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Control Patterns / Defense Mechanisms
by Susan Campbell
Control Patterns I use the term control patterns to refer to the variety of unconscious ego-protective strategies people use when they feel unsafe, that is, when they do not have sufficient self-trust to face the unknown naked and undefended. I think most people feel the need for protection a great deal of the time, and most of what we do and say comes not from a sense of freedom but from a conditioned control pattern. I have identified six types of control patterns:
1. Identifying with your story or script. Eric Berne, author of Games People Play, popularized the notion that significant elements of our childhood stories get played out repeatedly in our adult life because of our scripts. In my family, I was the big sister. This script generated a story line in which I portray myself as competent, knowledgeable, in charge: a mentor and leader. If feelings of fear, dependency, or inadequacy arise, I tend not to notice them. Other people may notice that I seem to be fearful or shaky, but I can sail along through life completely unconscious of these underlying feelings. Different automatic behavior patterns tend to accompany each childhood script. Take a look at your own life story. Were you the smart one or the pretty one? Were you teacher′s pet or a trouble-maker? Did you draw attention to yourself or try to remain invisible?
2. Filtering your perceptions through strongly held beliefs. Also based on early life experiences, your core beliefs act as a filter or set of lenses through which you view the world. The most basic question related to core beliefs is Einstein′s famous phrase, ″Is the Universe friendly?″ Applying this question to your early learning experiences, did you feel welcomed by the world when you were born, or did you have to struggle right from the start? How supportive was your environment? Your answer to these questions tends to shape what you expect from life and what you get. When you act like you can′t handle the unexpected, your ability to do so dwindles. Pause now and ask yourself: On a scale from 1 to 10, how friendly do I feel the universe is toward me? Without thinking, just let a number come to you. When I did this exercise, I gave myself an ″8.″ In the story of my personality, I had parents who were very attentive, loving, validating, and supportive — with one exception: if you were sick, they pretty much expected you to ride it out until you got over it. There were no extra benefits for being incapacitated. As an adult, I rarely get sick. If I do get sick, I don′t expect sympathy or help. I pretty much expect to take care of myself. So I see the universe as basically friendly, but not very sympathetic toward weakness. Like my script, my belief that I′m basically on my own colors how I relate to weakness, dependency, and helplessness in myself and others. I may mistakenly assume that someone is doing fine when they are really crying out for help. My core belief structure creates a blind spot. As you look at your story and compare it to mine, what critical incidents or traumatic events occurred that may have given you the idea that ″it′s not safe to________″ (be sick, be honest, be joyful, express your sexuality, attract attention to yourself, talk back, or assert yourself)? Most core beliefs can be traced back to the need to feel safe.
3. Getting your buttons pushed. When you have a knee-jerk negative reaction to something someone else does or says, this indicates that you have a hypersensitive spot on your ego, metaphorically called a button. Buttons are usually related to a repeated insult suffered in childhood. Thus, if your mother or father continually nagged you to do your homework or chores, you may have a button about being told what to do as an adult. Or if they were very critical and found fault with the things you did, you may have a button about being criticized. Using this example, if you do have a hypersensitivity to others′ criticizing you, you will tend to hear criticism even when it is not the other′s intent. It is important to know what your buttons are, because they help you take your negative reactions less seriously. Most people′s buttons are connected to their ″favorite fear,″ as discussed in chapter 3. The most common favorite fears are the fear of criticism (so you are vigilant for any signs of disapproval or criticism in your environment); the fear of abandonment (so you notice the smallest cues that signal you are about to be left; you may even develop a pattern of abandoning the other first, as soon as you sense that he or she is moving away); the fear of being controlled (so any time anyone tells you to do something, you instinctively resist — even if your mind tries to override this reaction, something in you will drag its heels); the fear of being ignored (so if you don′t get the attention you expect, you go into a characteristic reaction, like overtalking, pouting, or some other way of demanding attention without taking responsibility for what you′re doing); the fear of rejection (so if another won′t give you what you want, you take it personally; you assume his actions are against you; it′s hard to imagine that they could be simply for him). Your favorite fear promotes an unconscious stance that braces you to survive the feared occurrence. Thus braced, you become hypersensitive to cues that the feared event may be about to happen. This control pattern makes it impossible for you to accurately perceive what is.
4. Gesturing automatically. Some people have a patterned way of holding their face, their head, or their body. They may have a pasted-on smile or a pasted-on frown, regardless of their inner feeling, state, or mood. Such gestures are control patterns if they represent your way of trying to remain safe or in control. A perpetual smile, for example, may be saying, ″please like me″ or ″please don′t hurt me.″ A robotic nodding gesture might be your way of giving the impression that you are listening, when in reality you are wrapped up in your own thoughts. Your favorite fear promotes an unconscious stance that braces you to survive the feared occurrence.
5. Speaking in a patterned way. If you have a characteristic way of speaking or using your voice, it may be an unconscious way to avoid some feared outcome or to assure some desired result. A rapid, staccato way of speaking, for example, can signal that you are trying to hurry up and say something before someone interrupts or stops paying attention. Some people who manifest this pattern were not listened to as children. Someone in their early world was impatient or had difficulty paying attention to them. The pacing of your speech and the way you use silences between the words may be your method of making sure that never happens to you again. You have probably known people who preface their comments with self-deprecating remarks like, ″I′m probably being naive, but″ or ″don′t mean to sound arrogant but . . . ″ These remarks can be a way of protecting yourself from others′ criticism by criticizing yourself first. And there are other ways this pattern manifests. Many years ago I had a colleague who was very demanding of attention and had a hard time sharing the stage. His control pattern was to speak very, very slowly. It was as if he was forcing you to pay attention to him while he took his time getting to his point. Listening to him always brought up the image that my feet were nailed to the floor so I couldn′t get away! Oft-repeated phrases can also be control patterns. I know a woman who, whenever she′s talking to her husband about something she wants his agreement on, will end her sentences with, ″don′t you think?″ This phrase signals that he′d better agree with her or he′s in trouble. Some people have a constant inner battle going on between the inner voice that wants to do what it wants and the voice that keeps telling them what they ″should″ be doing.
See List on pg. 63 in “Truth in Dating”
Asking a Question and Then Answering It
Beginning with a Disclaimer
Using manipulative Phrases
Laughing or Giggling
Explaining or Justifying
Saying, “We Need to” or “You Need to”
Embedded Requests (I’ll do this for you and you can do this for me)
6. Replaying the same self-talk over and over. Your state of mind is revealed by what you say as you talk to yourself. Some people have a constant inner battle going on between the inner voice that wants to do what it wants and the voice that keeps telling them what they ″should″ be doing. Some continually replay worries about the future. Others focus much of their mental energy on what other people (for example, their significant other) should be doing as a way of avoiding their own feelings. If you notice a repetitive theme to your self-talk, you are probably caught in a control pattern.
Control Patterns by Susan Campbell in Five-Minute Relationship Repair book
In the list below (pages 6-7), check off any behaviors you recognize in yourself. If you feel particularly courageous, ask your partner which of these behaviors he or she observes in you. An unconscious pattern may be invisible to you, but it can impact your partner and limit trust and intimacy. Most people find a dozen or more behaviors on this list that they recognize in themselves. Use this knowledge to identify how you may be unintentionally triggering reactivity or mistrust in your partner.
❒ Replying too quickly rather than taking in what was said ❒ Obsessing over what you did wrong or might have done wrong ❒ Obsessing about a decision you need to make ❒ Before taking action, reviewing over and over what could go wrong ❒ Taking action or jumping into a situation impulsively, without assessing consequences ❒ Giving gifts or favors in order to win approval or acceptance ❒ Anticipating a partner’s needs as a way to avoid some imagined negative consequence ❒ Trying to “help” or “improve” a situation or person instead of expressing your feelings ❒ Making sacrifices for others, secretly hoping they’ll do the same for you ❒ Asking indirectly for what you want, as in, “Wouldn’t you like to go out for dinner?” ❒ Putting on an act in order to look good or maintain a positive image ❒ Blaming your mood or emotional state on your partner ❒ Justifying, overexplaining, or defending yourself when someone gets upset with you ❒ Reframing things as “for the best” to avoid painful feelings (either your own or another’s) ❒ Retreating into a world of your imagination, fantasizing about “something better” ❒ Lying or withholding information to keep the peace ❒ Thinking “this is not a big deal” (to minimize or ignore an important issue) ❒ Staying silent or saying, “I’m fine,” or “Nothing’s wrong,” when you are displeased ❒ Walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting a partner ❒ When someone brings up a past upset, pushing to move forward and “let go” of the past ❒ Agreeing too quickly before checking in with yourself about your own needs ❒ Telling people what they want to hear, and suppressing your needs or opinions ❒ Making a joke or cute remark in order to laugh off and avoid your real feelings ❒ Assuming you hear criticism from others when someone does not meant to be critical ❒ Suspecting hidden agendas and double messages, or doubting what you hear ❒ Jumping to conclusions about what someone means ❒ Framing a problem or issue in the most pessimistic or negative way ❒ Giving more information or talking more than is asked for or needed ❒ Filling up silences with irrelevant chatter ❒ Overgeneralizing as a conversational habit, talking in platitudes ❒ Instead of staying focused on one issue, elaborating a whole list of issues ❒ Giving advice or making helpful suggestions instead of just listening ❒ Taking a long time to say things, being “thorough,” covering all contingencies ❒ Bringing up the past and going over the same topic repeatedly ❒ Repeating what you’ve already said (when this is not needed) ❒ Telling others what they should do (instead of feeling how their actions affect you) ❒ Obsessing about how things should be or how the other person should be ❒ Lecturing or preaching with a superior tone ❒ Habitually correcting the other person, arguing the point, debating the facts ❒ Labeling, name-calling, or judging the other person (instead of feeling your upset) ❒ Acting angry, forceful, or indignant to get the upper hand ❒ Taking an “it’s my way or the highway” stance ❒ Using self-deprecating preambles, such as, “I’m no expert, but . . .” ❒ Questioning like an interrogator, demanding explanations ❒ Asking a question and then answering it yourself before the other has a chance ❒ Getting sullen or sulking, muttering to yourself ❒ Snickering or laughing to oneself in a judgmental or superior way ❒ Rationalizing, intellectualizing, or using logic to avoid emotions ❒ Protecting yourself from intrusions or demands by avoiding the other person
In the following list of reactive behaviors, put a check next to any that you have employed during a time of distress in your relationship. Reactive behaviors are control patterns of a specific nature.
❒ Try to fix the problem with logic, solve it rationally ❒ Agree insincerely, placate ❒ Rationalize, intellectualize to avoid emotions ❒ Make a joke or cute remark, laugh it off ❒ Ignore, pretend it doesn’t matter or you didn’t hear ❒ Avoid, distance yourself ❒ Leave, walk out, move away ❒ Withdraw, hide out ❒ Act confused, freeze up, space out, shut down ❒ Correct other person, argue the point, debate ❒ Defend yourself ❒ Ridicule, get sarcastic ❒ Make insulting noises or faces, roll your eyes ❒ Talk over the other, interrupt ❒ Repeat yourself ❒ Get sullen or sulk ❒ Mutter to yourself ❒ Compare partner to someone “better” ❒ Label, judge, name-call ❒ Complain ❒ Criticize ❒ Lecture, teach, preach ❒ Pursue, push, pressure, prod, provoke ❒ Talk loudly in an anxious tone ❒ Interrogate, question, ask for explanations ❒ Try to prove you are right ❒ Attack or blame ❒ Yell, blow up ❒ Guilt trip
Childhood Defense Mechanisms
by Ingeborg Bosch
Five childhood defense mechanisms used to avoid bringing childhood unconscious pain into the conscious awareness to be felt are:
1) Fear (anxiety, tension, nervousness) of non-threatening people or situations - "I can still escape from the danger and maybe get what I need", avoiding confrontation, phobias, fear of being alone or in a relationship, speaking, driving, etc. even fear of fear
2) Primary Defense - something is wrong with me, I'm bad, I'm guilty, I'm overwhelmed, It is too much, overwhelmed, severely negative self-evaluations,
3) False Hope - sense of urgency in situations that don't require a sense of urgency in order to please people, satisfying other people's expectations or demands or needs, neglecting our own needs in the process, we are attempting to get something: appreciation, love, acceptance, recognition, etc. from others.If only I was better, If I only was ...I would get my needs met.
4) False Power - Blaming other people, gossiping, anger/irritation, everything is wrong with you, but nothing is wrong with me, judging other people, lot of conflicts with other people.
5) Denial of Needs - lack of emotions, or feeling reactions in general, addictions, numbness, there are no problems or issues when there are, feel less, not hot or cold, numb, not bothered, easy-going, avoids responsibility, avoids intimacy, procrastinates, forgets a lot, watches tv, overeats, overworks, over-indulges, etc. postponing, etc. aloofness, nothing gets to me, don't need anything, life passes you by without you having lived it.sational habit, talking in platitudes ❒ Instead of staying focused on one issue, elaborating a whole list of issues ❒ Giving advice or making helpful suggestions instead of just listening ❒ Taking a long time to say things, being “thorough,” covering all contingencies ❒ Bringing up the past and going over the same topic repeatedly ❒ Repeating what you’ve already said (when this is not needed) ❒ Telling others what they should do (instead of feeling how their actions affect you) ❒ Obsessing about how things should be or how the other person should be ❒ Lecturing or preaching with a superior tone ❒ Habitually correcting the other person, arguing the po