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Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

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Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby donbretheo » Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:13 pm

This is my first time posting. Hi.

I just had a lot on my mind last night, and I would appreciate some external input. I thought if there’s any hope of someone being able to relate to me, it would have to be other schizoids. I feel like I’m from another planet when I try explaining this people.

I’m having some relationship problems, which I’m not going to elaborate on, because you all know exactly what the issue is, when I say I’m diagnosed with SPD and in a long term relationship.

The subject isn’t so much anything specific going on in my personal life, I am just so frustrated with trying to understand myself and articulate what’s going on in my head. It might turn out to be a long rant, I hope somebody wants to read it and respond to some of my thoughts.

- Why can’t I connect emotionally to my partner?
- What is this wall between me and other people?
- What is it that makes me feel smothered in relationships?
- Why don’t I feel lonely/miss my partner when she’s gone?
- How can I explain this non-negotiable need for excessive alone time?

Simple explanations like "schizoids don't like/care about other people" is just not an answer. I’ve read here how other schizoids describe this inner/outer world split, and how their internal world seems more real to them than the external. For myself I can definitely say that being in my inner world is safe, predictable and comfortable, while having to relate to people in the “real world” generally feels unsafe, unpredictable and uncomfortable.

First of all, it sounds reasonable to me that the split described is a defense mechanism and an adaptation to early childhood neglect, I don’t have doubts about that theory. How this actually works in adult life, and what it looks like from the inside, is what I wanted to talk about.

I think when all humans relate, they do so only through their internal representations of who they are relating to. E.g. when you encounter a new person, your brain creates a model of them, using limited sensory observation (the way they look, talk, move, smell, dress, etc.) and then fill in all the blanks with expectations based on associations, stereotypes, past experiences, until you have a working model of the whole person to relate to. But the actual person does not exist to you, and never will, only an approximate representation (placeholder) of them.

The more you learn about a person, the more detail and nuance is added to your internal object. But you will always be relating to an incomplete model. I would think to achieve complete knowing of a person, would be the state of fusion/merger, which means the annihilation of the self – which is the primal fear of the schizoid. A fate worse than death.

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Anyway. So it feels like my inner world is populated by all these representations of everyone I encountered throughout my life. And I guess that’s the case for people in general, but there is an added dimension to this for the schizoid. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but the people in my inner world are somehow more vivid and “interactive” than to the average person.

- I can see how this is in some ways a positive adaptation. It makes you more or less immune to loneliness and needing to be around people. Because they are always present with you. My inner versions of people are just a good, or often better, than the actual people in my life. Is this a sentiment that most schizoids can relate to?

-

I think the explanation is found in childhood, f.x. when the baby needs soothing and the caregiver is absent, the baby remarkably learns to survive by summoning it’s inner representation of “good mother” to provide the soothing that is missing. The downside of this adaptation is that the child misses the chance to form a genuine (secure) attachment to it’s mother, and the possibility of integrating the flaws and imperfections of “bad mother” with the idealized internal “good mother”. It only makes sense; if my inner mother is so vivid and perfect, why would I even want to deal with the flawed person that is my real mother?

If you carry this mechanism into adulthood (i.e. develop Schizoid Personality Disorder), you are going to experience massive problems relating to people in real life. A genuinely connected intimate relationship will be an alien concept. We don’t crave for it, because we don’t recognize it's value to us because we have developed a "shortcut" to meeting relational needs.

But that, in short, was the perspective I was analyzing my own behavior and my decisions from. And wanted to know what other schizoids think about this.

-

I’ve heard about maladaptive daydreaming, and being preoccupied by fantasies to the point of not being able to meaningfully participate in the real world. Also read some schizoids fall into slightly darker places like erotomania, voyeurism, stalking, obsessing over celebrities and even fictional characters. Not something that applies to me so much, but it’s interestingly relevant in this context. Mostly I’m thinking about more innocent things, like having a crush on someone – but not actually wanting to interact with them. Idealizing people and wanting to be close to them, without reaching an intimate connection. Because by actually connecting with people, we get too much information about them, which means our internal representation of them becomes too detailed (and therefore imperfect).

I think that’s why a schizoid who’s unaware of his own psychology will enter a romantic relationship with a relative amount of enthusiasm and interest, and then quickly become frustrated and disillusioned with having to integrate their flaws and shortcomings into his internal model of them. In this situation a non-schizoid doesn’t have a choice, because they become attached and need the connection – they will eventually learn to deal with it. Where as when a schizoid becomes enamoured with someone, he is often satisfied with “interacting” with his internal representation of them and doesn’t need anything further.

That might also be why, if a relationship ends before the illusion is completely shattered, the schizoid will always “love” that person and keep them as part of their inner world forever. They won’t feel the urge to reach out and reconnect, because they are already connected to the internal object and further contact only risks tarnishing that connection.

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When in you're in a relationship with a schizoid, we don’t actually need any validation or reassurance that you are still there – because you are already omnipresent in the inner world (object constancy). If a schizoid loves and appreciates you, they don’t feel the need to be physically close, and they will not miss you when you’re gone. I see how that would be very confusing and hurtful to the partner.

Especially in a relationship with someone who has BPD, a condition characterized by a lack of object constancy. If they don’t see you all the time, and receive constant validation and reassurance, they feel abandoned. Maybe a schizoid will be able to understand the plight of his partner for connection, but it’s purely on a theoretical level – they can not empathize, because the feelings are incomprehensible on an emotional level. Giving emotional validation to others is something that wouldn’t even cross our minds, if they didn’t ask directly for it. And when we try to do it, it sounds insincere and unsatisfying.

-

Thinking a bit further on the idea of relating to internal models of people; the way I experience these inner people is not so much seeing a solid mental image of the person, but more like sensing an amorphous “presence” of them in my mind. Every person I know is there, living inside my unconscious mind. I can always pull them into focus and interact with them (not literally, of course) But I always have an ongoing inner dialogue, and I can sort of “hear” how my inner people react to what ever I might be doing. Like the idea of the Super Ego as the internalized parent, e.g. how Norman Bates hears his dead mother in his head all day, shaming him. But this can be both good and bad, like there is a lot of strength to be found in feeling supported by your "internal objects", so to speak.

But I feel like the closer I get to a person in reality, the more the inner representation of them grows in size and power inside my mind. Like each person in your life occupies a certain amount of mental real estate. Depending on how significant they are to you, they rent bigger and smaller lots in your headspace - and there is a finite amount of space available! So the more people I need to relate to on a regular basis, and the more intense the interactions, the more stressed I feel. Maybe because my brain is constantly having to update and adjust my inner models to fit reality. The truth is, people are unpredictable, confusing and generally too much to deal with. One reason why many schizoids tend to attach more to their pets than people, is simply because dogs and cats are just not very complex creatures compared to humans. The inner model of “my dog” very closely matches the characteristics of the actual dog.. he always reacts the same, has no more than 3 different emotional states, and I know exactly how to please him. So completely safe to deal with for a schizoid.

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The way I hear others describe it, they find it exhausting to relate to people, and need a proportionate amount of downtime to recuperate after each interaction. Like if an SPD enters a relationship they would only be able to be mentally present for 1 or 2 days a week, and then need complete solitude for days to recharge afterwards. If I don’t get that alone time, I will slowly fade out of reality and into a zombie like dissociative state. It's as if my inner representation of them is taking up more and more of my mental space, until it starts to threaten the (already weak) integrity of my sense of self, and this triggers what I can only describe as “annihilation terror”. I feel an extreme urgency to get away from the person. Actually the more I like the person, the more I absorb of them, and the more panic it causes. It’s not fun, and I can’t believe people say it shouldn’t be considered a disorder.

-

Lot's of thoughts, sorry if it's all over the place.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby DaturaInnoxia » Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:03 am

Welcome and fascinating.
I relate to some pieces of this a lot and some pieces not at all.

I like how you describe having internal models of people that strengthen and cause you to have a shortcut.

Also interesting how you're including Piaget's stages of development in describing some building blocks of personality disorders. I never thought about the object permanence thing like that.

Also, I know Bowlby's attachment theory was originally pretty heavily connected to Freud and psychoanalysis, but now, rather than a mother thing, it tends to be seen as whatever primary caregiver the baby selects as its attachment figure because they need a "base of security" for healthy early childhood development

Some people even manage attach to an object or an organized religion, etc. rather than a human at all < it's the base of security that's needed < Sort of like in Harlow's research, the monkeys attached to the cloth

I'm sure you know Bowlby called it a "base of security" because having a primary attachment to seek out for comfort enables a child to feel safe enough to explore and "master" their environments.
^
When anxious or threatened, they seek out the secure base for comfort which regulates them - which then enables them to continue on with their environments (learning, people, things, etc.).

These days, non-injured attachments are more seen for their value because that's how children are considered to learn healthy emotional regulation and bonding (starting with co-regulation with a primary caregiver) + the ability to relate with others + feeling safe in the world (or at least get a head start on these things).

Some people with attachment injuries want to learn how to form secure attachments; however, if you've learned to meet your attachment needs without others, there's no reason why you have to learn to do otherwise now.

I'm definitely not at your level of lack of attachment, but I know I have no desire to heal my attachment injuries unless it happens naturally because it benefits me this way more than healing would.

From a quick skim, I'm understanding you to be showing care and concern about not wanting to hurt your girlfriend, but that your needs are already met with much less than what you believe she needs.

I'm also reading you to be afraid of emeshment  (which is reasonable), but then you're connecting it between saying it will happen if you fully know her / someone, yet you're also saying you can't ever fully know someone (only your experience of them that grows as you learn them).

Now I know that I'm delightfully ###$ up, but I always understood relationships to be 2 whole and separate people together.

Emeshment isn't fully knowing someone, it's a boundary issue.
Maybe different people define emeshment much differently or maybe it's a feeling or a shifting line rather than something black and white and easily defined.

Or maybe I'm sleep deprived again, and missed the whole point of what you said; regardless, I won't recommend chloroform this time.
Hope it works out for the 2 of you and that you'll get better responses soon
They collect information to stock pile in their souls, saying, "I will tuck this into my subconscious for later use."  ~ unknown
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby anathegram » Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:27 am

donbretheo wrote:It's as if my inner representation of them is taking up more and more of my mental space, until it starts to threaten the (already weak) integrity of my sense of self, and this triggers what I can only describe as “annihilation terror”. I feel an extreme urgency to get away from the person. Actually the more I like the person, the more I absorb of them, and the more panic it causes. It’s not fun, and I can’t believe people say it shouldn’t be considered a disorder.

This describes how I ended up on this forum as well, more or less. I had met someone who I thought fit pretty well into my model of 'the kind of person I like'. Obviously, my first instinct was to run away. I have a hard time explaining to people why that is - generally people, psychs included, misunderstand. Losing my initial representation of them by actually getting to know them was a kind of subdued long-term trauma in itself, but once I was through that, things actually turned out quite well. (Admittedly, we've only ever interacted online.)

I'm not trying to answer your rhetorical questions, just tossing in a few of my own thoughts.

- Why can’t I connect emotionally to my partner?
- What is this wall between me and other people?

I don't know. I've always felt oppressed by the presence (and memory) of other people (though there are gradations to it), so maybe it's innate in some way. But the wall has also developed a lot over time. Lately, I just accept that the wall is there, and try to find cracks in it when I can.

- What is it that makes me feel smothered in relationships?

Something apt that was posted recently by our resident polar bear:
1PolarBear wrote:It is a different interpretation, viewed with very personal lens. It is like talking words but meaning emotions, but the emotion is not clear, so it is approximated in a metaphor. The thing is that emotions are not little boxes that can easily be parsed and offered frozen into words, and that is without taking into account that some may be inappropriate.

So in order to not loose data through compression, metaphors can be used to keep the raw emotions intact, and all the meaningful relationships that go with it intact. Putting it into words is like doing it violence and destroying it. But then once that is done, you become fake, because it is not true anymore, the emotions is gone, it was destroyed by the word.

When your real self is already vague or amorphous, then exposing it, reifying it, is destructive - because it changes to fit a new shape that no longer belongs to you.

- Why don’t I feel lonely/miss my partner when she’s gone?

Like you said, when you internalize people so easily, it's very difficult to get them to truly leave.

Are you happy to see her when she comes back?

- How can I explain this non-negotiable need for excessive alone time?

The pop-psych understanding of introversion is that introverts need to use energy to be around other people and recharge when alone. So, on that level, it's completely normal. Many schizoids may experience that to an extreme degree, but that's a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one - I don't imagine it would be too much of a stretch for most people to understand?

I think there are also more happy, successful relationships where the partners need to spend a lot of time apart than is typically realized.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby DaturaInnoxia » Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:19 am

Yeah, PolarBear is one of the ones that can have some pretty profound things to say.
They collect information to stock pile in their souls, saying, "I will tuck this into my subconscious for later use."  ~ unknown
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby smirks » Tue Apr 28, 2020 7:16 am

I think the explanation is found in childhood, f.x. when the baby needs soothing and the caregiver is absent, the baby remarkably learns to survive by summoning it’s inner representation of “good mother” to provide the soothing that is missing. The downside of this adaptation is that the child misses the chance to form a genuine (secure) attachment to it’s mother, and the possibility of integrating the flaws and imperfections of “bad mother” with the idealized internal “good mother”. It only makes sense; if my inner mother is so vivid and perfect, why would I even want to deal with the flawed person that is my real mother?


This would make the plot of an interesting book, or a movie I think. It sort of reminds me of Coraline.

Hearing about your situation is very interesting to me, just because I don't seem have these internal representations of people I know, or even myself, but I hear about others having them a lot and sometimes I wonder what the absolute lack of them says about me. Like even first degree relatives -- I never think about them, never make idealized placeholders, and there is nothing there in place of those relationships. I think you are maybe in a better place than I am.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby CuteLoneCat » Tue Apr 28, 2020 12:35 pm

donbretheo wrote:Why can’t I connect emotionally to my partner?


You are in your castle. The castle provides you with everything you need. You can rely on it a 100%. Venturing outside would be risky. There would have to be something very valuable outside to make it worth your while.

Are you sure you want to go outside?

donbretheo wrote:For myself I can definitely say that being in my inner world is safe, predictable and comfortable, while having to relate to people in the “real world” generally feels unsafe, unpredictable and uncomfortable.


You said it yourself, you have no incentive.
Society brainwashes us, we are told connecting with others is a good thing, and we are expected to want it.

If you still want it, try finding something that would make it worth the risk for you.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby emillionth » Wed Apr 29, 2020 2:55 am

What I've found through personal experience is that some people just aren't meant to be in intimate relationships (or at least I am not). For them, the thought of intimacy may be appealing sometimes, but it's like something that smells good but actually tastes bad and gives you diarrhea. There are other sources to get sustenance from.

The part about not being able to relate to people in general though, yeah, that's a hindrance. True isolation isn't feasible or pleasant.

About inner representations and all, I don't think that's limited to people. Reality is a shared illusion. And it often turns out to not be shared.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby voidance » Wed Apr 29, 2020 4:35 pm

Everything comes in waves to me.

I can be intense and then aloof which is generally confusing to all parties involved including myself.

Intimacy is a bit difficult. I tend to either isolate or run away. I can easily have sexual relations but as soon as intimacy gets attached to it I lose interest.

I prefer time to myself which is not noticable unless I move in with a partner in which case I demand my own room and swing from relationship like behaviour to friendship like behaviour to the point that I get personally confused with my own relationship.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby 1PolarBear » Thu May 21, 2020 9:09 am

anathegram wrote:When your real self is already vague or amorphous, then exposing it, reifying it, is destructive - because it changes to fit a new shape that no longer belongs to you.


I remember having a fear like that in the past. Fear to be engulfed or something. Mostly not knowing what is yours or what is the other's. So it gets scary and some sort of existential threat. So I would flee people that were too close. It hasn't happened in awhile though, only young adult stuff. Once my personality was more settled, it stopped being something that would come up.

It's different than the use of metaphor in order to keep covering as it were, deeper truth while preserving them. It's more of a question that other people's categories simply don't fit, they loose information when they are too specific. It's true about one's sense of self as well, thus the problem with psychological constructs like "schizoid" and so on. Someone that would be the pure thing would be a caricature of a person. It's just too limiting, but not an existential threat like in the first case.
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Re: Thoughts on relating to people, intimately and in general.

Postby anathegram » Mon May 25, 2020 7:47 am

They tend to feel similar to me, which has led me to wonder now if what I've been conceptualizing as my own fear of engulfment is actually something else.

I half-remember an existentialist saying that in all of our interactions with the world we leave behind fragments of ourselves for others, and some naturally fear that by leaving something of themselves behind, they become less. That seems a little closer to my experience of it.
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