Saturday, December 16, 2017

When Trauma Survivors Act Out with Therapists & Intimates

One of the awarenesses I pieced together from old "professional" psych books (mostly from the '70s and '80s) and using those 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing is that many of us (very much including "younger" or "earlier" parts of my own psyche, and especially those parts that were serial traumatized by family members) have difficulties knowing where and when to set boundaries with other people who suddenly seem to be threatening, abusing or attacking.
Additionally, my "older," more educated and "recent" parts can see how the "younger" or "earlier" ones see some people as invalidating, insulting, criticizing, judging, blaming, embarrassing, humiliating, ridiculing, denigrating, derogating, victimizing, demonizing, persecuting, or otherwise abusive to me when in fact they're either not at all, or their abusiveness is really targeted at other people.
Further yet, my "older" more "recent" parts can see that many of us have boundaries that flip suddenly from "way too trusting and thin" to "way too distrustful and overly thick" with little or no space in between. Other people are either "all good," "wonderful," "trustworthy" and "allowed in," or they are "all bad," "awful," "never to be trusted," and "forced out."
Sometimes it's a matter of mistinterpreting their intentions or objectives. For example, I had parents who had been conditionedsocialized and normalized to be "righteously authoritarian." So whenever I saw others who were authoritarian, I was sometimes attracted (even to the point of being "anxiously attached" the way I was to some of my schoolmates, teammates, squadron peers and superiors, coworkers and bosses, lovers, spouses, etc.)... and then suddenly flipped to being suspicious, distrustful, and even hostile towards them... or (more recently) was just suspicious, distrustful and/or hostile right from the git.
My "older," more "mature," "recent" parts see this same phenomenon in others who sometimes react with hostility towards people who are truly educated and "authoritative" as opposed to authoritarian.
People who have been relentlessly abused by "righteous authoritarian" parents often think they see that in others who are as "right" about things as their parents claimed to be but so often weren't. They may instantly associate that "righteousness" with threat. And then project their reactions toward their parents into these new people they encounter, often at university in the form of professors and smarter, more accomplished students.
I see this occur a lot on some Internet forums. (It's almost epidemic on r/BPD at times, for example.) So, if you spot it here, don't be surprised I guess, because Hurt People... Hurt (other) People especially when they have an Expectation of Abuse (see my reply on this earlier thread) but may not be able to see that in themselves.
Anyone who conducts incest survivor recovery groups, btw, observes, notices, recognizes, and experiences this a lot.
Can one observe to notice to recognize to acknowledge (what has been recognized) to accept (what has been acknowledged) to own (one's part in it) to appreciate (the underlying causes and dynamics) to understand to digest to discharge the "sting" of being successfully baited by the righteous, authority-fearing (and -loathing) abuse survivor or a certain type?
(The unprocessed survivor -- as opposed to at least somewhat processed recoverer -- may be a righteous anti-social, drug abuser on "Live PD" who got stopped for driving erratically inside a car full of marijuana fumes... or an unprocessed, serial sexual abuse victim who cannot let go of her understandable hostility toward anyone who doesn't agree with her "right" to spray her rage about.)
1) decided that the very word "borderline" (whether spoken or not) is not "politically correct,"
2) that there are "rules" in the universe that the word should never be used as a label, and
3) "mastered" the fine art of "Look What You Made Me Do!" (see Berne's Games People Play) manipulation with hotly denied, you-hit-me-so-I'll-hit-you-back-to-make-you-hit-me-back-so-I-have-a-right-to-hit-you-back-again, reciprocal reactivity in an attempt to shame the other person just as the survivor was manipulated and shamed as a child,...
the "sting" will be set up and executed sooner or later.
The "petulant" and "impulsive" types in combination are widely observed to use this manipulation of the therapist's Level II, Stage 3, Kohlberg morality development to transfer the dynamics of his or her objectives with the original abuser onto the therapist, rationalize his or her right to react, and act out. The P&I-type borderline often does this with any intimate (including a therapist) he or she sees as "similar" to the original abuser (whether that person is or isn't) but one who can be shamed in a way his or her narcissistic and antisocial / sociopathic abuser could not or still cannot be.
I don't think I know any therapist who has worked with P&I-type borderlines for more than a week who has not been baited and bitten in such fashion.
Double-bound into seeking and repeating the abuse as children (on Karpman Drama Triangles with parents who have DSM Axis II Cluster B personality disorders), the budding P&I-type borderline will imitate his or her (usually P&I-type) abuser to attempt to project the intolerable shame and guilt he or she ingested again and again as an abused child into anyone who...
1) refuses to cosign his or her beliefs, ideas, assumptions, convictions and presumptions, and
2) especially those who challenge -- or are considered likely to challenge -- those beliefs, ideas, assumptions, convictions and presumptions.
The P&I-type borderline who uses this particular "emotional blackmail" technique may enjoy success with intimates -- including therapists -- who have not been properly trained, and will be rewarded by seeing the intimate's or therapist's triggered shame, guilt, worry, remorse, regret and even morbid reflection and self-accusation, just as the original perpetrator or abuser demonstrated his or her enjoyment of the borderline's own shame during the original abuse. But when confronted with an intimate or therapist who may have been manipulated into some infraction of the "moral rules" who then refuses to buy into the shaming ploy, the P&I borderline will act like a dog with retrieved ball in its mouth.
All this said, committed intimates and therapists have to learn to...
1) not beat themselves up for being baited and then bitten (it's simply impossible to avoid this kind of stuff if one sets boundaries the P&I borderline sees as authoritarian),
2) do their best to process the abuse with some mindfulness scheme like the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing,
3) get back to empathy and compassion for the abuse survivor who is still unprocessed, and
4) re-acquire the delicate balance between vulnerability and adequate boundary setting which must be utilized to demonstrate over time to such pts a "way of being" that is more functional and effective than baiting and biting, something like, "I bear you no malice, and I even understand why you need a punching bag, but it's not my job to be one."

1 comment:

  1. Rodger:

    I really appreciated your reflections on shame in r/CPTSD and your help for the person who had both his parents experience sexual abuse.

    And how petulant and impulsive borderlines use healthy socialised people's shame and guilt and remorse.

    Empathy and compassion is needed and the delicate balance too.

    "I bear you no malice and I even understand why you need a punching bag".