One of the steps in changing maladaptive schemas, according to the authros of Reinventing Your Life, is to write letters to the people who contributed to the formation of these schemas. You obviously don’t need to send these letters, but the goal is to have your inner vulnerable child speak out.
I have told my story of the traumatic expeirence sin my life many times, but it is hard fo rme to actually write letters to the people who caused or didn’t protecct me against these experiences. I am not at this point in therapy yet, but one of the things that I think will hold me back is the need to address these people directly. Even if I’m not going to send or publish these letters, it still feels as though I’m telling these peole to their face that they abused, abandoned or failed to protect me.
Another thing which the authors acknowledge, is the fact that sometiems people who abuse or otherwise trumatize others, are well-intentioned. In my case, the people who hurt me didn’t know better, had the best of intentions, and/or didn’t realize what they did was causing me long-term trauma. I struggle with this big time. When I still had a DID ddiagnosis, I struggled with the connotation of severe, usually sadistic abuse. After my diagnosis was changed to BPD, I told some of the people who hurt me that I realize they aren’t sadists and that I had been struggling with this connotation in DID. Reading this chapter in Reinventig Your Life, I found for the first time someone acknowledging that well-intentioned treatment can still traumatize children (or adults). The authors say that, in writing the letters to the people who hurt you, you need to let go of excuses like this and let the vulnerable child in you speak freely and express her feelings.
Later in the process, the authors say, you may choose to forgive your parents (or others who hurt you, I suppose). I have often written aabout forgiveness, and I realize now that it’s required to feel your true feelings before you can come to forgive. Forgiving means accepting what happened, but also letting go of the need or want to be angry about it for the rest of your life. I have often tried to forgive the peeople who hurt me, without feeling the true extent of the hurt. That is stuffing feelings, not forgiving people.
When I was told that I have BPD on Monday, my therapist got talking about maladaptive schemas. She apparently assumed I knew what they are. I had some idea, but did a quck search to find out anyway. They are beliefs about yourself that are maladaptive and that have usually been formed in childhood (although they can be formed later on too) and repeat themselves over and over, thereby influencing your coping mechanisms. The creators of schema therapy list 18 such schemas. The ones that most apply to me are:
- Abandonment/instability: the belief that you will be abandoned by important support people or that the relationship is unreliable or unstable.
- Mistrust/abuse: the belief that other people will aubse, hurt, humiliate, lie to or otherwise take advantage of you.
- Defectiveness/shame: the belief that you are defective, bad, unwanted, inferior or invalid.
- Dependence/independence: perceived inability to handle your everyday responsibilities without lots of help.
That last one is a bit tricky. While I know I’m depenednet, I don’t know whether this is entirely due to my beliefs. I mean, overload comes into the equation too. I got a bit pissed when my therapist wrote in my treatment plan that I have a fear of failure and need to realistically learn to take on challenges. As if I’m not trying!
Then my therapist got talking about schema modes. I had some idea of what they were because my former therapist had talked about them when I first disclosed I had parts. Schema modes are the emotional states and coping responses we adopt when faced with life’s challenges. I found it interesting that the Schame Therapy Institute says that they can also be seen as dissociative parts. The Institute lists several different schema modes, including the vulnerable child, the punitive parent, the detached protector and of course the healthy adult. I recognized almost all of them, but in fact have more than one of each. Yeah, I’m not going to abandon the DID concept just because it isn’t my diagnosis anymore.
Now schema-focused therapy is used to identify and challenge these maladaptive schemas and to reinforce the healthy adult mode. The assessment phase is followed by the change phase, in which clients learn to challenge their schemas and gradually focus shifts from experiential change to behavioral change and preparing for ending therapy. My therapist put in my treatment plan that the current focus would be on learning about origins and continuation of schemas and that I would recognize my coping mechanisms and hopefully be able to shift them in an early stage.