Friday, March 7, 2008

Mental Backlash - Cycles of Self Abuse

In the comments on Childhood Coping Skills Cause Adult Problems - Part 3 Kahless asked RR, do you need some more questions to provoke some posts? You know I am always happy to oblige!! (which I have to say I really appreciate!

How about on mental backlash. I have explored this a bit with my last T. When I do something which was a big no no from when I was a kid (like stand up for myself) I notice I then have a big mental backlash. Is this common?

I guess I hadn't really thought of it as mental backlash but then it probably doesn't matter what name it gets. It is certainly common for survivors to have a tough time after they have disclosed some form of secret or broken out of their normal victim behavior.

For me I've always seen it as a cycle. We all seem to have them whether or not we are aware of them. A pattern that we repeat over and over. If we stand up for ourselves our inner child reacts with some form of "OMG I'm gonna get it now!" and the result is we beat ourselves up with all of the old negative messages we were raised with.

We no longer need our abuser because we carry his/her messages in our brains. We turn those messages on at the appropriate times and beat up ourselves until we submit and do as we are told. That translates to we stop standing up for ourselves or seeking healing because trapped is really more comfortable than the unknown.

But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. As a child if we did something like speak up for ourself or tell a secret all hell would break lose. We are conditioned to be ready for the axe to fall.

Sometimes as a child, we could avoid abuse for such behavior by abusing ourselves. We learned to become our own abusers as a means to stave off something worse from our offenders.

Once we have begun some form of healing a new step gets added to this dance. We reach the point we realize we are beating ourselves up and listening to that old programming so we pick ourselves up and get back on track with doing the new healing things.

That goes along ok for a bit until we do too much and scare that inner child again. The backlash lets go and the downward spiral begins as we abuse ourselves into the bleakness that we know. How low we get before we realize that we must be the ones to stop this downward trend depends upon our recognition of the process and our support at the time.

In the beginning of breaking free of this abusive cycle, exterior support of some kind can be the difference between a total meltdown or a mild disturbance. Of course, initially survivors tend to not trust that exterior support. It takes time to build up enough trust to be able to stop that downward spiral and being self nurturing behavior again.

When the cycle can be identified, I think that is a big step in getting things back on track. I used journaling to help me see where I was going. I always used dates and times and circumstances that led up to how I was feeling. That helped me to see the destructive cycles I was involved in even within the course of my treatment.

It was interesting to me to see that taking care of myself could actually send some parts of me into a frantic attack of self hatred. Being able to see it as interesting probably speaks to my MPD, but identifying the cycle made it much easier to see where those messages really came from so that I could quiet them.

One of the really confusing things about recovery was figuring out what my inner children really needed and what was there because of all this old programming. It was taking good care of myself to comfort the children when they were hurting but NOT taking good care of myself to avoid telling secrets or doing nurturing things because of their fear. Figuring out which was which could be a daunting task.

However, once I began to see that pattern it was easier to tell what was motivated by unfounded old fears and what was real. From there I could figure out what it was that really was best for me. Stopping any form of self abuse, both physical or psychological, was top of the list to put at end.


Kahless said...

And it links in with the self trash talking.

Rising Rainbow said...

Absolutely. thar trash talk is part of rhe cycle.

Lynn said...

I am having mental backlash right now. It has to do with actually trying to communicate some things to the therapist about why I am afraid about his vacation instead of just freaking out all over the place like usual. The whole thing is difficult, but I feel like bad things will happen to me (or even to him) if he is not here. You know what, RR? I'm beginning to think my father was crazy. He did this to my head with his bizarre threats and I hate his guts for it.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think that psychological self-abuse is harder to deal with than physical.

A few days ago I left a comment that I had replied to comments you left on our blog. You replied that you would check it out. I'm thinking just an initial wasn't enough to tell you which blog/who was talking to you! Soo...this is Fallen Angels and it is the private blog...the post before the one about trust.


Marcella Chester said...

This post like others you write is great. I think this one especially would be a great asset to the next Carnival Against Sexual Violence.

keepers said...

good post! we agree with what you are saying and have been there ourselves, trying to understand what our littles were going through, when, why, etc.

thanks for the post


lovelee said...

RR... I have a suggestion for a post. One that I am quite sure you could be very good at.
How do you find a "healthy" therapist? What to look for, good and bad.

Maia said...

This post is right on. I have experienced this many times. Thanks for writing!

Lily Strange said...

Oh this would explain why I have a tendency to turn into a five year old around my parents.

Rising Rainbow said...

lynn, I can understand you thinking he might have been crazy. Somehow crazier is easier to understand than a parent being so uncaring.

w, thanks for reminding me. I totally spaced on this.

marcella chester, enola requested I enter the series on psychological incest, which I have. Maybe this one would be good for the next edition.

Also thought I might mention, I cannot access your main blog and I'm not sure why. My computer freezes up every time.

keepers, yes these cycles really get complicated with us multiples who might be experiencing them on many different levels.

lovelee, I have done at least a couple of posts about therapists.

maia, I'm glad it was helpful to you.

lily strange, you aren't alone on that. Many victims revert when dealing with abusive parents. It triggers all of the old cycles. You're not alone.