Anger Turned Inwards

anger

In last night’s session I told T that I had noticed from reading through some of my old blogs that when I have my “bad days”, I tend to be extremely harsh about my weight and my looks. I told her that I always feel “hideous”. I told her that reading through the posts written on days where I was in that dark place, there was a very familiar theme where I pulled myself apart and called myself lots of horrible names.

T said she could tell I was really quite taken aback about this and I told her that I have NEVER been someone who has liked her appearance, particularly my weight but other things too, but that this was shocking because of how extreme the self-hatred was in some of those blogs.

I told her that last Monday’s post (written in the rupture) was particularly awful. I told her that it was the most severe I have felt with regards to the self-hatred. I was trying to get her to understand that it was the closest I have ever come to self-harm. I have never self-harmed in the conventional sense of the word but that day last week I guess the image I had was VERY vivid and the thought did cross my mind. I know I shouldn’t really admit that but I feel it is important at the moment.

I didn’t actually tell T this and I’m not sure that she quite understood what I was trying to say (why would she when I wasn’t actually saying the words).. I was too embarrassed to tell her and thought perhaps I would send her that blog after the session so she could see for herself (but I didn’t/haven’t).

I said to T “I am wondering if on the days where I am really down and crying a lot that I am actually angry?” and she kind of nodded and said “you mean the anger comes out as tears?”. I said to her perhaps yes, but I was thinking more that the anger is turned onto myself in a “I hate my body, I am thick, I am useless” kind of way.

I have thought about this a lot since my session and this is what I’ve come up with.

Many people say that depression is anger turned inwards. My T said this to me years ago and I remember always finding that immensely interesting. I didn’t think it applied to me (I wasn’t depressed OR angry apparently) but here we are. Now, why would you turn your anger onto yourself? For me the reasons are clear: Trying to save others from being on the receiving end of my anger.  Preventing myself from pushing people away and causing them to abandon me.  Being the good girl. Having been taught that I am not allowed to show my anger else I will be punished.. there are probably more reasons than that even.

If I have been too scared of my own anger for all of the reasons above, it makes sense that any angry feelings I had wouldn’t have just miraculously disappeared, so where did it go? Onto myself.

Forms of turning anger inwards for me include the self-hatred as discussed above, reckless spending or perhaps drinking too much, different food habits perhaps not eating enough (starving myself and punishing myself for being “fat) or perhaps eating too much to try to feel better. Withdrawing socially, sleeping too much or not enough and various other things.. which lead me to my next thought:-

On my “bad days” I stay home because I can’t face the world/work/people. I stay home, I draw the curtains and lock the doors, I cry on and off all day, I might sleep a lot or I might not.. it depends but the thing I am focussing on here is that I lock myself away.  Now, when I was young, about 4 probably, my mother and her friend locked me in a room because I was being “a little brat” I was locked in there for a long time, at least a few hours and the memory of it still makes me feel weird.  I banged the door in with a hairbrush over and over again until I fell into a heap on the floor from exhaustion. Nobody came, nobody helped me and it was horrible.  It is a memory I talk about a lot and clearly a memory which has had an impact on me because a few years ago me and my fiancé were having an argument and he left the bedroom in a huff, slamming the door behind him. I FREAKED out at that. I couldn’t bare that door being closed and me being left in it like that. Clearly I now see it was a trigger for me of that horrible memory.

Today I feel I may have joined some dots up..

When I am depressed (read ANGRY), I lock myself away in my room (house). I punish myself for having angry feelings. JUST LIKE SHE DID.

I could be onto something here or I could be way off and being a bit dramatic, but it feels like I might have really understood something that I unconsciously do.

The problem with locking myself away like that is that I become stuck in my depressed, crying state. I am left to almost marinate in my own sadness. The feelings are usually hopelessness, powerlessness and other similar things which would make sense if you think about it because if you are angry with someone else (let’s say my mother in my case) but I am too scared to feel that anger towards her, I decide that I will blame myself for my disappointments and frustrations. I decide that it is all because of me, my shortcomings, my failures, my inabilities…. Because unconsciously I’ve decided, or perhaps learnt, that the alternative is to express my anger outwardly and to lose the love, care and affection of those I depend on. I guess the primitive fear goes back to the fact that without my mother, I would have literally died and so I couldn’t possibly feel the amount of anger I must have had in me to her.

So moving on now that I’ve had this idea, I guess the next step is to try to be honest with myself when I get those feelings and figure out what I am truly angry about. I imagine that won’t be easy giving that I’ve been able to block that out for my entire life to date. If I can pinpoint the real source of that anger and find a way of expressing it more appropriately (not in hurtful ways), perhaps I will disperse the anger quicker and in the process perhaps I won’t hate myself quite as much.

Doing my usual Google search, the suggestions for getting in touch with repressed anger/anger turned inwards are figuring out the following:

  • How often do you feel that way?
  • What type of feelings do you get?
  • What are the warning signs?
  • What triggers it? (i.e. is it a lack of self-control, self-discipline, forgetting something or being selfish or not having the ability to do something you wish you could).

Now I don’t know what to do with my anger, clearly so I need to make it my job to find out how to appropriately do that. Time for more Googling and to buy lots of new books I think!

“The first image that comes up is stripping my clothes off and then slicing the fat off my body.”

“I’ve noticed that my fiancé is the one triggering my angry feelings. Whenever he comes close to me to try and touch me or make a joke it makes me mad. Why?” 

“I feel so stupid.” 

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Borderline Personality Disorder?

I had a dream last night that I was in a different house, I think in the dream it was meant to be my aunt’s house but she was away and I was house-sitting or something.  I was having my therapy sessions there but T was changing the times of my sessions and at one point I sat outside the room waiting for her for over an hour past my session time.  I didn’t know what was going on but I acted as though it was fine and I didn’t ask why she was late but inside I was stressing out.  Later in the dream I went for a ride on a motorbike or in a car or something, I can’t quite work it out, with my fiancé and then realised I only had 20 minutes until my session time and I knew I wouldn’t make it back in time. My fiancé was non-phased by this and was relaxing on the grass wherever we were but I was very anxious and stressed by it all. I remember feeling extremely stressed and upset.

I woke up feeling a bit….. groggy perhaps? I feel a bit irritated and a bit low in spirits I guess and I don’t really know why but usually feelings from my dreams seep into my waking life and so perhaps the dream stirred up some feelings for me.

I had spent my evening on Google reading about Borderline Personality Disorder , the whole push/pull thing, the fear of intimacy and engulfment and also some development phase that I clearly didn’t work through properly which is why all of this happens in the first place (I have forgotten what that was so I will try to find it again).  I read A LOT and it all fitted me so well.

It was one of those weird times that you are glad to read yourself in something and know that there is a reason for things and, obviously, that it means there is hope that things will get better. It also really grounds me when I can read stuff (intellectualise perhaps) because it becomes less scary somehow.. but given how I feel today, perhaps it has stirred up some other feelings or maybe its something else.. maybe it’s because it is T day and I have some unconscious fears about that? I don’t know.. maybe it is the dream.

The things that the dream and the stuff I was reading have in common is the fear of abandonment.  I can see that. In the dream T wasn’t being reliable was she? She wasn’t showing up when she was meant to and I didn’t know where I stood with her. Will she come, won’t she come? In the stuff I was reading I understand that the reason for the push/pull in relationships comes from a desperate need for intimacy and affection but at the same time, having a deep fear of abandonment and engulfment and so hence the push part of the push/pull situation. Leave before being left etc….  so the common theme therefore being abandonment right?

I don’t know, maybe I’m feeling the old body memories or emotional flashbacks of the abandonment fear. I feel irritable and moody.

I then flicked through some of my old blog posts to see if I could find any evidence of my new knowledge of the BPD traits.. and I did, but what stuck out more for me than anything else was quite how many “bad days” I have had.  I wrote a list down and there are at least 30 bad days.. not including today and others that I may not have written about at the time. These 30 days are between today and February this year.  So in 9 months, I’ve had 30 bad days.  An average of 3.3 per month. That is a lot, isn’t it?

I read that one of the “symptoms” of BPD is Emotional Instability and experiencing a range of emotions such as rage, sorrow, shame, panic, terror, emptiness and loneliness.  I then read

“You may have severe mood swings over a short space of time.

It’s common for people with BPD to feel suicidal with despair, and then feel reasonably positive a few hours later. Some people feel better in the morning and some in the evening. The pattern varies, but the key sign is that your moods swing in unpredictable ways.”

That is true for me.  I do feel a range of emotions including ALL of those things above… I don’t feel suicidal with despair but I do sometimes feel fine at one part of the day and then horrific at another; or visa versa.  I don’t feel “suicidal” but I have had images of harming haven’t I? I’ve written about that as recently as last Monday.

The next bit I read about impulsive behaviour. It talks about self-harm, feeling intensely sad and depressed but also impulsive activities like binge drinking or spending or gambling etc.  I have always described myself as impulsive. Often when it comes to shopping and buying clothes that I don’t have the money to buy (even when I have no money and I use credit cards or an overdraft). If I want to buy something, I will buy it and then later feel silly or guilty for it. The high doesn’t last long.

Next..

Unstable relationships

If you have BPD, you may feel that other people abandon you when you most need them, or that they get too close and smother you.

When people fear abandonment, it can lead to feelings of intense anxiety and anger. You may make frantic efforts to prevent being left alone, such as:

  • constantly texting or phoning a person
  • suddenly calling that person in the middle of the night
  • physically clinging on to that person and refusing to let go
  • making threats to harm or kill yourself if that person ever leaves you

Alternatively, you may feel others are smothering, controlling or crowding you, which also provokes intense fear and anger. You may then respond by acting in ways to make people go away, such as emotionally withdrawing, rejecting them or using verbal abuse.”

Okay so I have a fear of abandonment, that is undeniable. I suffer from feelings of intense anxiety and anger (which I usually turn towards myself but T perhaps found herself on the receiving end of last week).  I don’t constantly text or phone anyone and I wouldn’t physically cling or threaten to harm or kill myself but in all honestly that is more about saving face. I have often wanted to constantly text or call someone but I wouldn’t do it. However I can’t handle the feelings associated to that feeling of being abandoned or forgotten or left or not important… I could pull my hair out of my head.

It says that people with BPD have “love-hate relationships” and that they have a very black and white view of people. That they make people either all good or all bad with no real in-between.  Splitting/fragmenting.. I know I do that. T has said that to me many times.  Look at my latest rupture for evidence. T was all bad for a few days… and then it was over and she is now all good again and the only person who is “all bad” is me.  Look what I did?

For many people with BPD, emotional relationships (including relationships with professional carers) involve “go away/please don’t go” states of mind, which is confusing for them and their partners. Sadly, this can often lead to break-ups.”

I then found this website https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/borderline-personality-disorder.htm which had a list of statements that would describe feelings associated with people who have BPD.

  • I often feel empty
  • My emotions shift very quickly and I often experience extreme sadness, anger and anxiety
  • I’m constantly afraid that the people I care about will abandon me or leave me.
  • I would describe most of my romantic relationships as intense, but unstable.
  • The way I feel about the people in my life can dramatically change from one moment to the next—and I don’t always understand why.
  • I often do things I know are dangerous or bad for me, such as driving recklessly, having unsafe sex, binge drinking, doing drugs, or going on spending sprees.
  • I’ve attempted to hurt myself, engaged in self-harm behaviours such as cutting, or threatened suicide.
  • When I’m feeling insecure in a relationship, I tend to lash out or make frantic gestures to keep the other person close.

I relate to many of them, particularly feeling empty, having emotions that shift quickly, the impulsive things as previously discussed and feeling very insecure in a relationship.

And this…. the 9 signs of BPD

  1. Fear of abandonment. People with BPD are often terrified of being abandoned or left alone. Even something as innocuous as a loved one getting home late from work or going away for the weekend can trigger intense fear. This leads to frantic efforts to keep the other person close. You may beg, cling, start fights, jealously track your loved one’s movements, or even physically block the other person from leaving. Unfortunately, this behavior tends to have the opposite effect—driving others away.
  2. Unstable relationships. People with BPD tend to have relationships that are intense and short-lived. You may fall in love quickly, believing each new person is the one who will make you feel whole, only to be quickly disappointed. Your relationships either seem perfect or horrible, with nothing in between. Your lovers, friends, or family members may feel like they have emotional whiplash from your rapid swings between idealization and devaluation, anger, and hate.
  3. Unclear or unstable self-image. When you have BPD, your sense of self is typically unstable. Sometimes you may feel good about yourself, but other times you hate yourself, or even view yourself as evil. You probably don’t have a clear idea of who you are or what you want in life. As a result, you may frequently change jobs, friends, lovers, religion, values, goals, and even sexual identity.
  4. Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors. If you have BPD, you may engage in harmful, sensation-seeking behaviors, especially when you’re upset. You may impulsively spend money you can’t afford, binge eat, drive recklessly, shoplift, engage in risky sex, or overdo it with drugs or alcohol. These risky behaviors may help you feel better in the moment, but they hurt you and those around you over the long-term.
  5. Self-harm. Suicidal behavior and deliberate self-harm is common in people with BPD. Suicidal behavior includes thinking about suicide, making suicidal gestures or threats, or actually carrying out a suicide attempt. Self-harm includes all other attempts to hurt yourself without suicidal intent. Common forms of self-harm include cutting and burning.
  6. Extreme emotional swings. Unstable emotions and moods are common with BPD. One moment, you may feel happy, and the next, despondent. Little things that other people brush off can send you into an emotional tailspin. These mood swings are intense, but they tend to pass fairly quickly (unlike the emotional swings of depression or bipolar disorder), usually lasting just a few minutes or hours.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness. People with BPD often talk about feeling empty, as if there’s a hole or a void inside them. At the extreme, you may feel as if you’re “nothing” or “nobody.” This feeling is uncomfortable, so you may try to fill the hole with things like drugs, food, or sex. But nothing feels truly satisfying.
  8. Explosive anger. If you have BPD, you may struggle with intense anger and a short temper. You may also have trouble controlling yourself once the fuse is lit—yelling, throwing things, or becoming completely consumed by rage. It’s important to note that this anger isn’t always directed outwards. You may spend a lot of time being angry at yourself.
  9. Feeling suspicious or out of touch with reality. People with BPD often struggle with paranoia or suspicious thoughts about others’ motives. When under stress, you may even lose touch with reality—an experience known as dissociation. You may feel foggy, spaced out, or as if you’re outside your own body.

Again, I can relate to many of them.  My anger is mainly directed towards myself and my body image or me being “ugly” or “stupid”… I guess occasionally my fiancé may be on the receiving end of it.. and perhaps T was last week, but usually its directed towards myself.  Perhaps this is what causes my depressive days or days like today where I feel irritated and angry with no real reason… things trigger me easily to lash out like a busy day at work where I feel I can’t stay level-headed.  Friday for example, I was busy at work, not feeling great and I CRIED at my desk because I was stressed.

This morning my fiancé said he woke up and thought to himself “how do I feel today” because he wasn’t feeling too good yesterday. He laughed and said how silly is that? I told him that is my first thought EVERY DAY.  He asked “in a mental capacity you mean?” and I said yes.  He said that was very sad.  I guess it is, isn’t it? I can go to bed happy and wake up feeling very sad or vice versa.. it is my very first thought of every day. Yesterday I felt excitable and hyperactive and today I feel rubbish.

I know that lots of people don’t agree with needing a “label” and I can’t be bothered to get into a debate on that right now, my brain is too fried, but for me, this is helpful. I will speak to my T about it tonight and see what she says.

If I am right and I do have BPD at least it explains a few things, particularly the mood swings and the extent at which I go from happy to utterly depressed and back because that really does worry me sometimes.  It explains the push/pull to me more and helps me to understand and it means I can read up about it so that I feel less scared by everything.

I think that T triggered something in me that session which made me freak out and pull away from her. I split her off as all bad and projected onto her until the next session where we started to repair things and I came back down a bit (the depressive position I spoke about yesterday).  The sadness and grief that followed on Thursday and all the tears I cried that day which were the result of my panic at her leaving me due to my anger… my fear of abandonment kicking in and my need to pull her back to me again. Is this what I do in all of my relationships?

Did I decide to drop a session whilst T was on holiday because I was freaking out about her leaving me? Because I was unconsciously fighting against my own abandonment fears? Was I trying to pull away from her because I was hurting?……… and the tears and fear I felt on Thursday about the fact I would only see T once a week instead of twice soon, is that me panicking because I have brought on an abaondment (kind of) all by myself…. a self fulfilling prophecy?

So many thoughts in my head right now whirling around!

Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions And Recovery from BPD

Last week in my session with T, she said something about “paranoid-schizoid and the depressive position“. At the time, all I heard was the word “schizoid” and I momentarily freaked out that she was trying to tell me I had a personality disorder (which I probably do, but she has never actually told me that), then last night I was Googling Borderline Personality Disorder and it lead me to this page which I now realise was what she was referring to!

I found this VERY interesting and enlightening and what’s more, it has really helped me to understand the process of rupture and repair.  I am hoping it may also help some of you too.  I was planning to summarise these notes and make some comments on them but I think it is a bit too complex for me to do that accurately, so whilst I am tempted to sit here and make comments on everything, I will just attach a few links and if you have time/are interested, please do read them and let me know what you think, I would love to talk to someone about this!

A very brief summary is as follows:

The paranoid-schizoid position

Anxiety is experienced by the early infant’s ego both through the internal, innate conflict between the opposing life and death drives (manifested as destructive envy) and by interactions in external reality.

A child seeks to retain good feelings and introjects good objects, whilst expelling bad objects and projecting bad feelings onto an external object. The expulsion is motivated by a paranoid fear of annihilation by the bad object.

Klein describes this as splitting, in the way that it seeks to prevent the bad object from contaminating the good object by separating them via the inside-outside barrier.

The schizoid response to the paranoia is then to excessively project or introject those parts, seeking to keep the good and bad controlled and separated. Aggression is common in splitting as fear of the bad object causes a destructive stance.

The child’s ego does not yet have the ability to tolerate or integrate these two different aspects, and thus uses ‘magical’ omnipotent denial in order to remove the power and reality from the persecuting bad object.

This splitting, projection and introjection has a frighteningly disintegrative effect, pulling apart the fragile ego.

Projective identification is commonly used to separate bad objects whilst also keeping them close, which can lead to confused aggression.

 

The initial depressive position

The initial depressive position is a significant step in integrative development which occurs when the infant discovers that the hated bad breast and the loved good breast are one and the same.

The mother begins to be recognized as a whole object who can be good and bad, rather than two part-objects, one good and one bad. Love and hate, along with external reality and internal phantasy, can now also begin to co-exist.

As ambivalence is accepted, the mother can be seen as fallible and capable of both good and bad. The infant begins to acknowledge its own helplessness, dependency and jealousy towards the mother. It consequently becomes anxious that the aggressive impulses might have hurt or even destroyed the mother, who they now recognize as needed and loved. This results in ‘depressive anxiety’ replacing destructive urges with guilt.

The general depressive position

In the more general depressive position, projective identification is used to empathize with others, moving parts of the self into the other person in order to understand them.

To some extent, this is facilitated when the other person is receptive to this act. The experience that the projecting person through their identification is related to the actions and reactions of the other person.

When the thoughts and feelings are taken back inside the projecting person from the other person, they may be better able to handle them as they also bring back something of the other person and the way they appeared to cope. It can also be comforting just to know that another person has experienced a troublesome part of the self.

The depressive position is thus a gentler and more cooperative counterpoint to the paranoid-schizoid position and acts to heal its wounds.

 

My understanding of this is that children (or adults if they have been emotionally neglected and wounded and didn’t have a “good-enough” caregiver to help them develop through these phases successfully), tend to see people as all good or all bad due to using splitting as a defence mechanism.  In the therapy setting, this happens because a child is desperate for a good enough parent substitute (this is 100% true for me as I have written many times on here).

As therapy continues, the aim is that the therapist helps us to move through this phase as we should have done as children and in turn, we are more able to view the therapist as a whole person made up of good bits and bad bits and not one or the other.

I guess that when my T referred to me having “moved out of the paranoid-schizoid and into the depressive position” on Thursday she meant that I have moved out of the entirely “bad” projecting place and was then in a place where I was feeling guilt and worry about HER feelings and the damage that I may have caused to HER and our relationship. I think this is evident if you read my latest blog post.

Klein says “If the confluence of loved and hated figures can be borne, anxiety begins to centre on the welfare and survival of the other as a whole object, eventually giving rise to remorseful guilt and poignant sadness, linked to the deepening of love.”. I think I speak of this poignant sadness in my post “Drunk Thoughts“.

I guess when I went to my session Thursday and told T I couldn’t relax, was crying a lot and didn’t really know why and was feeling utterly helpless it was because I was feeling the guilt and grief of my projection onto T, the worry that I had damaged her/us.

 

AANNNDDDDD……

On top of this wonderful new information, I then came across the following blog:

https://bpdtransformation.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/four-phases-of-bpd-treatment-and-recovery/

which explained the 4 phases of therapy when recovering from BDP – being

(1) The Out-of-Contact Phase

(2) Ambivalent Symbiosis

3)  Therapeutic Symbiosis

4)  Resolution of the Symbiosis (Individuation)

The blogger explains these amazingly well and so I won’t copy her blog but please read it if you are interested.  I wonder now if this is what my T meant when she told me last week that we were now entering into the phase of my therapy where rupture and repair was common.  (Phase 2 perhaps? The ambivalent phase?).

I then read this:

“…. the dominance of the all-negative images during ambivalent symbiosis result in the patient distrusting the therapist and using projective identification to reject them. The patient distorts the therapist, turning him “all bad” in their mind in order to block the development of a positive relationship. In other words, the patient sabotages himself by actively attacking his potential positive relationship to the therapist“.

Oh dear.. well that feels worryingly familiar doesn’t it? Our entire rupture was formed on me asking to go from 2 sessions to 1 and her reaction being that I was sabotaging my therapy……… GULP!!  What followed? a huge rupture where I turned her “all bad”………….