01 July 2023

Idealization and Devaluation Cycle

Idealization and Devaluation Awareness, Research and Resources

Idealization and Devaluation Cycle

“Psychologist Carl Rogers used the word ‘congruence’ when describing this relationship between the idealized self and the real self. Congruence is when the two selves fit harmoniously, when a person’s idealized self is congruent with their actual behavior. However, the idealized self is an often unreachable version of ourselves that we and society create while the real self is the messy, imperfect inner truth. We want to be the idealized version because we believe that society will then regard us positively, so we struggle to maintain a version that does not really fit.”― Grayson Perry

Idealization and Devaluation Research

Idealization and Devaluation Cycle
"The idealization and devaluation cycle is a psychological pattern often observed in certain relationships or personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD). It involves extreme shifts in perception and emotions towards another person, where the individual alternates between idealizing and valuing the person highly, and devaluing and criticizing them.

Here's a general outline of the idealization and devaluation cycle:

1. Idealization: Initially, the person experiencing this cycle may idealize the other person, perceiving them as perfect, flawless, and all-fulfilling. They may attribute extraordinary qualities and put the person on a pedestal, seeing them as an ideal partner, friend, or authority figure.

2. Fear of Abandonment: Underlying the idealization is often a fear of abandonment or rejection. The person may have intense anxiety about losing the relationship or being abandoned, which can fuel their idealization as a way to maintain closeness and security.

3. Trigger or Perceived Flaw: Over time, something may trigger a shift in perception. It could be a perceived flaw or mistake by the other person, a disagreement, or any situation that challenges the idealized image. This trigger may lead to feelings of disappointment, betrayal, or anger.

4. Devaluation: Once triggered, the person begins to devalue the other person. They may focus on negative aspects, real or perceived, and become highly critical. They might question the other person's motives, abilities, or character, often disregarding any positive attributes they had previously attributed to them.

5. Splitting: Splitting refers to the black-and-white thinking that often accompanies the devaluation phase. The person tends to see the other person as either all-good or all-bad, with little room for nuance or balanced perspectives. This extreme polarization can lead to intense emotional reactions and a rapid change in their feelings and behaviors towards the person.

6. Self-Identity Confusion: The idealization and devaluation cycle can also impact the individual's self-identity. They may struggle with a fragmented sense of self, feeling dependent on others for validation and struggling to maintain a stable self-image.

7. Reconciliation or Re-idealization: After the devaluation phase, the cycle may repeat as the person seeks reconciliation or re-idealization. This can involve minimizing or dismissing the negative aspects they previously focused on and returning to the idealized perception of the person. The cycle then starts anew.

It's important to note that not everyone experiences this cycle, and its intensity and frequency can vary. However, for individuals with conditions like borderline personality disorder, the idealization and devaluation cycle can significantly impact their relationships and emotional well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with these patterns, it's essential to seek professional help from a mental health provider who can provide appropriate support and treatment." (Source: Chat GPT 2023)

A Social Inference Model of Idealization and Devaluation ResearchGate

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