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Unpacking the Creative-Daydreamer Personality Adaptation: What You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 3

Understanding the Schizoid Personality


By Kathryn Spence, Accredited BACP Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Accredited BABCP CBT Therapist, EMDR Therapist | InnerFocus Therapy | 2 April 2024

 

In The Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby is an older lady, who has been alone most of her life. She gets dressed up and pretty for no one, and though she knows that she can change her loneliness, she doesn't. So, in a sense, Paul McCartney is asking why do the lonely people do the things they do?” (Quote from Zy from Philadelphia on Song Facts). Perhaps this blog can help to answer this question.

Schizoid image

The Creative-Daydreamer personality is an amazing person who doesn’t realise how amazing they are. What do I mean by amazing? I mean creative, lovely, supportive, pleasant people, whose only chance, at an early stage in life to adapt to their relational environment, was to split that amazing part of themselves off before they even realised it existed.

 

Stem’s (1985) research confirmed from the moment we are born, we are equipped to be both separate from others, as well as connected to others. Infants must be welcomed into the world, supported in being themselves and in being connected to others, especially their main caregivers. This starts with mother* restoring connection following the separation of birth** – offering skin-on-skin contact, feeding, gazing eye contact from mother’s chest, smiles and soft voices. This helps baby know they belong in the world of people. A consistent, predictable mother, who is able to co-regulate with their infant (stay with their child whilst their child feels overwhelming feelings), will allow the infant, overtime, to grow to understand they are not emotionally alone in the world, even when physically separate.

 

This early foundation allows the infant to learn:


  • They can be alone in the presence of mother and therefore alone in intimate relationships later in life.

  • They can have privacy and composure without the loss of another.

  • They can be physically separate, or have their own needs, thoughts and feelings in the presence of others whilst still feeling connected.

  • They can be temporarily alone in the world because they are not alone in their inner world.

 

Yontef (2001) describes that a healthy sense of self is developed in relationships, feeling with and for others, as well as being felt for by them. Through bonding with others we share and identify with others’ emotional experiences.

 

If this foundation is not provided, healthy development is unable to take place and may lead to a Creative-Daydreamer Personality Adaptation (also known as Schizoid). Being isolated and denying attachments, a sense of self cannot develop, culminating in feeling “empty”, which in turn makes life seem meaningless.

 

What may lead this to occur?

 

Parenting which was marked by an excess of intrusive, overwhelming responses as well as not providing the warm, loving responses the child needs (abandoning the child’s emotional needs), leaves baby feeling empty and alone in the world. As a result, the child’s pain and unsafe feelings increase as well as anxiety at the separation and connection the mother gives. This leads to a deep intimacy-hunger that is never filled.


Schizoid continuum

Mother was unable to tolerate, contain and regulate the child’s emotions (need, anger, sadness, crying, distress, even love) as she finds these emotions threatening and overwhelming and thus treats them as toxic. This is because of mother’s own unresolved traumas, problems, depression, life situations, current threats on them or possible lack of support. Therefore, the problem is with the mother, and not the child!

 

An example may be that a toddler has a tantrum, and mother cannot tolerate these perfectly normal emotions and associated actions, as a result mother withdraws, effectively abandoning the child in their moment of need, maybe this was for a few minutes or even a few days. And the reality for the child is that they have “emotionally killed their mother”, causing self-blame, shame and terror, because “if mum is not there to care for me, then I’m all alone and cannot survive”. Learning the lesson “my life threatens my life”. The hope is that “I can only survive if I am invisible and keep everything inside” (Yontef, 2001). The Creative-Daydreamer child is trying to avoid burdening parents with their needs, so become seemingly self-sufficient. As a result, the infant becomes astute to shifts in other people's states - subtle shifts in changes of voice tone or facial / body language.

 

The impact though lies on the child for the rest of childhood and into adulthood. This in part is due to children’s Moral Defence.


Description of the Moral Defence

What are the characteristics of a Creative-Daydreamer?


Description of Schizoid Personality

Creative-Daydreamers typically present as loners with few close friends and when in those relationships, are not very close, don’t enjoy much, are absent-minded, only mentally half-listening, drifting through a life, which feels meaningless and boring, leading often to feeling depressed. There is extreme approach-avoidance, identifying more with the spaces between personal contacts than being connected, because real human contact is terrifying. There is a lack of basic trust in others, even when intentions are good because they could not trust their early caregivers.

 

Others feel disconnected or shut-out by them even in their company, and the Creative-Daydreamer feels shut-in, cut-off and out of touch, often coming across as aloof.

 

Interestingly, Creative Daydreamers can also be extroverts – this is behavioural in nature, the dilemma is still going on beneath the surface, but the person has learned to be extroverted in social contact. The extroversion may be a learned way to behave in social situations in order to maintain some form of connection to others, while remaining separate and avoiding intimacy.

 

They will deny the need for attachments, but have an underlying need for other people, as our human sense of self and healthy functioning cannot be developed and maintained without interpersonal engagement.

 

Healthy relationship connection

Healthy flexible functioning is being able to be intimate with others as well as have time alone to have healthy separation from ordinary contact. When we feel lonely, we need to connect, therefore we move to intimacy until our need has been sufficiently met. We then move away from connection to be with our self, rest, recover and find serenity (whilst still with the sense of being connected with others in the world) before the cycle starts again.


This becomes unhealthy when this flexibility is lost and either separation or connection becomes unchanging or needs are restricted. For example, a person isolates themselves to such an extreme they lose feeling a sense of connection in the world and do not feel a sense of being bonded to others. This is typical for Creative-Daydreamers, as they are terrified of making connections for fear of losing autonomy and without the hope of their needs being met and being loved and accepted. They do not believe they can be loved, even if a connection was sought – so connection is both painful and frightening. If a person believes they will be unable to separate (engulfed) this would be too dangerous to seek. Whilst at the same time, intense periods of loneliness where a person does not think they can seek connection again, the isolation is also painful and terrifying.

 

There is a resulting existential tug of rope in the minds and bodies of Creative-Daydreamers, which feels very much like a struggle between life and death, because total isolation or abandonment is like death for a young child (we absolutely need others to survive):

Schizoid compromise

All three positions are problematic and lead to the Schizoid Compromise

 

Loneliness feels safer than connection at times, but with loneliness there comes pain. Humans are social creatures and require recognition and contact with others. Without connection, prolonged loneliness can drain us emotionally, making life seem bleak and pointless. It can also lead to physical symptoms, including aches and pains, sleep problems, and a weakened immune response.

 

In isolation, Creative-Daydreamers fantasise about connection, and in actual or imagined connection, they fantasise about isolation.

 

People may continue to long for connection and the person may think about how to move towards others, however this will often lead to extremely high anxiety, even panic attacks. The terror of closeness becomes more and more intense and the dilemma keeps getting played out time and time again like “Groundhog Day” (Cooke, 2020).

 

When stuck in the middle, the person is neither truly alone or truly with another – so Creative-Daydreamers, often get stuck in this position, rarely forming close relationships with others, but not staying completely out of relationships either – this is called the Schizoid Compromise. The compromise is a way of keeping others around but preventing them from getting too close or becoming dangerous.

 

Some examples of these Relationship Compromises include:

 

  • A writer is too lonely to write at home alone, so goes to a coffee shop to write in the presence of others, whilst not really connecting with others.

  • Dating people who won’t commit or put any demands on us, or long-distance dating, so the relationship cannot be trapping. Possibly taking jobs where there is a commitment to travel so you don’t have to be home for long periods.

  • Pulling out of relationships before they become committed, or having several lovers at one time.

  • Engaging in on-off relationships with another person so you never get too close. Leaving when you feel too trapped and then when you start to feel lonely seeking to re-establish the relationship.

  • Keeping work relationships ritualised and at a distance, so they don’t get too close, or keeping contact at an intellectual level, but absent emotionally.

  • Engaging in internet relationships so in-person contact is unnecessary and contact can be limited.

  • Developing loving feelings or crushes on unavailable people and pursuing them.

  • Avoiding one-on-one time, staying on the periphery of social groups.

  • Substituting real relationships for fantasy relationships with people you don’t really know or on celebrities, becoming preoccupied with their lives rather than anyone who may be available to you.

  • Bonding with pets and animals rather than people, as this feels safer due to the basic lack of trust we feel towards other people.

  • Only maintaining relationships with immediate family, such as parents and siblings.

  • Maintaining an internal relationship with the self rather than interpersonal dialogues.

 

Basically, meaningful contact with another is a human need, but then leads to a crisis, so out of fear this crisis leads to abolishing the relationship. They cannot live with or without another.

 

And living in this constant in-between state, leads people to feel tired of life and even start to fantasise about death or suicide (they are not necessarily actively suicidal), but feel relieved by the idea of an escape from this rock and a hard place state.

 

Therefore Creative-Daydreamers Split Themselves

TA Ego State Model of Schizoid

See my blog on Transactional Analysis, to understand the Ego State Model further.


The first split is between the Social Self and Vulnerable Self (Fairbairn, 1946). The vulnerable part of the self is split off from the social self in order to maintain some form of a tolerable relationship in order to survive, whilst the Vulnerable Self is repressed or ‘goes into hiding’.

 

  • The Social Self then becomes “Me”. The Social Self is what others see – “an empty shell” who is a conforming, emotionless, aloof loner that has no need for others.

 

  • The natural fundamentally human part becomes the “Not Me” Vulnerable Self (Goulding, 1974) – which as I said at the start of this blog – means that the person has no idea how lovely and amazing they really are. It’s not just hidden from the world, it’s hidden from ourselves too. This vulnerable self also includes a shameful sense of self associated with being “unlovable”, “defective”, “needy” and “undesirable”, leading to painful feelings.

 

In the second split, the loathed Vulnerable Self then splits further in order to create the Internal Saboteur, which turns against the Vulnerable Self by creating feelings of shame, especially for being “needy”, “weak” or even for having passion or bonding. This ensures it stays hidden and repressed and wards off any potential attack from the external world or attachment figure (mother).

 

For example, if the person truly believes they are bad or unlovable, the Internal Saboteur does not want anyone else to see this, for fear of more isolation / abandonment. Therefore sets off an attack on the self, creating a negative internal dialogue between the Internal Saboteur and Vulnerable Self, so the VS moves even more intensely away from contact with the outside world, as well as even further repressed in the internal world.

 

The third split is where the Vulnerable Self moves even further away from the Internal Saboteur into the Exiled Self. This is established through ultimate fantasies of safety in an enclosure of a womb-like state (Guntrip, 1968) – where there are no demands or attacks and no need to adapt (Seinfeld, 1996). But this leads to an ever-widening chasm between the external and internal world.

 

But what is the Creative Daydreamer missing about themselves?

 

Because the real “Me” has been hidden away and the “Not Me” façade is the only part of ourselves we are aware of, Creative Daydreamers are missing their loveliness – the parts of themselves they never got to show and learn were amazing.

 

Just because our caregivers could not see our beauty and were too preoccupied with their own stuff, doesn’t mean there is not beauty within us.

 

What might have been repressed that you need to get to know? Could you see the beauty in being quiet, supportive, kind, low maintenance? Maybe you’re artistic, imaginative or a creative thinker? You’re able to be more objective in your thinking and more logical. You’re able to be self-sufficient and enjoy hobbies alone (of course this is harmful at the extreme, but it is also a very positive quality). You may also be able to power through certain situations others would avoid as emotions may be more detached.

 

What do we need to do in therapy?


Self acceptance

Therapy involves building a strong therapeutic relationship, where you can learn to acknowledge this split and hidden part of yourself and learn to accept who you are as a whole, so that the “Not Me” becomes “Me”. At last understanding that there never was anything wrong with having needs or have emotions – that this is just a part of being human, that the problem was never with you as a child. Following this, progress in life is made when you are able to experience loneliness and the desire for connection more flexibly. A felt sense of knowing that you won't lose yourself or your own autonomy if you chose to enter into relationships.

 

What can we do when we’re building safety in relationships to avoid feeling overwhelmingly lonely and despairing?

 

Fill your House with Sound

Sound helps fill the empty quiet space, perhaps use music, audiobooks, podcasts, talk radio, TV for background noise, white or pink noise, sounds of the ocean, open a window to hear the world go by.

 

Go Outdoors

Go to a café, the library, go for a scenic walk, walk around your neighbourhood, visit local businesses. You can be around others, without too much connection, but perhaps over time you may start to initiate or a conversation or say hello.

 

Be Creative

Creative activities such as poetry, nail art, painting, drawing, music and writing helps express emotions, without talking aloud, it also brings feelings of satisfaction and joy.

 

Consider a Pet (if you don’t already have one)

Pets provide companionship without the risk of connection to other people. The presence of another living creature can be comforting and alleviate feelings of being alone. You can also look into volunteer opportunities at local shelters, if you don’t want to have a pet at home.

 

Hobbies

Hobbies can fill the time and can also bring us into relative contact to others if you are doing a class for example, perhaps yoga as this will also connect you more to your body and emotional state without it being too overwhelming. You can also connect to others from a distance through online social gaming or attending the gym, going outdoors birdwatching or maintaining an allotment.


Notes:

* Throughout this blog I reference ‘mother’ but I do mean any primary caregiver.


** I am aware that due to unavoidable circumstances, it isn’t always possible to be physically close with baby straight after birth and repair the birth separation (e.g. premature babies or babies rushed straight to intensive care), however this alone would not lead to this personality adaptation, it would be a pattern of parental behaviour which would lead to this development.


Some More Sources of Information (and references for this blog)

Cooke, B. 2020. Working with the schizoid process.

 

Erskine, R. (2001). The Schizoid Process. Transactional Analysis Journal. 31. 4-6.

 

Fairbairn, W. R. D. (1946). Object-relationships and dynamic structure. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27, 30–37.

 

Goulding, R. (1974). Thinking and feeling in transactional Analysis: Three impasses. Voices, 10, 11-13.

 

Greenberg, E. (2016). Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptation: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety (Chapters 3 and 13). NY: Greenbrooke Press.

 

Guntrip, H. (1968). Schizoid phenomena, object-relations and the self. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.


Joines, V & Stewart, I, (2002) Personality Adaptations, Lifespace Publishing, England.

 

Seinfeld, J.H.: Atmospheric  Chemistry and Physics of Air Pollution, Wiley, New York, Ch13 , pp 564-569, 1986.

 

Stem, D. N. (1985). The Interpersonal world of the infant: A view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. New York: Basic Books.

 

Yontef, G. (2001). Psychotherapy of Schizoid Process. Transactional Analysis Journal. 31(1).

 

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-not-feel-lonely

 

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-beatles/eleanor-rigby


Some images thanks to Canva www.canva.com

 

I am an accredited therapist and offer in-person therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) as well as online therapy within the UK.

Please contact me to enquire about therapy.

You can follow me on Social Media for more information:

Visit my website: www.innerfocustherapy.co.uk

 

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