Tuesday, September 27, 2011

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.



  1. "I don't want to be perfect, just happy"

    Yes. The promise of momentary "happy" just lures me into self-destuctive impulses. Feels so good in the moment. And, oh, I see the forest through the trees! I just chose to conveniently compartmentalize them away. It's a vacation, not to mention LIVING a little. This was a helpful post, Haven. Thank you.

  2. wow.reading all this makes me want to succumb to my shadow self.i think that this stuff is there for all people who are fine tuned and fall outside pds but not articulated by most.im glad that you have found a way to turn negative into positive.i didnt know much about bpd,but now i have new knowledge. thanx to your frankness.to me,,facing the inner turmoil,,is called growth,,being harmful to yourself is one thing,,but harming another even without intention is something else.why should innocents have to trudge through your wastelands?? to make sense of everything and then come to a place of forgiveness and acceptance,, and then stay for more,,or not,, until your world finds equilibrium thats so elusive.whats in it for the non pd??unconditional love??maybe pds like the way they are,,they can have their cake and eat it too.maybe,,being diagnosed gives special licence to keep playing in the shadows.i know it must be hard for you all,,im not being disrespectful,,or invalidating,,just thoughts ive had while reading your beautiful, creative site.i am a child that was abandoned also.i have two grown children that i was able to mother full time.it was the most cathartic time for me,as i mothered them in a way that i should have been mothered.and in the process,although i didnt know it at the time,healed my own wounds.god luv you haven,and all those who find refuge in your work ,it has made me both happy and sad to visit.xx

    1. ::smiles:: I imagine my words make a lot of people both happy and sad.

      I've often wondered myself why people stick around with a partner that has a personality disorder. The short answer is that people are not ONLY their personality disorder. People are complex and have a multitude of layers so the good may outweight the bad.

      Part of why I advocate self awareness is so that unintentional harm that we may cause can be minimized. To others and to ourselves.

      Some people with PDs, Borderline and others, do enjoy how they are and have no desire to change. I am not this way. I don't believe having a diagnostic label is a license to Act Out or be hurtful to those around you. That's never really ok no matter who you are. Having a diagnostic label is only useful as a guide for course of treatment.

      I'm glad I've been able to provide you insight. I've always wondered what it would be like to raise children in a way that I wish I had been raised. It sounds like it was an incredibly gratifying experience for you.

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