Emotional development, emotional maturity and BPD

Since my post about social maturity made me think a lot about why my social maturity is so limited, I spend some time learning about emotional maturity now. (My mom wonders if I’m sick, wanting to know so much about those things all of a sudden, lol.)

Anyway, I was wondering if not emotional maturity comes first and is what enables people to become more socially mature, too, so that if there’s no emotional maturity, there can be no true social maturity, no matter if I logically understand the concept or not. And my mom said that might well be true, because the emotions get processed in the amygdala inside the brain, which is a region that has connections to most other areas in the brain that are concerned with other functions, like rational thought. Which means strong emotion upsetting the amygdala might well on a biological level put other functions temporarily out of order. Kind of cool stuff, in a way.

But back to the emotional maturity. So I was finding out about this guy Erikson, who way back in the 1950s already thought out a model that includes the emotional development and which stages it might follow. So here’s a brief summary of his stages. (He put them all into a category that’s a sliding scale between opposites, so good as well as bad development gets captured, which is kind of clever, I think!)

1. Learning basic trust vs. learning basic mistrust

He said that’s what happens in the infancy when the baby either learns that it is properly and reliably attended to and develops a feeling of basic trust, or gets the crap end of the deal and learns that it won’t be considered and won’t have its needs met, developing an inner feeling of basic mistrust. Or is somewhere in between and ends up feeling ambivalent, I suppose.

2. Learning autonomy vs. learning shame

He said that when kids have more control, like from around their second birthday to their fourth, they try themselves out and either experience they have a certain power and can do stuff, developing an inner sense of being their own capable person, feeling proud and good about themselves, or they are constantly told not to do this, or punished for trying out their new skills, and made to feel ashamed about what they do, starting to feel like they can’t make it right for anyone and are bad people, developing a basic sense of shame. (My, how I can identify with that one!) Or most people will be somewhere in the middle between the two, probably.

3. Learning initiative vs. learning guilt

He said that from age 3 to 6 (roughly) kids develop their imagination and fantasy, learn to get along with others, like taking turns, or leading or following if all goes well – or if shit goes wrong and they aren’t supported in a healthy way, they learn to be afraid of failing, don’t dare or don’t know how to play with others and stay outside, always need someone else to help them and don’t have the same skills at playing and no healthy imagination. Or somewhere in between again. Sliding scale and all that.

4. Learning industry vs. learning inferiority

He said that school aged, kids either learn to be productive, to get along well with classmates and be able to follow and negotiate rules, to do more structured and less playful stuff like schoolwork or team sports, and learns self-discipline, too. If gone wrong, the kid only learns that it doesn’t suffice in those areas, that it isn’t successful in school, that others are doing it all better, feeling inferior and like it won’t ever be worth it to try harder. (Or somewhere in between again.)

5. Learning Identity vs. learning Identity Confusion

He said during adolescence, the now older children learn how to answer the “who am I?” question with a satisfying result. Self doubt and a little confusion about identity and roles, and experimenting with different things are part of the process for everyone, but if all goes well in the end there is self-certainty and anticipating achievement and feeling good about oneself and having a set of ideals. If it doesn’t go well, one might find a bad identity (like that of a troublemaker) or no identity at all, leading to self-consciousness, or still being on the lookout, toying around with possible identities, not really being able to enter adulthood and feel like a proper, defined person.

6. Learning Intimacy vs. learning Isolation

He said if all goes well, people can now enter relationships, use their positive emotional skills to be good partners and tell who would be a good partner for them. They learn how to be intimate, emotionally intimate, too, in a secure relationship. Well, and if things go south, the opposite would be true, instead of positive intimacy people would learn emotional isolation and feel detached from others. Or somewhere in between again.

There are two more stages, but they only apply in later adulthood, so I’ll leave off here. If you are curious, just Google Erik Erikson. (His mother wasn’t feeling too creative when he got named. Hehe.)

Anyway, after summarizing all that, what do I make of it?! Where are people with BPD? Where am I?

I think it’s safe for me to say that in all of those categories I’m pretty far out on the negative side. I did not grow up in a family where I could have learned basic trust, and I can feel to this day that I always err on the side of mistrust and suspicion of others motives, feeling unsafe with them, like something bad is about to happen, they will turn on me, abandon me, etc.  I also was made to feel ashamed of myself a lot, I was always the one who didn’t fit in and would watch others, not playing with them. I always felt and still feel inferior to others, identity confusion describes me to a tee and I’m feeling isolated and alone totally easily! (Gosh, can I just start over, please?! Not the most uplifting thing to realize.)

Hm, but even having learned all that I don’t feel an inch less confused and puzzled about the whole thing. It’s so, so, SO tricky! What do I make of that now? I have no idea. I’ll keep thinking about it and if I have new thoughts, I’ll be back. Unless the topic frustrates me too much.

How about you? If you have any thoughts, and feel like sharing, shoot!

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vwoopvwoop
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 03:45:58

    hey lola, that’s some pretty intense stuff u have been reading about. it really sucks to read about normal child development stages and not be totally sure where u fit on the spectrums. sometimes i get confused about BPD because we were labeled that in hospital but the doctor only talked to us for like, five minutes, and he straight up dismissed the idea of DID i guess because he doesn’t believe in it. so yea it’s confusing, because i know that BPD has a lot of similar stuff.
    i agree that u probably have issues with a lot of these stages, and i think we probably do too, but i think the stage that really fucked us over the most was 5, with the identity confusion. i guess if i had to say which of these stages affected us the most it was that. do u think there’s one of these stages that had the biggest impact on u?
    i sorta wish i knew what it was like to be u, so i could see how BPD feels and if it’s what we can identify with.
    i have another question about BPD and maybe u can answer it for me. see, we have a lot of the mistrust and it has led to lying in ways to protect ourselves (not me exactly, but one of us, i don’t wanna confuse u, lol). i was wondering if lying is a BPD characteristic? not lying to hurt people just lying to try and feel safe, i dunno, because no one feels safe enough to tell the truth to i guess.


    • Lola
      Oct 23, 2012 @ 07:36:06

      Hey, jaime, and thanks for the reply! Lots of intense thoughts you have, too. And good questions. I’ll try to answer them best I can, but this morning my brain is mush, so we’ll see how well that goes.

      Anyway, which of these stages had the biggest impact on me? I wonder if not the first, trust and mistrust, because I imagine having gotten the first one wrong already, it must have been hard to get the other ones right. Like, my home where I grew up was abusive, so it was healthy in that context to have an inner mistrust about everything. But at the same time, having such a basic mistrust, it would probably have been hard to do well on the other stages as well. Like take stage 2, when I been a little kid and tried out autonomy, HAD it been met with approval, I would probably not even have trusted it, still feeling like “uh oh, this ain’t gonna work out, that’s no *real* approval”. So I’d probably have gotten fucked up anyway, because really, it’s so hard to feel like I can’t essentially trust people or myself because they WILL turn a trick on me sooner or later. So hard to feel safe.

      Man and shame about the dr diagnosing you after five mins. My mom, a shrink, says a proper diagnosis takes several sessions. But it’s usually not done for time reasons. People don’t usually get paid for doing good jobs, just for efficiency. I hate that.

      Anyway, how BPD feels? Well, I can speak only for me, not anyone else (and it’s probably different for everyone), but to me it feels like being tossed around by the waves in a big, dark ocean. I can ge lucky and swept into a good direction, having a good day, even feeling like I’m okay, then I get unlucky and feel like I drown from all the shit closing in. Emotions have the force of tidal waves, sweeping me with them, wrecking havoc, pulling me under until I feel I’m gonna die, or I go numb, and feel like it’s not even ME swimming in that ocean any longer. Same with my identity. I feel like I’m getting tossed around between identity fragments. Almost like I am different people, but not as in that there are different identities to them, but just me, being like this today and like that tomorrow (or just a different moment of the same day, lol), but always feeling like “oh yes, THAT’s me” while it lasts. Doesn’t have any past or presence, though, so not much of a sense of a true identity (that’s stable over time) at all. No idea who I am.

      And about the lying! Well, for me it’s probably a part of everything that’s called BPD in the end that messes me up. But actually I think it goes back to the basic mistrust. I lie way more than I should or would want to, but not because I want to be deceptive or unthruthful, because I feel like I can’t trust people with the truth. That something bad is gonna happen if I tell the truth. Like today when I discovered the cereal had run out, my mom’s first question was “Are you upset, honey?” and my gut reaction was to say “no! Just fucking NO! Leave me alone!” – because I felt like I let her know it upset me totally and made me feel fucked with, I’d be giving her a weapon to use in the future, like if she wants to ruin my day she now knows she can do it by just letting my cereal run out. But while that looks like a part of BPD in the big picture, along with the other symptoms, people with other disorders, who have issues trusting people and feel like they need to protect themselves, would probably lie to. I usually stop lying when I feel safe.

      Gosh, that was a long reply! Sorry if I swamped you with words. Sometimes I run off at the mouth. At least it wasn’t totally random. 😉

      Have a good day, jaime and the others.

  2. vwoopvwoop
    Oct 23, 2012 @ 07:55:08

    lol yep that was a long reply, but all good stuff! and i’ve never been accused of having intense thoughts before so that was new!
    ur story about the cereal lie totally makes sense to me, that’s totally how it feels. like if u show someone ur vulnerability then they can hurt u, and like, everything feels like a vulnerability. even cereal, right? i think the cereal lies are ok, even if they’re not that healthy, it’s the big lies that upset people. like lying about what’s wrong if someone asks u. and maybe some of the lying is sort of like…ur asked a question that u know the answer to but as soon as they ask it, ur worry and mistrust goes into overdrive and it’s almost like…like u don’t know the answer anymore, in this weird protective blank moment, so u just say something to stop them asking.

    u have a good day too, lola. i’m trying to not catch the flu from my sister so wish me luck! lol.

    • Lola
      Oct 23, 2012 @ 08:07:29

      Good luck with not catching the flu!!

      And yeah, it sucks when every little thing like stupid cereal turns into a vulnerability issue. But yes, the big lies are more upsetting. I got kicked out of therapy for them. But if it’s already so difficult to be truthful about small stuff, it’s that much harder to be honest about big stuff. I know about weird protective blank moments, too. I struggle with memory issues a lot and often don’t really remember things. It’s like my mind stores memories away and hides all evidence it’s ever known anything about the matter at all. Dissociation at its best.

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