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Posts Tagged ‘heartbroken’

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 http://www.abandonment.net, 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.

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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.