Addicted to Chasing Unavailable Lovers: Outer Child is a Notorious Abandoholic – Part 1

September 9, 2011 2 comments

Outer Child is a Notorious Abandoholic

© Susan Anderson 2010

What is Abandoholism?

You’ve heard of food-oholism, work-oholism, shop-oholism and, of course, alcoholism. Now here comes another, most insidious, addictive pattern – abandoholism.

Abandoholism is Outer Child’s tendency to become attracted to unavailable partners. Abandoholism is one of Outer’s most insidious patterns, and it is shared by millions.

Abandoholism is similar to the other “oholisms,” but instead of being addicted to a substance, you’re addicted to the emotional drama of heartbreak. You pursue hard-to-get partners to keep the romantic intensity going, and to keep your body’s love-chemicals and stress hormones flowing – an intoxicating brew to which you become both physically and emotionally addicted.

What makes someone an abandoholic?

Abandoholism sets in when you’ve been hurt so many times that you’ve come to equate insecurity with love. When your wires get crossed like this, unless you’re pursuing someone you’re insecure about, you don’t feel in love.

Conversely, when someone comes along who wants to be with you, that person’s availability fails to arouse the required level of insecurity. If you can’t feel those yearning, lovesick feelings, then you don’t feel attracted. Your Outer Child has taken hold and got you caught up in a pattern of pursuing unavailable partners. You’ve become neuro-biologically addicted to the high stakes drama of an emotional challenge and the love-chemicals that go with it.

This abandonment compulsion is insidious. You didn’t know it was developing. Until now you didn’t have a name for it: Abandoholism is a new concept.

Insecurity is an aphrodisiac.

If you are a hard-core abandoholic, you’re drawn to a kind of love that is highly combustible. The hottest sex is when you’re trying to seduce a hard-to-get lover. Insecurity becomes your favorite aphrodisiac. These intoxicated states are produced when you sense emotional danger – the danger of your lover’s potential to abandon you just when you start to attach.

At the other end of the seesaw, you start to turn off and shut down when you happen to successfully win someone’s love. If your lover succumbs to your charms – heaven forbid – you suddenly feel too comfortable, too sure of him to stay interested. There’s not enough challenge to sustain your sexual energy. You interpret your turn-off as his not being right for you.

How about following your gut?

If you’re an abandoholic, following your gut is probably what got you into this mess in the first place. Your gut gets you to pursue someone who makes your heart go pitter pat, not because he’s the right one, but because he arouses your subliminal fear of abandonment. And your gut gets you to avoid someone who is truly trustworthy, because he doesn’t press the right insecurity-buttons to create the aphrodisiac.

Enrich your mind. Follow your wisdom. But until you overcome your abandonment compulsion, don’t follow your gut – it will only get you into trouble – because your gut tells you that unavailable people are attractive.


Financial Self Sabotage: How Outer Children Acting En Masse Brought Down the Economy

© Susan Anderson 2010

Outer Child likes to sneak your wallet out of your pocket when you aren’t looking.  It hijacks your finances, ties up your assets, drains your bank accounts, and straps you with debt.

Outer child can act out and affect global conditions, especially when it makes poor decisions en masse.  Just look at the outer child antics that caused people to take out mortgages they couldn’t afford “I don’t want to wait, I want it NOW” and bankers to exploit their impulsivity.

What would have been the underlying cause of all of this heedless outer child behavior?  What “inner child feelings” might be going on within the American psyche at large?  My guess is that post NINE ELEVEN fear – the fear of annihilation– coupled with global warming anxiety, had spurred this wide-scale, reckless, Gimme-mine-now behavior.

Fear in the hands of mature adults, can be potentially dealt with and worked through.  But if our nationally shared “fearings”  (anxiety, vulnerability, panic, sense of impending disaster, urgency) remain unresolved, and if the executives in charge of our government and economy have a lot of unharnessed outer child behaviors, then “fearings” get acted out inappropriately – resulting in the debacle of the Iraq war, the mortgage crisis, the sinking economy, and foot-dragging on energy conservation.

When Outer Children interact with other Outer Children, it creates ripples and patterns of behavior at all levels of society – interpersonal, familial, governmental, and global.   These ripples and patterns constitute an Outer Child culture, which runs parallel to the larger culture.  We affect and are affected by all levels of Outer Child culture.

When Nine Eleven hit, Outer’s collective response to the nation’s “fearings” had a powerful impact on global affairs.  The attacks had created heightened, sustained undercurrents of fear that got a lot of Outer Children riled up.  We wanted to feel secure again, to anchor ourselves to the earth, which prompted many Outer Children to buy more real estate.

How did Outer Child culture contribute to financial market decline?  
At the Outer Child level of culture, fear and greed were already driving the markets – greed to make more money, fear of losing it.  Fear and greed were also driving governments – greed for power, fear of losing it.  Outer Children get drunk on power.  Politicians (who have lots of power and therefore very active Outer Children) get quickly addicted to power and need more and more of it to satisfy their habit.  Their decisions are often about getting reelected, not about what’s in the best interest of the country.  Many Outer Child leaders put forward a righteous image only to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar – some acting like TV evangelists who fall fowl of exactly what they tell people not to do.

The recession:  All of these Outer Children bought houses (and other things) they couldn’t afford, borrowing money from lenders who couldn’t afford to lend it.  When people needed to cash out, the structure collapsed – a crash that came as a shock.

Even top financial pundits began sounding like airheads when they tried to explain why they had been so far off the mark.  We realized too late that the heads of financial institutions had been more like Wizards of Ozes than people with real power and wisdom.  In fact, some had been operating on base instincts of personal greed, not on public interests.

Outer Child culture is rife with arrogance.  Arrogance led financial experts to assume erroneously that they had a handle on the markets.  They overleveraged their investment resources because they thought they knew what they didn’t know, but didn’t know they didn’t know it.  Their confidence proved to be Outer Child confidence.

Outer Children are impressed with confidence – especially their own.  But they also are impressed by other people’s.  This is another example of Outer’s attachment to false values.    What’s wrong with confidence, you might ask?  Displaying confidence is considered good form – and indeed we live in a “form world.”  The problem is that people can have lots of confidence and be completely wrongheaded.  Complete fools can have impressive confidence.  Conversely, people who really DO have a finger on the pulse of truth tend to be more guarded, tentative, careful about making absolute pronouncements. Some even have poor social skills.  Unless they can convey their ideas attractively (confidently), the public tends to dismiss them.

To an extreme Outer Child, only having good form counts; substance is entirely invisible.  Financial leaders weren’t investing in real assets, that they’d only been betting on numerical odds, but neither they nor we noticed.  Officials in corporate, government, and academic institutions had apparently conveyed impressive confidence.  This had our whole Outer Child culture hoodwinked.

What about hypocrisy?  At the Outer Child level of culture, people would rather project their shortcomings onto other people than look at their own.  Outer Children are holier than thou.  For example, the Western World had been pointing its finger at corruption in the Eastern World.  The West had a vested interest in diverting attention from its own corruption which was less transparent than the East’s.  We’d thought we had legal systems in place to stop corruption, but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) turned out to have its own Outer Child self-deception going on.  For more, read Chapter 14 in Taming your Outer Child.


Cluttering and Hoarding – Outer Child Messes – Part II

August 3, 2011 1 comment

Beneath it All

Yes, at the heart of every extreme clutterer I have met lurks primal abandonment fear.  One workshop attendee nominated herself to be poster child for cluttering.


“It’s all about abandonment.  I was sent to live with my aunt when I was a child, so I had this terror about being discarded.  When I lived on my own, I stopped throwing things away.  I became a packrat, a shopper, and a non-returner.  I’m afraid my husband will leave me over the hoarding, so I resort to removing price tags and throwing new clothes on the laundry pile so he won’t suspect I’ve never worn them.  I know the growing stacks push him to the brink, but when he threatens divorce, I panic and go buy more in case I wind up with nothing.”

Another woman reported that her cluttering stemmed from low self-esteem. Her mother had been rejecting and extremely critical and she’d turned this toward herself, creating self-abandonment.


“Although I’m not an extreme hoarder, I’m somewhat messy.  But when my home is out of place, it makes me feel inadequate, so I guess I was recreating the familiar.  My friends kept their homes in perfect order, never had anything out of place.  I compared myself to them and felt inferior.  When they came over, I tried to look like I lived the same way, but I had to scurry around beforehand to clean the mess so they’d never guess that I was an ‘unworthy person.’”

Many clutterers report that a history of trauma – with roots in childhood abandonment – led to their compulsion.


“My parents were both severely abusive and I get easily stressed out.  I’m always reacting to some crisis.  I have too much going on to be bothered with whether stuff is piling up.” 


“Losing so many people in my family was so traumatic that when I’ve faced with the thought of throwing something away, it reminds me of loss.  So instead of feel that all the time, I just save everything.” 


“I was sexually abused and I know it was behind me becoming a packrat, because living like this keeps me in shame.  It forces me to live like a hermit, in a kind of cocoon that keeps people out.” 


“My cluttering started as a cry for help.  I created a physical mess because no one was acknowledging my emotional problems. It was my way of saying, ‘Doesn’t anybody get it? This mess means I’m messed up!’” 

Whatever the cause or level of insight people have into their cluttering and hoarding, they often feel too hopeless and overwhelmed to do anything about their stacks and piles, except add to them.

“It’s beyond me to get rid of stuff, so I just move things from pile to pile.” 

Moving things from pile to pile is so prevalent a behavior, that hoarding recovery gives it its own name: churning.


A Medical Mystery

Extreme cluttering remains a mysterious ailment, a behavioral disorder that therapists and researchers are still trying to fully understand.  It is expressed through acts of commission such as collecting and saving and acts of omission like failing to throwing things away. Some believe hoarding represents a glitch in the brain’s foraging component.  The behavior is found in birds and other animals – they hoard aluminum foil, beads, and other brightly colored things[i].

Some experts consider cluttering a subtype of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) yet it doesn’t respond to any of the medications that help the other OCD patients. Some people do respond to antidepressants (SSRI’s), but not all[ii].  Clutterers may suffer from other conditions too, ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to depression to borderline personality to dementia[iii].  The compulsion becomes established in some people as early as the age of five. There are some known genetic factors[iv].

When we look at the brain chemistry of cluttering, we see that, once again, dopamine, the neurochemical mediating reward and addiction we talked about in Chapter 14, is implicated[v].  Extreme clutterers produce interesting readings on brain scanning equipment like fMRIs which show low metabolism in brain regions associated with problem solving, decision making, and visual spatial relations[vi], but these readings do not explain why people compulsively hoard to the extent that the accumulation prohibits the use of the bathtub.

I’ve heard some very fancy terms applied to pathological collecting like ‘object-affect fusion’, but there is yet no medical consensus about the cause – or exactly what to do about it.

Researchers are testing medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) such as Ritalin and Adderall to see if they might help clutterers by stimulating those under-metabolizing areas of the brain. They are also exploring Alzheimer medications such as Aricept (which increases acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in cognitive functioning).  Results remain inconclusive to date.


Cleaning House

Whether you’re a compulsive clutterer or just a little behind in your ‘to do’ list, the three prongs of the Outer Child program help you restore order in your life and home.

The quality and scope of the images you implant in your brain are important.  Use your sense of future to create a positive vision of how you would like your living environment to look and how you would like to feel about it.  Imagine it is as if you’ve already brought it to that ideal condition.  Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the current condition of your home, conjure up a clear mental image of this future vision to give you aim, trajectory, and focus as you proceed through the program.

The second component of the program involves using the tools of separation therapy to attribute your cluttering behavior to your Outer Child. This allows you to form a tighter emotional connection between your Adult Self and your Inner Child around this issue.  Imagine how sad, lonely, and frustrated your inner self has been feeling about living in a disordered world.  He needs you to do something about it.  The empathy Big You builds toward Little You, creates dynamic internal change that allows you to change behavior.



“I was so ashamed of the squalor. My house certainly wasn’t visitor-friendly.  I told people I was a hoarder, but they had no idea I had to walk sideways just to get in the door. I lived in exile.  Then I looked at my life through the lens of the Outer Child framework and saw that Outer was imprisoning me in a house of shame.  Outer’s brain was wired weirdly – that’s how I thought of it – and I knew I had to take stringent measures to get on top of that.  I finally realized I couldn’t take the task on by myself.  Since my Outer Child was so strong, I got a strong therapist. I also held a vision of my apartment as a calm, shame-free place, somewhere I could feel proud to invite people to.  And then I started taking action steps.  Pile by pile, room by room, I was able to get my house to look more like my vision.”


“The dialogues helped me stop hating myself for my hoarding. I took my anger out on Outer instead of on myself.  Keeping Outer separate let me love myself for the first time.  Lately I’ve made Outer my buddy because I need her energy to help me untangle the mess. The action steps help me become orderly by making one small dent in it at a time.” 


“I’ve learned to care too much about Little Me to live in a messy house.  I know what she wants and I give it to her.  I keep Outer busy creating new social events for my friends.  If my house isn’t perfect, who cares? I love me and my friends love me for being me.”

The Neatnick

The Outer Child program also helps people at the opposite end of obsessive compulsive disorder’s continuum, namely people suffering from a compulsion to be neat.


“My OCD caused me to create major messes when I was younger, but then it swung to the other extreme and turned me into a neat freak.  If there was anything out of place before I went to bed, I’d be too anxious to fall asleep. When I learned to separate behavior from feelings, I was able to work with my fears for the first time and nurture Little Portia.  It took many dialogues and lots of practice until I could get Big Me strong enough to calm her down.  Today my OCD is much better, although I still like things pristine.  But I can let a few dishes collect in the sink overnight because I can reassure Little Me that we’ll be okay.  I also hold this future vision of my house having lots of calming natural beauty in it, so lately I’ve been bringing branches and wildflowers indoors (nature walks are Outer’s favorite action steps) and I don’t freak out when the leaves fall on the counter – the litter reminds me that life is okay.” 

Being obsessive compulsive about being neat can create a kind of tyranny that affects other people.


“I grew up in squalor – my parents had food, beer cans, filth everywhere you looked.   I couldn’t invite kids over, even though I kept my own room perfect. When I bought my own house, my Outer Child became a bully – insisted that every square inch of the house be kept perfect. I was imposing this compulsiveness on my wife and kids!  I had to deal with my neatness Nazi before he destroyed my marriage. So I went to a workshop and leaned to create a mental image of my home being a place of freedom, fun, and comfort.  Holding this image and staying connected with my inner shame and fear helped me gain a balance and enjoy my family life.  So, when the kids all have their friends over, I’m able to enjoy the moment, amidst the spilled popcorn.”


What about people who stuff their schedules rather than their closets?  Some are so busy rushing from one activity to the next that they find they’ve squeezed out quality time to relax at home, hang out with friends, or develop other interests.  Outer turned them into human doings instead of human beings.


“I was a time clutterer, running all day, too busy to enjoy the moment, until I realized that Outer Child was destroying my life.  Little Me?  I didn’t know she was in there.  It took weeks to find her voice.  Now I have time for everything – work, play, friends, relaxation, sleep, Me.  My Outer Child is still busy – busy helping me create a new life.” 

In separating feelings from behavior – Inner from Outer – you untangle once enmeshed parts that perpetuated the cluttering behavior.  Guided by your goals, your stronger Adult Self emerges to nurture your Inner Child as a separate entity, freeing up your Outer Child’s energy.  With your internal parts in order, you are prepared for the third component of the program – taking action to put your world in order. You are ready to take advantage of the behavioral remedies for taming Outer’s cluttering behavior.  They take you step by step.  To increase your incentive to follow through, you can build these remedies into your dialogues as action steps.

I’m going to share some techniques I have collected from hoarding experts, but I’ll begin with two tips of my own that can help you overcome one of the biggest obstacles to getting started:  all-or-nothing thinking, as in “My to do list is too long, I can’t do it all, so what’s the point of even trying?”  

Overcoming All-or-Nothing Thinking

The thought of having mountains of clutter can be paralyzing if you start by thinking it’s all got to happen in one fell swoop.  Perhaps you’ve been stuck there for a long time, just letting things collect.  Let’s put that kind of thinking aside.  The first tip comes from my mother who taught me a policy she called ‘first things first.’  It means that if you’re all set to enjoy something – getting a snack from the refrigerator, running to the mall, or calling a friend – use it as an incentive to first get one small thing done on your to do list.  Use the snack as a reward.  With first things first, you call to schedule your mammogram, then call your friend as a reward.  First empty the garbage, then go to the mall.  First pay the water bill, then leaf through your favorite catalogue.  As first things first becomes a habit, your life gets ordered and you have more time to enjoy its little rewards guilt free and with greater consciousness.

The second technique I call the ‘Just 10 Things Rule.’ This technique helps you break down what might seem like a superhuman task.  When you’re faced with monstrous clutter, rather than let it overwhelm you, take a reasonable number of baby steps toward your goal a few minutes at a time. Say you had a party and your house is a disaster area. Just pick up ten dishes.  If you create a little momentum along the way and wind up doing more, fine.  And when you run out of steam, stop.  Next time you approach the mess, pick up ten wine glasses.  Rest easy knowing the task will eventually get done, ten things at a time.

Of course ten isn’t a magic number.  Think of a task and decide on the number of baby steps you want to take at a time.  If you have clothes piled up all over your bedroom, just put away three things.  Clean jeans go in the drawer, dirty shirt in the hamper, shoes on the rack.  Next time put away three more things, or ratchet it up to five if you feel like it.

These two tools are effective in using small action steps to create momentum – whether your house is a just a little messy or you have stacks and piles that take over your entire living space.

Categories: Outer Child

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.

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