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"Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

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"Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby Brian86 » Sun Jul 14, 2013 5:00 am

What, exactly, do these terms mean? I want to know what they each means and examples. I don't know for sure what they mean, but I'm assuming they're more about personality and identity than looks, and the personality and identity issues are what I'm more concerned with.

I think these things may be something I've struggled with for a very long time, certainly since 8th grade, but really since even before then. I am now 27. I'm not sure that I might really have BPD, but these specific symptoms I can relate to and have never seen them described anywhere else besides in the symptoms of BPD. I've had a lot of debilitating social anxiety since about age 12 and I do believe ADHD, but was last diagnosed ADHD as a grade-school kid. So the anxiety and likely ADHD may be where my identity issues stem from, I'm not sure. Anyway, I'd like help understanding the terms I've mentioned and maybe I'll come back and explain how I've struggled with identity issues through the years.

Thanks,
Brian
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby littlerbear » Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:04 pm

For me it works kinda like this: I've been a working musician for over 15 years yet there are times when, due to some real or perceived professional rejection/set back I really believe that I should just quit and do something else. This only lasts a relatively short time, then I'm back to being grateful to earn my living doing what I enjoy and believe in, but that "I suck! I HATE this! I'm LEAVING" thing happens about once a week or every two weeks. I imagine becoming a math teacher (hate math), or going to business school to study finance so I can take over wall street (also hate business, business people, finance and suits) Eventually, I come back to reality - I don't spend enough time in the 'outer limits' to cause any chaos in my life, fortunately. This is pretty unstable, however.

As for the distortions, I can go from truly believing that I am the most awesome, yet unrecognized thing to hit the planet ever, to believing that I have no talent, ability or real worth at all except to convince people to give me dopey jobs because they feel sorry for me. There are also the times when I believe I'm a super athlete then slide into believing that I should just give up, go home and get fat because I'll never be any good. I'll go from believing that I'm super attractive and thin to believing that I'm fat and weird looking - often in the same day. Distorted and unstable. None of these things are true.

The truth is I'm a very good music teacher with a strong ability to connect with young children and make musical concepts comprehensible; I'm a very good musician (singer/guitarist) with close to zero ability to market myself; I'm a decent athlete - faster than some WAY slower than many, decent with the discipline but could be better. I'm attractive, definitely not overweight, could be thinner, but this is probably not necessary. When things are calm, I can spend a fair amount of time in this neutral place; when stressed, tense, tired, otherwise upset, I can slide into negativity or grandiosity pretty easily.
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby centerpath » Sun Jul 14, 2013 5:01 pm

First, I have no idea what your situation is, but ADHD symptoms and anxiety are common in BPD. I've found that my ADHD and bipolar diagnoses have proved naive or flat out wrong as I've made progress on BPD core issues.

Second, I think we can see the symptoms of unstable or distorted self image as a starting point, and if they're present then look within to understand them.

I can suggest some symptoms from myself:

Sex. A desire for sex that isn't just physical, but for the intimacy that it creates, and the soothing of the aftermath. I think non BPD people experience a similar intimacy, but I believe that they "feed" from it less, or in a different way. If a person needs sex to satisfy a gnawing hunger (I experience it in my solar plexus) I think it suggests a self image connection.

Relationship. Does our most intimate relationship feed us, settle us, define us. Do you feel you need your partner in a way that's desperate?

Separation. Do you experience anxiety when you separate from a person you've bonded with?

Attachment. Attachment is a funny concept, it's a way of bonding with other people that we can assume is love. It's different. I'm sure there are a lot of articles on the web about healthy versus unhealthy attachment to look for insight.
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby Brian86 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:23 am

If James Marcia's "identity states" that are an expansion of Erik Erikson's work are realistic, might "unstable sense of self" basically be the same as "identity crisis" and perhaps the result of a failure of the person to accomplish "identity achievement" or settle in the state of "foreclosure"? It was even said by Marcia, I believe, it might have been Erikson, that once a person leaves the state of foreclosure in search of a new identity, they can never go back to foreclosure, which might mean they're stuck in the "moratorium" identity state. I can kind of see this being true. What do you all think?

http://psychology.about.com/od/theories ... crisis.htm

Of course, that doesn't explain "distorted self image".
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby Brian86 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:36 am

littlebear-

Thanks for the excellent answer! You described exactly what I suspected "unstable self image" is.

centerpath-

What you said about sex (and really, it can just be cuddling and other romantic stuff) feeding some people more than others, that seems to be true from my perspective about myself.. But I'm not sure, it might just seem that way to me, from my perspective. I've always thought the effects of romantic closeness on me were so strong because I have a hard time getting that close to a girl or into relationships, and thus I value the intimacy more and it's not weakened by excessive access.

As far as the separation anxiety, I don't know what kind of separation you mean - while I am very affectionate and love cuddles, closeness, and sex, I also don't mind my time away, even if it just be at work, or whatever. I definitely prefer being close in a relationship, but not glued. If you mean a few weeks apart, then I'm fine with that too in a secure relationship and when I'm confident. Been there, done that - it wasn't a big deal. I don't want to make myself sound more experienced than I am though, so I will note I've only been in one serious relationship and it lasted 3 years.
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby ButHeartOfAnAngel » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:35 am

Brian86 wrote:If James Marcia's "identity states" that are an expansion of Erik Erikson's work are realistic, might "unstable sense of self" basically be the same as "identity crisis" and perhaps the result of a failure of the person to accomplish "identity achievement" or settle in the state of "foreclosure"? It was even said by Marcia, I believe, it might have been Erikson, that once a person leaves the state of foreclosure in search of a new identity, they can never go back to foreclosure, which might mean they're stuck in the "moratorium" identity state. I can kind of see this being true. What do you all think?

close...
"unstable sense of self" is a part of a problem known as "identity diffusion".
"identity diffusion" is a failure to... yes... accomplish "identity achievement".
"identity crisis" is different from borderline "identity diffusion".
In "identity crisis" continuity of self across situations and across time is pretty much retained.
In "identity diffusion" a loss of capacity for self-definition, lack of integration of the concept of self and significant others, and resulting painful sense of incoherence are observed.
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Re: "Unstable Self Image" and "Distorted Self Image"

Postby Brian86 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:55 am

ButHeartOfAnAngel wrote:
Brian86 wrote:If James Marcia's "identity states" that are an expansion of Erik Erikson's work are realistic, might "unstable sense of self" basically be the same as "identity crisis" and perhaps the result of a failure of the person to accomplish "identity achievement" or settle in the state of "foreclosure"? It was even said by Marcia, I believe, it might have been Erikson, that once a person leaves the state of foreclosure in search of a new identity, they can never go back to foreclosure, which might mean they're stuck in the "moratorium" identity state. I can kind of see this being true. What do you all think?

close...
"unstable sense of self" is a part of a problem known as "identity diffusion".
"identity diffusion" is a failure to... yes... accomplish "identity achievement".
"identity crisis" is different from borderline "identity diffusion".
In "identity crisis" continuity of self across situations and across time is pretty much retained.
In "identity diffusion" a loss of capacity for self-definition, lack of integration of the concept of self and significant others, and resulting painful sense of incoherence are observed.


Thanks for the input.

About me, I'm not sure if I'm in the state of "identity diffusion" or "moratorium". I definitely have a social style I've always leaned toward and identified with. When I was in middle school I got labeled "preppy" by kids who were, I guess, less "preppy" than me, although I wasn't truly "preppy". I mean, I didn't even go to dances (maybe one) or prom or anything like that. I was kind of in the middle, but I kind of ran with the preppy label and have always dressed fairly conventional with clothes that fit, polo shirts, etc. I mostly liked popular music. I'm 27 now and the style of dress I like has gotten older and dressier. Kind of J Crew/Banana Republic/Brooks Brothers, loafers, Levi's. I like German cars, my first car was an Audi, my last a Mercedes. I like to dine out and I like to cook (like from scratch, good food). I like ethnic cuisine. I genuinely like all of these things, though, and enjoy them for what they're worth for me. In other words, they don't become affectations with me like they seem to with other people. I like premium/craft/foreign beer too, and wine, but I'm not afraid to have a Bud Light if that's what people are having wherever I'm at. I'm not afraid or ashamed to eat fast food on occasion. Also, even though I've just painted myself as a city guy, sort of pseudo-yuppie, I actually like country music, and always have, and I am not trendy. I tend to prefer classic, tried, and true, but am mostly not afraid to try new things that interest me. I also like being out in the country and while I ultimately think being in the city is probably best for me, I'd definitely like to have a second, cheap place out in the country, even a trailer (on it's own land, not in a trailer park). While I like the country, I ultimately identify with and would miss many things in the city. It might sound like I have a fairly good idea of who I am, and I think I do, but I'm still confused. Here's the deal - I didn't go to college, haven't started any kind of permanent/long-term job or career, and don't have any friends. I've never really had many friends. I feel like somehow I've gotten out and about and grown away from and expanded my horizons beyond my home community, and believe me, I have, and I've actually lost perspective with them...I used to kind of know where I left off, but now that line is kind of blurry. But anyway, so my concern is that I think I have to have friends or be able to date to really see what caliber of person I am, or if I just think I'm more than I am. I feel like I've expanded myself in all ways...culturally, educationally, etc., but that my level of social skills never caught up, which is weird, and I don't know if that's true or not. I may simply be held back by anxiety, but I just don't know. Is a man defined by the caliber/league of woman and friends he can attain? By the job he can attain? I don't need to make a lot of money, as I'm very thrifty. However, I don't want to work in a warehouse or factory and be defined by that and I mention those places because they're easy places to work because they require minimal social and interpersonal skills. I want to work in an office environment or at least something I can dress nice, step away for lunch, and preferably somewhere like downtown. I used to want to live where I could walk to work, and the idea is still appealing. I'm smart enough and should be capable, but the interacting with people just holds me back. So I haven't made some of these big defining decisions. I'm scared of interaction with people. I'm deathly afraid of attractive women. And I get confused about whether I'm capable of attaining the type of job I want or not. I did get an interview at the corp HQ of a major national company a couple years ago...the job was merely calling people providing them with necessary information concering their accounts, etc., but I was so terrified (of what? I don't know) that I blew it and just did not go to training, and that was even after group interviewing and passing! So I just don't know. I get really confused and want to achieve the goals I've stated, and at other times think I should give up and just get an easier/simpler job and just dress plain and not worry so much about having everything the way I want it. I go back and forth between which of these two ways I should go.

-- Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:58 am --

I also sit and wonder what is wrong with me. I used to think it was just social anxiety, and it may still just be that, but now I wonder if the social anxiety is merely a symptom of something worse, like Asperger's, and obviously I'm wondering about BPD too. I definitely think I'm ADHD too. I was diagnosed as a kid and think I still am. I might just have social anxiety and ADHD and be overplaying something being wrong with me, or I may not, I just don't know.
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