Self in Exile Disorder


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The Self In Exile Disorder
Extensive list of characteristics.

This list is a summary of characteristics. You may identify with some but not others, they may be present when triggered rather than consistently.   Whilst the external behaviour may vary widely or even appear to  be opposite, we believe that these characteristics are interconnected at a deeper level.
  When used rightly some of these qualities can also be our greatest assets.



  • We spend a lot of time alone, we can become very comfortable alone.
  • Yet loneliness and longing is an ongoing feature of our lives, we often experience feeling alone in a crowd.  We fear rejection and betrayal.  
  • We have a vivid fantasy life.   Our fantasy relationships can have more vitality than our real relationships.  Fantasy comes to take over from reality instead of enhancing it.
  • We long to be seen, recognised and deeply understood for who we are.  This recognition has been missing for us historically.      
  • Lifelong we experience the question:  “Does anybody see what I see? Is anybody there?  Does anybody care?"
  • Some have a strong morality, an intuitive sensitivity to others.
  • We are sensitive to and aware of hidden agendas. We see cruelty that others seem blind or indifferent to.  We feel alone and morally appalled, whilst at another extreme, some have become cut off from feeling.      
  •  In confrontation, in love, or when we need something, we hit an inner weakness which disables our ability to defend ourselves and our truth, we can lose touch with our real selves.
  • Trust: Some of us have difficulty trusting others, OR we trust others too easily, and have difficulty trusting ourselves. We miss the moment when we need to grasp and act on our own truth.
  • Doing an ‘exit’, becomes the strategy with which we ‘solve’ relationship problems. We leave externally or internally (escape to an inner world) .   The process of leaving can give us a temporary feeling of identity, of having taken a stand.
  • Leaving internally:  a mental refuge running concurrently, an emotional and mental part of us is 'sequestered’ away.
  • Having done the exit, from the original situation, we can find ourselves re-engaging in conflict situations, in a new arena. 'The fight for integrity'.
  •  Some of us are attracted addictively towards relationships which set up a power dynamic externally.   We ‘act out’, is another way of saying we try to put outside ourselves what is locked inside us, and then try to fight, fix, or resolve it, so we find ourselves engaged in abusive relationships. Yet these are also the relationships that touch us at deep emotional level.
  • Unentitledness:  We feel the need to give something, or be something extra before we can feel entitled to what, it seems, others comfortably expect to have.
  • The ‘nuerological loop’:  We become mentally taken over by thoughts/ imaginary conversations.  We are vulnerable to experiencing intrusive thoughts.
  • We have the feeling that everything of value is being, or is going to be  taken away, plundered, appropriated, corrupted, invaded, distorted, used up or lost.   Unaddressed, the disorder, may shape our lives so that these fears will eventually become reality.    
  •   We can at times be averse to self-care, our own needs become irrelevant, we can make a virtue of overworking, as if we have no brakes. 
  • Instead of living life from our own separate centre of initiative, we find ourselves doing it with the other in mind, ‘for her/ him’, like a motivational siphon, or rerouting of our value via the other.
  • Some situations we experience at a once remove, ie, as if we are ‘there but not there’, witnessing it.
  • We have issues around dehumanisation of self or other.   This may be acted out in real life, fantasy, in addictive behaviour, with substances or in relationship.
  • We have experienced invasion, intrusion, appropriation, betrayal: having  taken away from us what is ours with no recognition of our rightful ownership, authorship, privacy, our contribution, or separate identity.
  • Some experienced physical abuse and incest, others did not.
  •  The ‘slave – master’ dynamic.  Many of us have had experiences in our history where we found ourselves in a ‘slave’ role.  In various forms we repeated this role in later life.   'Slave-Master' relationship describes a range of exploitive/ imprisoning/ devouring/ manipulating relationships, in reality or in our perception. Arising from this, we find ourselves reacting in fight or flight. Missing for us is the concept that we have the option to stand our ground in a positive way.
  • We found ourselves in the disowned or unwanted roles in the family, and in later life we filled in the missing roles.    Some were used as scapegoat, we absorbed shame for others who were shameless, we took responsibility where others disowned it, we saw what no-one else saw, and cared where others did not.  We were called on to play random roles, inbetween which we were treated as disposable.  
  •   Lacking a secure sense of our real selves, we are vulnerable to, and sometimes tempted by, being allocated a definition by others.  In approaching closeness, in our desire to connect, we lost contact with our real selves, and found we were taking a shape which instead reflected the other’s needs and aspirations.  Some of us became skilled at providing well tuned,  sensitive emotional support, whilst keeping our real selves out of the way.
  •  For some, our life force took refuge in our imagination, some into technical competence, these abilities thrived.
  • Fearing annihilation of all that is good and natural, we feel protective of things which represent survival of what is pure.  We love nature and animals.  
  • A longing, or hunger. Need makes us vulnerable, in a position where we feel potentially subject to the other's power over us, or exposed to their indifference.
  • We preserve part of us, the part that is good and authentic,  we want to protect it from being misused, misrepresented, commercialised, distorted, appropriated, polluted, tainted, exploited, consumed -  in the hope that one day we will find the time, person or circumstances where we can bring it safely forth.   We protect our souls.
  • At times we feel overwhelmed and voiceless, some experience a physiological reaction.    Our body expresses what we cannot.   This can take the form of physical illness, addictive/ compulsive impulses, self harm impulses. In self-attack, we are driven to attack that which has been lodged inside us historically, and our feelings of powerlessness over it. 
  • Annihilation of self or other. The issue of annihilation can come up in reality or fantasy, by self attack, destructive addiction, or self neglect, or attraction to another who will annihilate.   It is a lurking threat.  For some, it becomes a reality, lives are lost.     
  • As with addiction, the disorder is progressive, there is a final stage described as the ‘final refuge’, where hope and desire for human connectedness has been left behind. 
  • As with addiction, there is a solution.   

The characteristics are expanded upon in more depth in ‘Characteristics 3', where we describe our experiences in our own words.  Professionals' quotes are also included.