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JUNE 24 - 26, 2021 / WORLDWIDE




SEGMENT 4: 1.30 - 2.30


KEYNOTE: Attacking and Self-Attacking – Challenges for Schema Mode Conceptualization 

with David Edwards

In normal development the primary emotions of anger and rage become modulated through healthy learning of self-regulation, and through suppression by coping modes in response to invalidation and punitiveness. This presentation outlines some of the complexities of the underlying deep structure of modes that may need to be uncovered and conceptualized if modes which are self-attacking and attacking others are to be fully resolved.  In attacking others, the underlying anger is externalized into coping modes and directed at others.  Here, the anger is a secondary emotion; the primary emotion is an Angry Child, who can be thought of as backstage.  

To help clients resolve these modes, we need to uncover and work with the Angry Child, who is angry with a parent who mistreated them long ago. When we find self-attacking, the first line of work is to identify the Punitive Parent, an introject of how a parent (or other authority) treated the Child.  

To resolve this, the task is to send him/her away and invite the Child into a reparenting relationship with the therapist. However, another source of self-attacking is where the backstage Angry Child is turned back against the self, in what Simpson calls a Flagellating Overcontroller mode.

In such cases, to fully resolve self-attacking, we must find the backstage Angry Child, uncover the coping decision to turn one’s anger on oneself instead of on those it belongs to, and reverse the coping decision.  

The source of self-attacking can also be combination of Punitive Parent introjects and Angry Child turned back on the self. We can call this the Inner Critic, but this obscures the fact that in due course the two components may need to be separated out as they require different treatment.  

A further complication is that self-attacking can become part of a system with an Obsessive-Compulsive or Perfectionist Overcontroller where it has the function of self-motivation and enforcing standards. In such cases, clients also need help in moderating the coping mode and finding more authentic and intrinsic motivation for their goals. This allows them to give up using self-attacking for self-motivation and enforcement.

About the Presenter

David Edwards

David Edwards lives in Cape Town, South Africa, where he runs a training program in schema therapy through the Schema Therapy Institute of South Africa. He is registered as a Clinical Psychologist in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

David served as President of ISST from 2016 to 2020.  He trained in cognitive-behavioural, humanistic and transpersonal approaches to psychotherapy, and has a longstanding interest in psychotherapy integration.

In the 1980s, David was fortunate to attend seminars with Jeffrey Young, the founder of schema therapy, and has followed the development of schema therapy since its beginnings.

For over 25 years, he taught cognitive-behavioural therapy to trainee clinical and counselling psychologists at Rhodes University, and offered intensive workshops to students using expressive therapies including psychodrama, clay sculpture, drawing and dance.

David retired from a full-time academic position at Rhodes University at the end of 2009, but remains on contract as a researcher and supervisor.  In addition to offering basic and advanced training workshops in schema therapy, he has an active private practice offering psychotherapy and clinical supervision.

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