I was recently at a social function and eagerly went up to this woman I work with, touched her shoulder and said, “Hi, how are you?” She stared at me, looked very uncomfortable and frantically searched around for either someone more interesting to talk to or someone to rescue her from me.
This is a woman I have found curt, abrupt, dismissive, snappy and abrasive in the past. I have never had an interaction with her where I have left feeling as though a warm breeze has blown through me, but rather a cold, icy wind that has left my whole being feeling fractured and discombobulated.
I knew this and yet I still went up to talk to her because, as a chronic masochistic people-pleaser, I unfailingly seek approval and acceptance from totally wrong and inappropriate graceless women. I cannot bear the pain of rejection and abandonment from anyone even though I did not like her and essentially had split her into the “bad” part of the good and bad. I always had an intense negative emotional reaction to her, felt deflated, empty and questioned who I thought was, and after an interaction with her I wanted to throw myself off a cliff.
A fabulous book to read is Nancy McWilliams’ Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process (a bit of light-reading for insomniacs). She describes various personality structures and one of them is a paranoid-masochist. Someone who thinks everyone is out to get him/her and then does their damnedest to make sure that is exactly what happens; the person who buys a gun for protection, but ends up shooting themselves in the foot.
She embarrassingly, but very charmingly, recalls being in the grips of a rescue fantasy towards a young paranoid-masochistic client who needed transport to get to therapy and she was so eager to be seen as the good mother towards him, she lent him her car and quite predictably he ended up driving it into a tree. My therapist recently drew my attention to this example.