Neefer Sews, Crochets, Crafts, Swims, and Blathers about Kids

Acorns to Oaktrees

September 23rd, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Cognitive Distortion – I am a doormat.

Yesterday, I talked about Michael Dearing‘s presentation on cognitive distortions.

The first one that he addresses is

Personal Exceptionalism
Definition – a macro sense that you are in the top of your cohort, your work is snowflake-special, or that you are destined to have experiences well outside the bounds of “normal;” not to be confused with arrogance or high self- esteem
Benefit – resilience, stamina, charisma
Deadly risk – assuming macro-exceptionalism means micro-exceptionalism, brittleness

This one doesn’t show up in the list from my worksheets. But I can think of the analagous eating disordered thought distortion:

I am a doormat.
Definition – I deserve to be treated poorly.
Benefit – The ability to survive abuse, neglect, and other negative situations.

I’m going to skip the deadly risk bit.

A lot of people have trouble understanding how this distortion could possibly become fixed in someone’s mind and how an adult could stay in such a situation. The thing is that the abuse, neglect, or other negative thing comes from someone who is supposed to love you, and it doesn’t start in adulthood.

Babies whose primary caregivers are depressed are especially vulnerable to mental illness (or maladaptive behavioral coping) because their caregivers were unable to emotionally repond to the babies need. This can be something as simple and unobvious as not looking the baby in the eye when comforting her. As this example shows, it doesn’t have to be deliberate, and I’m sure that caregiver is doing the very best that he can.

Teasing is another one. Only the thing here, it’s not the person who is teasing who’s the culprit. When that child asks an adult for help, for protection, and that adult refuses (I was told to ignore the teasing and toughen up), the child learns that she is not worth the adult’s protection and that she should not show those negative emotions. What’s worse, the child also learns that teasing is acceptable behavior and may visit it on others, propogating the problem. And that child has learned that she can’t count on an adult who she thought loved her to protect her. So “love” becomes something that is not about taking care of, comforting, protecting another person.

Invalidating emotions. I touched on this in my teasing example. I’m totalling ripping this off the About.com site.

Emotional invalidation is when someone communicates to you that your emotions are not valid, are unreasonable or irrational, or should be hidden or concealed.

For example, when a child is fearful, their parent might tell them, “Stop being such a baby, there’s nothing to be afraid of.” This is an emotionally invalidating response; it not only communicates to the child that their emotions are invalid but also that they are weak for having emotions.

Alternatively, a parent might respond with, “I understand you’re feeling afraid. Tell me what’s happening to make you scared.” This is a validating response — it tells the child that their emotions are respected (even if the parent may not agree that there is an objective reason to be scared).

Sexual assault. Physical abuse. Criminal neglect. Verbal abuse. Do I need to explain these?

Gosh, there are so many ways to teach a child that she is a doormat. They don’t have to be overt, like actual physical abuse. All those little thing, all those little lessons, just like repeating your multiplication tables over and over, they lay down the pathways in the mind leading to those automatic reactions. And so someone with an eating disorder has learned that she deserves to be treated poorly, that that is what love is. She will seek those very same behaviors out in a spouse and other people that she chooses to have in her life. And it hurts her, it makes her feel bad about herself which feeds the eating disorder. She gets stuck in the CBT loop that I presented yesterday.

PS Just so you know, I know that my parents did the best that they knew how, the best that they could do. The most certainly did not choose for me to have an eating disorder. I believe that is true of most parents.

Category: Eating Disorder Tags: ,

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