What do you do?

Enough moping. Today is a new day and I have am going to get back on my previous track if it kills me. Ok, maybe not kills me, but I’m determined to not let myself drown slowly in the trenches of my dark thoughts. So where were we? Oh yes! I was going to give you some examples of the three Maladaptive Coping Responses: Surrender, Avoidance, and Overcompensation. To illustrate just how pervasive these things are in the life of someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder, I’m going to highlight the examples that permeate my life. Keep in mind these are just some examples, they’re not the only ways that these schemas can be expressed.
Surrender: Selects partners who cannot make a commitment and remains in the relationship.
            Avoidance: Avoids intimate relationships; drinks a lot when alone.
Overcompensation: Clings to and “smothers” the partner to a point of pushing partner away; vehemently attacks partner for even minor separations.
            Surrender: Selects abusive partners and permits abuse.
            Avoidance: Avoids becoming vulnerable and trusting anyone; keeps secrets.
            Overcompensation: Uses and abuses others (“get others before they get you”)
I have Surrender in my history but as I recognize this I will not tolerate it again. I think because of this I’ve developed even more of the Avoidance mechanism though I recognize that I’ve had this one almost my entire life.
Emotional Deprivation
            Surrender: Selects emotionally depriving partners and does not ask them to meet needs.
            Avoidance: Avoids intimate relationships altogether.
            Overcompensation: Acts emotionally demanding with partners and close friends.
Social Isolation/Alienation
Surrender: At social gatherings, focuses exclusively on differences from others rather than similarities.
            Avoidance: Avoids social situations and groups.
            Overcompensation: Becomes a chameleon to fit into groups.
Social situations have always been hard for me with my anxiety, my dysmorphia, but mutable personality. I always feel like an outsider, someone that never fits in. I can so clearly see all the differences between me and the people gathered around me.  I often have to force myself to be social though my natural state is to stay away where I know I won’t be judged and feel more comfortable. Then when I am out, I’ve been told (most notably by my Evil-Ex) that I’m like different people depending on where I am. I don’t even realize I do this, but clearly it is there.
Surrender: Asks significant others (parents, spouse) to make all his or her financial decisions.
            Avoidance: Avoids taking on new challenges, such as learning to drive.
Overcompensation: Becomes so self-reliant that he or she does not ask anyone for anything (“Counterdependence).
Counterdependence is basically the opposite of co-dependence. I’ll do a blog about these one day I’m sure. I’m almost phobic of the idea of being dependent on anyone. When I find myself relying too much on anyone I push away and push away hard.
Vulnerability to Harm or Illness
Surrender: Obsessively reads about catastrophes in newspapers and anticipates them in everyday situations.
            Avoidance: Avoids going places that do not seem totally “safe”.
            Overcompensation: Acts recklessly, without regard to danger (“counterphobic”).
Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self
            Surrender: Tells mother everything, even as an adult; lives through partner.
            Avoidance: Avoids intimacy; stays independent.
            Overcompensation: Tries to become the opposite of significant others in all ways.
            Surrender: Does tasks in a halfhearted or haphazard manner.
            Avoidance: Avoids work challenges completely; procrastinates on tasks.
            Overcompensation: Becomes an “overachiever” by ceaselessly driving him- or herself.
This goes hand in hand with Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness for me.
            Surrender: Bullies others into getting own way, brags about own accomplishments.
            Avoidance: Avoids situations in which he or she is average, not superior.
            Overcompensation: Attends excessively to the needs of others.
Insufficient Self-Control/Self-Discipline
            Surrender: Gives up easily on routine tasks.
            Avoidance: Avoids employment or accepting responsibility
            Overcompensation: Becomes overly self-controlled or self-disciplined.
My actions have been slipping away from this, but my mentality refuses to shift. As soon as I begin to stray from my very rigid self-discipline I get anxious, I feel like I’m failing, like I am letting myself down and will be judged harshly for not living up to a standard that I feel I should meet.  I need the self-control to feel stable.
            Surrender: Lets other individuals control situations and make choices.
            Avoidance: Avoids situations that might involve conflict with another individual.
            Overcompensation: Rebels against authority. ß— Yeeeeaaaah, I was a trouble maker growing up.
            Surrender: Gives a lot to others and asks for nothing in return.
            Avoidance: Avoids situations involving giving or taking.
            Overcompensation: Gives as little to others as possible.
            Surrender: Acts to impress others.
            Avoidance: Avoids interacting with those whose approval is coveted.
Overcompensation: Goes out of the way to provoke the disapproval of others; stays in the background.
Surrender: Focuses on the negative; ignores the positive; worries constantly; goes to great lengths to avoid any possible negative outcome.
            Avoidance: Drinks to blot out pessimistic feelings and unhappiness.
            Overcompensation: Is overly optimistic (“Pollyanna-ish”); denies unpleasant realities.
Emotional Inhibition
            Surrender: Maintains a calm, emotionally flat demeanor.
            Avoidance: Avoids situations in which people discuss or express feelings.
Overcompensation: Awkwardly tries to be the “life of the party,” even though it feels forced and unnatural.
I’ve turned so far inward from my Acting Out days that I can’t bring myself to voice my own feelings when something is upsetting. Or I try, but it’s like pulling my own teeth out I don’t know how to do it. I try to beat the outward expression of emotion into submission until I’m alone and can take it out on myself. Letting other people see me out of control is just out of the question, so situations where people can see me out of control are out of the question.
Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness
            Surrender: Spends inordinate amounts of time trying to be perfect.
Avoidance: Avoids or procrastinates in situations and tasks in which performance will be judged. — I’ve felt almost paralyzed in the face of the fear that I cannot be perfect at the overwhelming stress I’ve faced at work as of late. It’s not even a conscious decision to avoid, but a deep anxiety that forces me to look somewhere else or be consumed.
Overcompensation: Does not care about standards at all – does tasks in a hasty, careless manner.
            Surrender: Treats self and others in harsh, punitive manner.  ß— I am often very harsh with myself but rarely with other people.
            Avoidance: Avoids others for fear of punishment.
            Overcompensation: Behaves in overly forgiving way.
As I mentioned before, it’s quite natural to express a couple of these in various ways. People are people and we all have some baggage. It’s when they become overwhelming and disruptive and permeate your life that they’re a problem.  People with various PDs tend to express clusters of these coping mechanisms. The thing that is so striking about BPD is just HOW MANY of these various ways touch our lives. You begin to get a clearer picture of why it’s so difficult to effectively treat BPD because clearly, there are many, many aspects that need to be addressed. Even if you don’t have a personality disorder, recognizing where some behavior stems from is useful in overcoming something that has been a challenge for you.

Get a Grip: Coping Mechanisms

As I mentioned yesterday there are three basic responses to any kind of threat; Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Or in this case: Overcompensation, Avoidance, Surrender. But what do we consider a threat? In this context a threat is any emotional frustration that triggers a schema response; the frustration of one of those core emotional needs or the fear of the intense emotions that a situation inspires. The coping mechanisms that arise from this may have once been appropriate, say in childhood, but later on in life they become maladaptive when they perpetuate the schema even when circumstances have changed and there are better, healthier ways of dealing with a situation.
So what happens when you deal with a schema in these ways?
Schema Surrender – When someone surrenders to a schema, they yield to it. They don’t try to fight or avoid it and accept the schema as true so that they feel the emotional pain directly. They act in ways that confirm the schema. “When they encounter schema triggers, their emotional responses are disproportionate, and they experience their emotions fully and consciously. Behaviorally, they choose partners who are most likely to treat them as the “offending parent” did.”
Schema Avoidance – This happens when a person tries to arrange their lives so that the schema is never activated.  They attempt to live without awareness, as though the schema does not exist. They avoid thinking about the schema. They block thoughts and images that are likely to trigger it: When such thoughts or images loom, they distract themselves or put them out of their minds. They avoid feeling the schema. When feelings do surface they push them down on instinct, maybe by drinking excessively, doing drugs, having promiscuous sex, overeating, compulsively cleaning or in some other fully immersive way. People that engage this kind of coping mechanism often appear completely normal because they avoid anything and everything that will put them out of their comfort zone.
Schema Overcompensation – To overcompensate for a schema, it is fought against by thinking, feeling, behaving and relating as though the opposite of the schema were true.  A person may try to be as different as possible from who they were when the schema was acquired. For example, if they felt worthless as children, then as adults they try to be perfect OR if they were subjugated as children, then as adults they defy everyone OR if they were controlled as children, as adults they control others or reject all forms of influence ( < —– this is often me, I reject all forms of influence even if I ask for it). Faced with a situation that triggers a schema someone who overcompensates with counterattack.
Overcompensation isn’t entirely unhealthy. It sort of starts off on the right track to fight back against the schema but it overshoots the mark so instead of being able to heal the problem is perpetuated from a different angle. Overcompensation develops because it offers an alternative to the pain of the schema. It is a means of escape from the sense of helplessness and vulnerability that a person felt growing up.
So what determines which coping style you develop? Most likely it’s your inborn temperament. Temperament probably plays a bigger role in determining coping styles than determining schemas which are more often a result of the environment. For example, someone with a naturally passive temperament is likely to surrender to their schemas while someone with a more aggressive temperament is likely to overcompensate. But like most things, it’s rarely so simple. Especially for someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder who may run the gamut on a huge array of these schema types. I absolutely cope with different schemas in different ways. Hell, sometimes I cope with the same schema in different ways.  For example, I had a very strict and over structured childhood so with Subjugation I overcompensate by rebelling against authority or any norm in general. But in Defectiveness/Shame I engage all three coping styles by putting myself down, avoiding expressing my true thoughts and feelings and letting others get close, and/or criticize and reject other people while hiding my own flaws, depending on the situation.  
Tomorrow or Monday I’ll give examples of each coping style as it corresponds to each of the maladaptive schema types. Side by side it’s easier to get an idea of how these correlate.