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The Schizoid Disorder of the Self

I threatened in my December post that I would continue my descriptions of character types, so I will delineate one more. That way, for February, I can assign a task for my readers to figure out their type – one that best describes their dominant propensities. You don’t have to exhibit every variable of a specific character, but more than not you exemplify many or most of the traits. This is a fun exercise for couples and educates you on the dynamics at play within the couple as the two types interact, creating their unique family ‘system’.

The Schizoid is most notably an isolated, self-sufficient type. His relationship situation can vary on a spectrum from having relations with family and friends to one that lacks any social contact. The Schizoid is introverted and more comfortable with solitary activities. He spends his mental time with an active fantasy life as a substitute for contact. He appears detached and unemotional about most of his personal issues and can seem cold and disinterested. Beneath this appearance, the Schizoid is sensitive and has deep longing to belong but may not appear that way on the surface. He has suffered pain in his life and therefore is frightened to move too close and get hurt again. So he may appear aloof.

As the Schizoid, like the rest of the Disorder of the Self types (defined by the Masterson Group), has a split psyche, he has a distorted view of himself and others. He can feel bad about himself and then project the badness on to the other. He can find himself in a relationship where he becomes controlled and co-opted by his mate. His longing for relationship may put him in the dyadic dynamic of master/slave, as Masterson defined it, with the Schizoid in the slave position. Or the projection on the mate or the therapist can be that they are not safe and are, in fact, dangerous. That distortion results in the Schizoid, in turn, feeling extremely unsafe, alienated, rejected and undervalued.

The Schizoid’s history is fraught with feelings of alienation, fear and lack of safety. They experienced little gratification unless they were serving their parents’ needs in someway. They felt used by their parents’ need for help, assistance and support. Their parents did not relate to them as a separate people with needs of their own. If they weren’t being used, they were ignored or hurt by the parent. Some suffered from violence at the hand of the parent or neglect and emotional abuse. The Schizoid, unlike the Narcissist or Borderline, had no access to emotional connections and communications within the family. There was no support offered, but rather they might endure violent beatings and harshness from parents. The Narcissist was over-indulged and gratified with fusion and mirroring. The Borderline was kept close and valued in a regressed position although, at times, they would endure punishment through parental emotional distancing if they moved toward autonomy. The Schizoid was used and then cut off. The parents did not acknowledge or appreciate the Schizoid child and offered few supplies or affection. The child could not find a way to connect with their disinterested family.

The schizoid developmental attachment rupture occurs after the practicing sub-phase and before rapprochement in the separation-individuation stage when good and bad feeling states are congealed. The Schizoid learned to retreat and fears closeness as unsafe. This type can have distorted reality perceptions including paranoia, and lack the ability to tolerate frustration. They keep a distance to create a safe position that is maintained by self-sufficiency. They can appear standoffish and arrogant but that attitude serves to maintain safe distance rather than a superior defensive stance.

Therapy with the Schizoid can be challenging, as there is an absence of content and feeling in the room. They don’t generate material easily and there can be extended periods of silence. The therapist is tempted to over-talk to create stimulation. This client can be content to have simple interpersonal contact and, underneath, feels relief from extended isolation. Highlighting the therapeutic relationship can be helpful. And Schizoids can develop loving or erotic feelings for the therapist as they are subject to an active fantasy life that can include the therapist.

Let’s take a look at a fictitious case.

Hank is in his mid-50’s and has a successful career as an architect. He was devoted to his work and overworked on weekends at the office. When he was not at his office, he spent his time by himself. He was dedicated to projects at home as well. In all the years of his life and career, he had one long distance friend that he rarely saw. He did feel lonely at times, but stayed busy as a coping strategy. He tended to be withdrawn in session, introverted and had difficulty staying in contact with his therapist. He came in due to feelings of emptiness and depression that, at times, overwhelmed him. Yet, he was so self-sufficient that it was difficult to make inroads. The Schizoid needs the therapist to be patient as relational bonds are built slowly. Comments regarding their outermost defenses of self-sufficiency are helpful as well as noting their fear of being engulfed and co-opted. Those observations help direct the Schizoid to his deeper feelings of profound alienation and isolation, or his anger about feelings of engulfment in the other. The higher functioning Schizoid, like Hank, longs for intimacy but is frightened to get close to another. The more impaired types steer clear of longing for friendship and relationship.

The Schizoid swings between being controlled and co-opted if too close, or isolated like a satellite circling the earth in dark outer space; and this is his dilemma. His fantasy life creates an opportunity to live outside the isolation in fantasy relationships and experiences.

Many Schizoids can be highly functional in their careers and appear social and relational at work events. They are often highly intelligent and successful as they focus well. Others may drift to the margins of society, if lower functioning, as they are more comfortable in a state of withdrawal and retreat. They may feel safer existing on the perimeter of community

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Good article.
    But…
    What is this ” fear and lack of safety” fear of what?
    As a schizoid l feel no love, empathy, belonging et al so why should l feel fear?
    I call it a backbone.
    Society is like dog turd . Its always going to be there and you just have to learn to step around it…
    To add..
    There is no way on God’s great planet that l shall be having any fantasies and erotic daydreams about humping anybody let alone a therapist..
    You are safe.

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