I was reading some articles on Schema Therapy, because that is sort of what I have been trying to do with myself in a kind of modified way, and I realized some pieces fit for me, but the underlying assumptions of it are not mine. I mean, I might be right or Jeffrey Young might be right, or a bit of each, but we don’t conceive of it in the same way. The original idea is that individuals with borderline personality disorder (which is kind of what it was designed for) were deeply emotionally deprived as children and still are children in many ways. I think, instead, that the modes are memories of childhood: they are unprocessed traumatic events in which I was a child, and a part of that memory of trauma is the felt experience of being a child. I think that mainly because it makes sense to me. It fits. I look at normal, non-traumatized small children and I think, “That’s how I feel.” In difficult moments, I feel exactly like that child does, only I was abused as a part of that experience. I wanted the red one and not the blue one just like a normal 1 or 2 year-old, and I fussed, and I got brutalized. That feeling of fussing is part of the memory and wanting the red one is part of it too, and really the only memory I have of that kind of memory is the emotion of it, because I was too young to form any other memory of it.
What I mean is that there are these feelings that are normal and every young child feels them, but they were never integrated or processed because my parents did not help me regulate myself. They did quite the opposite. I am looking at C to understand myself also. I think I feel many of the same things she does, but it’s sort of like blinking when it’s in my head. It happens too fast to catch. But I look at her or even at VP Ma’am when they are in a punitive mode and they want to hurt me and I think, “That’s rage.” That’s, “I want the red one.” Babies and young kids feel rage when they don’t get what they want, but the parent soothes them through their rages and things like, “I want the red one,” become pinpricks of disappointment. I mean, there are more significant and painful reasons for the rages, but the intensity of the feeling is about being a baby, and having no ability to self-regulate that yet, because it hasn’t been learned. When your parents are abusive and neglectful, it doesn’t get learned, because you are assaulted instead of soothed.
C likes to reject me and abandon me. I always have this odd feeling about it, like this doesn’t hurt, but I kind of think it’s supposed to. Last night, I suddenly had this thought, “She wants to hurt me. That’s why it feels like it is supposed to hurt me. It is supposed to hurt me. It is supposed to hurt me when she disobeys me (sometimes, not always) and it is supposed to hurt me when she rejects me.” She gets that abandonment hurts, because she has been abandoned, and it hurts her. Sometimes, she is simply retreating to keep herself safe, but when I have the feeling that this is supposed to hurt, it might be that it is intended that way.
When you are angry, you want to hurt someone, and this is the way her unregulated baby-rage is surfacing. You can call it “Punitive Parent,” but it is someone who feels very angry and wants to punish the other and has amassed various ways of doing this over a lifetime. I was watching a 2-year-old who didn’t like her bow a few months ago. She hit her mom and then clung to her for comfort. Yeah, that’s an angry baby. Now, imagine an angry baby whacked on the head or left in a crib to cry for hours, instead of being cuddled and talked to or distracted. That desire to punish doesn’t get regulated. It just sort of comes out in a wave.
If you think of an infant who is hungry and not being fed, it’s a much more intense rage than that 2-year-old feels. They aren’t organized enough to hit, but that baby’s body is completely flooded with rage.
There’s more to it than that, but I am just getting across the idea that the emotional lability of borderline feels like a set of fossils to me. They feel like trauma memories, and they get wandered through on the way to other places. If the emotions are regulated in the process of this wandering, I think the fossils stop being fossils. They get integrated.
There are four parts to my cycle that has to do with relationship trauma. I have it kind of figured out today: fear, sadness, anger, and despair. I feel the suicidality when I shut down the feelings of sadness. That is what makes me feel despair, shutting the sadness down. I am afraid of the sadness or of the experience that is connected to sadness (closeness, usually) and then I might get angry about not having it, but any form of backing away from it or from the experience leads to despair and suicidality. Even a decision to back away from something based on practical considerations and in no way designed to shut down my feelings does it.
Then I have all kinds of feelings and thoughts about being in such despair. But what it is concealing is just sadness. I don’t get to talk to C right now. I feel sad. That’s it. It’s not something terribly complicated. I have all of this complicated trauma to deal with, but the baby trauma is very simple.
I think really every part of the cycle has to do with avoiding sadness, and I think the reason for it is that I wasn’t allowed to cry. It’s odd to consider this because I cry a lot. I feel sad a lot. But I have been feeling a sadness for the last 24 hours or so that is different. It’s very hard to allow in. That might be because of the content: that it’s somehow recognizably distinct from other sadnesses, because it is baby sadness. Or because I feel my body more. Or I don’t know what, but I am starting to see I am afraid of feeling sad. And I really do think that’s because I wasn’t allowed to cry. As a baby, I was neglected, and I wasn’t allowed to cry, and now I am scared to. I am afraid to feel the emotion that leads to tears.
Every part of that cycle gives me melty brain, I have realized. If I am in any of those states, I cannot think reasonably. If possible, it is better to try to completely clear my mind of thoughts and concentrate on the feeling and on staying in it while also regulating its intensity. If I can remember that, then I think many things might get better in my life. Already, I am starting to be able to tie sudden onsets of feeling shitty to particular events, which helps me to realize I need to not engage those thoughts. Even if it’s a real issue that I need to consider, it needs to wait. At the moment, that thought is a part of melty brain, and I need to attend to my state of arousal before attempting to think. I guess it just changes my perspective to think of it as a fossil—not a fossil that can be ignored, but a fossil that does not have quite the same deep meaning about who I am as I have assumed in the past.
For example, at some point in the evening, I had an intense feeling of being broken and unfixable, and it occurred to me that’s a fossil. When I was a toddler and young child and nothing I did pleased my parents or interested them or created any point of connection short of complete self-annihilation, I felt broken. When my mother attacked me out of the blue, I felt broken and unfixable. I felt no one could ever want me or love me. That’s a fossil.
And it didn’t create the same upset inside me to feel broken. I felt a deep sadness, and I was able to not move away from it for a few seconds at least—it is really hard not to move away from the sadness. When I felt suicidal, I knew, “That’s because I shut the sadness down. I couldn’t take the sadness or the fear of the sadness, and I shut it down, and that leads to despair and feeling suicidal. When I get more energy, I will try to let the sadness in again—because I have to make a deliberate effort to let it in. In the meantime, I am going to have suicidal thoughts.” It helped calm things down a lot, and it also gave me hope, because I do believe these trauma fossils can be integrated. It won’t be like this forever. I don’t know what will happen when it’s not like this, but it has to be better than what is going on now.