Poisoned self-estimation – how can we get rid of stigmas?

How we define ourselves depends particularly on people around. We shape our self-image and self-confidence according to our relationships with them. However social experience is not always positive. Stigmas and labels given by others can influence our self-estimation radically. How prejudices can affect us and what can we do against?

Stigma comes from the Greek language means physical denunciation. In the middle age they used to burn it onto people’s body who lost honour and it was the indelible sign of shame. In psychology they are those characteristics which cause the feeling of shame and the person who has it is excluded (or believes being excluded) from the society.

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I stigmatize so I am

Every characteristics which are different from others can be a reason for stigmatizing. The reason of exclusion can be internal or external differences like physical defect, skin colour, sexual extravagancy but also a mental illness, homosexuality or addiction as well. So the person is “different”. Why is it so difficult to accept if somebody or something is different? But nobody can be perfectly ordinary, anybody can get into a company where doesn’t fit perfectly to its norms and becoming a target of prejudice. Actually everything starts with categorization. Prejudices are in the background of the basic process which leads to stigmatization. Behind prejudices there is a stereotypical mindset which attach typical characteristics and emotions to groups. Very important to highlight that even if somebody is using stereotypes that doesn’t mean that person is malicious. Our prejudices are kind of a secondary product of how we try to understand the world. We meet a lot of people day by day and we don’t have time to get to know every each of them profoundly. Those people who seem the same we reckon them among one group to find our way in the social world and we see all of those people alike in the group. However if we put all of the people into boxes made by our stereotypes, we don’t get to know them. We create “we” and “others” categories where we believe the “we” is preferable without being aware of it. Often when we raisethe value of “we” in parallel with it we underrate the “others”. The other disadvantage of using stereotypes is they are not reliable and accurate (subjective-generalization) even if they make easier to sense the system of the world. The characteristic of a group doesn’t hint the characteristic of a person. For instance, not all of the homeless people are alcoholic and not all of the overweight people are weak etc.

The harmful effects of stigmatization can affect the self-esteem on two ways. One way is when the person experiences and recognizes those negative assessments coming from others. On the other way those negative comments appear in the person’s mind as well what with subconsciously identifying himself/herself on some level and by this means stigmatization has an active role in the development of the identity.

As an outcome of all these effects the stigmatized role become visible in the behaviour, like a self-fulfilling prophecy and the person will act more and more as the others expect to do. If somebody gets a “label” often enough, step by step starts to define himself/herself according to it. Become one with it and adjusts the own self to the attached expectation of those labels. The social exclusion connected to stigmatization can cause even more damage. If somebody experienced continuous refusal/rejection or threat from the environment, he/she would avoid social interactions. At the same time the social exclusion can cause similar course of nervous system as the physical pain. Can cause the feeling of loneliness, lost control and anxiety.

What can we do?

If the stigma became one with the identity we underrate ourselves. Often in these cases the need to belong gets activated in the excluded person and depends on the environment mainly if she/he can re-fit again successfully. Important to focus on those things in which the excluded person is talented or good and highlighting positive characteristics. With this mindset the excluded person can turn the others’ focus onto the own personality, the positive side (which everybody has) removing from the stigma. Very important here when this excluded person gets into a group continuously monitors in what she/he is different from the others and doesn’t even think, there are things (surely) in which she/he can be similar to them. If the stigmatized person could have experienced that she/he has the control on his/her own life and working on knowing better himself/herself, she/he could be less defenceless to others’ opinions.

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5 elements of emotional intelligence

The duality of emotions and intellect is already has accepted as a fact nowadays and have got across on every area of our life. We understand more those emotional factors which come from our feelings and also we understand to listen to our intuitions is not a weakness but means having opened mindset and positive attitude. It seems like emotional intelligence is the same important factor as genetic characteristics and cognitive knowledge and experiences. If we were able to balance both we could have a great chance to have successful social relationships, successful carrier and deliberate completed life. Often we can see that somebody has great successes in business but the private or social life is weak and poor or the opposite. This can show the missing balance between intellect and emotional intelligence (like Steve Jobs). If the balance is missing we try to compensate but mainly on the wrong side, like working harder and pushing to have more and more success in business and this is exactly what most of the people do who are out of the balance between heart and mind. We should be aware of how our emotions are so important. Not so sure if we are always aware of what we feel and how our actual emotional condition influences our “working mode”, our mindset and our health and happiness.

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I’m sure we all have experienced that there are days when we feel today everything is going to be fine, there are no problems and everybody is nice at our working place. Maybe a small experience or feeling (which didn’t seem recognizable in that moment) triggered the process to feel this “easy going mode” (feeling satisfied, happy, believing in good, kindness etc.) This mode has given us a positive feeling and we are beaming. With this mode we influence others around and that’s why they are acting positively with us but also in this mode we don’t detect significantly negative signs. We have infected our environment with a positive “virus”. If we want to find out how somebody is good or bad or what this person is thinking in that moment, we can try to adjust our facial expression to that person’s and then wait for what kind of thoughts or feelings are coming up in our mind or in our heart. This exercise comes from Edgar Allan Poe writer from the XIX. century and it’s brilliant.

Why do we need to look into someone? Why do we need to understand and care about others? Why can’t we just live as we feel like it, alone and don’t carry about others?

Actually we can but we must consider its consequences which are we are alone, we are not going to be accepted by any community and become lonely and burned out. We are social animals! We can go on with a behaviour like not considering other’s feelings and thoughts and having friends but those people around will act on the same way as we do and the outcome is the same, being lonely but surrounded by people. This is a big epidemic phenomena nowadays. Surrounded by people but being lonely.

How do we know if somebody’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is high?

It has several component and including several outward forms. If we want to know how our EQ is or just want to know how its outward forms are I suggest you to map 5 areas which are;

– Relationships, communication: How are your relationships with other people? Do you communicate easily with them, honestly without playing? Do others usually understand you easily or you need to use long time explanations?

– Empathy – NOT SYMPATHY: Can you be empathic with others? Are you able to feel what they do like putting yourself into their shoes? Are you able to attune to others even when it’s not important to you?

– Self-identity, authenticity:  How is your self-confidence? Low or too high? Are you authentic? Showing and acting like the way you are and the way you think or/and feel? Does your self work according to your scale of values consequently?

– Adaptability: How can you adopt changes? How do you handle stress? Are you able to learn from your own mistakes?

– Creativity, positive attitude, openness: How creative are you? How positive your attitude is to take challenges? How is your problem solving management?

If we need to highlight one from these 5 areas, I would choose empathy. On the one side these knowledges, sensitivities and competencies are not able to be separated from each other strictly and on the other hand empathy is the base of the others.

Researches proved that just from body posture, body language and from mimicry we are able to sense each other’s mental condition. So if we want to attune to somebody, try to take over the other’s body expression, after the feeling is coming by itself.

Interesting thing is supposedly this kind of technique works immediately with negative feelings especially with anger. If it’s true we must consider that how our negative feelings and messages are harmful. Would be very good to see ourselves from outside and being able to perceive if another person is just attaching own negative mental condition to us. Just think how is your day when your boss is coming to work in a bad mood or your partner is angry? I’m not even talking about all of those negative news from the media. We must consider those attached negative feelings can have serious consequences.

The emotional intelligence is improvable, hundreds of books have been written about it, what it is, its necessity and how to improve it.

Try to pay attention to others emotional condition, what kind of feelings do you get from them? What do you radiate from yourself? Are you understanding other people and their emotions?

Do you believe in that if everybody improved on the area of empathy our world would be a better place?

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Do you want to change?

Sometimes we want to change and sometimes we must because of others. However we are not so successful all the time. In the beginning we are motivated and persistent but around at half of the way suddenly we break down and withdraw. Why do we often fail when we want to change even if we really want it?

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In the beginning we see all of the challenges are easy, we feel if we finally were able to persuade to start our development sweep would rise. There will be unexpected surprises but we are able to solve them with some extra effort. However we forgot one thing, change has its own course. We can easily fail if we are not prepared for it.

The process of changing has five phases: the “old order”, “resistance”, “chaos”, “integration” and finally the “new order”. These phases are observable in families, couples, teams and in the society as well. The Satir model calls our attention to understand that the process of changing unfortunately is not a flight of stairs and we should just walk up on it straightly. It’s more like a ledge where we must descend to be able to climb up to higher peaks. Who wants to change must be prepared for significant bad patch or patches.

The reality of changing

At first everything is fine, we are okay and this is the “old order” phase. All of a sudden a strange element appears which turns everything on end in our life. Step by step we adopt it but we resist mostly – we defy it. This is the “resistance” phase. Soon this new element triumphs over us and we fall apart. This is the “chaos” phase. This uncomfortable irregularity remains until the “transformative idea” arises. As an effect of this “transformative idea” slowly we start to pull ourselves together. This phase is the “integration”.  The change itself becoming ripe just if those early foreign attitudes become firmer known habits. This is when we start live the “new order” phase.

The best example for instance is training. If we are satisfied with our physique, we don’t want to change – “old order”. Suddenly because of something or someone puts a suspicion in our mind that we are out of shape we should train a bit. We go to run or go to the gym – “foreign element”. We like this change, we enjoy it and we try to exclude it into our daily life – “resistance”. However few problems appear after a while, like the training is very tiring than we believed before, we can spend less and less time with working out because being busy and we already feel very tired after work even before going to the gym. The weather is bad, we have an injury or just another program occurred – “chaos”. Because all this after a while often we give up and return to the “old order”.

Everything could have been different if we had known that this just a phase of chaos. If we can overcome our frustration and confusion, in a short term we can redeem ourselves. We just need a bit of flexibility and creativity – “transformative idea”. For instance, changing the branch of sport, we go to gym before going to work or insert few days of rest without giving up. The phase of integration will be easier after those difficulties. Day by day/week by week we get use to work out and deal with all of its uncomfortable concomitants. If we became prepared to the coming ledge, we would have a better chance to develop and reach the desired peak.

This is it?

The first and might be the best step is to think if we need an outside help to reach our goal. There are a lot of personal and social myths and negative (automatic) thoughts which try to dissuade us immediately from changing. We also experience intense emotional reaction as well defending us from difficulties or challenges which are coming from out of our comfort zone. To change with help is easier especially with a professional one.

We must understand that feel uncomfortable or tense feelings are normal in the process of change, we just have to accept them. If you don’t feel like to go to the gym all the time it’s okay but that doesn’t mean you are not going. You can go there like doesn’t feel like to do it. To try something new, leaving the comfort zone most of the times is not a good feeling but that shouldn’t prevent us doing it anyway. We must learn to deal with negative emotions as well because first they are part of our daily life and second if we don’t have the capacity to deal with them they can prevent us experiencing new and joyful things.

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Emotional blackmail IV. – Aftermaths

Emotional blackmail is not life-threatening but overbalances our mental unity. This unity means I am who I’m; I believe this and this; this what I’m willing to do; these are my boundaries. Victims often give up their mental unity, they don’t stand up for themselves; they allow fears drive their life; they don’t oppose whom hurt them; and they allow others to define them how to act, think and feel; they betray themselves and others; they can’t protect their physical and mental health and they lie. They give up their beliefs, continuously get disappointed in themselves and loosing self-respect. But how is it possible that victims can’t see it?

Victims often use rationalization when they need to choose between their own scale of values and surrender. Finding justifications why must surrender because the victim doesn’t want to lose the important person-who is the autocrat. (Not to be confused with codependency) The highest price of emotional blackmail is the narrowed world of the victim. They lose their friends, their interests just to make the autocrat happy.

Also victims suffer a lot from feelings what they are not able to express freely. They dig them deeply which come up like depression, anxiety, overeating or chronic headaches or other physical pains. They often question themselves if they are allowed to feel certain emotions, mainly anger.

They betray themselves but they might don’t realize the fact, they often betray others as well just to avoid disapproval of the autocrat. Often victims feel they must choose between the autocrat and another important person or even a child.

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Emotional blackmail destroys security in the relationship, which means the trust and the good will is going to disappear. If these two things are missing the relationship becomes superficial, there is not going to be emotional openness. The victim loose trust and start to hide things and emotions and stop talking openly. They start to hide things from the autocrat, avoid topics to talk about as a protection. For instance: avoid to talk about mistakes; expressing sadness, fear or doubts; hopes, dreams, goals or fantasies; unhappy moments or time periods; everything which can prove that the victim changes and develops. The safe talk topic’s scopes get ever tighter and talks become more and more vapid.

When intimacy and security disappear from the relationship, mainly victims start to pretend. They pretend to be happy and not having any problems, not to be worried about things and pretend still loving that person who emotionally blackmailing them. Victims usually use so much energy to keep up appearances.

We can see to live together with an emotional blackmailer is not easy and the price is very high. But as always, there are solutions and available help as well to change it, it just requires a bit of courage.

If you could have recognized yourself as a victim of emotional blackmail, you must know that there is a way out, it doesn’t matter how hopeless and helpless you feel. You are the only one who is able to change your life! If you want to know more about emotional blackmail, I recommend you a book to read.

Susan Forward – Donna Frazier

Emotional Blackmail: When the people in your life use fear, obligation and guilt to manipulate you

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Emotional manipulation-emotional blackmail I.

We often might experience manipulation or worst cases emotional blackmail. What is the difference? Why do some people use it?

Manipulation is to avoid open and clearly stated asks or wishes because it doesn’t seems that aggressive. The manipulative person doesn’t need to be afraid of refusal or anger because actually didn’t state or phrase what exactly wants.

Why don’t they say clearly what they want? Largely people who use manipulation have not learnt that they can state their needs or wishes clearly or they are not able to accept a fact (or deal with it) which is their needs or wishes might be refused.

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Manipulation becomes emotional blackmail if it’s used repeatedly to get the victim to do what the autocrat wants and the victim pays its price like giving up own needs and well-being.

Emotional blackmail has 6 typical signs which helps to identify it, it’s kind of a circle or procedure.

  1. Demand – the autocrat wants something from the victim
  2. Resistance – the victim is resisting
  3. Putting pressure – the autocrat is putting pressure on the victim
  4. Threats – the autocrat states the consequences of the victim’s resistance
  5. Surrender – the victim surrenders to the autocrat
  6. Repeating – together they established the base of demand-pressure-surrender circle

Often these steps are not so obvious and the victims don’t know that they are victims of emotional blackmail.

There are four types of blackmail, blackmailer, using different tools to get what they want.

1. The punisher

They can be easily recognized, identified. What they do and how they do it is very visible and obvious. Every even small resistance can make them upset immediately. Some of them express this anger aggressively with using clear threats they are the active punishers, the passive punishers don’t express their anger so openly but the victim knows that the autocrat is upset for a fact. In an emotionally tense interaction the punisher is becoming blind by the intensity of own needs. They are sure what they want is right and don’t care about the other’s feeling.

– Active punishers: they use serious statements and threats, they are very effective and openly expresses what is going to happen if the victim doesn’t do what is demanded. Their threats can be very serious so they keep the victims continuously in fear (what if the autocrat carries out the threat). Also the victims of active punishers are between the devil and the deep sea, if they try to stand up to protect their interest, they risk the punisher carries out the threat or if they surrender (maybe trying to win time) they experience anger toward themselves not being enough strong to resist but also towards the autocrat for the oppression.

– Passive punishers: they don’t express their anger verbally or using threats. They sulk and don’t say anything, showing their disapproval, often for a long time staying in silence. This silence is cold and harsh, very difficult to take it without emotional reaction. They hide behind impassable wall and refusing any responsibility how they make the victim feel.

2. The self-destructive: they threat their victims with holding out the prospect of committing suicide or self-destructive action. Their aim is intimidation and the victim feels there is no other choice than surrender. These type of autocrats mask themselves weak.

3. The martyr: they expect that their needs should be satisfied by others what they don’t express openly and clearly. They expect people around being a mind-reader and know what they need. If those needs are not satisfied the victim must suffer and it’s the victim’s fault-accusation. They are continuously busy with how bad they feel and identify the lack of mind-reading capacity with a lack of care. In the mirror they see themselves as martyrs-victims, hardly ever undertake to make situations clear or asking something. Their outward can be weak but in real they are silent dictators. They are always the victims of circumstances. The reason of their unhappiness is that the victim didn’t give them something very important which is missing to be happy. Usually they take aim at the saviour-solicitude instincts of the victim. They really seem like need so much care.

4. The torturer: the most sophisticated autocrats. They promise a lot of “awards” if they get what they want but actually their promises never become real because the victim never can be enough good for that. They take aim at the acceptance-family intimacy instincts of the victim.

Every types of emotional black mail undermine the victims’ self-esteem. In my next post I write more about this topic.

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Relationship conflict spiral

Very often couples experience that situation when in the heat of the argument they keep repeating the same phrases and they can’t talk about the real problem, just repeating their own offenses and the other’s faults. How can we break this spiral?

After a while the pink cloud is gone in a relationship and that time appears when not everything is nice and loveable in a our partner. We are able to see our partner’s shortcomings and also we don’t pay that much attention to the style how we express our problems. To communicate our needs or desires is not a problem by itself but how we do it is crucial.

Conflict spiral

There are 4 typical ways how we obviate negative stress in a conflict. I’m sharing with you and explaining why it could have developed in this way and how you can react to it effectively, to improve the relationship instead of damage it.

  1. The blamer

“I don’t want to believe you can’t manage your time better!” There are people who react to the own negative emotional frustration with blaming attitude, blaming others. This person believes the other is the responsible for it, shifts the responsibility on the partner, and becomes angry what he/she works off on the partner. It doesn’t make the partner feeling better obviously and switching on a painful button and rolling over the conflict.

Why do we blame others instead of looking for our own responsibility for our negative state? It happens mainly in those families where the members learnt that expressing pain or negative feelings is not allowed because it was punished, denied, ignored or minimized. The child learnt that: don’t show your vulnerability because they will not understand it anyway.

How can we react effectively to offenses from a blaming partner? Help the partner to express what caused the negative feelings, let him/her talk about the negative feeling itself and encouraging to find the own role in the situation instead of blaming others or highlighting others’ faults. Pointing the finger, never helps.

  1. The conciliator

“No problem, it can happen!” This attitude can result stuck conflicts if someone very often react to uncomfortable situations with attempting to calm the partner with not expressing own needs. This person is so much afraid of the possibility of hurting the partner (can happen) and to avoid that withdrawing instead of taking confrontation.

The background of this attitude usually is to express anger openly was not acceptable in the origin family. Children try to be adaptive so they learn to hide negative emotions even if this kind of coping style is not healthy at all.

If our partner is this type try to encourage him/her to express negative feelings and to phrase needs with more confidence.

  1. Mechanical

“This is not logical!” Also a typical conflict management strategy is to handle conflicts without emotions just with rational logical mindset. In this case one side tries to handle own frustration with lack of information and logical arguments which can be very annoying to the partner, especially if the partner is very emotional. I used to say, emotions are on ice, keeping the strong, often unhealthy emotional control.

The dominant feeling in the background of this strategy is fear. Fear of sharing feelings which can make the person vulnerable in front of another. Often even their voice becomes cold, rigid and the communication is very objective which can often cause a rejection feeling in the partner. The experience of listening and understanding of emotions was missing in their origin family. They missed deep emotional closeness and in setting up intimacy they struggle with lack of confidence.

If we use this strategy, the solution is to try to be (more) empathic, putting ourselves into the partner’s shoes and trying to see and understand his/her point of view and discuss if our perception is correct or not.

If your partner uses this strategy, try to express how your emotions are important as well to you not just the facts and try to express what you feel with using examples.

  1. Changing the conversation

“If you knew how the new neighbour is so annoying!” People who change the conversation when they experience emotional distress sometimes change the discussion with using irrelevant topics. They keep a big distance from their own emotions and they have difficulties to attune to others that’s why it’s difficult to establish emotional intimacy with them.

 Who uses this strategy physically experiences anxiety, can show nervous or panicking symptoms. The feelings behind are loneliness and incompetency what this person can’t deal with. In a situation with emotional pressure they try to change the topic and the conversation or using manipulation, including using several destructive tactics, like aggression or making the partner to feel guilty.

Worth to assure the partner (who uses this strategy) that she/he is safe with us, problems can be discussed and solved together. Instead of using manipulative techniques, we can ask to use opened expression of needs because this way of solution can improve the intimacy and the feeling of being an ally, exactly what our partner misses and running away from.

How can we stop the conflict spiral?

When we are able to recognize our own and our partner’s typical reactions and able to understand the emotional motivation in the background, we can find solutions to set up constructive discussions in a conflict. We can intensify the trust and the relationship, also we can improve our belief, that we are able to maintain a working relationship with healthy and constructive dynamics.

Very important to recognize and understand first our own conflict management techniques in the beginning of the relationship. Love is a connecting link, a helping force to make clear misunderstandings or destructively used conflict management techniques and it’s better to do it before the passionate love is gone and having “grey” everyday life.

Worth to choose the understanding way what with we know and accept our partner’s background motivations. Help our partner to understand his/her own reaction to anger, anxiety, pain and fear. Also important to make our partner to know and understand how it influences us, how we feel. With this technique the emotional closeness improves. The way out from conflict spiral is; real understanding, acceptance and intimacy.

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Emotionally immature parents

Children or already adult people who grown up with emotionally immature parents have two things in common, deep internal emptiness and emotional loneliness, which are the results of emotional abandonment-emotional deprivation. These children or adults have difficulties to establish emotional relation and emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy means I can be who I’m and I’m acceptable like this.

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Emotionally immature parents (EIP) are not able to give appropriate feedbacks to their child/children’s feelings, intuitions and because of the lack of accepting reaction, those children learn to doubt own inner voice, but learn to accept others opinion as their own. When these children can hear their own inner voice, the sense of guilt appears because they learnt their own needs is equal egoism. According to the coping style also they can become very dependent on others emotionally.

EIP basically are not able to satisfy their children’s emotional needs. Our emotional needs are basic; need of being wanted, being loved, being important for someone, being taken care.

Last week I wrote about emotionally immature people and now I’m giving you more characteristic of emotionally immature people how they act as parents, how their emotionally immature personality appears and influences their function as being a parent.

Lack of emotional reflection to the children. Reflection helps children to feel and see that, their parents listen to them and respect their own personality. EIP expect the opposite. They expect their children to reflect their own emotions but it’s a “mission impossible” for children. EIP hope when they become parents they will find peace inside but when they face with that children have their own needs and demands (being individual) these parents become very anxious. They use punishment, love deprival and humiliation to get back their control, re-establishing their self-esteem.

EIP’s self-esteem based and depends on the children’s obedience. They feel peace when everybody does what is expected and gets what they want. In real EIP’s self-esteem is very weak and they bear their children’s emotional world very badly. Often they blame children for their own failure. Every interaction is an exam to EIP, which is all about how much are they worth. They react very extremely for even slight resistance or reproach.

EIP consider family member functions and their places in the family as untouchable, intangible. They expect unconditional obedience and respect.

EIP expect things from their family members follow from their functions, (parent-God) they can do everything as parents because their parent function excuse them from taking into consideration others.

Forced functions. EIP force their children to behave, think and feel according to their given function. They achieve that using love deprival, humiliation and sense of guilt. The persistence in functions is rigid and inflexible and this is a rude querying of the child’s autonomy and right of own decisions. If they can’t reach this outcome they believe there is something wrong with the child.

Enmeshment is when two emotionally immature people look for their own identity and self-fulfilment in an intensive relationship based on mutual listening. They reach sense of security and foreseeing by the other person functions as known and expected. It causes a very strong emotional interdependence between them.

Favouritism. If an emotionally immature parent practice favouritism with one of the child most likely that parent is on that emotional level as the child. If the child has a strong independent personality that induces the parent to see this child as a small adult without need and not as a small vulnerable has to be taken care of child. In the case of dependence the child is unadaptable and has difficulties and when it comes to that the parent takes a victim or saviour function.

Substitute family members. When the child experience its own internal independent functions through someone else outside of the family.

Sense of time. EIP have a fragmented sense of time. The presence moment is immeasurable. Because of their momentary desires they are not able to set up a consistent future image. Consistency is not a value to them. For them time is not a continuous uninterrupted course but flashing isolated moments and that’s why they get very upset when someone is making an allusion to a previous happening in the past.

Limited sense of time – limited liability – limited calling to account. EIP can focus just onto the moment and that causes their lack of self-reflexion (objective self-assessment). They leave every each moment behind without connection between them and they don’t understand how others are not able to do the same, leaving behind problems, offenses without mentioning. The relation between action and consequence is a hardly perceptible concept to them because the fragmented sense of time.

It may be stated that emotionally immature parents are basically self-centred, narcissistic, emotionally not trustable and predictable, insensitive, incapable of real intimacy, having disfigured picture of reality and strong and inflexible emotional boundaries. They get too close to their children or keeping too much distance, they have difficulties handling frustration. They are emotionally manipulative or have threatening attitude.

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