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.

Shield, Sword, or Dynamite – Maladaptive Coping Modes

Talk about Existential Ennui. I’ve certainly been having a case of that lately. This whole not drinking thing is just boring (though I admit I cheated a bit this past Sunday). I’m starting to get really restless. Oh well.
So where were we? Oh, yes! Breaking down the psyche personas.
Maladaptive Coping Modes. There are 3 of them; The Compliant Surrenderer, The Detached Protector, and The Overcompensator. Logically they correspond directly to the 3 Maladaptive Coping Styles: Surrender, Avoidance, and Overcompensating.
These modes develop early on in a child/adolescents life as an attempt to adapt to living in a harmful environment where emotional needs aren’t met. The function of the Compliant Surrenderer is to avoid further mistreatment. The f unction of the other two modes, the Detached Protector and the Overcompensator, is to escape the upsetting emotions generated when a schema mode is triggered. They may be protective and adaptive at the time, but they become maladaptive when they continue on into adult life where they are no longer appropriate or necessary.
The Compliant Surrenderer
The Compliant Surrenderer submits to the schema as a coping style. Patients in this mode appear passive and dependent. They do whatever the therapist (and others) want them to do. Individuals in the Compliant Surrenderer mode experience themselves as helpless in the face of a more powerful figure. They feel they have no choice but to try to please this person to avoid conflict. They are obedient, perhaps allowing others to abuse them, neglect them, control them, or devalue them in order to preserve the connection or avoid retaliation.
In most things I am not one that surrenders easily. I’ve had periods of time when I would though. Like when things were most abusive with Evil-Ex I would fall to compliance. I would do everything in my power to try to maintain the tenuous stability and good times that we had. I’m not naturally obedient though and I would fight my own decisions to be this way. I knew what was happening was wrong, but I was terrified of losing what I had. I was in constant conflict when I let him have control over my life. I would surrender to the mistreatment to avoid outright abuse and then become furious that I had no control over how I felt in the face of how I knew I was being treated. It was like riding a favorite rollercoaster knowing the rails were out of order. I let myself be lead onto it, but I knew I’d have to jump off at the last possible second in order to save myself.
Detached Protector
The Detached Protector uses schema avoidance as a coping style. The coping style is one of psychological withdrawal. Individuals in the Detached Protector mode detach from other people and shut off their emotions in order to protect themselves from the pain of being vulnerable. The mode is like a protective armor or wall, with the more vulnerable modes hiding inside. In the Detached Protector mode, patients may feel numb or empty. They may adopt a cynical or aloof stance to avoid investing emotionally in people or activities. Behavioral examples include social withdrawal, excessive self-reliance, addictive self-soothing, fantasizing, compulsive distraction, an stimulation-seeking.
The Detached Protector mode is problematic for many PD patients, but especially for those with BPD, and is often the most difficult to change. This is a mode that was developed to distance themselves from a traumatic environment that created too much suffering to deal with, to detach and not to feel. As these children matured into adults and entered a less hostile or depriving world, it would b have been adaptive to let go of the Detached Protector and become open to the world and their own emotions again. But these people have become so accustomed to being in the Detached Protector mode that it is automatic, and they no longer know how to get out of it. Their refuge has become their prison.
This, is where I spend most of my time. For me though, it never stopped being an adaptive mode. Instead of finding healthier relationships as I got older I found more and more destructive ones. I was in an emotionally traumatic relationship from the time I was 16 until my early 20’s. Then of course, after I graduated from college I left my family and support base and moved in with Evil-Ex in my mid-20’s. Not until maybe a year or two ago have I been in a place to get away from this kind of thing (and even that sort of depends on how you view my relationship with Friend).  
The whole point of this mode is to cut off emotional needs, disconnect from others, and behave in a way that avoids punishment. A Borderline in Detached Protector mode usually appears quite normal. They do everything they’re supposed to do and act appropriately. They don’t act out or lose control of their emotions. The problem is, they may be acting ‘right’, but it’s because they are utterly cut off from their own needs and feelings. Instead of being true to themselves they’re sort of going through the motions of what they think is expected of them to gain the approval, or not receive disapproval, from those around them. Signs and symptoms include depersonalization, emptiness, boredom, substance abuse, bingeing, self-mutilation, psychosomatic complaints, “blankness”, and robot-like compliance.
Hah! This sounds an awful lot like the existential ennui that I’ve been feeling lately. I haven’t had anything to shake me up, I’ve been purposefully avoiding anything that can shake me up, but it’s left me feeling hollow. I felt like this for years at University. I avoided emotional attachments and hid inside my world of self-protection. Part of why I fell so hard for Evil-Ex was because he was able to bring me out of this. His lies and his language opened me up to a world of light and laughter. Everything we did awakened a sense that we were at the pinnacle of a grandiose, glamorous world making me more than happy to participate in the manipulative seductions we played out. He brought me out of the emptiness and boredom. Something no one else had been able to do for years. Then of course, when we finally moved in together, when I was finally away from my comfort zone and support, things changed. Quickly, and drastically.
Overcompensators use schema overcompensation as a coping style. They act as though the opposite of the schema were true. For example if they feel defective, they try to appear perfect and superior to others. If they feel guilty, they blame others. If they feel dominated, they bully others. If they feel used, they move to exploit others. If they feel inferior, they seek to impress others with their status or accomplishments. Some overcompensators are passive-aggressive. They appear overtly compliant while secretly getting revenge, or they rebel covertly through procrastination, backstabbing, complaining, or nonperformance. Other cover compensators are obsessive. They maintain strict order, tight self-control, or high levels of predictability through planning, excessive adherence to routines, or undue caution.  
This is another mode I see clearly in myself, though it’s changed a lot over the years. I definitely feel defective and try to appear perfect. I refuse to let people see me upset, I maintain my composure, I never let people see my depression, I only talk about neutral things or those that put me in an optimal light. When I was younger I felt controlled by my father so I would control and bully my sister. At the end of high school when I shed all aspects of my life that he influenced this melted away and my sister and I bonded very strongly. At University I held extremely rigid study schedules and precisely monitored every calorie I consumed. I actually miss my obsessive control. I think this is one aspect I definitely attribute to my meds helping with. Almost all of the meds I’ve been on have lessened my obsessive sense of strict order and super tight self-control. I’m not as worried about my world falling apart if one hair is out of place or one pound is off on the scale, though I still beat myself up for it to an extent.

Vulnerable, Angry, and Impulsive – Child Modes

My inner child is a brat. Alright, I shouldn’t be so judgmental. My inner child is not healthy. Not yet, but hopefully she’ll get there someday. What she is, is Angry and Vulnerable. For as much as I hate, loathe, and detest to admitting any kind of vulnerability in real life, here is where I allow myself to admit to those facets of myself that I need to face. So what is it exactly that I’m looking at?
Vulnerable Child
Someone in this mode might appear frightened, sad, overwhelmed, or helpless. This mode is like a young child in the world who needs the care of adults in order to survive but is not getting that care. The child desperately needs a parent and will tolerate just about anything ot get one.
The specific nature of the wounded Vulnerable Child depends on the schema:
Abandoned Child – the parent leaves the child alone for long periods of time.
Abused Child – the child has been hit excessively
Deprived Child – love has been withheld
Defective Child – The child has been harshly criticized.
Abandoned Child mode is especially common for someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder. By now it should be pretty obvious that abandonment issues are a major characterization of BPD and this is the aspect of the psyche that encompasses that focus on abandonment. In the Abandoned Child mode patients appear fragile and childlike. They seem sorrowful, frantic, frightened, unloved, lost. They feel helpless and utterly alone and are obsessed with finding a parent figure who will take care of them. In this mode, someone may seem like a very young child, innocent and dependent. They idealize nurturers and have fantasies of being rescued by them. They engage in desperate efforts to prevent caretakers from abandoning them, and at times their perceptions of abandonment approach delusional proportions. Something I found very interesting is, in this mode, someone with BPD usually lacks object permanence. A soothing mental image of ‘the caretaker’ cannot be held onto  unless that person is physically present. The Abandoned Child lives in an eternal present, without clear concepts of past and future, increasing the patient’s sense of urgency and impulsivity. 
For me the Defective Child aspect is particularly present as well. Oftentimes I’d say it’s even more prominent. I feel almost a sad resignation to my Abandoned Child, not accepting, but expecting that everyone will eventually leave. I don’t want it, but in a weird way, my expecting it prepares me for it and I can try to safeguard myself so it doesn’t devastate me as much by not allowing people so close to me. However, my feelings of defectiveness beat down on me constantly. I can’t stop functioning; therefore there is always something I could be doing better, that I’m not doing well enough. And if I’m not capable of these things, why would someone need to have me around, tying right back into my abandonment issues.
Encompassed Schemas = Abandonment, Mistrust/Abuse, Emotional Deprivation, Defectiveness, Social Isolation, Dependence/Incompetence, Vulnerability to Harm or Illness, Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self, Negativity/Pessimism.
As you can see this is a good chunk of the recognizable schemas. Since this mode encompasses so many it’s considered the core mode for schema work to focus on and ultimately it’s what therapists are most concerned with healing.
Angry/Impulsive Child
Enraged. This what the Angry Child has become. In this mode someone is likely to vent anger directly in response to perceived unmet needs or unfair treatment. When this schema is triggered someone may feel abandoned, abused, deprived, or subjugated. It’s likely that  a patient might yell, lash out verbally or have violent fantasies and impulses.
The Impulsive/Undisciplined Child acts impulsively to fill needs and pursue pleasure without regard to limits or concern for others. This mode is the child in a natural state, uninhibited and “uncivilized”, irresponsible and free (think Peter Pan). The Impulsive/Undisciplined Child has low frustration tolerance and cannot delay short-term gratification for the sake of long-term goals.
I have a feeling this is the mode that provides a lot of the negative stigma surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder.  The one clinicians and therapists most frequently associate with BPD, that flip into angry venting. Which is funny, because according to Young, it’s really not the mode most patients spend the majority of their time in.
More often you get a scenario where the Detached Protector or Punitive Parent mode operates to suppress feelings in order to protect the Self from letting someone into a vulnerable position, which works to block the needs and feelings of the Abandoned Child mode. Unfortunately when you do this for long enough those needs and feelings bottle up and accumulate and a growing sense of inner pressure begins to build. And build, and build… until something happens and quick as that the person may flip into Angry child mode and all of a sudden be consumed with rage. This is when all that anger is vented in inappropriate ways. Someone with BPD will act impulsively to have their immediate needs met, which makes them appear manipulative and reckless. Or they may make demands that seem entitled or spoiled and work to alienate others. These demands aren’t really coming from a sense of entitlement though. They’re just desperate attempts to have those basic emotional needs met.
When you’ve lived so long feeling deprived, being deprived, of something that should be so basic and natural, how can you not be angry about it? Especially when it all seems just out of reach. I can’t even begin to list the number of times it’s seemed like I found someone that I wanted to let in, that seemed like they wanted to be let in, only to find myself holding back, blocking my ability to form a real, solid attachment because I KNOW that if I do I’ll only be hurt again. Or I’ve chosen people that subconsciously I know can’t give me what I need because believe it or not, this is also safer than allowing someone to actually enter that place in your heart where they can do you real damage. The frustration is enormous. And infuriating. I’m furious at them for showing me a glimpse of what I actually need. They have it, shown it, but choose not to give it. Don’t I deserve it? Furious at myself for not having held back, for placing hope in someone else. It feels like my own fault for having let someone close enough that I begin to push away my protection. I blame them. I blame myself. Guilt. Anger. It’s a lot of intense emotion to have roiling beneath the surface. When you want something, but are afraid or don’t know how to get that thing it can become too much and you have to do something, anything, to reconcile all these conflicting feelings. Messy.
The trick is learning to look for what you really need in healthy places.  Developing the Healthy Child that can feel loved and contented where the needs of that inner child are adequately met. But how do you get to this place? That’s the goal. One technique therapists utilize is limited Reparenting….

Who did what now? Modes of Dysfunction and Dissociation

Hello lovely readers =) I hope everyone is having a wonderful morning. I’m starting to feel my energy returning. I have so many little updates and thoughts today but let us start with my research.

“A Dysfunctional schema mode is a facet of the Self involving specific schemas or schema operations that has not been fully integrated with other facets of the self. Schema modes can be characterized by the degree to which a particular schema driven state has become dissociated, or cut off, from an individual’s other modes. A dysfunctional schema mode, therefore, is a part of the self that is cut off to some degree from other aspects of the self”
I really like this description of schema modes. I dissociate to such a strong degree that it puts things in perspective for me to view the various aspects of the self as aspects that aren’t fully attached to each other. For me this really explains why I feel, and seem to others, to be different people at different times, because truly, at different times different aspects of my Self are more prominent than other times when another aspect may be more dominant.
Unsurprisingly this often poses a problem for someone with BPD and their therapists because someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder has an almost overwhelming number of schemas and coping mechanisms. What’s more, is we’re continually shifting from one extreme state or coping mechanism to another. A psychologically healthy person will still have some of these modes, but the sense of a unified identity remains intact, where for someone with BPD it is almost situationally dependent. The modes of a ‘normal’ person will be less dissociated than those for a healthy person. Normal modes are also less rigid, much more flexible and open to change than the modes of someone with a personality disorder.
Time for more grouping. I’ve noticed that groups and categories are abundant in psychological circles. Organization is really important and somewhere in my brain I find all this structure pleasing because it’s easy to break things down and digest things in easily discernible chunks.
Schema therapy identifies 10 schema modes grouped into 4 broad categories: Child modes, Dysfunctional Coping modes, Dysfunctional Parent Modes, and the Healthy adult Mode.
Child Modes:
1. Vulnerable Child – this is where you find that inner Abandoned Child, Abused Child, Deprived Child, or the Rejected Child. This mode is often where most of those core schemas are experienced.
2. Angry Child – this is the part that is enraged about unmet emotional needs and tends to act in anger without regard to consequences.
3. Impulsive/Undisciplined Child – this inner place is where emotions are expressed, desires are acted on, and natural inclinations are followed form moment to moment in a reckless manner, without regard for the consequences to the self or those around you.
4. Happy Child – this is more of a healed state. Or the state that you hope your kids come to naturally as they grow up: where core emotional needs are currently met.
Coping Modes: These directly correlate to the maladaptive coping mechanisms we just talked about.
1. Compliant Surrenderer – This person submits to the schema, becoming once again the passive, helpless child who must give in to others. Who gives in to the coping mechanism and Surrenders to it without thinking about it.
2. Detached Protector – This person withdraws psychologically from the pain of a schema by emotionally detaching, abusing substances, self-stimulating, avoiding people, or utilizing other forms of escape. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Personally I see this in myself more than most others in my day to day life. Therapist often refers to my Detached Protector as a way to shield myself from the hurt and pain that I am afraid is constantly looming.
3. Overcompensator – Here is where the person fights back either by mistreating others or by behaving in extreme ways in an attempt to disprove a schema. By nature of being extreme however, it proves to be dysfunctional.
Dysfunctional Parent Modes: These modes are where a person becomes like the parent that they’ve internalized.
1. Punitive Parent – This parent punishes one of the child modes for being “bad”.
2. Demanding Parent – This parent continually pushes and pressures the child to meet excessively high standards.
I often feel both of these modes. I’ve internalized my father’s voice that constantly pushes me to meet higher and higher standards. Unrelenting. The stress is constant. My Punitive Parent is a bastard. This is what I recognize as the part of me that tells me I’m worthless. In its most extreme this is where I cut and abuse myself. One aspect of my cutting anyways as I have many reasons I’ve do this. I can’t count the times I’ve taken a blade to my skin because I felt I let myself down, did something wrong and deserved to be punished. This has almost an immediate gratification aspect to it at least. The other is pervasive. I’m not sure which is more dangerous.
Healthy Adult Mode:
1.      Yay you’re healed mode! Or at least just as capable of dealing with life in the way your average joe would with a more integrated sense of self. This mode is really the goal of therapy. What you work towards and try to strengthen.  
It’s obvious to me why something as complicated as Borderline Personality Disorder takes so long to really manage. It’s like a battle between different sides of your psyche! When the Punitive Parent takes out their anger on the Vulnerable Child, the Detached Protector jumps to withdraw the person from harm. Each of these aspects presents in their own way and triggers unique dysfunctional coping mechanisms. And that’s just one combination of how the mind interacts with itself. I don’t know about you, but I can see why people need to get degrees in this stuff to really get a handle on it. The mind is intensely involved and not easily dissected.
But we’re gonna try. I’ll be looking at each of these modes more in depth. I can’t say whether this approach is “right” but for me, being able to take a look at each aspect, seeing how I relate to them personally… it at least gives me insight into myself. Understanding is what I’m all about here.