unmet emotional needs is key. Behaviorally it’s necessary to learn to ask to have their needs met more directly, and to come across as vulnerable instead of strong. (I don’t like this idea at all). They need to learn to select partners who are strong and giving rather than weak and needy. In addition, learning to set limits on how much they give to others is important.
In a sense, this schema is the opposite of the Entitlement schema. The entitlement schema involves self-centeredness: the Self-Sacrifice schema involves other-centeredness. These two schemas “fit” together well in relationships:  Patients who have one of these schemas often end up with a partner who has the other. Another common combination is one partner with a Self-Sacrifice schema, and the other with Dependent Entitlement. The self-sacrificer does everything or the entitled partner.
HOLY CRAP! This is Friend and his wife. I have never met a woman that was so lazy, selfish and self-entitled and utterly incapable of doing anything for herself. He does everything for her so she doesn’t have to budge from the couch. That explains so much.
Special Problems with This Schema
One problem is that there is often a high cultural and religious value placed on self-sacrifice. Furthermore, self-sacrifice is not a dysfunctional schema within normal limits (Parents should take care of their children, loving partners and friends do things for one another). Rather, it is healthy to be self-sacrificing to a certain degree. It becomes dysfunctional when it is excessive. For a person’s self-sacrifice to be a maladaptive schema, the self-sacrifice has to be causing problems for the person. It has to be creating symptoms or creating unhappiness in relationships. There has to be some way it is manifesting itself as a difficult: Anger building up, the patient is experiencing psychosomatic complaints, feeling emotionally deprived, or otherwise suffering emotionally.
Wow, this was really really long today. Sorry! Hope you managed to get through it all. I guess I had a little bit of pent up feelings towards this schema.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep – It’s obnoxioius to worry about Both

I hope everyone had a delightful holiday weekend (for all of you who celebrate some sort of holiday this weekend past). I clearly did not. I’m doubly angry at myself because I left my Schema Therapy book at my parents’ house so I have to wait until they ship it to me in order to continue my blog series. I’m a little pissed because we’re  very close to the end and I wanted to make a clean break before moving on to something new.
::sigh:: I’m trying not to beat myself up about this, but it bothers me that I don’t have what I need at my disposal.
So here’s a story I picked up over Thanksgiving dinner.  We all know I have sleeping problems. It’s why I’ve been prescribed the Trazadone = help me sleep and stay asleep. Since starting the Pristiq though, I have been falling asleep pretty well without the need of my sleep meds. I’ve also mentioned on multiple occasions that I often have anxiety about going to sleep.  This is an entirely different problem from my insomnia. I’m not sure why I’m afraid to go to sleep some nights. The thought of turning off all my lights, pulling myself away from my computer, isolating myself in some small way, it inspires this low level dread and anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I’ll check, double check, and triple check many things just to put off going to bed for a few more minutes.
It’s weird because I actually like sleeping. I absolutely LOVE dreaming. I have such vivid, wild dreams and I find them all fascinating, even if they’re bad or nightmares.
The act of getting into bed, alone, is just awful for me.
And apparently always has been.
I have a darling wacky aunt that loves to tell all the silly and embarrassing stories of our youth after dinner, just before dessert and coffee. They’re usually pretty funny. This past dinner my aunt was recalling the times we would visit and spend the night at her place. My sister would fall asleep anywhere, no problem. My brother was the same. Not me. I would fight and scream and not want to go to sleep.  I would insist I wasn’t tired and want to stay up with her just a little longer. Then my mother chimed in. I would become incredibly upset if I had to go to sleep alone. My mother would lie down with me at bedtime until she had to go to work, hoping that I would be asleep by the time she had to leave. (Remember, she worked evenings so she would wake up in time to put us to bed and then go to work). I would apparently be inconsolable if she wasn’t there to fall asleep with me. I don’t remember any of this. I do remember often sneaking into my parent’s room at night to curl up in bed with them until I was too old (maybe 7 years old) and they forbid it. Now that I’m focusing on it I remember sleeping with my brother and sister whenever we could get away with it as well. My parents would send us to our rooms at night, but by morning, I would wake up next to one of my siblings.
One of my favorite things about being in a relationship is the fact that I don’t have to sleep alone. Sleeping alone is one of my most hated things ever. I also tend to have very affectionate friends that don’t mind falling asleep together. Sleeping together doesn’t have to be sexual, just comforting. Even having my cat to curl up with me is better than being all alone. One of the reasons I like having a roommate is that I’m never alone in the apartment at night. When Roommate is gone for weekends I often forsake my bed and bedroom altogether and sleep in the living room on the couch. The common area has an energy that is less solitary, more open, more comforting, plus I know right away if someone is trying to break in (there’s not going to be any sneaking up on me). It’s safer.
I don’t know why this is such an issue for me, but it’s apparently been an issue my entire life.
Logically I know there’s nothing waiting for me in the dark. All those breathing exercises and visualization techniques do me no good. It does help for me to have some kind of white noise on in the background, like a running fan or air filter, something to fill up the emptiness in the air. Even when I’m falling down exhausted the idea of going to bed alone makes me anxious. I’ll choose to sleep on the couch before going to bed alone (unless Roommate is home, in which case it would just be rude so I always force myself to go to my own room).
I just need someone to snuggle up to and I’m fine. This isn’t exactly a ‘cure’ for my anxiety but it’s definitely an acceptable fix as far as I’m concerned. I’m very curious as to why I have this problem and why I developed it so young.  It definitely makes me think that this is potentially something I’m predisposed to as my siblings have no similar problem at all. Is this a problem for any of my Borderline readers out there?
Curiouser and curiouser. In the meantime I’m accepting Cuddle Buddy applications!
By Haven Posted in Sleep

Remember when…

Some days I wish I could go back in time to be that care free girl without a problem in the world. Then I remember that was just a book I read once. I’ve never been that girl.

Quotes from the Borderline

“What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.

~Chuck Palahniuk

[source]


By Haven Posted in quote

Inexplicable Emotions

Thanksgiving was bad, but not as bad as usual. I only started to throw up once and stopped myself. I picked at food steadily but didn’t over stuff and completely skipped dessert. Good job I suppose. I even only had 2 drinks <~~~~ Major shocker.
Friend texted me a lot. Last year his wife flipped the fuck out on him and me because Thanksgiving was “family time” and “no matter how close you are to Friend you are not family”, (though Friend constantly regards me as such) therefore none of his time should be spent speaking to me at all. Last year we sent a grand total of 8 texts to each other.  This year he spent the entire evening after dinner texting me practically until I fell asleep and not a word from the wife. He’s been texting me a lot since I left New York. A lot since I started seeing Tech Boy. I feel like there’s some holding back and underlying emotion that he’s not expressing. I’m not sure if I find this incredibly amusing or achingly sad.  I haven’t been as consistent or available with him as I used to be and I can tell he’s starting to miss me. I’m torn between wanting to be there for him, because without me he’s essentially left with only being very close to his horrid wife, and thinking that he made his decision so he’s going to have to live with it and deal with the fact that my life is going to move forward without him.  Or with him in a diminished place of importance. 
Tech Boy texted me a lot yesterday too. He spent most of the night with friends boozing it up. The thoughts running through my mind? “Drinking + house party = who’s the girl from back home that you’re going to end up in bed with?” What did I actually say? “Catching up with friends is great, have fun!”
Inside does not match the outside. Thoughts do not match the behavior.
I think this is one of the reasons Borderlines come across as so inexplicable at times. And why when we do blow up it appears to be ‘at random’ or ‘out of nowhere’.  I know what a person wants to hear, I know what to do that will make me look more attractive to someone; however these things are often in opposition to what I want, think and feel. We do what will win the approval of the other person, so as not to lose them and to draw them to us more, even though ultimately those things build up and drive us slowly crazy over time. We can hold this and everything will be fine, until it’s not. It’ll build and build and build, and usually that final thing that makes us snap is seemingly little, when the other person doesn’t realize just how much build up went into contributing to that explosion.
 Like right now I’m ready to explode all over the place.
Last night my cousin asked me when I was going back to New York because she wants a ride to Manhattan. She’s nice enough but I really don’t want to have to adjust my travel schedule, wait longer to get on the road, and then have to make inane small talk for 8 hours. Also, driving other people around makes me incredibly anxious. I’m not a chauffeur. But she’s family so I felt obligated to say ‘yes’ though I did leave myself an out and say that I may leave earlier than expected depending on when I can see my best friend…
Who is also Borderline, and prone to making excuses, and flaking out on plans. I love her to death, but the rest of my stay here is entirely dependent on her. If she cancels on me at the last minute I’m going to be furious. She took longer to text me back than usual and I could already feel the anxiety and irritation taking over.
Then I went shoe shopping with my mother who chats away incessantly trying too hard to relate to me. She’s curious and wants to understand my Borderline problems. But every time I start to explain various things she tries so hard to make it sounds like she’s been in my shoes. It’s infuriating and pisses me off. Every time I spend more than a few minutes alone with her my stomach starts to turn in knots and I get physically nauseous. I can feel my blood pressure rise and all I want is to stuff my new shoes that she’s trying to walk in straight down her throat to make her shut up.
But I keep my mouth closed.
Little thing after little thing, builds and builds, and I’m ready to flee this awful state.

Powerless Against You – Subjugation

Yesterday was a holiday for those of us in the US so I didn’t have therapy. Frankly I wish I had stayed in New York instead of travelling to see my family. For as annoying as going to therapy every week can be it’s better for me to maintain my structure than to throw myself off into triggering situations. So today I’ll throw another schema at you guys.
We’re moving into the Domain of Other-Directedness, specifically the schema of Subjugation.
Typical Presentations of the Schema
People with this schema allow other people to dominate htem. They surrender control to others because they feel coerced by the threat of either punishment or abandonment. There are two forms: The first is subjugations of needs, in which people suppress their own wishes and instead follow the demands of other people; and the second is s subjugation of emotions, in which people suppress their feelings (mainly anger) because they are afraid other people will retaliate against them. The schema involves the perception that one’s own needs and feelings are not valid and important to other people. The schema almost always leads to an accumulation of anger, which manifests in such maladaptive symptoms as passive-aggressive behavior, uncontrolled outbursts of anger, psychosomatic symptoms, withdrawal of affection, acting out, and substance abuse.
Oi! This is me all over the place. Every single thing: accumulation of anger, uncontrolled outbursts, psychosomatic, withdrawal of affection, acting out, alcohol abuse.
People with this schema usually present with a coping style of surrendering to the schema: They are excessively compliant and hypersensitive to feeling trapped.
Hypersensitive to feeling trapped! This is one of the biggest triggers that makes me push away in relationships.
They feel bullied, harassed, and powerless. They experience themselves as being at the mercy of authority figures: The authority figures are stronger and more powerful; therefore, the patients must defer to them. The schema involves a significant level of fear. At the core, people are afraid that if they express their needs and feelings, something bad is going to happen to them. Someone important is going to get angry with, abandon, punish, reject, or criticize them. These patients suppress their needs and feelings, not because they feel they should suppress them, but because they feel they have to suppress them. Their subjugation is not based on an internalized value or a desire to help others; rather, I is based upon the fear of retaliation. In contrast, the Self-Sacrifice, Emotional Inhibition, and Unrelenting Standards schemas are all similar in that people have an internalized value that it is not right to express personal needs or feelings: They believe it is in some way bad or wrong to express needs and feelings, so they feel ashamed or guilty when they do. People with these other three schemas do not feel controlled by other people.  They have an internal locus of control. On the other hand, people with the Subjugation schema have an external locus of control. They believe that they must submit to authority figures, whether they think it is right or not, or else they will be punished in some way.
I don’t know quite how this fits me. I always feel like people are trying to control me, judge me… and I resent it. It makes me extremely angry. I think this is one schema where I overcompensate. I rarely surrender to it so much as rail against it. Or I guess I do both. I fear that I’ll lose someone’s love or friendship so I allow them to exert their opinions or wishes, until the frustration becomes so overwhelming that I act out and flip. This used to be very explosive for me. Now I act in more, I withdraw my affections, refuse to share or give sympathy, and avoid the person(s) until my emotions slip again and I become afraid that I’m losing my connection to them.  
Another thought, is that this particular schema may have less to do with my Borderline tendencies and more to do with the abusive relationships I’ve been in. Especially with my Evil-Ex, I often felt like I had to give in to what he wanted or I would be punished. To be true, often I was punished when I had the audacity to do things that I wanted (like go out with a friend), that didn’t include him. I became so afraid of losing his love and losing the relative peace in our home that I would do anything I could to not disrupt the very tenuous stability we were able to establish.
Thinking about this pisses me the hell off.
Often this schema leads to avoidant behavior. People avoid situations where other people might control them, or where they might become trapped. Some people avoid committed romantic relationships because they experience these relationships as claustrophobic or entrapping. The schema can also lead to overcompensation such as disobedience and oppositionality. Rebelliousness is the most common form of overcompensation for subjugation.
Ah, here we go. I’m all three of these expressions: Surrender, Avoidance, Overcompensation. All brought about my different things, and different scenarios throughout my life. Growing up I always felt like my parents were trying to control me. They over structured my life so I had very little time to do anything other than school and the excessive amount of activities I was involved in. I rebelled. Hard core. I acted out and become utterly uncontrollable.
Goals of Treatment
The basic goal of treatment is to get patients to see that they have a right ot have their needs and feelings, and to express them. Generally, the best way to live is to express needs and feeling appropriately at the moment they occur, rather than waiting until later or not expressing them at all. As long as people express themselves appropriately, it is healthy to express needs and feelings and healthy people usually will not retaliate against them when they do. People who consistently retaliate against them when they express their needs and feelings are not beneficial people for them to choose for close involvements. We encourage patients to seek out relationships with people who allow them to express normal needs and feelings, and to avoid relationship with people who do not.
To this day I have no idea how to find a balance. I still believe my needs and feelings come second to the people around me. At the same time I resent this and believe my needs and feelings SHOULD be acknowledged. This resentment makes me very, very angry. I have no idea how to put this healthy expression of emotions, in the moment, in to practice though. I believe utterly that if I express my needs and feelings that the person I express them too will withdraw their affection and will no longer want to deal with me. 
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
In terms of cognitive strategies, subjugated people have unrealistic negative expectations about the consequences of expressing their needs and feelings to appropriate significant others. It’s important for these people to understand that their expectations are exaggerated. It is also important to learn that they are acting in a healthy manner when they express their needs and feelings appropriately – even though their parents may have communicated that they were “bad” for doing so as children.
I know this is a problem for me. My father routinely told me to “suck it up and deal”, not to express any negative emotions. He would become very angry at me when I was upset and reacted in an unhappy manner. This taught me the necessity of hiding my emotions and feelings. This taught me to bottle it up and hold them all in.
A good strategy is to express anger and assert your rights through imagery and role play. In a safe environment, go over a scenario involving a controlling person, and work out how to exert your feelings by saying what it is you truly feel the need to express in those situations. Expressing anger is crucial. The more people are able to get in touch with their anger and vent it in imagery the more they will be able to fight the schema in their everyday. The purpose of expressing this anger is not purely for ventilation, but rather to help people feel empowered and to stand up for themselves. Anger supplies the motivation and momentum to fight the passivity that almost always accompanies subjugation.
Behaviorally it’s also important for people to select relatively non-controlling partners. Often, subjugated people are drawn to controlling partners. Working on selecting noncontrolling friends is also important.
Sometimes as a consequence of this schema the persons self is undeveloped. When someone has served the needs and preferences of others so assiduously they do not know their own needs and preferences, then these people need to work to individuate. Identifying their own natural inclinations and practice acting on those is important. For example, through imagery it is possible to recreate scenarios when a person suppress their needs and preferences, then aloud they can express what it is that they needed or wanted to do. They can imagine the consequences and work out what is reasonable to expect and what it out of proportion to the situations.
Special Problems with this Schema
As people experiment with expressing their needs and feelings, often they do it imperfectly. A the beginning, they might fail to assert themselves enough to be heard, or they might swing to the opposite extreme and become too aggressive. 
This is actually a fear of mine. I know I have a tendency to swing between these extremes. I won’t voice what I need enough, or I do become very aggressive.
When subjugated people first try to express their needs and feelings, they often say something like: “But I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I feel.” In cases such as these where Subjugation is linked to an Undeveloped Self schema, the therapist can help patients develop a sense of self by showing them how to monitor their wishes and emotions.
Again, this is a problem I have. I can’t even count how many times my therapist has asked me how I felt about certain things, and my only response was “I don’t know how I feel”. I don’t know what I should feel, I don’t know what I’m allowed to feel, I don’t know what I have a right to feel.

Ritual Sacrifice…. with Pie

“I love a ritual sacrifice. To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.”
~Anya (Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Pangs”)

Would you like to wager what the most terrifying holiday for someone with a severe eating disorder is? Hint: It’s not Arbor Day.
 Personally? I hate Thanksgiving. If I were actually doing the cooking it’d be a different story. I could participate, contribute, and thereby alleviate my guilt and not wanting to join the festivities. I could easily hide the fact that I do not want to eat anything because of the appearance of business in the kitchen. But do I get to? Nope. Not even a little.
This is such a stressful holiday for me. First off, and the reason I couldn’t post yesterday, I drove approximately 500 miles to my parents house. Not that I don’t love spending 8 hours in my car, but, well, I don’t. On the plus side, my sister got home about an hour after I did and we broke out the wine. Double win. However coming back to my parents house is an instant trigger. All of my problems, all of my turbulence, all of my Borderline expressions, began here.
I come home and instantly gain 15 pounds. Oh, not literally. My tape measure tells me I haven’t gained even a fraction of an inch. But the mirror reflects all the fears I had growing up. This is something many people do not understand. I actually see something that may not be there. My brain translates the picture of myself into what I expect to see. Mind over matter. What matters is what my mind believes though.  
When I think of Thanksgiving I think: Obsession. Thanksgiving is a bulimics nightmare. It’s an entire day dedicated to food. Something that I spend way too much time pouring over, trying to avoid, punishing myself with, and purging my body of.
Most people are dreaming about turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and hot buttered rum. I’m contemplating diet pills, laxatives, diuretics, excessive exercising, vomiting. These are the tools of my trade today. All of which I have at my disposal. All of which I would love, with all of my heart, to not use.
I would give anything to be able to enjoy the day with my family. I actually have one of those families where my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, on both my mother and father’s side of the family… all get along. All like each other. All spend every holiday together. It’s like we fell out of a 1950’s sitcom. I would love to be able to kick back, grab a glass of Bailey’s, gnosh on all the goodies while catching up with the people that watched me grow up, and not worry about a couple holiday pounds. Can I? Oh hell no.
Holidays are a time where my family hasn’t seen me in months so I become the center of attention. I live a very creative lifestyle. I have a high profile occupation in ground breaking experimental physics. Everyone wants to know what I’m up to. All eyes are on me. All eyes are on the body that isn’t perfect enough yet, that has flaws that I’m still flattening out. All I want to do is curl up in bed, with the blankets pulled up over my head enjoying a Trazadone hibernation until the sun sets on this fateful day of dieting damnation.
But no. I have to spend it getting all dolled up, plastering a pretty plastic smile onto my face, making small talk with people as I meticulously tick off all the calories that each and every one of them is consuming. The eyes, the food, the forced pleasantries, the pressure and expectations everyone has for me, is an incredible burden. I can feel the anxiety well up in my stomach ready to burst out of my throat.
Every year it’s the same thing. Every year I hope it will be different. Honestly, my goal is to eat as little as possible. Every year I overdose on diet pills and purge at least once if not twice. I Do. Not. Want. To do this.  I am going to try my damnedest to make this year different. To make this year better. To not lose the battle.
Food is the enemy. This time it’s war.

Random Life Update

I had every intention of doing a real post today but work was pretty much non-stop so I didn’t have time. So here’s a random life update.
At work it’s annual performance appraisal time. I’ve only been there 8 months but I still get one. It’s a sit down, face to face, talk with the boss. I hate these. It’s like insta panic attack x 10, with no warning. So he calls me into his office. I’m positive he’s going to tell me I’m doing a terrible job and that my job is at stake (because if you’ve been reading my schema assessments you know I have this problem with failure, unrelenting standards for myself, and feeling like everything I do isn’t good enough if I’m not the foremost authority on it in the world). His only real critique was that I should push my co-workers harder if I need something from them instead of trying to go about it myself. Then he talked to me about more projects he’d like me to take one and my long term goals (years down the line) with the group. I guess that means I’m not getting fired any time soon. If I’m being real nice to myself I guess that means I’m actually doing a pretty good job because the rest of my appraisal was all aces. Anxiety attack averted.

Chemistry. Get it? Ya, I know I’m lame. 
Things with Tech Boy have been going swimmingly. So we finally did the deed. TMI? Nah. Ok, got that out of my system. After work Friday we went out for drinks at a favorite local spot. Preceded to get pretty buzzed before heading back to my place (I definitely should not have been driving, bad Haven). We talked a lot and I got a lot more insight into his personality. There were a few flags that I should probably pay attention too…. Like the fact that he hasn’t had a girlfriend in, oh, 7 years, because he hasn’t been with a chick he likes for long enough to consider her girlfriend material. Then again, his cut off time was like 3 weeks and we’ve been doing, whatever we’re doing, for over a month now (plus he’s known me for 8 months). I don’t know what I should be reading into this, but you can bet it’s gonna be too much and too varied. So we came back to my place, put on Fight Club, and started messing around. Stopping periodically to chat and whatever. At one point we were snuggled up together and he ran his fingers down my arm, “So I’ve been wondering for a while now, what’s with all the scars.”  Oh the trials of a misspent youth. I explained I had a rather hard time growing up, it was something I needed to do to remind me that I was a part of the world. I do what I need to do to keep myself alive. That’s all that matters. I was a little drunk at the time and he didn’t push me to elaborate too much so I’m guessing he was a little weirded out but ultimately handled it okay. Especially as he spent a good chunk of time after staring into my eyes, tell me how beautiful my eyes were, how beautiful I am… and all that cuteness.  This was after the sexin so if that was all he wanted he didn’t have to tell me these things. Or yanno, stay over, which he seems to like to do. So two important events happened Friday night; sex and scars. Fun. He left at like noon Saturday…. And didn’t text me the next day.  

Advice to the Gentlemen out there: Don’t do that. If you sleep with a girl. You better ask her how she is the next day.

And I’ll be damned if I was texting him. So my paranoia ran away with itself and I started having all kinds of ridiculous accusatory badness running through my head; just wanted me for sex, I opened up too much and freaked him out, I never should have been honest with him about my scars, I’m too this, I’m not enough that….etc. When really, it’s a guy game. I know it is. It’s awful. Hence my post on trust issues.  Anyways. The no texting lasted until approximately 7 a.m. bright and early. And I let him text me first after that. I usually do this. I hate texting people I’m interested in. I almost never initiate contact or dates. I always let the other person do it. This way I don’t feel like I’m forcing their hand and I know they actually want to go out and do something/talk to me because they’re not just responding out of obligation. As soon as he texted me the next night my paranoia melted. I feel stupid admitting that, but it did. I hate that I can get so invested in someone that I clearly don’t trust yet, and something as simple as having their attention makes me feel better.


Must. Contain. The. Crazy.

Which is going to be difficult considering I have to go home tomorrow for Thanksgiving. This is always a rough time for me. Holidays with my family are extremely triggering. My family, my old home, my town, my bulimia, it all comes up and makes me want to do bad things. I’m trying my damnedest to keep it in check. It was around this time last year that I finally couldn’t take it anymore and jumped into therapy again, and found my psychiatrist. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last year. I do know that I’ve been in a relatively stable environment though. Home with my family has never been a stable environment. Here’s hoping it goes ok.