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How to Overcome Heartbreak and Heal Abandonment: 12 Guidelines

June 30, 2011 10 comments

Heartbreak creates a downward spiral, because not only do you feel bad, but you feel bad for feeling bad – ashamed for not being able to just rise above it. You blame yourself for feeling dejected and hopeless for so long.

But nobody just sloughs it off. Abandonment– being left by someone you love – is universally debilitating. Its pain can overwhelm adult functioning and bring the strongest among us to our knees.

Abandonment creates a serious emotional crisis; its residual damages include low self esteem and a host of self-defeating patterns that interfere in your next relationship. But for all the disturbance it creates, abandonment has yet to be officially recognized a legitimate form of grief.

Not only hasn’t abandonment been publicly acknowledged, it’s been trivialized.

It doesn’t help that celebrities are careful not to wear heartbreak on their sleeves. Public figures going through a painful breakup allow only the appropriate amount of anger to show – and only for a discreet period. Indignant anger is more socially palatable than abandonment’s crippling depression. Accordingly, the famous present a public image of “triumph.”

This posturing creates the false notion that you, too, are supposed to be able to rise above heartbreak quickly and with your dignity in tact. If you’re still pining for your ex (universal to abandonment grief, come on, admit it), then you’re just showing how needy, pathetic, and dependent you are – proving to yourself, yet again, that you’re inherently unworthy of being loved (as if being rejected weren’t enough to make you doubt your worth).

The truth is that celebrities go through the same demoralizing process as everyone else. It’s just that the social stigma of being left (rejected, bested, duped, humiliated, discarded by someone you love), is so great, that they simply can’t afford to let it show. The famous must suffer silently, secreting their festering, throbbing hearts from public scrutiny.

Abandonment isn’t exactly a socially accepted form of bereavement for anyone else either. When you’re grieving a loss caused not by death, but by being dumped, your friends and family rally round, at least at first (until they lose patience), but your colleagues and acquaintances remain at a discreet distance. They don’t publish announcements about it in their newsletters or send you flowers and condolence cards. If they chance to meet you on the street, they usually avoid making reference to your mate (or loss thereof).

And what of your closest friends? Well, it helps to have a few spare friends lined up; this way, when you wear out the first one with obsessive ruminations about your breakup, you can go to the next friend until you’ve worn out his or her ears, and then to the next. Eventually your friends begin to say infuriating things like: “Just let go and move forward” or “You don’t need a man (or woman) to make you happy,” or “Happiness comes from within,” or “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These easier-said-than-done prescriptions leave you feeling even more isolated than before.

So what’s the answer?
That’s the whole point, there is no “answer” – at least no easy one. If it were easy to get over someone, we would all rid ourselves of primal abandonment fear and the myriad insecurities that invade our relationships. But here are a few pointers:

1) Eliminate your unrealistic expectations about “just getting over it.” Accept the fact that coping with abandonment’s intense emotional crisis involves white knuckling your way through a lot of soul searching. After all, you’re coping with a life change that has been foisted upon you by someone else’s choice.
2) Rather than beat yourself up for feeling victimized and dejected, validate the fact that you are coping with a serious emotional injury. Accept all of your feelings, no matter how intense, as part of being human.
3) No matter now uncomfortable the feelings, create this mantra: This too shall pass.
4) Know that just because you’ve been “left” by someone, does not mean that you are disposable, reject able, not-attachment-worthy, or “not enough.” Catch yourself in the act of self-loathing – feeling you’re not loveable enough (substitute not… thin, successful, charismatic, sexual, compelling, etc. … enough) – and stop this self-recrimination. Undertake an immediate balanced, realistic inventory of your true strengths and weaknesses. Convert abandonment’s virulent self-depreciation into self confirmation.
5) Use your heartbreak as an opportunity to learn the important task of self-nurture. Accept responsibility for your own emotional well being. Discover your innate power to heal your own wounds. With each act of self-nurturance, you become more emotionally self-reliant – a task long overdue for most of us. Another mantra: Physician, heal thyself.
6) Face yourself. Reach to the height of your adult mind to squarely and objectively look at your own culpabilities as well as your partner’s. Don’t accept more responsibility than is due, but do face yourself courageously with vigorous honesty and humility.
7) Reach out to friends and family, support groups, sponsors, spiritual counselors, coaches, and therapists, as well as members of new organizations you join. You’re in a profound transitional period in your life; new people and old friends help expand your wisdom and selfhood. Keep your channels open to human feedback.
8) Find activities that get you into the moment. Practice mindfulness. Stay in the moment as much as possible. Practice exercises that increase your presence.
9) Take complete responsibility for your past, present and future. Turn over a leaf and vow to forever after desist from being a victim or self-victimizer.
10) Take positive actions. To accomplish this you have to fight your Outer Child. Outer would prefer to hide under the covers, wallow in self-spite, avoid taking new strides, and stubbornly insist upon staying in the funk. Now is the time for your Adult Self to take charge and move your life forward one day, one step at a time. When you feel leaden and unmotivated, take yourself (your resistive Outer Child) in hand. Put one foot in front of the other and walk through the motions of self-construction.
11) Keep a positive future vision on the screen of your mind. Refer to this future vision frequently as you go throughout the day. When you feel most hopeless (hopelessness is abandonment’s most prevalent feeling), simply conjure up positive image of yourself in the future feeling happy and peaceful. Another mantra to incorporate: Hopelessness is a feeling, not a fact. You can move your life in a positive direction.
12) Turn a minus sign into a plus sign. Vow to benefit from your abandonment experience rather be diminished by it. Commit to the long haul.

Categories: abandonment, Uncategorized

Triangles in your Social World, Workplace, and Love-life or How Triangles Affect your Life

Triangles exist everywhere:

  • Between YOU, your parents and another sibling
  • Between YOU, your boss and his star employee
  • Between YOU, your best friend and her other friend
  • Between YOU, your girlfriend and her old boyfriend
  • Between YOU, your partner and his alcoholism
  • Between YOU, your wife and her child from a previous marriage
  • Between YOU, your husband and his mother.

It’s hard to think of a relationship where a triangle isn’t involved.

Even your relationship with yourself has a triangle: Between YOU (your Adult Self), your Inner Child, and your Outer Child.

Triangles are a given.  They make the world go round.  It’s only when you feel at the short end of the stick that triangles get under your skin.  The feelings can range from vague ripples of discomfort that you hardly notice to outright seething and burning.

The important issue is how well you handle feeling triangulated.   When you sense you’re getting short shrift, does your Adult Self choose a positive course of action?  Or does that overgrown kid of yours – your headstrong Outer Child – get into the act and do things “unworthy of you,” like snipe about a rival behind his back or become over-people pleasing?

In other words, when feeling upstaged by a third party, are you proud of how you handle it?  Does your higher self always take a mature stance when dealing with the occasional bout of envy, resentment, or ruffled feather?  Or does your Outer Child act out your triangulated feelings in ways that do nothing for your reputation or self-respect.

The root cause has to do with your own personal triangle – Adult, Inner, and Outer – the three competing parts of the personality.  This intra-psychic triangle reacts to the other triangles in your life.  Here’s how it works: Your Inner Child beholds all of your yearnings, wants, residual abandonment fears, and vulnerabilities; and your Outer Child is hell bent on acting them out in knee-jerk reactions and defense mechanisms that have become maladaptive; and your Adult Self is overpowered, overruled, and left holding the bag.

The triangles of everyday life mesh gears with your intra-psychic triangle, one turning the other.  Abandonment feelings fuel the machine. When the wheels spin, Outer Child acts out impulsively. It is up to the Adult to apply the clutch to disengage the Outer Child cog and shift into Adult Mode. But this is often easier said than done.

Triangles tend to trigger primal abandonment because they’re about having to share a person’s interest, love, loyalty, allegiance, attention, approval, admiration, affection – with another person.  When your Inner Child gets triggered by the slings and arrows of everyday encounters, your Outer Child tries to push your Adult Self aside and swoops in to “fix it” in its bungling, primitive way.

When we sense that raw universal abandonment nerve of ours jangling, it is incumbent on the Adult Self to step up to the plate and choose constructive ways to handle Inner Child’s needs.  But here comes the problem:  In the intra-psychic triangle, guess which part of you winds up getting triangulated, in the one-down position?  The Adult Self, of course!  Yes, when those wheels mesh, your Outer Child grabs for power, and You are left to observe yourself acting out with sour grapes, defensiveness, anger, or resentment.  This is reversible.

The Outer Child framework allows you to adjust the way you react to triangulation.  When your Outer Child runs rampant with your Inner Child’s feelings, it becomes clear which part of you must get stronger, wiser, take charge – your higher Adult Self.   So, next time your boss shows favoritism, or you’re your friend shows preference for another friend, or your lover becomes distracted by a third party, convert these triangles into spurs for positive growth.  Improve your own internal triangle. Place your higher self on top, thereby creating a healthier relationship with yourself.  Commit to positive change by taking actions that move your life forward.

Related articles:

Twenty Ways Your Outer Child Sabotages Your Success in the Workplace

How Universal Fear of Abandonment Can Undermine Success in the Workplace

Categories: Uncategorized

Nevermind Your Inner Child; Tame Your Outer Child

June 9, 2011 2 comments

Getting ready for summer, I am doing daily dialogues with my outer child.  I’m wondering if using this self awareness tool (outer child) might help some of you also.

What is outer child, you ask?

Well, you’ve already met your inner child.  But whereas your inner child is all about feelings, Outer is all about behavior.  Outer is the self-sabotaging nemesis of your personality – the part that breaks your diet and gets attracted to all the wrong people.

I use outer child when I know I’m going to be tempted to do some self-defeating things.  In my case,  this means overeating (and gaining weight that is very hard to loose).

In keeping tabs on my outer child, I’ve learned how overcome many other self-defeating patterns over the years.  I’ve managed to improve my relationships and become (or act like) the self-possessed adult I’ve always wanted to become.

I’ve written extensively about outer child in Journey from Abandonment to Healing or Journey from Heartbreak to Connection.  I’ve taught people to perform their own “outer child work” during my intensive abandonment recovery workshops.

To help you get in touch with your own outer child, let me explain:  Outer is the impulsive, obstinate, self-centered nine-year old within all of us.  Outer wants what Outer wants now, and isn’t particular about how it goes about getting it – and that includes taking out bad moods on innocent bystanders in your life, drinking too much, spending too much money, or binging on fattening food when you, the adult, is steadfastly sticking to a diet (or so you thought).

Outer child wreaks havoc in our relationships, because it’s born of unresolved abandonment.  Outer acts out our inner child’s fear of abandonment.  For example, it aims its emotional suction cups at our prospective partners and scares them away.

Another thing about Outer is that it fights change – especially change initiated by you, the adult.  Outer balks at doing the right thing and only wants things that are bad for your health, figure, or bank account.

In my case, I’m hoping that by once again, dragging Outer out of the bunkers and into the daylight, I can get to subvert its mission, rather than letting it subvert mine (which is to maintain my figure, my relationships, and my self-respect).  I hope the same for you.

Twenty Ways Your Outer Child Sabotages Your Success in the Workplace:

June 1, 2011 2 comments

Susan Anderson © May 2011

We all have an Outer Child – a hidden nemesis that is always interfering in our best laid plans – especially when we’re trying to advance.

Outer Child is the part of your personality that acts out in self-defeating patterns – that puts its foot in your mouth at a business meeting, , breaks your diet, and gets attracted to all the wrong people.

Outer Child’s antics really kick up at work.  Consider this:  The workplace creates a giant stage on which to prove your adequacy, find your position in the in the pecking order, and gain recognition and approval you’ve been craving since junior high school (admit it).  Work, then, becomes steeped in all of your emotional issues – both conscious and unconscious – a lot of them stemming from that most primal, universal of human fears – abandonment.  Overtime, you invest the workscape with more and more of your hidden insecurities, egoistic needs, and dreams.  This investment of primal emotion creates a fertile breeding ground for Outer Child to act out in ways that block your efforts to move forward.

Here’s how it works: You have an Inner Child, an Outer Child, and an Adult Self.  Your Outer Child acts out your feelings – your Inner Child’s feelings inappropriately.  Outer resorts to knee-jerk reactions and outmoded defense mechanisms that have become maladaptive.  If you have a lot of self-defeating patterns, it means your Outer Child is too strong, your Inner Child is too needy (of your attention), and your Adult Self is too weak.  This is reversible!

The first step in overcoming your Outer Child’s interference is to take its inventory – keep tabs on what it’s up to.   Do any of these traits describe your Outer Child?  Or a colleague’s?

  1. Outer Child prefers to go on facebook and read blogs than to take future-oriented actions.  Ha!
  2. Outer Child procrastinates.  It lives by the creed, “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”  In Outer Child-speak, “till tomorrow” means indefinitely… or never!
  3. Outer Child is a hedonist – a slave to the need for immediate gratification. This explains its penchant for procrastination.  Outer likes tackling the more pleasurable, effortless, familiar tasks first, and puts off doing the more challenging tasks till “tomorrow.”  Outer likes doing what it likes.
  4. Outer excels at avoidance.  Outer is adept at avoiding things that are difficult, unfamiliar, and anxiety-producing.  Unfortunately, these are usually the very things that help you gain forward motion in your career.
  5. Outer Child gets learned helplessness at the most inconvenient times – especially when there’s a new learning curve with some new computer program… 
  6. Outer Child is an attention seeker.  Its motto:  “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.” 
  7. Outer Child is a master rationalizer.  Outer rationalizes that you are justified in your work slowdown, as you are conserving energy for a big initiative just around the corner.  Or that it’s prudent to forestall taking a positive action, as this gives you time to build better thinking-momentum and enhance your readiness.
  8. Outer Child avoids confrontation.  Outer will leave you at the short end of the stick to avoid risking anyone’s anger and disapproval, even if it’s someone you can’t stand.
  9. Outer would rather switch than fight. Outer is famous for appeasing both sides, letting conflict grow, leaving people fight it out for themselves.
  10. Outer Child hunkers down in the comfort zone and refuses to budge, even when your “Adult Self” absolutely vows to push forward into unfamiliar territory. Nope, Outer isn’t ready.
  11. Outer Child schmoozes, fraternizes, and clowns around when you should be setting boundaries and establishing your role.  Outer undermines your work persona.
  12. Outer Child is passive.  When action is called for, Outer would rather become obsessed about what you should be doing and harangue you with guilt about it – anything to avoid actually doing it.
  13. Outer Child becomes testy and critical when it sees coworkers taking actions you should have taken, especially when they get good results.  Outer’s sour grapes are a convoluted form of shame.
  14. Outer Child has social issues. Outer over-socializes when you should be creating credibility or taking leadership.  Conversely, when Outer feels intimidated by someone’s power or position, Outer under-socializes instead of forging bonds with key people.  Outer keeps you out of the power block.
  15. Outer Child grovels for approval rather than ask for what you want, i.e. a promotion, even though years of groveling has proved fruitless.  Outer Child likes banging your head against a stone wall.
  16. Outer Child is a people pleaser, making it easy to be taken advantage of.  Outer people-pleases when you should be establishing your power.
  17. Outer Child talks about people behind their backs.  Outer hates it when people talk about you behind your back.   Back biting is Outer’s way of “coalition building.” Colluding with a colleague about disliking another employee often backfires and undermines your trust-quotient in the workplace.
  18. Outer over does it – over teases others or over competes and gets you into serious conflict.  You vow to clean up your act, but when you’re not looking, Outer swoops in and pisses someone off.   Outer Child has OPD – Obnoxious Personality Disorder.
  19. Outer Child displays false cheerfulness to hide your boredom, low self-worth, or depression – whatever – interfering in your ability to seem real and grounded.
  20.  Outer Child can squelch you. Outer tries to keep you under the radar to protect (over-protect) you from standing out and possibly getting judged or criticized, or deemed inadequate.  Invisibility is not in your career’s best interest.

Advancing your career involves overcoming your self defeating patterns through a step by step program that heals primal abandonment and strengthens the coalition between your Adult Self and your Inner Child.  No matter now obstructive your Outer Child, you can realign your psyche and put Outer in its place.

Categories: abandonment, Outer Child Tags: