Thursday, October 27, 2011

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.

Schema Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide [Paperback]Jeffrey E. Young (Author), Janet S. Klosko (Author), Marjorie E. Weishaar


  1. Hey, I believe I have all kinds of personality disorder. After researching about my problems, i somehow ended up here. Thank you for the helpful info. I definitely suffer from this shame and defective issue. For over ten years I have been an alcoholic, trying to ease pain of which i have no what it is about. I often drink to fall into fantasy world i create where I am a perfect human being. I definitely feel shame about myself. I failed so many times in the past.
    We really have to get rid of this core belief that we are defective. We were train to believe this belief in childhood, who we are is defective in nature. Good luck on recovery. I am sure you will be better.

  2. What do you do when you find out that your parents did this to you and you are 57, unhapplily married, socially inept, sick of pretending to everyone else that you are strong,but underneath it all you are misereable and worn out. The best years of your life when you had options and your life was in front of you was pissed up against the wall of fear which you could never share with intamacy with anyone because it was this very intamacy that was was stolen from you.

    "You're a good kid come and give me a cuddle" was something my father never said to me. It's too late now. If it happened now I would never believe it.

    1. You can decide that your life isn't over. You can't change the past but you can guide the future and work to provide yourself with some new peace and maybe some healing.

  3. Thanks for the info! I was wondering what the source of the italicized text in white is?

    1. It's from the Book: Schema Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide by:
      Jeffrey E. Young , Janet S. Klosko , Marjorie E. Weishaar.

  4. I'm a new reader (really enjoying the blog, btw). Of all the entries I've read this one seriously hits the nail on the head. I became aware of aspects of this a few years ago, and have been trying to face my fears, fairly successfully, amazingly enough, but this just perfectly summed everything up under one heading and just crystallised it all for me. I have been avoiding romantic relationships my whole life. I compensate by having a million friends all the time, who thought I connected with them on an emotionally intimate level, but really I wore my mask and they opened up to me. Over the last two years I have started opening up to people about the things that I am terrified to open up by one...each one more terrifying. Every time I do it I feel deeply uncomfortable and anxious that they will stop liking me and stop wanting to be my friend. This hasn't happened. But each time I still have to force myself to do does not feel natural and still feels really scary.

    I have never had sex. I am 31. I haven't had sex because I feel like a completely defective and disgusting looking person. I am very overweight. I have some strange abnormalities. I can go out into the world and become friends with people easily because I can control what they see, and they will never see me without clothes on. The thought of allowing someone to not only see me without clothes on but touch me, smell me, taste me, is almost too hard to even think about. Once that happens the person will realise how disgusting I am and will leave me. And I can't bear that to happen so I avoid it at all cost.

    Lately I have been challenging this. I have started to put myself out there and have met two women I sort of got involved with (not at the same time). But I ALSO feel defective because now I am 31 and have never had sex. Who would want to be with a 30-year-old virgin? So 1. I (feel that I) have to admit that I have never had sex/have fears of sleeping with someone and 2. I can't imagine actually doing it for all the reasons listed above. So anyway, I'm trying so hard to challenge this, but of course the two women I got involved with are unstable partners and also fear intimacy, so they just reinforced all of this. Nothing physically happened with the first one, but I told her about some of my fears of physical intimacy and am sure that's why she didn't want to be with me despite our amazingly strong connection. Then I actually opened up even more about my fears of sex and nakedness with the second one and she still kissed me, and still said she wanted me, etc...which was great (still hard to believe, but nice to hear). But THEN out of nowhere she ended things, right before we were about to have sex. Not so great.

    I have been trying really really hard to take the positive away from these experiences and see how far I've come and how much I've grown, but I vacillate between that and feeling like all my fears of what would happen happened, and how can I possibly have sex or physically connect with anyone else now. But, I will continue to try to put myself out there. And hopefully meet someone eventually who will not do the push pull thing so much with me (which they both did), since that just really triggers and reinforces all of this.

  5. Until you are able to get professionsional help to work on your core wounds, please refrain from attempting to have emotionally and physically intimate relationships that you cannot sustain in commitment , loyalty, monogamy, and deep love. Please stop hurting other people and their livrs as we all deserve to give and receive love .... not just you


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

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