YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GIVE THIS UP !
I’d rather be miserable than face that pain!
PREVIOUS: “They did the best they could”
Negative Benefits (NB) is a new concept for many people. A web search found nothing about this important idea. When clients are asked what they get out of continuing a harmful behavior or thought pattern, they usually say “I don’t get anything out of it – it’s just what I know, a habit”. They’re indignant that they’re even asked. They only hear the word ‘benefit’ & can’t imagine that anything self-destructive can have a reward!
• Familiarity & habit are not the only reasons destructive patterns persist. The deeper truth is that we DO get something from hanging on to those old ways of acting & thinking – they’re a form of protection (defense mechanisms) against facing childhood issues that feel too terrifying to deal with. So, yes, they provide us with Negative Benefits. In reality the ‘protection’ they seem to provide comes at a high price – in grief, in more abandonment, shame self-hate, loneliness, ill-health, bad relationships, depression, lost opportunities…. yet we protect them with our lives, literally, until we do enough FoO work to not need them – as much.
➼ Our defensive patterns are an attempt at getting wished-for outcomes which:
• we never got as kids, SO still want, need, demand – no matter what!
• we’re not allowed to have free & clear, so can’t get in a healthy way
Some wished-for, but disallowed, needs & wants: TO be loved for who we are – unconditionally, to get lots of attention, to be respected, to be desired, to have positive companionship (not be alone), to be comforted when in pain, to express intelligence & creativity, to feel safe, to relax, to be heard….
GOAL of N.B. – Sneakily trying to get around our self-hate & the PP in whatever creatively twisted way we can concoct, RATHER than doing the long, hard work of cleaning out the damage. Unfortunately, we just dig the abandonment hole deeper.
• What we do instead is choose or fall into lifestyles which actually PREVENT us from gathering positive benefits, no matter how much we may want them. In place of the real thing, we keep finding complicated, abusive ways to OBEY the Toxic Rules we grew up with (which we hate but are afraid to let go of) – all by ourselves & through continued interactions with our unhealthy family &/or with other abusive people who are family substitutes.
SO – to understand what Negative Benefits (NB) are, we have to start with:
These are unconscious psychological strategies our minds develop to protect us from having to deal with painful traumatic realities we can’t handle. They are also used to maintain our self-image – a mental picture of ourselves that we can live with, in the face of inner conflicts between what we think we are & what we wish we were.
• Everyone needs defenses to manage. However, when we experience long-term stress as children our defenses become rigid armor & walls, which are hard to penetrate & hard to dissolve. They are expressed in the form of Character Defects – self-defeating behavior patterns which can be seen as forms of Self-hate, SUCH AS:
abusive behavior, being controlling, closed-mindedness, co-dependence, dishonesty, isolation, negative thinking / pessimism, narcissism, perfectionism, prejudice, resentment, rationalizing, selfishness, self-justification, self-pity…
• These patterns sustain our denial by protecting against accumulated old pain
— Emotional: abandonment terror, deadly loneliness, murderous rage, profound hopelessness, terrible longing for the impossible….
— Mental: a deep-level KNOWING that they weren’t there for us, tortured & neglected us, which the WIC interprets as potential death….
So, no matter how self-destructive or lala a defensive pattern is – we will do almost anything to hold on to it – even in Recovery – because:
a. the WIC is in charge of our inner life, until we develop the “UNIT”, the Healthy & Loving Inner Parent to replace the PP ‘bad voice’
b. AND, the kid is beyond-convinced that our defenses are not as life-threateningly dangerous as what’s underneath, hidden in our unconscious.
• The patterns ‘protect’ us from facing what we consider unbearable knowledge & terrifying emotions from the past, as well as dealing realistically with the present. They represent Freud’s ‘Repetition Compulsion’, which is so evident in the lives of most ACoAs. Yes, the pain we accumulated from childhood is bad, but not dealing with it cripples or kills us in so many ways.
➼ In the simplest terms, the main reasons we hang on to the old ways with both fists, as if it were a life-preserver is:
1. because our brain has been programmed from birth & those grooves (neural pathways) are very deep. It takes LOTS of knowledge, repetition, perseverance & patience to make new, stable grooves
2. because the WIC believes it needs the psychological negative benefits to survive – so it will take a lot of time & effort to form the new UNIT which can take over the reins from the kid & bad parent
NEXT: Negative Benefits (Part 2)