The rest of the week after Monday’s slightly odd session, I avoided thinking about much of anything. When I did stop for a minute and dig a little deeper, I thought about boundaries. I thought about how boundaries growing up in my family were very skewed. I never heard the word no. Seriously, my parents never said no to me. I think it was partly they sucked at setting boundaries, but also I knew what I could ask for and what wasn’t okay to ask for. I knew all the unspoken rules and nuances from a very young age. And I followed all the rules, because I didn’t want to be left. I don’t understand, how my parents could have such solid strict boundaries when it came to keeping out emotions and negative stuff and then have no boundaries in other ways.
I realized that, for me, this idea Bea had when we had our most recent rupture, that we could disagree and still be on the same side was new to me. I hadn’t experienced that before. Where were the boundaries my parents were supposed to have to help me become myself? Where were boundaries that taught me it was okay to say no? Where were the boundaries that helped me learn where I ended and where others began?
Therapy brought up discussion about which of the five F defenses do I default to. I didn’t know. It came up as Bea and I were discussing my behavior of running from Kay, and Bea wondered aloud which defense I used most. As we talked, she said she thought I used friendship/attachment cry the most.
I laughed. Inside, I grimaced. “Nope. No way.”
“You don’t like to think that attachment is your defense. It is scary to think that,” Bea said.
I shook my head. “Yeah….but I don’t think that’s it.” The thing is, with Bea, it might be. But I have worked really hard to go against my instinct to run away from her. I want to heal. I want to grow and be healthier. I also know what *normal* looks like, and it’s not normal to run out of a therapy session or to run away from a new friend just because they have said or done something that was triggering. I say as much to Bea.
“That makes sense. You can walk out here, if you need to. That is okay.” Bea says. She suggests that I might think about this defense stuff and boundaries and relationships this week. And so I do.
I think and read a lot, and I decide that flight is my defense. The more I read about the five F’s the more I was sure flight is my primary defense.
Flight is any means the individual uses to put space between themselves and the threat. It may involve sprinting away from the perceived danger, but is more likely exhibited as backing away or, particularly in children, as hiding. Avoidance is the go-to symptom of a flight response to uncomfortable feelings. Whether it be out of anxiety or acute stress, these are the people who are harder to connect with for many good reasons. They are the ones who try desperately to avoid any sort of intimacy or vulnerable moment with others by keeping many interactions at some surface level because that feels safest. Flight types appear as if their starter button is stuck in the “on” position. They are obsessively and compulsively driven by the unconscious belief that perfection will make them safe and loveable. As children, flight types respond to their family trauma somewhere along a hyperactive continuum that stretches between the extremes of the driven “A” student and the ADHD dropout running amok. They relentlessly flee the inner pain of their abandonment and lack of attachment with the symbolic flight of constant busyness. When the obsessive/compulsive flight type is not doing, she is worrying and planning about doing.
Going by that, even my dissociation is a type of flight. At first glance, it seems as if it is possibly a freeze response, but dissociation is my way of avoiding uncomfortable, scary situations. For me, it is all about going far away. It is about leaving and avoiding. I share this with Bea, and she finds it very interesting. She also agrees with me.
The other interesting thing I found was a description of how these defenses work in a *normal* person.
Walker (n.d.) outlines four basic defenses that most people use in life, but which in CPTSD become fixated and maladaptive due to ongoing trauma. These include the Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn and a number of hybrid types.
When the Fight response is healthy an individual will have solid boundaries and the ability to be assertive when need be, whereas in CPTSD the person will become overly reactive and aggressive towards others.
With a healthy Flight response, the individual is able to recognize when a situation or person is dangerous and withdraw or disengage whereas those with CPTSD will tend to isolate themselves socially to avoid threat.
A healthy use of the Freeze response ensures that a person who is in a situation where further action will exacerbate things, stops and reassesses.
And finally a Fawn response ensures that the individual listens and compromises with others, while someone with CPTSD will adopt a people pleasing approach to avoid conflict.
I stayed pretty much on the surface, and In this more analytical mode. I think it felt safer, in some ways, just in case Bea wasn’t actually back.
8 thoughts on “Defense and boundaries ”
At the risk of adding to your analytical stance, if you haven’t come across the concept before, you might be interested in reading about ‘ask culture vs guess culture’ (there are quite a few internet articles which follow on from the original use of this term here: http://ask.metafilter.com/55153/Whats-the-middle-ground-between-FU-and-Welcome#830421 )
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No, you didn’t add to the analytical stance—thank you! This was very informative. I’m definitely a guesser. Xx
I think I’ve read that quotes passage before about the 5 F’s. But I’ll need to go read again to refresh my memory. That seems like really important information that you’ve discovered about yourself. Analytical mode can be good sometimes.
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I think it probably is important information to have. Analytical mode is okay, it just tends to feel lonely because when I’m in that mode I am emotionally closed off. If I could find a way to feel emotionally close to people (well, Bea) when I’m feeling analytical…..i don’t know. It would just be nice to find a nice happy medium, you know?
Yes, I do know. It will just take time x
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Another member of the “don’t ask for anything unless you know that the answer will be yes” club, here! I also strongly tend towards flight on a day to day basis, but hit freeze when things get extreme.
I think that giving yourself an intellectual framework to understand yourself that you can then do the emotional work within is a good strategy.
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I do think understanding intellectually is a good thing, it’s important. Psychology and how our brains work, how our history can shape us, fascinates me. I wish I could talk to Bea about it all and feel emotionally close to her— and then the times I do feel emotionally close to her, it hurts my feelings when she is being analytical. It’s just hard. Xx
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alice this is all so interesting! Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot. xx