Saturday, July 25, 2020

Managing Addictive, Codependent, Reciprocal Reactivity with Borderlines

I believe I am reasonably qualified to express myself on the topic. I am a recovering codependent who went to my first Codependents Anonymous meeting in 1990. And a recovering, principally impulsive-type borderline since 1997. As well as the adult child of a severely petulant-type borderline... and a former chaser of them into bumpy-road romance for decades.
I'd had no idea whatsoever about the reciprocal reactivity "fur ball" until I stumbled onto Harry Stack Sullivan's notion of "parataxic integration" while I was (again) in school in 2004 reading Sullivan student Lorna Smith Benjamin's Interpersonal Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders.
Though I would love to say I connected all the dots together in seconds, it would be thoroughly erroneous to do so. But I was playing emotional dodge ball with yet another borderline on the other side of my computer screen a year or so ago when I began to at least get the dots closer together.
Now. Here's where we need to take a sudden left turn, insist upon a "prerequisite," and get explanatory. So please see this article so you understand at least some of what I have come to understand after having dealt with well over a hundred borderlines since 1987.
Got all that? Okay, good. Because we -- as borderlines -- are a) reciprocal reactors, as well as b) hyper-codependent and attachment-seeking here and hyper-counter-dependent and attachment-rejecting there. Why? because we grew up conditioned, in-doctrine-ated, instructed, socialized, habituated, normalized and neurally “hard-wired” to be desperate for connection here and desperate for protection there.
Which makes us suckers for seduction -- as well as seducers ourselves -- and addiction-prone, hair-trigger reactors to even the slightest hint that the seducers we reciprocally react to by seducing them have turned ("suddenly") into the same sort of vile abusers we were raised by. Which was all too often a mother who baited and then bit, showing us (however subconsciously) how to seduce and abuse. (I assert the "bad mother" along with many of the early experts on BPD like Winnicott, Sullivan, Mahler and Klein because the "dark diagnosis" is so often the result of some combination of having been neglected, ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, and rejected, as well as invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, shamed, ridiculed, embarrassed, humiliated, denigrated, derogated, set up to screw up, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, vilified, dumped on, bullied, gaslighted, scapegoated, emotionally blackmailed and/or otherwise abused by others upon whom they depended for survival in the first few years of life. Producing a nasty and lingering case of sometimes utterly intolerable Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
(Can a "bad dad" cause CPTSD > BPD? Of course, but the character of BPD seen in adolescence and adulthood tends to look different: It's more compensatory narcissistic and less like Learned Helplessness & the Victim Identity. In my opinion, that is because "bad dad" BPD usually takes place at a later stage of development on Piaget's, Kohlberg's and Erikson's developmental paths when a child has somewhat more evolved cognitive capacities, understanding of morality and autonomy, initiative and competence, respectively.)
Most of the self-proclaimed "codependents" I have encountered over the past 30 years exhibit mild to moderate BPD traits though those traits will look a lot different "up front" and "at first" if the person is a petulant or impulsive vs. self-destructive or discouraged type of borderline. (Ultimately, all four "types" will show up, but usually not for a while.)
Moreover, codependents who have moderate to florid BPD traits find it extremely difficult to see, hear, feel or sense themselves because of their Dissociation into various Internal Family Systems Model "alters." (Some readers will jump up and down here about supposedly absolute demarcations between BPD and DID, and they're welcome to do so. But I've studied Kluft, Putman, Herman, Courtois, Lynn & Rhue, van der Kolk and van der Hart in depth; and I have known a LOT of people with DID and BPD. The demarcation is anything but absolute or rigid, is actually quite plastic and varies considerably over time.)
Some alters can "self-see." Most cannot. And many get very hostile when they think they are being "forced" to do so out of understandable and unprocessed shame, guilt, worry, remorse, regret and anxiety, as well as overwhelming terror and reactive rage. And when in those states of gross autonomic agitation, they will act out according to being in any one (or more) of the Fight, Flight, Freeze, Faint, Feign (or Fawn), Freak and/or Fry responses.
Fortunately, this rarely occurs in CoDA meetings, but on occasion, it does. Especially when the borderline flips (as they do and they will) from an acquiescent, submissive, attachment-seeking identity to one that dimly recalls what that gawd-awful abuser did to them and sees a new version of that abuser in the meeting. (I never did that. Hah!)
NOW. Please disabuse yourself of any notions that you can use any of this information to edify or “manage” a troubled codependent borderline in extremis, let alone in the heat of the moment. The information here is supplied simply for recognition, acknowledgment, appreciation and understanding of what's going on in the long term... and management of one's reaction to a borderline's sudden rage.
Resources: See the section on Borderline Personality Disorder in A CPTSD Library.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reciprocal Reactivity, Ego Protection & the Cycle of Addiction: The Interpersonal Pandemic of the New Century?

I didn't see it as often online, on the toob, in the "news" (or propaganda) media when renaming Sullivan's concept occurred to me about 15 years ago. I looked high and low in the professional literature to see if someone else had come up with a term to describe the phenomenon, but I haven't -- yet, anyway -- found a term better than Sperduto et al's, even though their use of it did not refer to what is described here. But in the four years since the summer of 2016, I have seen so much of it in play on interpersonal Karpman Drama Triangles that it seems to me now that reciprocal reactivity has become socialized, habituated, normalized and instructed almost culturewide. 

Following is a somewhat revised version of a piece posted on Reddit's Responsible Recovery sub for referral use about a year ago.    

Although the concept of mutually reactive interpersonal behavior called "parataxic integration" is not the sort of "reciprocal reactivity" discussed by Sperduto et al in 1978, Harry Stack Sullivan's observations of the interactive escalation of the fight-flight-freeze response seem to make better sense to lay people when called "RR" rather than "PI."
Quoting the Wikipedia entry on PI:
"Parataxical integration exists when two people, usually intimate with each other (i.e. parents and children, spouses, romantic partners, business associates), are reciprocally reactive to each other’s seductions, judgmental inaccuracies, hostile comments, [ego-defending narcissistic compensations and manipulations] or other 'triggering' behaviors. One says or does something causing the other to react, setting off a cyclical 'ping-pong,' 'tit-for-tat,' 'you-get-me-and-I-get-you-back' oscillation of verbal, emotional] and/or behavioral reactions.
"The concept first appeared in Sullivan's The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, published in 1953. It was developed further by his protégé, Lorna Smith Benjamin, in her Interpersonal Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders (1996). Benjamin saw parataxical integration as typical in the interpersonal behavior of couples with unresolved autonomy (i.e. separation, boundary) and identity issues. Erik Erikson had himself described the unconscious, reciprocal reactivation (without using Sullivan’s terms) in his essay, 'The Problem of Ego Identity' in the book, Identity and Anxiety, edited by Stein et al. (1960).
"Though the term itself is not used in much of the professional peer-reviewed literature, the interpersonal manifestation to which it refers appears regularly in the case study literature of the 'family systems' school of psychologists, including Don D. JacksonJay HaleyGregory BatesonVirginia Satir, and Salvador Minuchin. Parataxical integrations are also presented in similar studies reported by Ronald D. LaingAaron Esterson, and anthropologist Jules Henry, largely during the 1950s and 1960s. Harold Searles and Charles McCormack describe manifestations of parataxical integration in their works on borderline personality disorders in the 1980s and 2000s. ... Paul Watzlawick et al. describes the concept in his book, Change, noting, '... the circularity of their interaction makes it undecidable ... whether a given action is the cause or effect of an action by the other party ... either party sees its actions as determined and provoked by the other's actions.
"Numerous mass-market psychology authors, many writing about the topic of 'co-dependence,' including Melody BeattiePia MellodyAnne Wilson Schaef, and Barry & Janae Weinhold, describe the interpersonal manifestation without using Sullivan’s term per se. Likewise Pia Mellody, who describes the behavioral manifestations of parataxical integration at length in an audio presentation available online."
Likewise, neither term appears in the conference-approved literature of the Codependents Anonymous 12 Step fellowship, but there are some seeming references to its manifestations in their "Patterns & Characteristics of Codependence," including "attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel... become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice... refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate... adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes."
Nor does the term appear in any work on countertransference I have yet encountered in professional literature, including either Gabbard & Wilkinson or Searles, but illustrations of the concept are numerous throughout, much as they have been over the years in such work as Arceneaux, Asbury, Asch, Beck, Berger & Luckman, Berreby, Bloom, Brown, Carney, Chopik, Clarkson and Cooley (which is merely through the letter C on this list). And very much so in numerous books on American politics in the post-millennial era including Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement (rather a rant, but one that clearly illustrated RR on both sides of the aisle in the US Congress during the Bush 43 years). 
Major motion pictures have illustrated socioillogical RR at least since D. W. Griffith's "Intolerance" back in 1916. But rarely as dramatically as Scorcese's rendition of Asbury's The Gangs of New York and Paul Thomas Anderson's workup of Upton Sinclair's Oil! in "There Will be Blood." Both starring Daniel Day Lewis, they feature characters who seem to live in eternal autonomic reactivity to the exclusion of any other possibility.
But because I spent a lot of time working in the field of addiction research and treatment, and because I'm familiar with the psychology and neurobiology of not only substance abuse but so-called "behavioral" addiction (e.g.: gambling, sex, romance, religion, work, shopping, Internet, being seen as "right," political and social causes, etc.), may I propose for consideration that RR may well fit in that rubric? And then ask the same question here I have asked addicts hundreds of times over the past several years: "Will the addict ever stop using SOMETHING if he or she remains depressed, anxious, shameful or angry?
Because it's pretty evident to many who understand the Cycle of Addiction and who've read most of the major experts on the topic that all addictions are intra-personal forms of ... reciprocal reactivity
Okay; the ball's in your court now (wink).
Arceneaux, K.: Vander Wielen, R: The Effects of Need for Cognition and Need for Affect on Partisan Evaluations, in the Journal of Political Psychology, Vol. 34, No, 1, February 2013.
Asbury, H.: The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld; orig. pub. 1929, New York: Random House Vintage, 2008. 
Asch, S. E.: Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments; in H. Guetzkow (ed.): Groups, Leadership and Men; Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press, 1951.
Atir, S.; Rosenzweig, E., Dunning, D.: When Knowledge Knows No Bounds: Self-Perceived Expertise Predicts Claims of Impossible Knowledge; in Psychological Science, 2015.
Beattie, M.: Codependent No More, San Francisco: Harper/Hazelden, 1987.
Beattie, M.: Beyond Codependency, San Francisco: Harper/Hazelden, 1989.
Beattie, M.: Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.
Beck, A.: Prisoners of Hate: The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility and Violence; New York: Harper-Collins, 1999.
Benjamin, L. S.: Interpersonal Diagnosis and Treatment of Personality Disorders, Second Edition, New York: Guilford Press, 1996.
Benjamin, L. S.: Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy, New York: Guilford Press, 2003.
Berger, P.;  Luckman, T.: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge; New York: Doubleday, 1966.
Berreby, D.: Us & Them: The Science of Identity; U. of Chicago Press, 2005.
Bloom, A.: The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.
Brown, L. B.: Ideology; New York: Penguin, 1973.
Carney, D.; Jost, J.; et al: The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind, in Journal of Political Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 6, 2008.
Chopik, W.; Motyl, M.: Ideological Fit Enhances Interpersonal Orientations; in Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 2016.
Clarkson, J.; Chambers, J.; et al: The self-control consequences of political ideology, in PNAS, June 22, 2015.
Cooley: Human Nature and the Social Order; orig. pub. 1902, Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 1986.
Fruzzetti, A.: The High-Conflict Couple: A D**ialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy, and Validation, Oakland CA: New Harbinger, 2006.
Gabbard, G.; Wilkinson, S.: Management of Countertransference with Borderline Patients, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1994.
Laing, R. D.; Esterson, A.: Sanity, Madness and the Family, London: Tavistock, 1964.
McCormack, C.: Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance, Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aaronson, 2000.
Mellody, P.; Miller, A. W.: Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Come From, How It Sabotages Our Lives, San Francisco: Harper, 1989.
Mellody, P.; Miller, A. W.: Breaking Free: A Workbook for Facing Codependence, San Francisco: Harper, 1989.
Mellody, P.; Freundlich, L.: The Intimacy Factor…, San Francisco: Harper, 2003.
Searles, H.: My Work with Borderline Patients, New York: Jason Aronson, 1986.
Searles, H.: Countertransference and Related Subjects: Selected Papers, Madison, CT: International University Press, 1979, 1999.
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Sperduto, G.; Calhoun, K.; Ciminero, A.: The effects of reciprocal reactivity on positively and negatively valenced, self-rated behaviors, in Journal of Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 16, No. 6, 1978.
Stein, M.; Vidich, A.; White, D. (editors): Identity and Anxiety: Survival of the Person in Mass Society, Glencoe, IL: The Free Press of Glencoe, Illinois, 1960.
Sullivan, H. S.: The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, New York: W. W. Norton, 1968.
Watzlawick, P.; Beavin, J.; and Jackson, D.: Pragmatics of Human Communication, New York: W. W. Norton, 1967.
Watzlawick, P.; Weakland, J.; Fisch, R.: Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, New York: W. W. Norton, 1974.
Weinhold, B.; Weinhold, J.: Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap, Revised Edition, Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008.
Weinhold, J.; Weinhold, B.: The Flight from Intimacy: Counter-dependency--The Other Side of Co-dependency; Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Why do we get so Desperate for Connection? An Answer from the Purview of Attachment, Early Life Research & Codependency

Someone asked me well over a year ago, "Do you sometimes feel paralyzed until your codependent partner messages you?" I answered partially as you see below, but became so intrigued, I began to drill down into Bowlby's attachment theory; Whitfield's, Schaef's and Mellody's codependency, and Mahler's, Brazelton's, Siegel's, Schore's and Stern's studies of very early life interactions. The later piece, Is it Possible to be Addicted to Attention? that follows this one on Pair.A.Docks was a partial, further result. So here we go: 

If you want some appropriate (if "old school") background music for this, click on this link. (Just to prove that your grandparents really did understand, even if your parents might not have.)

You need not answer this question online, of course, but... one of the first places a mental health professional well versed in codependency will go is to ask, "Did you have a parent -- or parents -- who ignored you a great deal, were self-obsessed, were too busy with their own careers to take time with and for their children, and were unable to understand what you were trying to tell them?"

The question is asked because MHPs recognize that having been conditioned, instructed, socialized and normalized to such treatment in childhood -- and especially in infancy before the child has the neural wiring for either memory or language -- can set a child up to be stuck in perpetual, autonomic fight, flight and/or freezeLearned Helpless and very insecure as the child grows older... and ultimately desperate for any form of connection from a romantic partner. Even one in which they Associate Abuse with Safety & Security.

See also Is it Possible to be Addicted to Attention?, which goes deeper into this deal.

If all that makes sense to you, and the shoe seems to fit, see also...

The Patterns & Characteristics of Codependence on the Codependents Anonymous website so that you know exactly where your "buttons" are

The lyrics while listening to Alanis Morrissette's "Precious Illusions," and "Death of Cinderella"

Practicing a consciousness raiser / thought questioner / emotion digester like the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing so that one is able to continue to sense what is actually going on and intuitively know what to do about it

Sternberg's Nine Kinds of Love to see (with those 10 StEPs) where one actually is in those kinds vs. where one would like to be

Understand the Drama Triangle... (NOT diagnosing, just saying that on the basis of 30+ years observation, many codependents have a few abuse-installed BPD traits... which often becomes obvious reading this article.)

Is the Codependent "Love Addict" just a Commercial & Cultural Creation? (and all the stuff at the links therein)

Resources & References
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