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Author Topic: 13. The Search for the Real Self - James F. Masterson, MD  (Read 775 times)
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« on: August 31, 2006, 03:37:32 PM »

Search For The Real Self
Author: James F. Masterson, MD
Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 1990)
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN-10: 0029202922
ISBN-13: 978-0029202920

About the Book
While this book is a bit academic, it has helped many members rebounding from a broken romantic relationship with their journey of self-discovery. This book will help you understand your behaviors in relationships and the driving force behind your behaviors. This book you will better understand the defenses that help the "false self" prevail over the "real self" and how to develop the "real self" so that you can express yourself genuinely in your life. You will also know how to recognize these behaviors in others and know which people to watch out for and know when you are engaging in a destructive relationship.

We recommend this book for anyone interested in human nature or psychology. It describes where borderline and narcissistic personality disorders come from and the kinds of behaviors they lead to in adults. It is written more for therapists than those seeking self-help, but the writing is clear and will make sense to a layman.

A lot of the ideas are applicable to all people, not just those with personality disorders.  A good book to help in your self discovery.

About the Author
His undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame were interrupted by Army service in World War II. After the war, he earned a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He was long associated with the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York, serving as the head of its adolescent program in the 1960s and 1970s.

A trained psychoanalyst, Dr. Masterson was an authority on the narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. At his death, he was clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

He was also the founder and director of the Masterson Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Established in 1977, the institute offers psychoanalytic training at its headquarters in Manhattan and its West Coast branch in San Francisco.

Dr. Masterson was one of the first people to bring the psychoanalytic approach known as object relations theory to bear on the study of personality disorders of the self. In so doing, he helped widen the lens through which personality disorders are viewed beyond the classical Freudian one that analysts had favored for decades. Object relations theory was primarily meant to explain human behavior. But in work he began in the mid-20th century, Dr. Masterson came to believe that it also held the key to personality, in particular the origin and treatment of personality disorders. (The psychoanalysts Heinz Kohut and Otto F. Kernberg also played seminal roles in applying the object relations model to the realm of personality.)

Masterson helped psychiatry shift to offer more complex, more effective models in the treatment of personality disorders. The enormous contribution he made was in the understanding of personality disorders and the evolution of personality per se.

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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2010, 09:50:17 PM »

This information comes from James F. Masterson's Book "The Narcissistic and Borderline Disorders" and it attempts to state why there's no choice but to refrain from feeling responsible for someone who refuses self responsibility. The following doesn't apply to Narcissists- it's entirely about Borderline and the way Borderlines think, which is completely different from Narcissists.  

WE have become the trigger to their bad behaviour... .   I forgot who posted it, or where it was posted... . but wanted to query other people's thoughts / opinions on this...  how do you think it gets to be that way, where we, by our mere presence etc, starts triggering their bad behaviour?

Your entire relationship was a triggering *switch* event. (Unknown to you at the time until it ended and you began to think about specific instances) But all along, a disorder was running concurrently within the psyche of this person you loved.

The triggers that you look back on and try to make sense of are actually none of your fault- and may make more sense if you think of them like light switches to the Borderline personality construct. The switch goes on (reward) and off (withdrawal.) The triggering events are not of your making- they are acting out behaviors from the Borderline personality.

In Masterson’s case studies- he found that The Borderline individual has transference to others in “acting out.” And the acting out behaviors are due to Borderline splitting people (including themselves) into two part time halves-(not whole) with rewarding and withdrawing identities at either pole (that’s the either/or splitting) These either/or identities are at odds within each and every person the Borderline sees as well as in what they see in themselves.

A “whole” person is something foreign in the Borderline psyche.  They do not see themselves as whole- nor do they see other people as whole. Being “whole” requires the independent existence of a well defined SELF.  Being Whole allows for separation and individuation from others, which allows for empathy for others as separate and individual.  The Borderline Self was not allowed to become “whole,” the outcome of a failure to separate and individuate from Mother during that pre-oedipal time- the curious, crawling, walking, discovering infant.  Masterson felt that the genesis of Borderline disorder is the infant getting stuck between two outcomes of separation and individuation.  The result being transfixed on Mothers reward (the on switch) and withdrawal (the off switch.)

The Borderline sees a withdrawing maternal part-image who enjoys the Borderlines helplessness and dependency. (Borderline Women and Men consistently replace this part-self image in marriage with Men and Women who foster dependency and infantilize them.)

The outcome of this withdrawing maternal image part is the idea that this person exploits- and is deliberately cruel. Triggering the fear of engulfment, and activates abandonment depression. (The Borderline says: where will I go? How else will I live?) Often the result is a Borderline who rails against abandonment but who harbors sadistic/masochistic fantasies which lead to acting out in self harm to get back at the Master for spite…

The rewarding maternal part-image is a strong, wonderful, idealized (all good) Mother who would save the Borderline from certain death. The outcome of the rewarding part is the *feeling good that never stays* that is, the Borderline never forms the ability to self soothe without Mother- and a subsequent depression arises because that part of the self image that allows the self to feel protected is also being a helpless, clinging, needy child.

This is the failure to separate/individuate.

Dueling between these underground part time objectifications is the stay on the surface EGO.

This ego is the personality construct that struggles to make sense of the back and forth switch between maternal reward and maternal withdrawing in life’s circumstances.  This ego can only come up with behaviors to rule against the anxiety it fights against.

Anxiety 1) Individuation.
Ego defense: Avoidance of individuation by finding someone else to cling to.

Anxiety 2) Separation.
Ego Defense: Denial of separation by subsuming someone else as an objectification.

Anxiety 3) Clinging and helpless behavior and the rewarding object relations part-unit.
Ego defense: sex or other rewarding behaviors to ensure they are valued and not abandoned.

The poor reality perception of this ego pathology results in extensive fantasy.  Fantasy that if the rewarding part is done right- all will be well and life will be good. Replacements (objectified stand-ins for the original object- Mother) are “not utilized as real, whole objects, but displaced objects upon which unresolved infantile fantasies are projected.”

The transference relationship is not a conscious one to a Borderline.

For the most part, the early phases of the romantic relationship with a Borderline activate the “rewarding part-time unit”- that goes for both of you actually, as you each mirror the other.  Since Borderline transference is “acting out” behavior- it is already very active at the beginning of the relationship.   (Unknown to you of course.)  

What you, your SELF, has accomplished as a successful “separation and individuation” in your own life experience is now perceived as working behaviors of rewarding and withdrawing by the Borderline.  The Borderline is highly attuned to the separation and individuation success of others and the failure of their own.  What Masterson calls an “idiosyncratic sensitivity.”  

Combined with poor reality perceptions, Masterson felt that this hyper-sensitivity led to some surprising and seemingly bizarre responses to initial questions about their Borderline belief system. In other words, did Borderlines know that they were not really seeing whole persons- but rather parts to be used in the *formation of the switch* between parts? - And was there empathy involved in the understanding that this compulsion to switch between the two might be utterly confusing to their partner?

Masterson found that the Borderline response was to *not* take full responsibility (how can a person without a SELF be responsible for the Self?) thereby avoiding the depression that this self discovery entails.  The Borderline instead tried to induce in the therapist (as well as others) a response with either the rewarding part or the withdrawing part of the self object. The rewarding part would exist as a fantasy partner (either promiscuous or child-like) while the withdrawing part would provide a convenient target for rage. The ability of the therapist to not be drawn into resonating with either part self was the only course of treatment. Masterson felt that the awakening of memories set the stage for the working through of them- and on to the true self. But this was an arduous task because the Borderline acted out against self awareness.

The developing ego becomes mistrusting of others. “The capacity to tolerate anxiety, depression and frustration is minimal.”  (Masterson 1981) The ability to differentiate between past, and present, reality and fantasy, and mature and infantile aspects are all blurred.

The disorder splits the transference into “acting out” behaviors of withdrawing and rewarding either or’s but never whole and together in the same person. And that includes their perception of you too. They are unaware of their distorted perceptions and denial of reality- which concludes that they are unaware of their self- destructive cycles.

So to answer your question, (which really is a dilemma about the acting out behavior- and which part self you’ll encounter if you do pick up that phone and call her)

You may be greeted by the rewarding part self- that sexually flirtatious rewarding self with its reunion fantasy and its longing for true love… this is probably what you liked the best about her and what she liked too. It may have felt good, but under the sway of a pathology which is acting out in a regressive, self destructive manner. (That is, she’s still not being responsible for separation/individuation and you’ll be turned into the sadistic withdrawing unit in no time.) This was probably what you need to come to terms with about the relationship the most- and she’s not going to have any insight about this that helps... .

The Borderline perceives love as punitive and harsh and leading to abandonment. It’s the denial of the benefit of love.  They will continue to act out the withdrawing part of the self in engulfment response***OR*** activate the “rewarding unit” as a defense against the abandonment. Hence the puzzling back and forth, push and pull which makes no sense to anyone other than the disorder itself.

Most people have childhood memories. When we bring them into therapy, we project our feelings on to the therapist and “transfer” to him our triggering events. The therapist then curbs his own counter-transference and helps us to resolve our issues.  We re-live the trauma by bringing it to the surface to process. This “transference” relationship requires that each person is their own self “object.” There isn’t any part self in split collusion or toxic enmeshment to get in the way. That requires two independent people with independent thoughts. Something the Borderline has no experience with unless she's confronted with her reward and withdrawing behaviors, becomes separate (you let her go,) and she gets to feel the subsequent abandonment depression (just like you're feeling.) Eventually, as we all have to, we come to the realization that life means responsibility to one’s Self and that we are our own person- alone. And it's O.K.  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 05:43:42 AM »

Masterson explains why we ignore the red flags.  We thought we were getting into an r/s with someone who functions like we do and don't realize what is at play here until we are thoroughly enmeshed and our emotions are caught in the loop, so to speak.  
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 08:50:41 AM »

This is without doubt an absolute textbook description of my experience. His history was textbook and therefore his behaviours were textbook.

I hope everyone on this board reads Masterson.
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2010, 02:54:11 PM »

There is so much here.  CS
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2010, 05:47:35 PM »

Thank you for sharing. I've really appreciated your posts about BPD. They've helped in the healing journey... .
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 05:58:29 PM »

Masterson genuinely breaks down this BPD thing to where I stop taking this disorder so personally.  Nothing that I could do or not do would change the outcome if the person with BPD does not truly get the help needed.  Even then, it seems to be a long struggle.  

Faith does not grow in the house of certainty - The Shack
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2010, 06:38:04 PM »

Yes, and I have ordered and read several of these excellent book recommendations which really help unravel the whole mystery, especially Masterson's book.  CS
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2010, 06:57:23 PM »

 Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2016, 07:09:19 PM »

This is one of the hardest aspects of BPD for me to understand.  BPD is different from multiple personalities.  BPD is believed to have at its root the inability to normally develop a real self.  How that is defined is very nebulous, which is evidence that we don't fully understand what that means.  Most descriptions are based either on case study examples, or on analogy and metaphor.  Concrete definitions are rare from my layman's study.

I'll quote Dr. James Masterson's definition from his book The Search for the Real Self (1988, p. 23-24).

The real self, from the perspective of object relations theory, is made up of the sum of the intrapsychic images of the self and of significant others, as well as the feelings associated with those images, along with the capacities for action in the environment guided by those images.  The images of the real self are derived mostly from reality and to a lesser extent from fantasy - what one wishes as well as what one is - and its motives are directed toward mastery of reality tasks as a way of maintaining psychic equilibrium.  The false self, on the other hand, is derived mostly from infantile fantasies, and its motivations are not to deal with reality tasks but to implement defensive fantasies: for example, avoiding self-activation to promote the fantasy of being taken care of which then becomes a way of "feeling good."  The purpose of the false self is not adaptive but defensive; it protects against painful feelings.  In other words, the false self does not set out to master reality but to avoid painful feelings, a goal it achieves at the cost of mastering reality.

The real self can be viewed as mostly conscious, creaing images and representations of the individual and the world, identifying our unique individual wishes and expressing them in reality, as well as maintaining the continuity and relatedness of the various images.  The real self consists of all our self-images plus the ability to relate them to each other and recognize them as forming a single, unique individual.  These self-images are the images we have of ourselves at particular times and in specific situations.  They include our body images, whether they are conscious or unconscious, realistic or distorted.  The real self allows a person to recognize within himself that special "someone" who persists through space and time, who endures as a unique entity regardless of how the various parts of it shift and change.

So, how does the self differ in a pwBPD?  Masterson explains in the chapter Portrait of the Borderline (p. 75-77)

Normally, the real self and its capacities emerge allowing the child to mature into an autonomous adult capable of self-activation and self-expression, with a sense of entitlement and the self-confidence to live creatively in face of challenges and disappointments.  However, when the child experiences the abandonment depression during the first three years of life, the real self shuts down to avoid further aggrataving the feelings of abandonment.  This shut-down arrests psychological development and produces varying degrees of impairment in all the capacities of the self.  Unable to tolerate feeling the abandonment depression, the child engages in a number of measures to protect himself from feeling depressed, at the cost of growth and adaptation.  He avoids activities that would further the emergence of the real self, and consequently all of the self's potential capacities are impaired.  In addition, the need for defense causes a similar arrest of what is classically described as ego development so that it, too, continues to function on a primitive level.

Certain functions of the ego - reality perception, impulse control, frustration tolerance, and stable ego boundaries - can only develop through successful separation and individualization.  The child who cannot separate from his mother will not internalize these functions, which she had performed for him, and make them his own.  Consequently, he exhibits deficencies in all these areas.  When the ego suffers from poor reality perception, the child must continue to rely upon mother or someone else for an understanding of how the world works.  His own skewed perceptions will leave him bewildered in situations that the child with a clearer perception of reality will handle more easily.

In normal development, the mother introduces the child to increasingly difficult levels of frustration so the child will learn that she does not always get what she wants.  At some point, the child's ego realizes, accepts, and internalizes this, understanding the it is a normal, although disagreeable, fact of life.  The child with an arrested ego, however, will have a poor ability to tolerate frustration.  Similarly, in the course of normal development, the mother, setting limits for the child's behavior, instructs through appropriate reprimands so the child learns self-control.  But when ego development is arrested, control will not be internalized and develop into a reliable ego strength.

Fluid ego boundaries render it difficult to distinguish whether feelings and mental states are external or internal.  The impaired ego will be as likely to project an internal mood on the outside world as to confuse external circumstances with internal feeling states.

Because of the developmental arrests of the real self and ego functions, the child contines to rely heavily upon primitive mechanisms for defense: denial and clinging, avoidance and distancing, projection, and acting out.  In order to prevent the abandonment feelings, the child denies the reality of separation.  Although physically, he is a separate, autonomous self, he doesn't feel, think, or act that way.  He develops a fantasy that by clinging he can act out his wish for reunion with the mother, making it seem in fantasy as if he and she are still a fused pair as they were before and immediately after birth.  This fantasy is linked with and motivates the need to behave defensively and regressively rather than to encourage the real self to emerge.  He projects onto the mother his need for her, which in his mind becomes her unquenchable need for him.  :)enial and clinging become reflexive responses, fixed in the child's personality, later to become primary means of dealing with similar separation stresses in adulthood, especially those involving intimacy and separation where he will expect an exclusive relationship with the loved one and will use clinging in the hopes of achieving it.

To further assure himself that he will not trigger the abandonment depressions, the child learns to avoid opportunites to express himself, or assert his wishes, or active what is most unique in his personality, all of which could threaten his emotional equilibrium by precipitating feelings of abandonment.  Those early interpersonal interactions in which he experienced the devastating effects of the mother's inavailability become internalized, fixed intra-psychic images that act as a mold for his personality structure.  This infantile pattern comes to dominate his perceptions and reactions to situations later in life - regardless of what actually happens in those situations.  He learns that for him life is more tolerable when he holds himself back and avoids situations that would stimulate his own growth through self-activation and self-expression.  Reliquishing growth seems a small price to pay in order to feel safe.

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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2016, 05:53:33 PM »

I found that basically the book "Search For The Real Self" described very well how personality disorders originate in people, also how emotional health originates in people, for me it furthered, and made clearer, my education on BPD and NPD and helped in my detachment.

The book "when things fall apart" was primarily based on Buddhism and their way of living, basically being in the moment, and accepting whatever thoughts and feelings you have, then just let them go. Their teachings also say that we must accept that life is constantly changing, the ups and downs, imperfections of being human, are normal and the more we try and control things and the less we just accept things as they are, the more pain we cause for ourselves. The closer we can get to living in the moment, the closer we get to real peace.
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