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.
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.