Thursday, September 22, 2011

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.
Overcompensator
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.

6 comments:

  1. What do you think when someone you loved told you that you have NOTHING to offer after a year and a half and also said that you NEVER follow through on anything and that you are ALWAYS scared and then promptly discards you from their life like garbage ?
    Is it BPD or NPD or both ? She is a respected oncologist and financially and professionally successful. I am still trying to recover emotionally and this is the worse experience of loss since losing both parents and favorite grandmother, only worse because they didn't choose to leave you, they died.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can someone please reply to this , as I'm trying to understand what happened. I know I was "split" black, but could have NEVER imagined the contempt and hatred and even the unrecognizable "rage face" of someone I loved, was committed to sharing my life with, and someone who I THOUGHT also loved me ?

      Delete
  2. I experienced this with a person I was happily married to for 24 years. She had an affair and rage and anger for me! NPD is what that is

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your reply, as I can't imagine what this would be like after 24 years of emotional investment in sharing your life with someone.
      First the shock, then the profound hurt, then the feeling of being confused by the appearance of a person that you NEVER really knew. It calls to question not just the authenticy of your partner, but the entire day to day meat and potatoes of what you perceived as a happy marriage.
      Hope you are at peace with your loss, as you have my sympathy Rudd.

      Delete
  3. This is interesting. I don't have BPD - don't meet the criteria - but you sound a lot like me. I live in detached protector mode the vast majority of the time, with 'demanding parent' being my main driver (I also had schema therapy...) I didn't realise the overcompensatory mode included over-control but I also used to do that and, like you, I miss it. I used to count calories, stick to absolutely regimented regimes, I timetabled everything in my life, had five-year plans etc. I was completely machine-like. Since I got over anorexia (years ago now) I feel a bit lost. I do miss the sense of direction and control it gave me over my life, but at the same time I have no urge to do it again. It's like I've lost that part of me - which I guess is a good thing...

    How do you feel when you enter child modes? I relate very strongly to the detached protector and the over controller. When I read descriptions of these things it's like I'm reading my personality, and it's quite difficult to get out of because a large part of me is proud of it. It's my identity. I see myself as pragmatic and untouchable, self-reliant, independent etc. And I don't really want to let that go. I'm a bit repulsed by emotions - well, my emotions, although I often find it difficult to comfort others. I kind of want them to take their emotions elsewhere. I feel compassion, on a cognitive level, but I don't feel warm. It's not that I don't care for them, it's that I don't want to help (anymore). I used to help a lot, though in a cognitive way (no hugging...), but I don't want to help anymore so I just say all the right things to prevent feeling guilty then get myself out of there and hope another friend will pick up the slack.

    How do you feel when you enter child modes by the way? I very rarely enter child modes, but when I do it is intensely painful - really, really intense, I feel like the world is ending - and I also can't relate to it well. When I look back on periods in which I have been in a child mode (usually the vulnerable child, rarely the aggressive child), I'm disgusted by it. It's so....well, childlike...I feel tarnished by it, embarrassed by it, and it's kind of like "I" am broken. I'm so used to being detached and unaffected - and, like I say, I identify with those things - that when that happens (and it's SO extreme...the feelings, the thoughts, the behaviours), I end up thinking 'just how fucked up am I?! I acted like a crazy person!" It takes me ages just to get over the shame.

    ReplyDelete

Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...