The Final Borderline Zone: The Excessive Need for Impulsive Gratification

When you combine RCP (relationship control phobia), self-image distortion, and stress hypersensitivity you create a swirling mixture of inconsistent actions. Low self-esteem, self-hatred, and hair-trigger anger (and panic) which can lead you to develop the final behaviour in the Borderline Zone: an excessive need for impulsive gratification, i.e, the gratification that is obtained through overindulgence in pleasure or pain. 

Are acts of impulsive gratification really the best way to soothe your agony? Perhaps, but your feelings and needs can drive you hard. You may feel cheated by your childhood, tormented by your life. You seek instant relief. You have learned that immediate actions can be effective soothers in the short term. Nevertheless, you will find out later that it is a double-edged sword that becomes both the cause and consequence of many of your daily struggles. 

Impulsiveness is doing something without taking the time to think through the consequences of your actions and how those consequences will affect you and your lifestyle. 

Impulsiveness occurs when you choose to do something that promises an immediate reward, relief, pleasure, or distraction over something that requires sustained effort in order to attain an equal or larger reward or pleasure. The thoughtless action also exemplifies your choice to escape a problem through the indulgence of pleasure or painful activities without taking the time to address the larger issue at hand. 

Gratification is the procurement of satisfaction or relief. It can take the form of pleasurable or painful (this includes fearful) activities.

Examples of impulsive gratification include getting drunk to avoid dealing with the loss of a job, then, as a result, you crash your car and are arrested for drunk driving. Making purchases with money you need to pay basic expenses such as rent or food and later, overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings, become hospitalized. 

In each of these examples, a distraction in the form of pleasure or pain was used to either avoid an unpleasant situation or set of feelings or to satisfy an urge for an immediate release. 

Important Questions to Consider: 

  1. What is the underlying cause for impulsive gratification? It is most commonly caused by poor decision-making skills and an attitude of neediness. 
  2. How/when are effective decision-making skills developed? Said skills are learned during the early years of development. If childhood needs are reasonably satisfied, those children do not become excessively needy adults. Children who learn how to delay gratification by making planned-out choices can become fairly successful students, athletes, parents, employees, professionals, or business owners. 
  3.  In what ways may children be hindered in their ability to delay gratification as adults? The more demanding the goal, the more success depends on being able to work long hours for very little immediate reward. Children whose basic psychological needs have not been met will, as adults, experience an overwhelming and poorly defined sense of emptiness. 
  4. What occurs years after when a child’s needs are unsatisfied? Dr. Carl Jung (1953) once wrote, “A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.” The childhood emptiness expresses constant satisfaction and encourages kids to make impulsive decisions in order to meet a perpetual need for unmet attention. These instant decisions make success in life an impossible fantasy. 

Studies have shown parents who create a psychodramatic developmental environment for their children generally are overstressed, deeply unhappy, poorly skilled, or suffer from addiction. Consequently, in addition to exposing their young ones to chronic stress, they become ineffective role models and teachers. The parents often lack the motivation or skill to be effective. They have difficulty teaching their children how to delay gratification and work toward time-delayed goals. The aversiveness of family life puts everyone on edge. Research has shown that exposure to stimuli that produce emotions such as fear and extreme anxiety disrupt a person’s ability to learn new skills (Perry et al. 1996). High levels of stress dull our mind’s ability to concentrate and to learn. 

It is little wonder that many individuals in the borderline zone have not mastered the art of thoughtful decision-making. They suffer a double effect: they lack the skills required to make a thoughtful decision, and they become driven by intense feelings that they struggle to soothe. Individuals become haunted by their intense feelings, and in turn, drive them to make impulsive decisions. At the end of the day, it is their inability to soothe their emotions in a safe sustainable manner that keeps them from taking charge of their life. As a result, what is the impact of this perpetual cycle?

IF alcohol and drugs become your primary form of escape your behaviour can quickly become enslaved by the reinforcement effects of these substances. As described in previous articles, when you set up your next high (or self-injury episode) that can become your only seeable purpose in life. The seductive core of the addictive activity is its ability to totally distract you from the mental agony and unhappiness of life.  Each day becomes a game of attaining the necessary means to fuel your addictive activities. This process applies to all potentially addictive habits. Sex can become extremely addictive, as can cutting or mutilation.  Reckless driving or gambling can also be used to pathologically escape from agonizing inner pain or external reality.  

Some of our clinical experience at BlueSky suggests that nearly 100 per cent of people in the Borderline Zone become addicted to one or more of these acts. The specific choice of addictive activity (drugs, alcohol, cutting, sex, etc.) is irrelevant. All that matters is addiction. 

If you currently struggle with addiction and want a chance to turn your life around, speak with a BlueSky Behavioral health professional today. Every day holds the opportunity for change, a change you do not have to undergo alone. 

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