Archive for July, 2011

Cluttering and Hoarding -Outer Child Messes – Part 1

July 26, 2011 1 comment

Cluttering and Hoarding — Messy Outer Child Behaviors

(c) Susan Anderson 2010

Is your Outer Child a clutterer? Do you want to develop neater habits? Become more orderly? Would you like to purge your home and overstuffed schedule of unnecessary things? This blog will help you.

If you’re a garden variety clutterer – you might have clothes that need putting away, dishes stacked up in the sink, or stacks of unopened mail – it is probably due to the rigors of modern life; your inner child feel stressed, tired, discombobulated, or preoccupied, and your Outer Child acts out by dodging clean-up tasks.

Some people have hoarding problems that are nothing short of extreme.

“I’ve fallen behind in my house keeping. Stuff started piling up about six months ago and I seem to have misplaced the living room sofa.”

“I just can’t throw things away, so I move instead. I’ve lived in three different houses in past five years to get away from the clutter but the stacks and piles just grow all over again until they fill up the bathroom and force me to move again.”

Most of us have seen images on TV displaying the chaotic, squalid messes inside the homes of extreme clutterers. If these images arouse our disgust, they also arouse our curiosity and an unspoken acknowledgment there is a spectrum of hoarding behavior and most of us fall somewhere along its continuum. Who doesn’t have a closet or at least a drawer that’s an absolute wreck?

In looking at people’s pileups, we are observing a metaphor for pileups in our own lives that don’t take up physical space. The metaphor unwittingly reminds us of our own unfinished emotional business, unattended goals, unsorted feelings, and un-discarded negative self-messages – messy conglomerations of issues that bury us under their psychological weight.

By looking inside an extreme clutter’s home, we are looking at the results of extreme Outer Child behavior, and the feelings we imagine that must go with it. It boggles the mind. In straining to make sense of it, we consult our own murkiest feelings. By plumbing the depths of our emotional understanding, we get in touch with our human core, and perhaps feel better about ourselves.

Clutterers’ Voices

In attempting to explain their habits and compulsions no matter where they are on the spectrum, people attribute their behavior to a variety of emotional issues:

“I’m a clutterer because I get too easily overwhelmed. A mess makes me so anxious, I avoid doing anything about it.”

“I’m a clutterer because I doubt myself a lot and I’m afraid of making a mistake. ‘When in doubt, don’t throw it out’ – so my piles just keep growing.”

“I’m a clutterer, but I think it’s all about procrastination. I don’t get around to discarding things.”

“I’m a clutterer because I can never have enough. I’m afraid I’ll be out in the world with nothing. Keeping all this stuff keeps me packed in and safe.”

“I’m a clutterer because I have guilt about wasting things. I’d better save them. What if someone might need it some day? But somehow I’ve taken ‘waste not, want not’ through the roof.”

“I’m a clutterer because I don’t feel good enough about myself to live in neat, tidy surroundings I can be proud of.”

“I’m a clutterer because I’m an artist and I guess my messy space is a form of impressionism – a tableau expressing the state of my mind: Chaos.”

“I’m a clutterer because I attach sentimental value to everything that comes my way. I collect it all. I feel too attached to it to get rid of most things.”

“I’m a clutterer because I have trouble making decisions and keeping things avoids making all of those decisions.”

“I’m a clutterer because I’ve had a lot of trauma and throwing things on the floor releases stress.”

“I’m a clutterer because I’m a perfectionist. I wouldn’t want to make the mistake of not keeping something I’m supposed to keep.”

“I’m clutterer because I just can’t just abandon my stuff. I feel too loyal to it. Keeping stuff feels like right thing to do.”

Although most people are able to connect their hoarding, cluttering behaviors to personal issues, they’re not able to answer the next logical question: Why do their problems manifest themselves in physical disarray and not in some other way? More than almost any other ailment we’ve discussed so far, when cluttering and hoarding become compulsive, it leaves people bewildered with their own behavior.

Quite a few extreme clutters have attended my abandonment recovery workshops over the years. They’d tried every other type of treatment, but their feelings and behaviors were so entwined, their attempts to break free kept them running in circles. So they’ve tried my program hoping to free themselves from Outer Child compulsions by healing the source – unresolved abandonment.  Stay-tuned to read about how my program can help us overcome our messy Outer Child.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Pied Piper of Abandonment

July 20, 2011 4 comments

Most of the time I feel like the Pied Piper of abandonment. Thousands of people have written their painful and agonizing abandonment scenarios to me through, Facebook and now through this blog.

You’d think that over the years I would grow immune to feeling empathy for the pain they describe, but I read these things with amazement about our human capacity to feel life so very painfully.

There were three writers who knocked my socks off, and they represent three types of abandonment.

The first was Terisa who is fully attached and to a guy who wants to see her frequently but doesn’t want to consider her a girlfriend (he’s waiting for someone to fall madly in love with instead). She doesn’t understand why she stays so stuck on someone who only offers her heartache.

The answer is that she has entered into a “traumatic bond” with him. As paradoxical as it sounds, the more pain someone causes you, the more attached you feel. College fraternities understand this as does the military: The harsher the training and “pledging” the stronger the loyalty and bond.

This guy’s constantly pulling away from Terisa only sinks his hook in deeper. The same is true when you’re married to someone who keeps falling off the wagon, or keeps shutting you out, or keeps putting you down. The intermittent reinforcement causes you to cling more rather than let go.

What to do when you are traumatically bonded to someone? The first step is to recognize it and the second step is to treat it as an addiction, which means to get help. Don’t underestimate the power of the situation, and meet it with full force, which often involves full abstinence – and lots of support from others.

Then we come to Boomie whose husband has decided he doesn’t want to stay married any longer – but, and here is the clincher – he wants his family to remain intact – as well as to remain really great friends with his now heartbroken wife – and to get together for family outings to dinner and the movies.

This means that he wants all of the benefits of the marriage, but not the commitment part. Nothing is more deleterious for a woman’s self-image than to see her love as the only thing scraped from the program. Furthermore, it means that he doesn’t have to experience any loss at all, since he can still use his wife and family as his “background object” which will only make him more secure and more empowered to go on about his single business, no longer encumbered by the bonds of marriage.

Imagine the traumatic bond this sets up for Boomie to get snarled in. And imagine her chronic abandonment pain as this scenario plays out.

One can’t give advice in these situations, but I bet a lot of readers wish that she’d tell him that he can’t have his cake and eat it to – it’s either stay married, or accept a period of complete emotional separation from her.

If she’s like a lot of heartbroken spouses, she will most likely become so emotionally starved, that she will be willing to accept any crumbs, albeit friendship crumbs, he is willing to throw her way.

As for Jane Doe, her abandonment pain is excruciating because she tossed someone aside and then later changed her mind, only to find out that the tables had turned and that he was now knee deep in a new romance. She can’t let go of the need to fix what she broke and hound this guy for a second chance.

What makes her situation more desperate is that her beloved father died in the midst of all of this, and I’ve come to understand how bereavement interfaces with abandonment. The finality of someone’s death makes the need to restore a connection that is broken even greater. This guy isn’t dead, he’s just withholding himself. Someone recently bereaved will have a hard time giving up – because it means going back to that awful feeling of “never coming back.”

Reading these people’s situations brings me to a full stop. It reminds me what has motivated me to do all of the book-writing and letter-answering that I have done over the years.