Alone in the Dark – Social Isolation

This post is actually a bit ironic for me today as isolated is precisely the last thing I’ve been today. I’ve been in near constant communication and interaction with people at work, people texting me like mad, IMing me all over the place. Busy, busy day (hence the uber late post time). I’d feel popular if there weren’t so many times when I wondered if these people were actually talking to the right person, because it can’t be me they’re all interested in.
So today in the Disconnection and Rejection Domain I want to talk about the Social Isolation schema.
Typical Presentation of the Schema
People with this schema believe that they are different from other people. They do not feel that they are part of most groups and feel isolated, left out, or “on the outside looking in.” Anyone who grows up feeling different might develop the schema. Examples include gifted people, those from famous families, people with great physical beauty or ugliness, gay men and women, members of ethnic minorities, children of alcoholics, trauma survivors, people with physical disabilities, orphans or adoptees, and people who belong to a significantly higher or lower economic class than those around them.
Typical Behaviors include staying on the periphery or avoiding groups altogether. These patients tend to engage in solitary activities: Most “loners” have this schema. Depending upon the severity of the schema, the patient may be part of a subculture but still feel alienated form the larger social world; he or she may feel alienated from all groups but have some intimate relationships, or be disconnected from virtually everyone.
I’ve always been  a loner. My mother will tell you stories of how my kindergarten teacher had to pull me out of the corner to play with the other kids because I’d be happy to sit there and build with my Legos all by myself. I always seem to know everyone. People gravitate to me. 9.9 times out of 10 I actively try to keep these people at arm’s length (it’s harder for them to stick a knife in your back if they can’t sneak up on you).  Every now and again I do find myself deeply entrenched in a circle of friends. A very close group of friends. No matter how much anyone works to include me, I always feel like I’m on the outside looking in. That periphery, that outside edge, that’s where I sit. That’s where I belong. It’s what I’m used to and therefore what is most comfortable for me. It’s a lonely place to hang out though.
Goals of Treatment
The basic goal of treatment is to help patients feel less different from other people. Even if they are not part of the mainstream, there are other people similar to them. Furthermore, at the core, we are all human beings, with the same basic needs and desires. Even though we have many differences, we are more alike than different. There may be a segment of society in which the patient probably will never fit – such as a gay person in a fundamentalist religious group – but there are other places where the person will fit. The person should walk away from unwelcoming groups and find people who are more similar or accepting. Often, the patient must make major life changes and overcome extensive avoidance in order to accomplish this.
Let’s emphasize this point a bit: at the core, we are all human beings, with the same basic needs and desires. Even though we have many differences, we are more alike than different.”
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Unlike the other schemas in the Disconnection and Rejection realm, the focus is less on working experientially with childhood origins of the schema and more on improving the patient’s current relationships with peers and groups. Thus, cognitive and behavioral strategies take precedence. Group therapy may be helpful for many patients with this schema, especially those who avoid even friendships. The more isolated the patient, the more important the therapy relationship is to the treatment, because it will be one of the patient’s only relationships.
The aim of the cognitive strategies is to convince patients that they really are not as different from other people as they think. They share many qualities with all people, and some of the qualities that they regard as distinguishing them are in fact universal. Even if they are not part of the mainstream, there are other people like them. Patients learn to focus on their similarities with other people, as well as their differences. They learn to identify subgroups of people who are like them – who share the ways they are different; they learn that many people can accept them even though they are different. They learn to challenge the automatic negative thoughts that block them from joining groups and connecting to the people in them.
Experiential strategies can help patients who are excluded as children and adolescents remember what it was like. (Some patients with this schema were not excluded as children. Rather, they chose solitude due to some preference or interest.) In imagery, patients relieve these childhood experiences. They vent anger at the peers who excluded them; and they express their loneliness. Patients fight back against social prejudice toward people who are different. (This is one advantage of consciousness-raising groups: They teach group members to fight back against the hatred of others.) Patients can also use imagery to picture groups of people with whom they could fit in.
This is an easy exercise: Remember a time you felt socially isolated. Remember how it felt. Now, looking back, think about what you could have done differently in that situation. How would you have acted? What would you have said? This is useful not only to gain a little closure in recognizing how you’ve grown as a person, but also to recognize potentially similar situations so that you are better equipped to deal with them in the future.
Behaviorally it’s important for people with this schema to overcome their avoidance of social situations. The goal is for patients gradually to start attending groups, connect to the people there, and cultivate friendships. To accomplish this gradual exposure to different groups can be key.  It’s also useful to be aware of anxiety that is often created and development a way to manage it.  
Group therapy can be extremely helpful if the group is accepting of the patient; for this reason, “special interest groups – containing members who are similar to the patient in some significant way can be most valuable.
Well that makes me think of Al Anon but for loner goth kids. Come brood with us, together.
Special Problems with This Schema
The most common problem is that patients have difficulty overcoming their avoidance of social situations and groups. In order to confront the situations that they fear, patients must be willing to tolerate a high level of emotional discomfort. For this reason, their pattern of avoidance is resistant to change. When avoidance blocks progress in treatment, mode work can often help patients build up that part of themselves that wants the schema to change and talk back to the schema. For example, patients might imagine a group situation in which they recently felt alienated. The therapist enters the image as the Healthy Adult, who advises the Isolated Child (or Adolescent) about how to integrate with the group. Later, patients enter their images as their own Healthy Adult, to help the Isolated Child Master and enjoy social situations.
 High levels of emotional discomfort. This is how I feel every day if I’m not in complete control over my body or feeling at my best. I have to physically force myself away from my desk to talk to people. I can feel the gravity increasing around me as I fight my way out of my comfort zone. For me a lot of this ties into my body dysmorphia (which unfortunately has been mind rackingly bad this week).  I can’t stand the thought of going anywhere someone would look at me. Even when I cognitively know that these people aren’t going to care. It FEELS like they care, and will judge me, but what’s worse is I, me, I am judging me. I still often indulge my avoidance of social situations when I’m at home, but at work this is not so easy. People notice when I’m not around now. I’ve been doing exactly what is suggested of me. I have been making a very definitive attempt to socialize with the guys in my group at work. It’s been working very well. My behaviors are changing. Unfortunately, my mentality relapses very easily. I still don’t quite feel like I fit in. Outside of work I know how different I actually am from these people; my interest, my lifestyle, how I think, my issues. Even at work, in my nice, normal, business casual attire I’m different. I’m female, in a highly male dominated environment. It’s a rare day that I’ll even speak to another woman at work, our paths cross so infrequently.
Once on break one of the guys made a passing comment about telling a story later to one of the other guys. I was like, “What, think my delicate sensibilities will be offended?” (Fair emphasis on the sarcasm). His reply was, “Sorry Haven, You’re just not one of the guys. Don’t get me wrong, we’re really glad you’re not. You’re great just the way you are.” A lot of the guys here are a little old fashioned and won’t swear or say rude things in front of me. On the one hand it’s polite and respectful; on the other hand my inner feminist wants to punch them in the mouth. I’m not one of them, I’m different. No matter how comfortable they are with me, that’s not going to change. That doesn’t mean they don’t accept me (apparently?), it just means I’m different so they’re going to act different around me. I already feel like an outsider, on some level I actually am an outsider, though a welcomed one, usually. So what do I do?
People are so careless with their words. I know most people just don’t think about what they say, probably don’t have any ill intention, but those words stick with me. They’ll be with me forever. They don’t leave.  Growing up I was always one of the boys. All I want is to be treated the same. Too bad. I really resent being female sometimes. It just makes it that much harder to go down there and smile and chat and pretend like I fit in. Fake it til you make it. I’ve got the faking it part down alright. I don’t know if I can actually make the feeling of inclusion stick.

Where do Broken Toys Come From? – Defectiveness/Shame

Let’s explore a new Schema today. It’s rather fitting as I’ve been mired in this all morning. I hate it.
Typical Presentation of the Schema
People with this schema believe that they are defective, flawed, inferior, bad, worthless, or unlovable. Consequently, they often experience chronic feelings of shame about who they are.
Defective. Flawed. Bad. Unlovable. This is me. I am all of these things. Despite the fact that everyone around me says otherwise, I KNOW this. Everyone else hasn’t lived with me my entire life, they don’t know all the bad things I’ve done, all the failures, all the shameful things. I remember it all, and I can’t forgive myself for it.  
What aspects of themselves do they view as defective? It could be almost any personal characteristic – they believe that they are too angry, too needy, too evil, too ugly, too lazy, too dumb, too boring, too strange, too overbearing, too fate, too thin, too tall, too short, or too weak. They might have unacceptable sexual or aggressive desires. Something in their very being feels defective: It is not something they do, but something they feel they are. They fear relationships with others because they dread the inevitable moment when their defectiveness will be exposed. At any moment, other people might suddenly see through them to the defectiveness at their core, and they will be filled with shame. This fear can apply to the private or public worlds: People with this schema feel defective in their intimate relationships or in the wider social world (or both).
This may be the origin of all the secret keeping, the hiding. I don’t want people to see the demons in me.
Typical behaviors of patients with this schema include devaluing themselves and allowing others to devalue them. These patients may allow others to mistreat or even verbally abuse them. They are often hypersensitive to criticism or rejection, and react very strongly, either by becoming sad and downcast or angry, depending upon whether they are surrendering to the schema or overcompensating for it. They secretly feel that they are to blame for their problems with other people. Often self-conscious, they tend to make a lot of comparisons between themselves and others. They feel insecure around other people, particularly those perceived as “not defective,” or those who might see through to their defectiveness. They may be jealous and competitive, especially in the area of their felt defectiveness, and sometimes view interpersonal interactions as a game of “one up, one down”. They often choose critical and rejecting partners, and may be critical of the people who love them.
I think this is common of abuse victims to blame themselves for the atrocities that have been visited upon us, not just people with BPD. An inner monologue that says there must be something wrong with me to have made me receptive to this tragedy. If I had done this, or if I hadn’t allowed that, or if I hadn’t decided, or if I hadn’t made the choice to…. A, B, C, D, wouldn’t have happened. It must be my fault. It’s not. It feels like it, but it’s not.
Can I tell you how often I compare myself to people around me that I perceive as having a better attributed/less flaws than me? Wanna guess? Come one, it’s not that hard. Did you say ‘constantly’? Congratulations! You win a glorious look into the depths of my imperfections! Kind of a shitty prize, I know.  
“I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member” ~ Groucho Marx
These people may avoid intimate relationships or social situations, because people might see their defects.
You know what I find insanely irritating love? When I voice my displeasure about one of my flaws and the immediate response I get is: Oh no one notices that but you. That I notice it is the problem! Who do you think I’m really trying to impress here? Me! That’s who. Ok, Therapist might say that I’m trying to impress my father, if I can hide all my flaws I can be worthy of his love. She may have a point. But I have another one… from my perspective my flaws and defects are glaring. I can’t imagine that other people don’t see them. I realize that most people probably don’t spend every second dissecting and obsessing over each little problem I have. My entire childhood I was involved in very competitive sports and activities, especially, gymnastics, dance and martial arts. Every move was monitored. Every aspect was judged. Every curve was on display. Critical eyes are everywhere, all the time. Mine just happen to be the worst of the group. But if I can catch the flaws first, then I can potentially do things so that others don’t see them. Unfortunately coupled with my dysmorphia I can become completely incapable of going out in public if something is bad. It’s debilitating. I hate it.  I get worked up into a panic about how bad or wrong or failed something is, I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t imagine other people aren’t judging it, and I can’t bring myself to be in a position where someone else is going to be able to see. So I hide. I make up excuses, I cancel plans, I refuse to join the real world. Not until I’m fixed. It’s taken me a looooooong time, to make even the smallest progress on this. Right now I’m doing ok. I’m forcing myself to go out despite my inner judgments. I have a really hard time having fun, but I’m facing my fears and my flaws, and in the end, I’ve had many enjoyable evenings and encounters that I wouldn’t have been able to have had I hide myself away.
Goals of Treatment
The basic goal of treatment is to increase the patient’s sense of self-esteem. Patients who have healed this schema believe that they are worthy of love and respect. Their feelings of defectiveness were either mistaken or greatly exaggerated: Either the trait is not really a defect, or it is a limitation that is far less important than it feels to them. Furthermore, the patient is often able to correct the “defect”. But, even if patients cannot correct it, it does not negate their value as human beings. It is the nature of human beings to be flawed and imperfect. We can love each other anyway.
Patients who have healed this schema are more at ease around other people. They feel much less vulnerable and exposed, and are more willing to enter relationships. They are no longer so prone to feelings of self-consciousness when other people pay attention to them. These patients regard other people as less judgmental and more accepting, and put human flaws into a realistic perspective. Becoming more open with people, they stop keeping so many secrets and trying to hide so many parts of themselves, and can maintain a sense of their own value, even when others criticize or reject them. They accept compliments more naturally and no longer allow other people to treat them badly. Less defensive, they are less perfectionistic about themselves and other people, and choose partners who love them and treat them well. In summary, they no longer exhibit behaviors that surrender to, avoid, or overcompensate for their Defectiveness/Shame schema.
Obviously I am not healed form this schema. Secrets. I keep a lot of secrets. I have a big one currently but no, I won’t share. The only way to keep a secret is to not let anyone know. Not even one person.
Accepting compliments is funny though. This is something I’ve worked into my outer mask pretty seamlessly. I learned a long time ago that people don’t want to hear you put yourself down. Refusing compliments comes across as ungrateful. The best thing to do is just say ‘thank you’, or ‘I’m flattered’ and move on. Often I think people are lying to me to get something from me. Or sometimes I can see that they actually believe the compliment they are giving me. Just because they believe it doesn’t make it true for me.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Behavior strategies – particularly exposure – are important to treatment, especially for avoidant patients. As long as patients with Defectiveness schemas avoid intimate human contact, their feelings of defectiveness remain intact. Patients work on entering interpersonal situations that hold the potential to enhance their lives. Behavior strategies can also help patients correct some legitimate flaws (i.e. improve sense of dress style, learn social skills). In addition, patients work on choosing significant others who are supportive rather than critical. They try to select partners who love and accept them.
This is something I’m actively working on. Forcing myself to go out and interact with people even when I would prefer to hide. My flaws are glaring at the moment, but I still try to get out. And you know what? The world hasn’t ended yet! Crazy. I know. I may spend most of the evening fighting my self-consciousness but in between my criticisms and ruminations, shockingly, I also find a little laughter and good conversation.
Behaviorally patients also learn to stop overreacting to criticism. They learn that, when someone gives them a valid criticism, the appropriate response is to accept the criticism and try to change themselves; when someone gives them a criticism that is not valid, the appropriate response is simply to state their point of view to the other person and affirm internally that the criticism is false. It is not appropriate to attach the other person; it is not necessary to response in kind or to fight to prove the other person wrong. Patients learn to set limits with hypercritical people and stop tolerating maltreatment. Patients also work on self-disclosing more too significant others who they trust. The more they can share themselves and still be accepted, the more they will be able to overcome the schema. Finally patients work on decreasing compensatory behaviors. They stop trying to overcompensate for their inner sense of defectiveness by appearing perfect, achieving excessively, demeaning others, or competing for status.
I don’t overreact OUT so much anymore. I certainly used to. I’d rage and scream and lash out when I thought someone was criticizing me. I’m quieter now. I overreact IN. The thoughts that I need to punish myself for not being perfect are terribly hard to drown out. It’s that nagging voice in the back of my mind that says, how can someone love you if you’re not perfect? If they can see your flaws, they’ll know. They’ll leave.  
Special Problems with This Schema
Many patients who have this schema are unaware of it. A lot of patients are avoiding or overcompensating for the pain of this schema, rather than feeling that pain. Patients with narcissistic personality disorder are an example of a group with a high probability of having the Defectiveness schema and a low probability of being aware of it. Narcissistic patients often get caught up in competing with or denigrating the therapist rather than working on change.
Patients with a Defectiveness schema might hold back information about themselves because they are embarrassed. A long time may pass before these patients are willing to share fully their memories, desires, thoughts, and feelings.
This schema is difficult to change. The earlier and more sever the criticism and rejection from parents, the more difficult it is to heal.
I’ve lived most of my life being unaware of this. Of course now I am aware, but I still find myself avoiding or overcompensating for my problems. My Therapist is constantly reaffirming my positive attributes in hopes that I will eventually internalize that I do have good aspects of myself. I understand what she’s doing, but I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling with understanding that I can be flawed, and that’s ok.

Stop Starving Yourself – Emotional Deprivation

Well it’s Monday again. Seems pretty inevitable doesn’t it? I’m actually in a pretty good mood this morning… good, bordering on hypomanic good haha. Anyways. I hope you all enjoyed my Guest Post last week. This week I’ll be getting back into my more in depth look into the schemas.
Emotional Deprivation
Typical Presentation of the Schema
This is probably the most common schema treated even though patients frequently do not recognize that they have it. People with this schema often enter treatment feeling lonely, bitter, and depressed, but usually don’t know why; or they present with vague or unclear symptoms that later prove to be related to the Emotional Deprivation schema. These people do not expect others – including the therapist – to nurture, understand, or protect them. They feel emotionally deprived, and may feel that they do not get enough affection and warmth, attention, or deep emotions expressed. They may feel that no one is there who can give them strength and guidance. Such patients may feel misunderstood and alone in the world. They may feel cheated of love, invisible, or empty.
As mentioned before, there are three types of deprivation:
1.      Deprivation of Nurturance: in which patients feel that no one is there to hold them, pay attention to them, and give them physical affection, such as touch and holding.
2.      Deprivation of Empathy: in which they feel that no one is there who really listens or tries to understand who they are and how they feel.
3.      Deprivation of Protection: In which they feel that no one is there to protect and guide them (even though they are often giving others a lot of protection and guidance – This is often related to the Self-Sacrifice schema.)
I feel all three of these almost constantly. Even when I’m surrounded by people I know and that I (cognitively) ‘know’ care for me, I feel alone; emotionally separate. I believe I’m too different to relate to, too weird to be inoffensive, too new to have any real connection… and what’s more, I can’t actually allow people to see that I need these things because it will undermine my strength.
Typical behaviors exhibited by people with the schema include not asking significant others for what they need emotionally; not expressing a desire for love or comfort; focusing on asking the other person questions but saying little about oneself; acting stronger than one feels underneath; and in other ways reinforcing the deprivation by acting as though they do not have emotional needs. Because these patients do not expect emotional support, they do not ask for it; consequently, usually they do not get it.

Hugs do a body good

I think it’s important to add that, yes, this is typical, but it’s typical because we often don’t even know what it is we should be asking for. How do you ask someone to show that they love you when you’re not sure what it looks like when someone does offer you this? I always act stronger. I don’t think this is all an act though. I am strong. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve build up my base, my core, and my defenses. I’ve learned how to take care of myself. I do have a lot of strength. However, because I don’t want people to find the cracks in my armor, find the weak points that are more vulnerable (because in the back of my mind it’s only a matter of time before these points are attacked) I refuse to let people know that there’s something I’m missing emotionally. I definitely see this problem of needing something, but by not allowing others to see that I need it, kind of self-sabotaging my ability to be open and receptive to the thing that it is I need.
Another tendency is choosing significant others who cannot or do not want to give emotionally. They often choose people who are cold, aloof, self-centered, or needy, and therefore likely to deprive them emotionally. Other, more avoidant, people become loners. They avoid intimate relationships because they do not expect to get anything from them anyways. Either they stay in very distant relationships or avoid relationships entirely.
::laughs:: I’m the queen of choosing emotionally unavailable significant others. Abusive narcissists, married men, polyamorous women…. Bluntly… people that will always have someone else as a priority. I tend to alternate between wanting to try, and that expectation that I won’t get anything from people anyways and spend long periods being actually alone.
People who overcompensate for emotional deprivation tend to be overly demanding and become angry when their needs are not met. These patients are sometimes narcissistic: Because they were both indulged and deprived as children, they have developed strong feelings of entitlement to get their needs met. They believe they must be adamant in their demands to get anything at all. A minority of patients with the Emotional Deprivation schema were indulged in other ways as children: They were spoiled materially, not required to follow normal rules of behavior, or adored for some talent or give, but they were not given genuine love (this is often associated with people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder because often people with Borderline PD were not given enough attention when they were young).
Another tendency in a small percentage of people with this schema is to be overly needy. Some people express so many needs so intensely that they come across as clinging or helpless, even histrionic (Histrionic Personality Disorder). They may have many physical complaints – psychosomatic symptoms – with the secondary gain of getting people to pay attention o them and take care of them (although this f unction is almost always outside their awareness).
Goals in Treatment
One major goal of treatment is to help patients become aware of their emotional needs. It may feel so natural to them to have their emotional needs go unmet that they are not even aware that something is wrong. Another goal is to help patients accept that their emotional needs are natural and right. Every child needs nurturance, empathy, and protection, and, as adults, we still need these things.  If patients can learn how to choose appropriate people and then ask for what they need in appropriate ways, then other people will give to them emotionally. It is not that other people are inherently depriving; it’s that people with this schema have learned behaviors that either lead them to choose people who cannot give, or dis courage people who can give from meeting their needs.
This is definitely something I need to work on, am working on. It’s not easy. Often it feels like prying open steel reinforced vault doors with your bare hands. One inch at a time. But even slowly, things do eventually begin to budge.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Many patients never realized they were missing something, even though they had s symptoms of missing something. Patients need to get in touch with their Lonely Child part and recognize that this is connected to the problem. It’s important to find a safe way to express their anger and pain to the depriving parent. Listing all their unmet emotional needs in childhood and what they wish the parent had done to meet each need is important to recognize.
Cognitively it is important to change the exaggerated sense that significant others are acting selfishly or depriving them on purpose (if this isn’t the case). To counter the “black or white” thinking that fuels overreactions, the patient learns to discriminate gradations of deprivation – to see a continuum rather than just two opposing poles – Even though other people set limits on what they give, they still care about the patient.
This is something I have a really hard time with. I usually either feel like someone cares about me completely in the moment, or doesn’t remember me at all… and therefore doesn’t care about me. If I’m not in their presence I can’t even really understand how they remember me, let alone continue to care for me. And if they aren’t able to give as much in return as I am willing to give to them, then to me it seems like they must not really care that much at all. I’m working on seeing those ‘grey’ areas; the in between shades where people can care, even if they have other things going on and cannot be focused on me exclusively.
I’ve found it to be a really helpful (though occasionally painful) exercise to think about my parents, or significant others, and write down the things that they didn’t do, or did wrong, and how I wish things had gone, or what I think I really needed.
Behaviorally, this helps people learn to choose nurturing partners (because it enables you to recognize the patterns you need to avoid in people) and friends. It becomes possible to ask partners to meet emotional needs in appropriate ways and accept nurturance from significant others. Patients learn to stop avoiding intimacy. They stop responding with excessive anger to mild levels of deprivation and withdrawing or isolating when they feel neglected by others. It’s important for the person to learn that people have limitations and to tolerate some (normal!) level of deprivation, while appreciating the nurturing that can be provided.
Special Problems with this Schema
The most common problem is that people with this schema are so frequently unaware of it. Even though Emotional Deprivation is one of the three most common schemas, people often do not know that they have it. Because they never got their emotional needs met, patients often do not even realize that they have unmet emotional needs. Thus, helping patients make a connection between their depression, loneliness, or physical symptoms on the one hand, and the absence of nurturing, empathy, and protection on the other is very important.
People with this schema often negate the validity of their emotional needs. They deny that their needs are important or worthwhile, or they believe that strong people do not have needs. They consider it bad or weak to ask others to meet their needs and have trouble accepting that there is a Lonely Child inside them who want love and connection, both from the therapist and from significant others in the outside world.
This is me.  Underlined for emphasis, maybe with a couple dozen exclamation marks at the end. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that I have going on. Here on my blog, I am very vocal of my feelings and problems, you see my inner turmoil pretty clearly. In the real world, you would never know. I hide all of this. Growing up I was told to stifle and get over any upsetting feelings and emotions. The time when I really could have used emotional comfort I was told to repress and not express these needs. I learned to bury them, hide them. These things made me weak, and bad. I still feel like this. I don’t know how to ask for emotional support. I believe that if I do others will judge me, and think I’m weak, undermine my ability to take care of myself and manage the important aspects that I value. I can’t figure out what is ok to ask of others, if in fact, it’s ok to ask others for anything. Coupled with the fact that I need it so badly, the frustration bubbling below my calm exterior is maddening. I’m always at odds with how I feel… and how I feel I need to present myself.
Similarly, people with this schema may believe that significant others should know what they need, and that they should not have to ask. All of these beliefs work against the patient’s ability to ask others to meet his or her needs. These patients need to learn that it is human to have needs, and healthy to ask others to meet them. It is human nature to be emotionally vulnerable. What we aim for in life is a balance between strength and vulnerability, so that sometimes we are strong and other times we are vulnerable. To only have one side – to only be strong – is to be not fully human and to deny a core part of ourselves.
This is so important to remember. I, we, want to be whole people. Whole, healthy, people. It’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes with people that it is safe to be vulnerable with. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you are not strong. It just means that you are human.

Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy

Yesterday was stress beyond reason; read to quit my job, quit engineering, become a librarian, or a personal trainer, open a yoga studio, ANYTHING, that was not the pressure I have at work.  I looked into certification programs and e-mail department heads about enrollment. I couldn’t see the point of continuing on. Everything I’ve done until now, pointless, useless, futile. My LIFE is pointless. Not worth living or having if I can’t do this {one} thing right. I grabbed at options, ideas. Even as I did so I realized just how much is required to achieve those and I know just how I’ll be able to do it all but it all seems to big, too overwhelming. I see all the obstacles, I have no sense of time…I can see how long it will take, but the dread and anxiety of not having it achieved, the uncertainty, is paralyzing. I don’t have it done now so it feels futile. Like I’ll never get there before I even begin. Fortunately I’m not so out of control that I quit things on the spot.
I can’t say I’m not still thinking about finding a new profession, but I’m less stressed out today.
Let’s go back shall we. The focus of yesterday’s therapy session was my anxiety attacking about work. I am the newest engineer on my team. Everyone else has been here for years. I hired in a couple years after the project began. Everyone knows more about this project than I do. I feel incredibly behind in my knowledge. I’m afraid that I won’t measure up to the demands that are required of me because I don’t know everything already. I’m afraid this will reflect poorly on my ability and on my intelligence… because somehow I have not jacked in and assimilated all prior knowledge generated on this project. This fear paralyzes me. I can’t move forward. I’m mired down in the belief that I’ll never be good enough because everyone else will always know more, have accumulated more, knowledge. I don’t have the history of collection to be of a standard proficiency for what I perceive is my position.  
Once I’m stuck, I beat myself down harder into the muck. I’m afraid to even open drawings and my design programs for fear that I will look at it and have no idea what is required of me. Like suddenly everything will have changed and become completely foreign; every e-mail will be a judgment or termination.
I want to flee from the potential failure into something I won’t be so open to criticism with.
Therapist brought me around to things I might enjoy doing. Her immediate suggestion was to pursue costume design. Find a theater company and hire on to create costuming. I immediately slammed my foot down on this. I’m not a professional seamstress. I’ve never had schooling for fashion. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to live in the city.
Why didn’t I go to culinary school… b/c I’d have to do this, and it would make me hate that, and I wouldn’t have the freedom to do what I really love about cooking in the first place,…  
I mire myself in all the details. Bombard myself with the ‘why nots’.  I see the end before anything has a chance to even begin. I psych myself out of ever beginning. If I don’t start, I can’t fail. Can’t let anyone down.
Therapist asks who I’m afraid I’ll let down if I don’t succeed? If I were to choose a different career?
Myself. My father. My friends.
Everyone jokes around about my genius; they introduce me to new people as Haven the rocket scientist, etc etc. I hate it. It just feels like more pressure to be something I don’t believe I’ve earned. Don’t believe I’ve earned <~~~ is a problem all of it’s own. I have multiple engineering degrees, was the sole female graduate in my Master’s program… and yet, I still don’t believe what I do is good enough. More specifically it’s my father. I’ve mentioned before how critical my father is, even though he was not actually discouraging. He never said anything like ‘you suck, you can’t do that, you’re not good enough”. It was always, everything I did could be better. Nothing was ever perfect, or just good on it’s own, or good enough. It was “that’s good, but here’s what you can do now, or should do next, or how it can be improved, how it can be better”… how you can be better. I don’t believe I’m good enough at anything. Everything about me is flawed. As a result everything I do is somehow deficient. I enter into everything believing that I won’t be able to do it good enough, that I won’t be good enough.
Trigger. Therapist made a point of recognizing that this is something that triggers me severely. Specifically my Unrelenting Standards schema.
Unrelenting Standards Schema: The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hyper-criticalness toward oneself and others.  Must involve significant impairment in:  pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.
Unrelenting standards typically present as:  (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm;  (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.
When I’m met with any kind of criticism or something I perceive as criticism I freeze. I set my standards so high, put so much pressure on myself, that when anyone presents me with any though/critique/opinion in opposition or enhancement to what I’ve done, it feels like an attack on the rigid standard I’ve set for myself. I destroy myself, debase my accomplishments, and my immediate response is “I’ll never be good enough, I should quit now before everyone sees how incompetent I am.” When in reality this is not true. My Punitive Parent kicks in and I mentally and emotionally punish myself.
Punitive Parent – The Punitive Parent schema mode is identified by beliefs of a patient that they should be harshly punished perhaps due to feeling “defective”, or making a simple mistake. They may feel that they should be punished for even existing when “punitive parent” takes over the psyche. Sadness, anger, impatience, and judgmental natures come out in “punitive parent” and are directed to the patient and from the patient. Even a small and solvable issue or unrealistic perfectionist expectations and “black and white thinking” all bring forth the “punitive parent.” The “punitive parent” has great difficulty in forgiving oneself even under average circumstances in which anyone could fall short of their standards. The “Punitive Parent” does not wish to allow for human error or imperfection, thus punishment is what this mode seeks and what it desires.
Lesson: Recognize triggers!
I was ready to quit my job, sink to devastation about disappointing everyone in my life, lose hope and hold on my life completely. Recognizing the things that trigger me is so crucial in order to gain control of them. In recognizing them I can work to prevent their reoccurrence. Even when I can’t prevent them entirely I can work to form strategies for dealing with them. Therapist wants me to make sure I don’t let the Punitive Parent reign. I need to take a step back and remind myself of all the things I have accomplished, that I am good at, that I am skilled with. I’m the only one that sets my limits. In second guessing myself, berating myself… I, I, am the one that holds me back and keeps me down. No one else believes these things of me. Hell, most everyone else probably has a clearer picture and better appreciation of my skills than I do. They don’t limit me. They aren’t keeping me down. I am.
Homework: Work on silencing the inner punitive voice that constantly demeans me. Counter the self-doubts with positive affirmations. This! This, is not a quick process. This is in fact, one of the major overarching goals of therapy for BPD. It’s good to know your goals though =)

…but beautiful.

For the record. This morning I kicked myself in the ass. Opened up my software and had the first analysis model done within an hour. The second I will have completed by the end of the day. I have no one else to remind me that I’m competent. No, I don’t know everything. It is impossible for me to know everything. In fact, no one expects me to know everything. Not even everything about all the things I’m assisting in. I put this pressure on myself. Life is a learning process.
Note: Sleep on it. I was much more rational in the morning.
And as a more pleasant aside. Went on a date with my new Lady Friend last Saturday. She bought me a book – a mix of Sci-Fi, humor, and Eastern Wisdom. I’m seeing her again this weekend =) It was a really, really nice night. I was all butterflies and nervous. The hostess thought we were the most adorable things ever.
I’m seeing Psychiatrist next Tuesday =P