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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Don’t Fight the Feelings!

Feelings are the keys to recovery.

When I’m not seeing therapy clients or writing, I go around the country promoting abandonment recovery. This month, I’ll be giving a 6-day Abandonment Workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Esalen.org.

I often feel like my participants are going to “shoot the messenger” when I’m imparting my message of abandonment recovery. I know what I have to say is different from what people expect. Many people come to the workshop in unbearable abandonment pain, grief, and conflict. When I tell them that there are no magic bullets, that recovery involves not “3 easy steps” but a great deal of hard work and an ongoing commitment of time, they feel frustrated.

Most attendees have understandably high expectations. They’ve been hoping that one more book, one more tape, one more workshop will finally free them from the infernal festering of the abandonment wound.

But when it comes to abandonment, there are no easy answers. Instead, there are tools which you must use on a daily basis to get the desired results. And, if you use these tools consistently for a period of months, you can experience complete transformation.

Abandonment recovery works with your primal feelings. Most people try to talk themselves out of these feelings. Or they try to squelch them. Or they deny them. Or they try to distract themselves from them. Or they try to stop the feelings through sheer will power. Or they might to try to use meditative techniques in hopes of becoming a “spirit body” so they can lift above them. Bottom line: they want the feelings to go away.

In fact, those meditative exercises are highly beneficial to abandonment recovery, but their results are hampered by any part of the abandonment wound that remains unresolved. This is because abandonment is in the body – that’s where its primal feelings are “felt” – and its wound keeps pulling you down into its quicksand.

So what to do? The key is to learn how to work with your most primal feelings – the oldest and truest part of yourself. Rather than fight these feelings, you administer to them. In fact, if you’re still fighting your abandonment feelings, you’re not really in abandonment recovery.

Explanation: Adults really can’t be abandoned because they are capable of taking care of themselves. They can certainly FEEL abandoned and those feelings are powerful, but adults can only abandon themselves.

Adult abandonment is really self-abandonment.

When someone leaves us, or doesn’t love us enough, we take the anger we feel about the rejection against ourselves and beat ourselves up for not being worthy (i.e., too short, too fat, too stupid, too un-sexy, too needy), for not being loveable enough. In blaming ourselves, we inculcate self-doubt and injure our self esteem. The effects are cumulative over many hurts, disappointments, heartbreaks, and losses.

To begin the journey of recovery, you have to cherish the painful feelings as important parts of yourself. In self-abandonment, you have put your “self” up for adoption, and now you must turn around and adopt that “self.”

This does not happen by osmosis. This is not one of those easier-than-said platitudes, like “love yourself.” It involves very specific tools (which I teach in the workshops and books), hard work, commitment to a daily regimen, etc.

Wish me luck. Mine is a hard message to sell without people wanting to “shoot the messenger.”

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.