April 22, 2012
Posted in Compulsive Hoarding, Depression, DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, emotional pain, Hoarding, mental health tagged Angry, Anxiety, Attachment, Attachment Issues, Boundaries, Breaking boundaries, cleaning house, Compulsive Hoarding, Depression, DID / MPD, DID Survivors, Disaster Survivors, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Don't Touch My Stuff!, Emotional Freedom, emotional pain, Emotional Protection, Estate Sales, Flood Victims, Floods, Garage Sales, Hoarders, Hoarding, Hoarding on A&E, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Invasion of Boundaries, Isolation, Kathy Broady, Lack of privacy, letting go, Liquidation, Losing everything, Memories, Privacy, Professional Organizers, Remembering, selling your things, Stress, Throw out the trash, Tornado Survivors, Trauma Survivors, Violations at 6:16 pm by Kathy Broady
I can’t explain their popularity on this blog, other than the way a rash of television programs have increased the awareness of the complications about hoarding. However, hoarding issues are typically accompanied by extreme anxiety, depression, isolation, family conflict, self-hatred, chaotic thinking, eating disorders and other problems also common with DID / MPD / trauma survivors. Many emotional struggles are certainly not limited to the Dissociative population. Hoarding is probably one of those disorders that the Dissociative community can potentially share with thousands of people more suited to other mental health communities.
It appears that hoarding is a much bigger issue than once officially recognized. As a social worker who has done many home visits over a span of 25 years, I can say that I have seen hoarding issues repeatedly and yes, in my experience, hoarding is a consistent theme within various mental health populations, including dissociative trauma survivors.
How do we address these issues?
Does the professional “helping” community understand the depths of what is involved?
Do the mental health professionals really know what is needed?
On the various Hoarders shows that I’ve watched on television (such as “Hoarders” on A&E, and “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC), most of these processes are expected to be completed within a matter of a few short days. The interventions are quick, intense, and highly dramatic. The hoarders have obvious struggles, and the gains made in their homes and living situations are typically significant and impressive, even if only one or two rooms demonstrate the successful changes.
Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the groups of people that experience the anxiety, stress, distress, personal gains, relief, and emotional freedom from having professional organizers empty their houses. There are many groups of people, in addition to the hoarder community, that may require assistance in emptying or reducing the amount of items located within a specific property or home. These issues could surface in extremity, for example, after someone dies (especially when there is no one to inherit the stuff), or during a divorce settlement, or after a bankruptcy, or prior to moving to new home, or downsizing from a large home to a small home, or for any other reason people may decide to liquidate their possessions.
To me, just cleaning out a messy closet is a big job! Emptying, or organizing an entire property is an enormous job! It’s an overwhelmingly huge job.
Recently, I hired some professional sales assistants to help me to downsize / sell many of the items from my home / office in order to prepare for a new phase of my life. My children are grown up, and each has moved into their own homes as adults, giving me all kinds of options for what to do with the physical space that lives around me. I don’t particularly like the “empty nest” phrase, and yet for the first time in dozens of years, I have more freedom to do whatever I want to do, wherever I decide to do it. It’s exciting, and yet very weird feeling all at the same time. That’s all a long story, of course, and it has taken several months (years?!!) of hard work to sort through those kinds of things, including what to do with all the leftover “stuff” that everyone has grown out of.
I took weeks of time to pull out the cherished treasures I wanted to keep, and then left the rest for the organizers to pick through, and to present in the way they created a sale for the masses of people they invited to come dig through my things. As much as I thought I had already selected my most important items, it was never that easy, or that clear.
“Wait! Wait! Maybe I want to keep THAT afterall!”
Or, “Wait! Where did you find that? I didn’t SEE that before. Give me that back!”
Or another rough part was seeing my things just tossed in the trash. Can you believe that my favorite coffee cup ended up in the trash?!! My FAVORITE one! I thought I was going to have a melt down right then and there!
Breathe, Kathy, breathe!
Count to 10.
Ok, count to 100, lol.
The whole process was not anywhere near as fun as I had thought it might be.
In fact, it wasn’t fun at all.
It was really painful and horrible, to say the least.
And I chose to do it. It wasn’t forced upon me. It was MY IDEA. ( yeesh, lol).
This changing, transitional experience has been much more complicated and emotional than I ever expected it to be, giving me all kinds of fodder for blog articles, and a much deeper understanding of the intensity felt by hoarders as they go through their housing changes. Even though I had lots of time to prepare prior to my professional organizers arriving, and I was not forced into making these decisions in any way at all, I found myself having far more struggles, and feeling intense emotional turmoil, and frequently overwhelmed with memories (both good and bad) while sorting through the rooms of stuff. Wow. Yeeesh. Gee Whillakers! Jiminy Crickets!! It was a much more difficult experience than I would have ever imagined it would be.
One thing is for sure. For any television production company to expect to go through and toss away / give away 80 – 90 % of a hoarders belongings over a period of just a few days is just ridiculously cruel. Most people — especially those that tend to be collectors in the first place — are not ready to let go with that much finality that quickly, or that easily. There is no wonder the hoarders on the television shows have so many emotional outbursts – the whole process is set up exactly to create that kind of emotional conflict within them. I suppose that makes for interesting television, but it is not very kind to the hoarder.
My experience of working with professional organizers also reminded me of some of the stories I have heard over and over from many of my clients with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD). Let me ask you a few questions. Can you relate to any of these experiences?
As children or teenagers, or even as adults, have you felt violated when your parents or caregivers or family members rifled through your belongings without your permission to do so?
How invasive did it feel to have people touching your things when they were not invited to do so?
How powerless did you feel to see this, and to know you couldn’t stop it from happening?
How did this affect your personal boundaries?
How did it affect your ability to feel like something – anything – belonged to you, and to only you?
How did it affect your privacy, or lack of having any privacy?
When your boundaries were disrespected and exploited, what did you to do cope with the feelings you had?
With whatever trauma and / or neglect you experienced in your life, did you develop a greater attachment and emotional connection to physical items and personal items as a way to bond with something / anything? Or did the repeated violations leave you distanced and unattached to your personal items, able to easily walk off, staying coldly disconnected and apathetic to having anything of your own?
How would you feel if someone took your things from you? Or if someone threw your favorite items in the trash? Or if someone broke an item that you cherished? Would you have an anxiety attack? Would you be angry? Would you withdraw inside, crashing into depression? Would you find yourself switching from insider person to insider person?
Does it feel good and more under your own control to keep the amount of your personal belongings to a minimum? Does that feel safer for you, or does that feel like deprivation? Do you prefer to have bunches of things, feeling safer being surrounded by stuff? Does having layers of stuff feel like layers of protection?
How do victims of floods, fires, tornadoes, and earthquakes, or other natural disasters feel after suddenly losing all of their stuff? Even if they evacuated with a few things, how would it feel to lose so much, so quickly?
It is interesting to explore these questions with yourself. If you aren’t sure what some of the answers would be, try creating the situation, and let yourself experience it first hand. Experience having someone else / something else take your cherished items from you. Chances are, many of you reading this blog have already experienced these situations in your life. But if you haven’t experienced this, don’t judge other people’s reactions and their big feelings about having “house invaders” mess with their things. These experiences are a lot more difficult than you might have ever realized.
It certainly was for me.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
December 6, 2009
Posted in Child Alters, Compulsive Hoarding, Depression, DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, emotional pain, Internal Communication, mental health, therapy, Therapy and Counseling, Therapy Homework Ideas, Trauma, trauma therapist tagged A & E, AbuseConsultants, Addictions, Anxiety, Attachment Issues, Attachment to Things, Avoidance, Chaotic, Chaotic Thinking, Child Parts, Cleaning, Cleaning up messes, Cleaning your house, Clutter, Compulsive Hoarding, Confusion, Dallas TX, Depression, DID / MPD, DID Survivors, Disorganized, disorganized behavior, Disorganized thinking, disposophobia, dissociative disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Eating Disorders, emotional pain, Grief, Healing, Hoarders, Hoarders: Buried Alive, Hoarding, Household Cleaning, Humiliation, Internal Communication, Kathy Broady, Keeping Clutter, Loss, Memory Loss, Messes, my house is a big mess, my house is an embarrassment, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, Organization, pain, Retail Therapy, Sadness, Shame, TLC, Trauma Disorders, trauma therapist, Trauma Therapy at 8:53 pm by Kathy Broady
Compulsive Hoarding is a cluttery mess!!
What makes this happen?
Have you seen homes that look like this?
Does your home look like this?
Compulsive hoarding, or disposophobia, is a psychiatric condition that affects millions of people.
Compulsive hoarding is an obsessive need to acquire and keep possessions, even if these items have little value, are unsanitary, or broken, or unusable. Numerous items are kept and not discarded. Instead of using the items already owned, or looking for items that are lost in the piles, new items are acquired repeatedly to the point that the clutter creates significant dysfunction in a variety of areas of the person’s life.
Compulsive hoarding is far more complex than it first appears. It is connected to a variety of disorganized chaotic behavioral patterns and disorganized thinking patterns. It typically occurs in combination with other psychiatric issues, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, attention deficit disorders, addiction issues, trauma disorders, attachment disorders, etc.
There appears to be a biological base to this behavior as research is beginning to explore a genetic link to compulsive hoarding in generations of families. As children, many hoarders were raised by parents who were hoarders, so not only is it a learned behavior, but it could also be biologically connected. The area of the brain most significantly different for hoarders is the part of the brain that is responsible for focus, attention, and decision-making. According to research done at the University of Iowa, damage done to the to the right medial prefrontal cortex of the brain tends to cause compulsive hoarding.
Hoarders have a great deal of anxiety when pressured to let go of their possessions. They typically require external assistance, including professional assistance, to help with the cleaning and organizing tasks. Feelings of emotional overwhelm, intense anxiety, and panic attacks can be paralyzing for the hoarder. These increased anxiety symptoms create an inability to make decisions, stir up friction and emotional outbursts, lead to fatigue and exhaustion, and repeatedly interrupt the cleaning process. Letting the hoarder have control of the cleaning process and allowing time for the harder to build trust with the cleaning crew is particularly important to successful organizational efforts.
The clean-up process is intense and slow. Forcing a hoarder to clean too quickly will not result in long-term resolution of the problem. The problem is not just “clean up your house” or “throw this away”. The problem lies deeper within the person, and the struggles will manifest again in just a short-time.
How does compulsive hoarding relate to Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Compulsive hoarding is an issue separate from DID / MPD, but many dissociative survivors struggle with hoarding issues.
DID survivors have a variety of issues that overlap with hoarding behaviors: intense anxiety, deep feelings of hopelessness, fear of being out of control, problems with focus and decision-making, attachment issues, loss and grief, depression, the need for memory reminders, disorganized thought processes, disorganized behaviors, etc.
How many trauma survivors do you know that did not have safe people to attach to? And how many survivors of neglect were left alone, isolated with no one to attach to? When children spend too much time alone, they tend to attach to items, toys, books, stuffies, etc. Attaching to stuff is better than attaching to nothing. It is an adaptive behavior in a painfully difficult environment. However, when this continues over time, the potential for these behaviors to develop into a compulsive hoarding situation increases.
The emotional pain from not having deep personal relationships or the fear of being near people can add to the need to connect with physical possessions or animals instead of people. Building a personal relationship with stuff, and with animals can add to a compulsive hoarding situation. Attaching to stuff can feel much safer than attaching to people.
With all the switching and amnesia that can happen with dissociative identity disorder, DID survivors can experience a lot of chaotic thinking and chaotic behaviors. It can be difficult to complete a task – you can be there, and then suddenly find yourself somewhere else five hours later, having never finished the task you started in the first place. These kinds of disorganized behaviors can leave unattended messes and growing clutter all around your house. Do your child parts pick up the messes they leave behind? Do your teenage parts pick up their clothes? Did anyone remember to finish the dishes? What about the mess those angry parts made? Who wants to clean that up?
The “I didn’t do that, so I’m not cleaning that up” concept can get very difficult for dissociative survivors. You might not know who made the mess in the first place, or the part that did it might not be around anymore, you might not know how to call them back, etc. You might not know who to assign to completing basic household chores. Developing system work and system cooperation can help, but in the meantime, there can be a lot of “that’s not mine” / “I’m not doing that” arguments. Clutter and external disorganization can build while you are sorting out these internal system issues.
How many dissociative survivors have trouble remembering if they have something? Do you own one of those things? Did you buy that, or just think about buying that? Or was that last year? Do you still have that? Or was that way back then? Where did you live when you had that? Or if you know you have it, do you know where it is?
Sometimes it is easier to buy the item again than find it or remember if you have it. While this can be a dissociative symptom, this also contributes to the “Shop and Drop” behaviors found in compulsive hoarding. Shop and Drop refers to a pattern of behavior where the compulsive shopper drops their packages and purchases in some unspecified place. Over time, the packages and purchases get lost in the piles of other clutter, and then when it is time to use the items that were purchased, the location of the dropped items cannot be found. It becomes easier to buy those items again, instead of finding the ones you had.
There is also the complication of accumulation by repetition. Compulsive hoarders will acquire and stash away numerous items that are basically the same. What if you buy everyone in your DID system a stuffie? How many stuffies will that be? What if everyone wants their own books? And of course, many of the different insiders will have their own shirts, their own pants, their own shoes, their own socks, etc. While it is extremely important that the insiders have their own things, the sheer volume of each of the parts keeping their own stuff can add to the size of an ever-growing clutter problem.
The same as with compulsive hoarding, things / possessions / items can represent memories. For DID survivors, memory is a very complicated subject. Having items that trigger memories, or remind you of certain things can be a significant part of a growing clutter issue. Loss and grief are hard emotions to process, and holding on tightly to the items that help you to remember certain people or events can be significant. It is particularly difficult to let go of an item that has emotional significance to you, especially if it feels like you won’t remember someone or something if you don’t have those correlating things.
Here are a few ideas for addressing compulsive hoarding issues:
- Decide your current life goals, and keep only items that match with those life goals
- Explore the various meanings that possessions have for you
- Consider appropriate medications for anxiety, OCD, depression, etc.
- Work hard in therapy to address your emotional pain and other emotional issues
- For DID survivors, work hard on developing better internal communication and cooperation so clutter issues can be prevented or addressed
- Address your fears of letting go, or letting go of control – what is that about for you?
- Be honest with yourself about what you really need, what you will really use, what actually works, what you can actually fit into, etc. Challenge delusional thinking.
- Get professional help if necessary, especially if clutter is affecting your life
- Consider taking pictures of emotionally important but logically unnecessary items. Photo albums can be less cluttering than keeping all the actual items.
- Donate your excess to those less fortunate than you.
- Consider new rules to live by: If you get something new, get rid of something old.
- Address your deep feelings of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, sadness, etc.
- Work on building deeper and longer-lasting attachments instead of repeatedly discarding and replacing things (but keeping it just over there in case you want it again)
- Work on building meaningful attachments to people, learning to trust, and finding ways to connect
- Find healthy, meaningful ways to fill the voids in your life by doing more, and keeping less
Kathy Broady LCSW
November 15, 2009
Posted in DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, emotional pain, Family Members of Trauma Survivors, Friends of Multiples, mental health, Physical Abuse, sexual abuse, therapy, Therapy and Counseling, Therapy Homework Ideas, Trauma tagged Abuse, AbuseConsultants, AbuseConsultants.com, Abusive Families, Abusive Relationships, Attachment Issues, Attachment to the Perpetrator, DID / MPD, dissociative disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Garrido, Jaycee Dugard, Jaycee Lee Dugard, Kathy Broady, Kidnapping, Kidnappped, Perpetrators, Phillip Garrido, Registered Sex Offenders, Sadistic Abuse, Sadistic criminals, Sex Offender, Sex Offenders, sexual abuse, Sexually Abused, Stockholm Syndrome, Trauma Bond, Trauma Survivors, trauma therapist, Trauma Therapy at 7:53 pm by Kathy Broady
Last night, I saw another television documentary on Jaycee Lee Dugard – the young woman who was kidnapped at age 11, held captive for 18 years, and found alive, along with her two daughters on August 26, 2009.
Jaycee is now 29 years old.
Jaycee spent the past 18 years held captive in the backyard of a registered, violent sex offender, Phillip Garrido. Garrido fathered Jaycee’s two daughters, and has been charged with numerous criminal offenses.
While most of the world was thrilled to see Garrido arrested and locked away into police custody, Jaycee and her girls had different emotional reactions. Initially, when questioned by the authorities, Jaycee was supportive of Garrido, she refused to admit her real identity, and when the facts weren’t adding up, she claimed to be hiding from a fictitious abusive husband that lived in another state. She had chances to tell about her perpetrator, but her first responses were to protect him. Her two daughters cried when they heard Garrido was arrested.
Garrido spent years torturing these young women, but yet they were clearly connected to him.
How can this be?
This dynamic is called Stockholm Syndrome. It is when victims form positive, caring attachments with their violent perpetrators. The more victims have to depend on their perpetrators for their very survival, the more likely the victim will form an attachment to their perpetrator.
The world has been appalled as they heard this story.
But this story is not a new story.
This story happens to many children every day of the year.
Many dissociative trauma survivors have lived a life all too similar to the life that Jaycee lived while with Garrido. As children, most dissociative trauma survivors lived – day after day, year after year – under the strict sadistic control of a sex offender. They were repeatedly sexually abused, many became pregnant, they were given hidden identities and new names, and they were taught bizarre religious beliefs. Many DID survivors were locked and confined in unhealthy places, made to be completely dependent upon their abusers, and the reality of their daily abuse was hidden from the neighbors. It is not at all uncommon for DID survivors to have been sexually involved and sexually controlled by their perpetrators well into their adulthood.
The main difference between most DID Survivors and Jaycee Dugard is that most DID survivors were not kidnapped by a stranger. Most DID survivors who have lived this kind of ongoing abuse were simply living in their family homes.
These DID survivors were being raised by their father and mother. They didn’t have the hope that someday they would be rescued and returned to their “real family”. They were with their real family.
In either situation, the child-victims learned to adapt to the sadistic behaviors of the abusive parental figures in order to survive. Despite the extreme abuse, they learned to depend on the abusers. Everything from breathing, food, clothing, water, shelter, warmth, education, medical attention, etc. was controlled and monitored by their abusers. There was no personal space. There was no way to get away. There was no known place to run to even if they had gotten away.
The child-victims knew they were stuck there.
They knew that their life and basic survival needs were completely dependent upon keeping the perpetrator happy. They learned to base their own survival on effectively meeting the needs of the perpetrator, and the perpetrator had the power to decide if they would live or die. To survive, they became loyal to the perpetrator.
Perpetrators purposefully create this kind of dependence in their victims. They want their victims to feel trapped, and to lose hope, and to be stuck in their abuse. They do not want their victims to know there is a way out, or to find a way out. Perpetrators want to be in control of absolutely everything, barely leaving their victims room to breathe on their own.
In keeping the required secrets, the surviving children often learned that the ONLY person to turn to in time of trouble or need is the perpetrator. To get their daily survival needs met, the child learned they had to placate, please, and depend upon the abuser.
In these long-term abusive situations, the perpetrator is both the caretaker and the abuser. The child learns to love and hate this parent. The child feels either trapped in the abuse, or feels tied to them in order to get their needs met.
Consequently, the child-victims have to depend on their abusers for their care. Who else will feed them? Who else will get their books for school? Who else will provide clothing and a place to sleep? These children have no where else to turn, so they form a variety of trauma bonds with their perpetrator.
Since the child-victim’s life depends on their perpetrator, the victim develops a loyalty to the perpetrator. They experience a positive loyalty when the perpetrator meets their daily needs. They experience a fear-based loyalty when their life depends on it.
Whether the offender parent is being appropriate or violent, the dissociative child is drawn into the relationship, and feels emotionally connected to the perpetrator.
Child-victims might split off parts that keep the abuse separate from their feelings of love and appreciation. It’s hard to genuinely care about someone who is hurting and abusing you, but child victims often have to manage both of these scenarios. They might split off parts to deny the abuse, so they don’t have to remember the violence.
And after living that dynamic for years of time, survivors lose the ability to recognize who or what a perpetrator is. They grow up feeling responsible for pleasing perpetrators, learning how to tolerate abusers instead of learning how to leave perpetrators. They grow up believing that attaching and bonding to a dangerous person is critical for their own life.
Attachment to the perpetrator creates many layers of confusion for many years to come. It is a critical area of healing that requires a great deal of work in the therapy setting.
Do they love their abuser? Do they hate their abuser? Do they recognize their abuser as an abuser? Can they recognize who in the world is or isn’t an abuser? Can they leave their abuser? Can they bond with a non-abuser?
Even as adults, far too many DID survivors can no longer separate who is who. They will live a life connecting to one abuser after another, yet they won’t be able to recognize a safe person when they meet one. DID survivors may feel more comfort in the victim role, and they may prefer the familiarity of abusive relationships over the strange unknown of safe relationships. Or, they may assume that all people are abusers, and thus miss out on the opportunity to learn the difference between a safe person and a perpetrator.
Every DID survivor has attached to at least one perpetrator in their lifetime, and probably more than one.
It is critical to work on this trauma dynamic in therapy. This work is essential for healing. Otherwise, DID survivors will feel a high degree of comfort with perpetrators, and will not be able to stay connected to a safe person when they meet one. Or, they’ll accuse a safe person of becoming a perpetrator.
There are a lot of different possibilities, most of them ending up as relationship disasters.
In order to have any chance at having successful social relationships, dissociative trauma survivors absolutely must address the attachment they feel to their perpetrators.
The health of your future relationships depend on it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
August 28, 2009
Posted in Borderline Personality Disorder, DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, mental health, Self Injury, therapy, trauma therapist tagged Abandonment, Abandonment Issues, AbuseConsultants, AbuseConsultants.com, Anger, Attachment, Attachment Issues, Betrayal, Black and white thinking, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Fatal Attraction, Idealization, Intense Relationships, Jealousy, Kathy Broady, Love-Hate, Pedastal, Self Harm, Self Injury, Therapeutic Alliance, Therapeutic Bond, Therapeutic Relationship, Trauma Survivors, trauma therapist, Unstable Relationships at 1:50 am by Kathy Broady
There are distinct differences between Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Borderline Personality Disorder (DID). There are many overlapping symptoms, and some therapists believe that all trauma survivors with DID are also BPD. I, however, do not hold that perspective.
In my opinion, not all trauma survivors with DID are BPD. However, I will guess that the greater portion of DID’ers are also borderline. This makes the discussion of borderline behaviors an important topic for dissociative trauma survivors.
Borderline survivors are frequently characterized with black and white thinking, self-injury, impulsive behaviors, repeated crises, intense abandonment issues, suicidal behaviors, inappropriate anger, mood instability, irritability, paranoid thinking, an unstable self image, etc. There are a wide variety of BPD behaviors that could be discussed over a series of posts. I’ll save those topics for another day.
For this blog post, I want to focus on a particular aspect of BPD: having a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. (see the DSM IV).
Unstable and intense relationships.
People with borderline personality disorder may idealize potential caregivers or lovers [or therapists] at the first or second meeting, demand to spend a lot of time together, and share the most intimate details early in a relationship. However, they may switch quickly from idealizing other people to devaluing them, feeling that the other person does not care enough, does not give enough, is not “there” enough. These individuals can empathize with and nurture other people, but only with the expectation that the other person will “be there” in return to meet their own needs on demand. These individuals are prone to sudden and dramatic shifts in their view of others, who may alternately be seen as beneficent supports or as cruelly punitive. Such shifts often reflect disillusionment with a caregiver whose nurturing qualities had been idealized or whose rejection or abandonment is expected.
Ok, that’s a lot of psychobabble talk, so what does that mean?
This is when the BPD survivor alternates between thinking someone is wonderful – excellent – the very best, and then thinking that very same person is horrific – awful – horrible. The BPD survivor will show or feel excessive attachment to a new person, and in a sense fall madly in love with this person. They put this new person on a pedestal, believing the person to be more incredibly perfect and wonderful than they could possibly be in real life, and they crave constant attention and special recognition from their new perfect person. (But don’t ask the BPD survivor to admit that. All too many BPD survivors deny their craving for more, more, more.)
But of course, no one can stay “perfect” for long. The perfect person will inevitably do something that just doesn’t measure up. Typically, the “errors” created by the perfect person are that they did not shower the BPD survivor with enough individual, specialized attention. This is nearly always the fatal crime – just not doing enough to keep the attention-starved BPD person happy with unquestionable importance. So, before they know it, the perfect person will suddenly become the hated target, responsible for all evils of the world. And when BPD survivors swing from the feelings of intense positive adoration to the angry hateful place, they are willing to, and actually desirous of, utterly destroying the same person they once loved.
Does anyone remember the movie, Fatal Attraction? That movie portrays a Hollywood version of the love-hate relationship experienced by borderlines. Hollywood was extreme in their portrayal, of course, but the love-hate flip-flop is easily seen.
For trauma survivors with both BPD and DID, the love-hate flip-flop can happen quickly and easily. Remember, as DID survivors, they are very used to switching and to containing opposite life perspectives in opposite extremes. So, when the dissociative BPD feels abandoned by their treasured “good object” and becomes upset with them, the flip into hatred might not be that far away.
The abandonment can be experienced in any number of ways. Being very sensitive to any rejection of intense connection they desire, simple things can be interpreted as huge emotional offences — for example, if the once perfect person sets limits by saying “no” to a specific request, or by not offering extra time, or by going away themselves. Even if the reasons for being away are valid, no reason is good enough – every reason still means they are left behind, and that is not acceptable.
Jealousy is frequently an intense motivator too. When BPD survivors want a cherished relationship with their new perfect person, they have all kinds of jealous pangs if they believe someone else has a more treasured place than they do. Instead of doing the work it takes to keep their own relationships in a positive place, they focus outwardly on relationships that belong to others, drowning in their jealousy and anger, and inevitably destroying the relationships they wanted to cherish.
For dissociative trauma survivors, the therapeutic relationship is an incredibly important relationship. Developing and protecting this relationship is both central and crucial to the entire healing process. DID’ers can spend years of time with their therapist, and cultivating the skills to keep this relationship in a workable, positive place is critical.
For BPD survivors, the therapeutic relationship is equally important. However, these survivors often lack the skills needed to maintain positive long-term relationships, even with therapists. Therapists very frequently become the target of the love-hate flip-flop dynamic. Many therapists refuse to work with clients with BPD precisely because of this dynamic.
This love-hate borderline behavioral pattern should help to explain how any therapist can be the most dearest of therapists, and then a short time later, be the most hated. It’s a behavioral symptom of BPD. It doesn’t mean that the therapist is actually wonderful or horrible. It just means BPD survivor is acting out the black-white, love-hate, attachment-abandonment issue that is central to BPD.
When you know to look for it, you’ll see it happening all over the place in the trauma survivor population.
So when you hear someone attempting to destroy or bad-mouth someone else, consider the bigger clinical context of what this kind of behavior is about.
And please – work very hard to NOT do this to your therapist. Your therapist will not likely become your worst enemy unless you make that happen. Instead of destroying your cherished relationships, it is much better to protect them with all that you have. Don’t believe lies. Don’t tell yourself lies. Remember who your therapist is and do not confuse your therapist with any other person (mother, father, perpetrator, etc). The disordered dynamics related to BPD are a complication, but they do not have to become an insuperable obstacle — you really can choose not to let these dynamics dominate your relationships, with your therapist or anyone else.
Kathy Broady LCSW
July 4, 2009
Posted in Depression, DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, mental health, Self Injury, therapy, Trauma tagged AbuseConsultants, AbuseConsultants.com, Addictions, Anorexia, Anxiety, Attachment Issues, Black and white thinking, Body Memories, Bulimia, Conflict, CSA Symptoms, Depression, DID/MPD, dissociative disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dysfunctional Relationships, Eating Disorders, emotional pain, Fear, Flashbacks, Kathy Broady, Lost Time, Missing Time, pain, Panic Attacks, Perpetrators, Rescuer role, Self Destruction, Self Harm, Self Injury, Self-hatred, sexual abuse, Suicidal Behavior, Suicidal Thoughts, Trauma, Unresolved Trauma, Victim role at 8:14 pm by Kathy Broady
Many people enter the therapy process with minimal awareness of their trauma history. When the trauma survivors are dissociative, they have the ability to block out an awareness of their trauma. They may know that their family had problems, or that their family was dysfunctional, etc, but they may believe they were never abused.
However, blocking out conscious awareness of trauma does not mean that the survivors have no effects of that trauma. Using denial and dissociative skills does not mean that the abuse did not happen. Denial means that the person simply is refusing to acknowledge or accept the fact that they were traumatized. They are pretending they were not hurt, when they were actually hurt very badly.
Even if the memories of abuse are hidden from the survivor’s awareness, blocked trauma / unresolved trauma creates very noticeable and obvious symptoms that can be easily seen in their every day lives.
People will enter therapy aware of some of the following symptoms, but they may not realize these complications are suggestive of unresolved trauma issues:
1. Addictive behaviors – excessively turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gambling as a way to push difficult emotions and upsetting trauma content further away.
2. An inability to tolerate conflicts with others – having a fear of conflict, running from conflict, avoiding conflict, maintaining skewed perceptions of conflict
3. An inability to tolerate intense feelings, preferring to avoid feeling by any number of ways
4. An innate belief that they are bad, worthless, without value or importance
5. Black and white thinking, all or nothing thinking, even if this approach ends up harming themselves
6. Chronic and repeated suicidal thoughts and feelings
7. Disorganized attachment patterns – having a variety of short but intense relationships, refusing to have any relationships, dysfunctional relationships, frequent love/hate relationships
8. Dissociation, spacing out, losing time, missing time, feeling like you are two completely different people (or more than two)
9. Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, obesity, etc
10. Excessive sense of self-blame – taking on inappropriate responsibility as if everything is their fault, making excessive apologies
11. Inappropriate attachments to mother figures or father figures, even with dysfunctional or unhealthy people
12. Intense anxiety and repeated panic attacks
13. Intrusive thoughts, upsetting visual images, flashbacks, body memories / unexplained body pain, or distressing nightmares
14. Ongoing, chronic depression
15. Repeatedly acting from a victim role in current day relationships
16. Repeatedly taking on the rescuer role, even when inappropriate to do so
17. Self-harm, self-mutilation, self-injury, self-destruction
18. Suicidal actions and behaviors, failed attempts to suicide
19. Taking the perpetrator role / angry aggressor in relationships
20. Unexplained but intense fears of people, places, things
These same symptoms can be applied for survivors already working in therapy. Attending regular therapy does not mean the clients have resolved their trauma issues or that they are even working in that general direction. Many therapy clients will continue to deny, dissociate, and refuse to look at their trauma even if they are aware of their daily struggles.
If you are experiencing a number of the symptoms listed above, ask yourself if you are truly ready to address your trauma issues, or if you find it more comfortable to continue living with these struggles.
Is it harder to face how you were abused and who abused you? Or is it harder to live a life full of depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, troubled relationships, extreme fears, physical pain, and addictions?
Running from your trauma history will not help you feel better. In the short-run, you might not have to face the issues, but the cost in the long-run of unresolved trauma weighs more heavily than you might suspect.
Your life can be better than it is.
Be brave – face your trauma issues!
Kathy Broady LCSW
May 3, 2009
Posted in DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Online Therapy, therapy, Therapy and Counseling, Therapy Homework Ideas, Trauma, trauma therapist tagged Abandoned, Abandonment, AbuseConsultants, AbuseConsultants.com, Abusive Parents, Alone, Aloneness, Anger, Anxiety, Attachment Issues, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, Building Relationships, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Crisis, CSA, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dysfunctional Family, Emotional Crisis, emotional pain, Facebook, Healing, Isolation, Kathy Broady, Low Self-Esteem, Maintaining Relationships, Online Support, Online Therapist, pain, Physical Abuse, Safety, Self Esteem, Self Harm, Self Injury, sexual abuse, Support Group, therapy, Treatment Goals for DID, Trust, Twitter, Worthlessness at 3:30 pm by Kathy Broady
Abandonment is such a tender issue for trauma survivors. Most survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have had more than their fair share of genuine abandonment instances.
For severe trauma survivors, abandonment would have been experienced over and over in various situations:
- Each time your parents or caregivers turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse or physical abuse that was occurring to you right there in your own household
- Each time your parents or caregivers abandoned their role of safety and became the perpetrator of your abuse
- Each time your parents or caregivers ignored your physical needs, leaving you to be hungry, cold, unkempt, improperly dressed, neglected in any way
- Each time your parents or caregivers handed you over to someone else that was physically or sexually abusing you
- Each time your parents or caregivers left you alone for extended periods of time, leaving you to tend to your own care when you were too young to be taking care of yourself by yourself
- Each time your parents or caregivers refused to give you proper medical attention or medical treatment
- Each time your parents or caregivers ignored your pleas or cries for help, turning a deaf ear, and leaving you to deal with your crisis without their assistance
For survivors with DID, these kinds of instances of abandonment happened on a frequent basis. All too many survivors were abandoned on a weekly basis, and for some people, on a daily basis.
How does this kind of abandonment affect people?
Excessive, repeated, severe abandonment teaches survivors to not trust. It teaches that other people cannot be counted on. It teaches them that they are alone in the world. It makes them believe that no one will help, or no one will be there for them.
What’s worse, it gives deeper emotional messages to the survivors, drilling in feelings about worthlessness, unworthiness, unimportance, having no value, being bad, being stupid, being invisible. It eliminates and destroys any self-esteem the survivor could develop.
It creates a deep-seated anger, an ongoing emptiness, a constant sense of isolation.
It scars the heart and pierces the soul.
How can survivors of extreme abandonment recover from such emotional wounding?
Parents are wrong, sometimes criminally wrong, legally wrong, in some of their abandoning behaviors. Do not assume that your parents were “right” in their abandoning behaviors. They were very likely doing something wrong.
Once a survivor truly hears and understands the fact that their parents and caregivers are responsible for the improper treatment of a child, then that survivor can begin their own path for healing.
But healing from abandonment is not easy. The wounds went deep into your core existence, and overcoming that level of emotional wounding takes a lot of time and repeated effort.
Some of the steps involved in healing from abandonment are:
- Remembering again and again that the abandonment was not your fault
- Remembering again and again that you are not a bad person because your parents or caregivers committed crimes against you
- Learning that while some people are criminals, not all people are criminals, meaning, while your parents were willing to abandon you to such a huge degree, not all people will act in the same manner
- Learning to trust again, ever so slowly, little bit by bit. Dare to try. Dare to reach out. Dare to build relationships.
- Finding people, even if only one or two, that you can build meaningful relationships with
- Being a trustworthy, reliable person so that other people will develop trust in you
- Addressing your anger issues at the true offenders of your pain. If you go “on the attack” to people that make small errors in your relationship (while refusing to address your feeling at your parents or caregivers who committed grave errors), then you will find yourself alone time and time again. Work hard at showing the appropriate amount of anger equal to the level of the mistake. Going overboard at people in the current day will not be helpful.
- Working really really hard at separating the issues that belong to people in your past versus attributing your pain to people in your current day world
- Develop relationships with pets or animals if you are too scared to trust people. Building connections with another living being, where you each rely on each other, is a great starting place
- Remembering and realizing that safe people will come back to you time and time again, unless you do something to push them away over and over again. You can keep good people in your life if you want to.
- Finding little treasures / trinkets / small reminders of people to help you maintain that sense of object permanence. Out of sight does not mean that they are gone from your life.
- Working on extended your comfort zone in terms of how often you need to hear from someone in order to feel secure in that relationship. Repeated contact, vs. excessive contact, is an acceptable way to maintain relationships.
- Finding safe but creative ways of building relationships. For example, if you are afraid to meet with people face-to-face, build online relationships. Use an online therapist or an online support group as a starting place. Connect through blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.
Abandonment is painful, but it is still possible to build positive and healthy relationships with other people. It will take consistent work on your part to overcome the negative, damaging teachings given to you by neglectful parents and poor caregivers, but you can do it.
Unless you really want to be alone, you don’t have to be left alone anymore.
Kathy Broady LCSW