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Posts Tagged ‘change’

Trying to Get Over Someone?

August 14, 2010 2 comments

If you are, you might feel like John who wrote into my forum: “Cold, Wet, Miserable, gray day outside and that’s just how I feel on the inside too. Guess we got another visit from the Withdrawal Fairy. Hurts like a Mutha, but I know it’ll pass.”

The “Withdrawal” he is referring to is the second stage of abandonment (Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalizing, Rage, and Lifting), when your body/mind anxiously “searches for the lost object. ” During this stage (which overlaps with the others and can be quite protracted), you feel heartsick. You’re as strung out as a junky, except that instead of craving Heroin, you’re craving a love-fix.
You’re constantly obsessing about your lost love, and it’s so painful and persistent, that you’d do anything to make it stop, only you can’t – the obsession is involuntary and creates real torment.

The good news though, as the writer above mentions, is that this phase passes.

In the meantime though it feels like you’re in permanent hell. People feel ashamed of how awful they feel and how persistent the obsession is – how powerful their abandoner has become in their lives. This shame only makes the withdrawal phase more agonizing, causing us to blame ourselves for being weak. We even wonder if “maybe this is why he left me in the first place!”

When we’re in withdrawal, especially at the beginning, we tend to fall into a game of “lost and found”. We anxiously wait for and “stalk” our lost love maybe we don’t actually follow him or her around (unless we’ve really lost it), but we may drive by his house at night to see if he’s home, check our voice mail 50 times a day, break down and call him, or otherwise try to track his activities. We wonder about his every thought, feeling, and intention. We feel powerless and helpless.

Eventually we stop tracking him or her, but we still don’t feel at peace. We’ve entered a morose period of just feeling lousy. We’re still not free.

So how do we get over someone?

1) We need to validate the fact that abandonment creates an emotional crisis. Just as someone who has received a powerful blow to the stomach, we need to treat ourselves as having incurred a painful wound that requires all of our best self-care. We have broken our emotional ribs. Physician heal thyself. We need to take exquisite care of ourselves.

2) This begins when we stop shaming ourselves – stop questioning our own strength. This love-sickness befalls the most independent people out there. It is not an indication of any shortcomings within ourselves, but just lets us know that we are human – and that we are reacting to a very painful situation. If the tables were turned, our lover would be going through the very same thing.

3) Use this as an opportunity to gain emotional self-reliance. Nobody is going to care about us the way we can care about ourselves (and by now we’ve worn most of our friends out with our obsession, so we’re pretty much on our own). See this painful wound as an opportunity to become self-loving and self-caring. Yes, we learn how to love ourselves from this. The exercises in my book help you actually accomplish this thing called self-love during a time of emotional crisis.

4) Take your abandoner off of the pedestal. Ironically, the more they hurt us, the more we idolize them. The very fact that they caused us so much pain makes us want them more. This paradox is universal, and it taxes the empathy of our friends who say “How could you pine away for someone who treated you so badly?” Yes, it’s a paradox, but they would be doing the same thing if it happened to them. Now is the time to systematically de-elevate your abandoner. You can do this by writing about him or her in your journal with an eye for seeing him as ordinary, human, mortal, flawed (like the rest of us), “not the only one,” not right for you, etc.

5) Re-invest the energy inside of the pain (all of that withdrawal “searching for the lost object” energy) into new activities. Yes, now. You don’t feel like it, but you must do it. You must add new things into your life, make new connections with people, take a self-improvement course, sign up at the gym, ask for a raise, undertake a new daily regimen like daily journaling, or move to a better apartment, etc.

6) Don’t confuse self-love with self-indulgence. The emotional hunger you feel is real, but you must keep it from turning you into an alcoholic, love-aholic, or drama-aholic. You must keep it from ruining your diet, your credit rating, and your future relationships. In caring for yourself, do things that have substantial reward.

7) Start looking for new connections – but vow not to clamp on to any one person (yet). You’re looking for distractions – people to think about and to test your alter egos on, not someone to make a permanent connection to. That will come later.

8) The most important thing to keep in mind is that these efforts involve resolve – hard work and determination will win the race.

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How Does One Become an Abandonment Expert? Painfully

August 2, 2010 1 comment

I’ve had such profound life-experiences with abandonment and grief that I couldn’t help but become an expert in these subjects – and I’ve learned so many things from other people as well, that I also can’t help but want to bring some hope to people out there – whether it’s for someone who is going through a loss, or a friend or relative of someone who is struggling to fill a void.

In my own experience, here I was, a psychotherapist specializing in grief, loss, and abandonment for almost twenty years when my marital partner, the love of my life for 18 years, without warning, suddenly up and left me for another woman.

The devastation I felt catapulted me into an intensive change. I had to meet the challenge of dealing with the excruciating pain of loss, rejection, and betrayal. To survive, I had to get to the bottom of this pain to discover what made it so potent. Going right into the pit, I learned new ways of coping. The effort resulted in my publishing three books on abandonment, radio appearances, television talk shows, articles, my website that reaches out to abandonment survivors and clinicians throughout the world, and the workshops I give around the country to guide people through the techniques of abandonment recovery.

But it isn’t just abandonment that I’ve developed an expertise in, thanks to new life-experience. After being abandoned, I was fortunate to be able to find love again. My new marital partner, Paul, and I were together for 9 beautiful years, but within the past 4 years, he died. A whole new level of sensitivity opened up for me.

The amazing thing is that I had already been doing grief counseling for almost 30 years by then (in addition to abandonment therapy). I’d taken every training course in grief and thanatology known to humankind in the New York Metropolitan area, and felt that I was very knowledgeable about the grief process. What I learned is that I understood it on paper, but it took experiencing it to really get to the heart of what it’s all about – and to figure out how to meet its challenges.

In contrast to the grief experience, when I had gone through the abandonment 10 years earlier, there was no such thing as abandonment recovery and certainly no support groups for abandonment (because I hadn’t begun to set all of this up yet). I was pretty much alone, save having an extremely good therapist, Richard Robertiello MD who is now deceased who helped me immeasurably by validating my feelings and offering a roadmap for taking it a day at a time.

But with this more recent loss – Paul’s death, things were different. Bereavement is a socially recognized phenomenon. There was plenty of help and I reached out to several bereavement groups for widows and widowers. This was so helpful. I met wonderful people, continue to meet with quite a few of them, and learned so much about myself and about how “life goes on.”

I want to be able to talk about what I’ve learned from my experiences as a psychotherapist, as a widow, as an abandonee, as a human being – and what I’ve learned from so many people. I welcome feedback and questions from people.