To Be or Not To Be in Contact? Engaging with the Schizoid Compromise

Ray Little (CTA-P, UKCP reg. Psychotherapist & Supervisor)

Preconference: Friday, October 23rd, 11.30 - 14.30

For some people the primary relational conflict concerns closeness on the one hand and distance on the other. As McWilliams (1994) states, this conflict means these people experience a deep ambivalence about attachment that pervades their life. Thus the question; To be or not to be in contact? They desire and have a hunger for closeness and relationship, yet feel the constant threat of engulfment by others. These individuals withdraw and seek distance to enable them to feel safe, but in isolation they may complain of alienation and loneliness. Guntrip (1968) described this conflict as the ‘Schizoid Dilemma’. Robbins (1988) described the process as: “Come close for I am alone, but stay away for I fear intrusion” (p. 398).

This dilemma, and the subsequent compromise that may emerge in the individual, which is an attempt to manage the process, is seen most often in clients and patients who would be diagnosed as Schizoid Personalities. The world arouses considerable anxiety for these individuals regarding trying to feel safe. When they feel overwhelmed and frightened their defence is to hide, to withdraw, often to retreat into their imagination.

In this workshop we will examine descriptions of the schizoid’s experience and personality, their need and fear of contact, their tendency to withdraw to protect themselves and the compromises they make in life. We will also examine the therapeutic implications of working with this presentation.