I just made a connection tonight between a particularly dysfunctional behavior I have and a factor in my upbringing. I want to know if anyone else has had a similar experience and knows how to move past it. My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder. She won't admit to it, but the family psychologist is convinced of it, and everyone who's heard a description of the disorder immediately says "yep, that's her alright." For those who don't know, BPD is a disorder wherein you have a fantasy world inside your head, much like other forms of psychosis, but you can subconsciously switch between paying attention to the fantasy world or paying attention to reality, sometimes multiple times a minute. It usually manifests itself in the form of someone who seems functional but not quite tuned-in, who then goes absolutely apeshit without warning when some small detail (significant only to them) forces them to acknowledge that reality is not going according to plan. Of course, since they're unaware of the switch between fantasy and reality, it seems to them like random shit is happening for no good reason and the world refuses to follow its own rules, just to piss them off. So they get back at the world through increasingly harsh treatment of it, for increasingly insignificant reasons (as far as others are concerned). Okay, now combine that with codependence and conditional love, and frappé for a few seconds. Are we getting a nice foamy mixture of fuckedupness? Good. So, the way this relates to me is, I was codependently-involved with (and therefore responsible for the emotional state of) someone who would extend or withdraw love and support for reasons that made sense only if I knew what was going on in her fantasy world. I didn't, of course, but I had to try to compensate anyway. I'm a smart guy, if I can kiss my own ass for a moment, and I'm really good at recognizing patterns in things. (whether this is innate or practiced, I don't know.) Well, it's virtually impossible to detect patterns when a good chunk of the data is obeying different rules and is hidden from view (i.e. my mother's fantasy world), but what I could reliably predict was the best and worst possible outcomes, provided that weapons weren't involved. (They never were, for the record. I did get awakened by getting hit with a wooden spoon a few times, though.) I got really good at predicting best and worst outcomes; it was more or less a survival instinct, so I could prepare appropriate responses for each. This all relates to how I interact with women as an adult. If I'm not attracted to a woman, it has absolutely no effect -- they're just another person, and I deal with them appropriately. But when I am attracted to a woman, the part of my brain that notices the potential to receive love and affection kicks into gear, and absolutely every tiny fucking little detail of my interactions with the woman I have my eye on gets fed into this learned behavior of "I can't tell what she's thinking, but I can at least predict the best and worst outcomes." And then I feel compelled to try to manipulate the outcome in my favor! Which I can't do, of course, except with someone who's codependent, but thank god most people aren't; even though it robs me of the control I seem to think I have, I don't have to deal with it either. Now, everyone does that to an extent. But when I do it, because I could reasonably expect for things to actually work out in the best or worst possible way when I was a kid, I actually take these predictions seriously. I can talk to a girl for five minutes about any random thing and come away wondering what colors she might pick for her wedding vs. whether I'd be able to find a decent job if she got me convicted of rape. (Those are made-up examples, but they are accurate regarding the severity of the outcomes I think about.) That kind of shit causes a lot of stress. That stress is sometimes visible, too; I can feel my face go pale for what I'm sure appears to be no good reason, I tense up, and sometimes I even twitch a little bit -- as a result of suppressing violent shivering like what I might do if I were naked and wet in the middle of a snowstorm. If I do get involved with whoever I'm interested in, the effects only get worse: nausea, shaking that I can't suppress, erectile dysfunction, and everything in between. It's great fun. And yet, all of that aside, all I have to do is find out that she's not just looking for cheap sex, that she really does want to get to know me better, and it's like someone took a big syringe of valium and shot it into my chest. The feeling of relief is immediate and overwhelming, to the point that all of my muscles relax and I involuntarily start grinning like a damned fool. And then I'm fine, from there forward. So it's not hopeless, it's just the period before I really know someone's intentions that causes me problems. So, how do I get past that? And don't say "date a bunch of women you don't care about", because I have no interest in most women. It's a very specific combination of traits that I like, and I simply don't care about the rest. I need to find a way to deal with the fight-or-flight problem I have by itself.