Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Repetition Compulsion: Why do I Keep Sticking my Head Back in the Lion's Mouth?

The now widely accepted notion of repetition compulsion is often seen in survivors of any kind of psychological trauma. In the more severely afflicted among them, it is almost always in play. And that compulsion is almost always rooted in the earlier repetitions of psychological trauma.

The inner child who was neglected, ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, rejected, 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, gaslit..., scapegoated..., emotionally blackmailed and/or otherwise abused by others upon whom it depended for survival in the first few years of life lives on in a default mode network in the brain of the abused child called "the not okay inner child."

And if it does not collapse into permanent Learned Helplessness & the Victim Identity, it will try and try and try to find a way to UNDO the original situation by getting CONTROL of a new one.

Put another way, if one was abused by a major figure in childhood, they are often programmed, imprinted, habituated and normalized to such treatment... and will then "pair" (or associate) such treatment with what little "love," protection and/or security (s)he did get. And because (s)he direly needs to get ALL the "love," protection and/or security (s)he needed as a child to develop into a reasonably secure adult... or prove to him/herself that (s)he doesn't need it because (s)he's now in control, (s)he may resort to the obsessive control imperative many compensatory narcissistic survivors develop.

But it never really works because (s)he either gets abused again or drives "good" people away, and the illusion of control turns out to be a disappointing delusion.

Our original abusers so often "loved," and protected -- as well as abused -- us in Karpman Drama Triangle mash-ups. We were "baited" here and "bitten" there. So many times that we could no longer separate the bite from the bait. And we go looking for the same bait over and over again, telling ourselves "I won't get bitten this time." But, of course, we usually do.

I know that's a lot to wrap one's mind around, but once one allows all that to sink in, it almost always starts to make sense. And then we get to use something like Choiceless Awareness for Emotion Processing or one of the other therapies listed in section 7c of this earlier post to "digest" what has been sensed.

If interested, see also:

Transferred Trauma Bonding & How to Deal With It in the Heat of the Moment in the OP and not-moses’s reply thereto on that Reddit thread

Recovery Program for Someone with Untreated Childhood Trauma


See Courtois, Farmer, Miller, Walker, and Whitfield in section one of A CPTSD Library; Beck, Briere, Carnes, Courtois et al, Fisher, Heller & LaPierre, Kaufman, Schwartz, and Van der Kolk in section two; pretty much anything in section four (as repetition compulsion is a core feature of that diagnosis); Block & Block (2010), Chapman et al (2011), Follette & Pistorello, Fox, Marra, McKay & Wood, Raja, Schwartz, Van Dijk (2102), Weiss, and Williams & Poijula in section six; and...

Van der Kolk, B.: The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-enactment, Re-victimization, and Masochism, in Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1989.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Can One Crowbar Others out of a "Good-Looking" Cult?

If your loved one or family member(s) is at stage one of the five stages of recovery with respect to this "addiction" (see more on that below), you're pretty likely not going to get far if you use any sort of "pressure." Attachment to others and worry about status in the "club" are often just too deeply conditioned, instructed, socialized, habituated, and normalized into their brains' default mode networks. One needs to grasp Social Proof & the Teflon True Believer and Codependence as "Soft-Core" Cult Dynamics... and Cult Dynamics as "Hard-Core" Codependence to understand the loyalty of the cult member.

Articles like those on Articles on Cult Dynamics may help to provide you with ammunition you can use if you see any chinks in their armor, but my supposition is that you won't unless or until one of them moves far enough up the side of the Cultic Pyramid to start feeling really uncomfortable, so you have to simply observe what is going on without acting before the member is ready. (There are such things as "cult interventionists," but they are terrifically expensive because the process is so lengthy, and the percentage of successful interventions is low.)

So. See Cult Membership is an Addiction Process... and a Process Addiction and The Typical Path of Cult Involvement to understand clearly what is going on before trying anything. And bear in mind that members on the middle levels of the pyramid often become amenable to moving out of the first into the second stage of recovery when things get sufficiently uncomfortable. But the addict -- like all addicts -- has to get "sick and tired of being sick and tired" before real progress can be made. To help that along, one may be able to use Lance Dodes’s “Eleven Questions after they've been at the second stage for a week or two. And if they get to the third... The Psychology of the Cult Experience (1982) and the horror stories of others on Reddit and elsewhere who bailed from the same cult or one that is as similar to it as possible.

Relative to the fourth stage of recovery, see...

Can People truly Recover from Cult Indoctrination and Manipulation?

Religious Trauma Syndrome (which applies to any "spiritual" cult)

Do I need Exit Counseling or Deprogramming?

Still Stuck in the Muck of RTS? There IS a Way Out. (which applies to any "spiritual" cult)

SIQR, the 10 StEPs & Recovery from Religious Trauma Syndrome: A How-To Guide (which applies to any "spiritual" cult)

Managing Cult Withdrawal in not-moses’s reply to the OP on that thread

Treating Cultism as an Addiction

Modern Deprogramming is NOT Old-School Deprogramming and my two replies to the OP on this Reddit thread

Information is power in these deals. The more you know, the better the chances of success with a family member or loved one.

Resources & References

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Appropriate & Effective "Narrative Therapy" vs. Potentially Dangerous or Unproductive, Unguided Journaling

Suggestions and reports of experiences with journaling are a regular occurrence on Reddit's trauma recovery subs. And there's no question that appropriate journaling is very often one of a combination of effective paths to recovery from the Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that recycles Learned Helplessness & the Victim Identity, ... Reactive Rage, ... Reciprocal Reactivity, and/or Repetition Compulsion (in not-moses's reply to the OP on that Reddit thread) so often leading to such as life-crushing depression, anxiety and dysfunctional IFSM "Protector" schemes like Compensatory Narcissism and The Dark Diagnosis.

BUT... without professional guidance -- or at least accurate instruction from research-grounded workbooks like those in the last section of A CPTSD Library -- journaling can lead to very unfortunate outcomes, including severe self-harm, hope-to-die substance abuse and other risky behaviors, and even suicide. 

(Alice Miller's The Body Never Lies recounts several stories of famous authors and poets who basically wrote themselves into such awful depression and anxiety that they sometimes took their own lives. They included such famous names as Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Kafka, Nietzsche, Joyce, Proust and Virginia Woolf.) 

That is because journaling without such preparation as "emotional grounding" (see these examples) can trigger sudden fits of depression, rage, anxiety and panic attacks.  

IME (which is plenty; see my post and reply history), a lot of -- though far from "all" -- survivors do benefit from Narrative Therapy under the weekly, bi-weekly or monthly guidance of licensed psychotherapists and clinical psychologists (NOT psychiatrists; psychiatrists are largely medication specialists nowadays). Some ask to read all material their patients / clients write; others do not, seeing that as rightfully private (as I do) and likely to be far more forthright -- especially in the early stages -- if patients know they do not need to reveal what they are still too frightened or ashamed or guilty to reveal.

Qualified, trauma-trained psychotherapists and CPs understand the five stages of therapeutic recovery and how to tell exactly where their pts are on that sliding scale at any given time. And that is crucial, because failure to understand that can lead to very unfortunate consequences and -- if repeated enough -- termination of therapy by a pt whose subconscious "not okay inner child" can see, hear, feel and sense that it is dealing with someone who cannot really see, hear, feel or sense them.

Appropriate journaling is a well-understood means of Memory Retrieval, "Resociation" & Reprocessing for Dissociated Memories when it is combined with mindfulness strategies like those discussed in Mindfulness + Narrative Therapy for Childhood Trauma based on Choiceless Awareness for Emotion Processing or the many other systems listed in sections 7b and 7c in this earlier post.

All of the resources and references standing back of what I wrote here can be seen in A CPTSD Library.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Rage IS a Stage...

...and it can be used to empower early recovery by energizing the movement out of denial into contemplation and consideration, as well as identification and acceptance of what happened (see the five stages of therapeutic recovery), but the benefits of blind rage don't last very long.

Grief-processing expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross posited decades ago that anger is the second stage of another five-stage process of "grief relief." And that posit has stood the test of time and efficacy research. One almost always does need to move through her five stages, the keyword here being "through."

I assert this not only because of my own experiences processing grief resulting from having been neglected, ignored, abandoned, discounted, disclaimed, and rejected, as well as invalidated, confused, betrayed, insulted, criticized, judged, blamed, ridiculed, embarrassed, humiliated, denigrated, derogated, victimized, demonized, persecuted, picked on, dumped on, bullied, gaslighted, scapegoated, and/or otherwise abused by others upon whom I depended for survival in early life, as well as schoolyard bullies, badgering bosses, cult gurus and other authoritarian persecutors trying to suck me into their Karpman Drama Triangles. If have seen it work for many others over the course of more than 30 years in AANAACAEACoDASIA and AMAC, as well as other groups.

But many so-called "experts" on grief processing whose pre-mindfulness-era books and articles are still in circulation (e.g.: most of what was published before the turn of the millennium, and almost everything published before 1990) asserted that some combination of "talking about one's anger with a trusted listener" and "ventilating such emotions via energetic expression" (including beating on punching bags and screaming in the shower) was The Way to Freedom.


But... understandable given the prevailing beliefs among the psychotherapists of the time, many of whom subscribed to the notions of one Arthur Janov, and his "primal scream" therapy, as well as the widely promoted methods of Richard "Riggs" Corriere and the Center for Feeling Therapy that spawned the "emotional release therapies" of the 1970s - 1990s. (I was soooo into that... then.) (Bad idea. Really bad.) (One could ask John Lennon if he was still around.)

Emotional release in and of itself is the objective, but vomiting as opposed to venting is not the path to that objective, as child development experts since Margaret Mahler's and Melanie Klein's day (including T. Berry Brazelton, John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth and Daniel Stern) have known and written reams about. "Maternal attunement" leading to "self-soothing" is both more effective and less damaging.

If any single mental health professional "lead the charge" on "self-soothing" and "venting vs. vomiting" (that has revolutionized modern psychotherapy over the past three decades) it was probably Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of such touchstones as Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illnessWherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life; and Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness.

Mountains of efficacy research have testified to the effectiveness of venting vs. vomiting for anxiety, depression, mania, grief and anger release. The concept is a simple one: Shock happens. And if it is not allowed to run its course through Kubler-Ross's five stages, it becomes the fuel of the lingering emotions and sensations Bessel van der Kolk wrote about in his own monumental books, Traumatic Stress: the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. As did the legendary Alice Miller in many of her books, including (most recently, so far as I know) The Body Never Lies.

The energy is like undigested food in the digestive track. If it remains undigested, that energy causes "emotional constipation." And it is that that causes suffering.

Thus, rather than vomitting or other forms of anything-but-self-soothing, may I suggest the methods first offered by Siddartha Gotama more than 2500 years ago that are now the bedrock of modern psychotherapy for trauma? One can read about them at the links below:

Workbooks for Anger Prevention, Management & Processing

Appropriate & Effective "Narrative Therapy" vs. Potentially Dangerous or Unproductive, Unguided Journaling

Emotional Bloodletting & Flashback Management

Why Memory Retrieval is So Important

Recalling memories from a third-person perspective changes how our brain processes them

A Recovery Program for Someone with Untreated Childhood Trauma

Interoception vs. Introspection

Choiceless Awareness for Emotion Processing

And if one is looking for books on the topic, see the final section of A CPTSD Library.

Intimate Relationship: How to Tell a "Keeper" from Someone who Isn't

Because of the misunderstanding reflected in in some of the early replies to this article when it was originally posted on Reddit's Codependency sub, may I make it clear that this is about romantic partner, employer-and-employee, coach-and-player and other adult-to-adult relationships. And NOT about children being neglected, rejected or abandoned by their parents. (That several people did that on this particular sub does intrigue me, however. Because a lot of people who do not process the grief -- and clear the hurdle -- of having been thus treated by their parents develop unfortunate compensations that cause others to reject and abandon them in adulthood.)

  1. A "Keeper" can see, hear, feel and sense what IS, including him- or herself, and you, and they recognize, acknowledge, accept, own and appreciate you and how they respond to you. They KNOW what and who they are either IN or OUT of the relationship... and consistently demonstrate that. ... Someone who Isn't (a "Keeper") can NOT see, hear, feel and sense what IS, including him- or herself, and you, and they are NOT able to recognize, acknowledge, accept, own and appreciate you and how they respond to you. They do NOT know what and who they are either IN or OUT of the relationship... and consistently demonstrate that.

  2. Most "Keepers" get along well with their parents and their siblings and do not race around on any Karpman Drama Triangles with them -- or you -- because their parents do a pretty good job of seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing them as they are, without insisting that their children be precisely as they require. ... Someone who Isn't (a "Keeper") does NOT get along well with their parents and their siblings and does race around on Karpman Drama Triangles with them... and you.

  3. Most "Keepers" are who they really seem to be even after the "pink cloud" and the early hormone rush wears off. ... Someone who Isn't (a "Keeper") quickly morphs into something quite different from what they appeared to be during the pink cloud stage.

  4. Most "Keepers" are flexible and want to continue to explore and grow. ... Someone who Isn't (a "Keeper") is usually rigid, inflexible and incapable of growing.

  5. Most "Keepers" have reached the "formal operational" stage on Jean Piaget's developmental path, which what makes it possible for them to see, hear, feel and sense themselves and you. ... Most who are not "Keepers" didn't make it to that stage, and are stuck in "concrete operational" or -- even (far) worse -- "fantasy operational processing" (in not-moses’s reply to the OP on that Reddit thread) which makes them somewhere between partially and completely blind, deaf, dumb and functionally senseless insofar as the relationship is concerned.

  6. Most "Keepers" have reached the third tier of Kohlberg's stages of moral development, which is a further indication of flexibility under stress. ... Those who are not "Keepers" remain topped out in the second or -- (far) worse -- the first tier, and can be counted upon to be either morally perfectionistic or reliably antisocial, as well as some form of narcissistic even when they are not stressed.

  7. All "Keepers" have moved functionally through the first five stages on Erik Erikson's developmental path and are capable of functional "intimacy." ... Most who are not "Keepers" hit the wall somewhere along the path and are hung up there.

  8. The "Keeper" tends to already know or be able to grasp that "Love is being with what IS in relationship." ... Those who are not "Keepers" cannot and rarely ever will.

Resources & References

Berne, E.: Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, San Francisco: Grove Press, 1964.

Bernstein, A.: Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People who Drain You Dry, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Bowlby, J.: A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development, London: Routledge; New York: Basic Books, 1988.

Branden, N.: The Disowned Self, New York: Bantam Books, 1976.

Branden, N.: The Psychology of Romantic Love, New York: Bantam Books, 1981.

Carnes, P.: Don't Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction, New York: Bantam, 1991.

Carnes, P.: The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1997.

Erikson, E.: Childhood and Society, New York: W. W. Norton, 1950, 1967, 1993.

Erikson, E.: Identity and the Life Cycle, New York: W. W. Norton, 1959, 1980.

Gurdjieff, G.: Life is Real Only Then, When I Am, New York: Viking, 1974, 1991.

Harris, T.: I’m Okay—You’re Okay, New York: Harper and Row, 1968.

Hendrix, H.: Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1988.

Hendrix, H.; Hunt, H.: Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles, New York: Pocket Books, 1992.

Kabat-Zinn, J.: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life: New York: Hyperion, 2004.

Kabat-Zinn, J.: Coming to Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, New York: Hyperion, 2005.

Karpman, S.: Fairy tales and script drama analysis, in Transactional Analysis Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 26, 1968.

Kohlberg, L.: The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

Krishnamurti, J.: On Relationship, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

Krishnamurti, J.: On Love and Loneliness, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

Lissette, A.; Kraus, R.: Free Yourself from an Abusive Relationship: 7 Steps to Taking Back Your Life, Alameda, CA: Hunter House, 2000.

Marcia, J.: Development and validation of ego identity status, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 3, 1966.

Masterson, J. (editor/author): The Personality Disorders Through the Lens of Attachment Theory and the Neurobiologic Development of the Self, Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, 2004.

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.: Miller, A. W.: Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Live, San Francisco, Harper, 1992.

Millon, T.: Personality Disorders in Modern Life, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Norwood, R.: Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.

Payson, E.: The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists: Coping with One-Way Relationships in Work, Love and Family, Royal Oak, MI: Julian Day, 2002.

Piaget, J.: The Origins of Intelligence in Children, New York: International University Press, 1936, 1952.

Rogers, C.: On Becoming a Person, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961, 1995.

Schaef, A. W.: Escape from Intimacy, New York: Harper-Collins, 1987.

Schaef, A. W.: Co-dependence: Misunderstood, Mistreated, New York: HarperOne, 1992.

Shaver, P.; Mikulincer, M.: Psychodynamics of Adult Attachment: A Research Perspective, in Journal of Attachment and Human Development, Vol. 4, 2002.

Simon, G.: In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People (Revised Ed.), Marion, MI: Parkhurst Bros., 1996, 2010.

Sullivan, H. S.: The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, New York: W. W. Norton, 1968.

Tart, C.: Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential, New York: New Science Library, 1987.

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.