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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.

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I Love You, but You Don’t Turn Me On

April 6, 2011 2 comments

Someone wrote to my Forum at http://www.abandonment.net about his partner of 20 years never being turned on by him. He claimed that she had been hot with other lovers outside of the marriage, but with him there was “No Lubrication” (title of his post).” They are in therapy and he asked if there is hope.

I told him, yes there is hope.

My biggest concern would be the couple and therapist failing to identify the real cause.

One possibility: Many people have trouble feeling sexual passion toward a “secure attachment.” They only get turned on when their lover is one of three things: 1) New, 2) Forbidden, or 3) Hard-to-get.

If your relationship has been calm, stable, and caring for a long time, this can be the problem! The sexual dynamic can peter out (if you know what I mean).

The antidote involves a whole new growth process, beginning with recognizing the real cause.

This paradox (the more secure the relationship, the lower the sexual passion) is extremely common. One partner or the other, after being able to take the other for granted, becomes sexually indifferent. So many husbands feel passionless toward their wives because they are “sure” of them. They benefit in all sorts of ways from the safety and longevity of the relationship – and have all sorts of positive feelings toward their wives, but the even-keel of the relationship reduces the sexual heat.

Likewise, so many wives lose sexual interest toward their husbands once they become “comfortable shoes.” This is why so many people in long term relationships have attractions to people outside the marriage – or why they “get headaches” at bedtime – or why the divorce rate is so high.

Partners can easily take each other for granted. The security and safety they give each other becomes like the air they breathe but can’t see. Recognizing this as the problem sets a whole new process within the relationship in motion – if the couple is motivated.

Usually it is only one side of the couple that begins to feel turned off. The other side usually craves more sexual attention – precisely because the rejection served as an aphrodisiac – intensifying the sexual desires for the “unavailable” spouse.

So what is the antidote? The couple must work together, all pressure must be removed, but a great deal of the onus is on the partner who has lost sexual interest. He or she must set about to integrate her sexuality with her attachment feelings. In other words, s/he must learn to experience sex not as a hot conquest of a hard-to-get lover, but as a more sober expression of deeper feelings like caring, trust, and respect.

As obvious as this sounds, this is not an easy accomplishment for a lot of people whose sexuality has become linked with “pursuit.” Without the 1) Newness, 2) Forbidden-ness, or 3) Hard-to-get-ness, there is no aphrodisiac, their libido remains low.

It is nearly universal for insecurity to act as an aphrodisiac. When you sense your lover pulling away, your sexual energy toward him intensifies, motivating you to seduce him back into your bed. The key is to retrain your sexuality to respond even when this emotional tension is not present.

It involves a kind of Tantric approach to sexuality. You are no longer waiting for your passions to be spontaneously aroused by a hard-to-get lover. Since your partner is not hard-to-get, you must tap into your own creative energy. It takes time and patience – and a new way of looking at a new level of sex – a type of sexual caring, sharing bond that can grow and develop between two people

Abandonment and Outer Child

January 19, 2011 1 comment

Abandonment has everything to do with Outer Child patterns – how they developed and how to overcome them.

If you want to overcome your most deeply entrenched self-defeating patterns, you must heal your abandonment wounds.

No, you don’t need 500 hours of psychoanalysis. You just need to learn how to use the program’s power tools – easy-to-perform exercises that you incorporate into your daily life. They are like physical therapy for the brain. As you practice them, you see change – and heal from the inside out.

I developed Outer Child (along with fellow psychotherapist Peter Yelton ACSW) when I was writing my first book on abandonment, looking for ways to help people overcome the aftermath of heartbreak and loss – those pesky patterns of behavior that interfere in our relationships.

Outer Child’s strong connection to abandonment is because most of Outer’s patterns were born during earlier times of loss, rejection, hurt, disappointment, self-doubt, disconnection – in short – abandonment. Outer’s primary role is defending (over-defensively) against the insecurity and fear seeping out of your old wounds. In fact, our most automatic, knee-jerk defense mechanisms, especially the maladaptive ones, are driven by abandonment fear.

This subliminal but ever-present fear not only triggers Outer to act out in our love relationships, but the residual insecurity causes Outer to take everything to the extreme – sleeping, watching TV, drinking, spending money, cluttering, procrastinating. For example, hoarders report that what motivates them to surround themselves with so much stuff is the subliminal fear that they’ll be left all alone with nothing and no one to care about them.

Learn more about abandoholism – the infamous Outer Child pattern of being attracted only to the available. Pre-order TAMING YOUR OUTER CHILD: A Revolutionary Program to Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns

Can’t Let Go of a Bad Relationship?

November 8, 2010 15 comments

Do you know someone who stays in a bad relationship? What hooks them? The standard answer is that they don’t feel good enough about themselves. They don’t feel they deserve better. Their have a low sense of entitlement.

While self esteem is certainly a factor, many of these people started out feeling much better about themselves than they do now.

Being constantly criticized, rejected, neglected, or abused eventually pays its toll. The low self-worth you see is not always the CAUSE of their being unable to leave, but the RESULT of having been treated this way. Once they feel low about themselves, they lose the strength to get out.

But there is more to it. They have become traumatically bonded.

A traumatic bond is created when pain is inflicted into the attachment. This bond is stronger (just like epoxy glue is stronger than rubber cement) than a non-traumatic bond. The more traumatic the bond, the harder to get out.

There are examples of this everywhere in nature and science. Researches found that when training a duck to “imprint” them, when they accidentally “stepped on the duck’s toe,” the duck imprinted them more than before. Science has conducted myriad experiments that demonstrate the power of “pain” to strengthen the bond. It’s the principle fraternities use in hazing where they humiliate or hurt their pledges to instill greater loyalty in them.

But there is still another factor which really cements people to the abuser. They get hooked by the “intermittent reinforcement.” The abuser, every once in a while, will give them what they need, i.e. “a pat on the arm” or saying “love you” or “bringing home a paycheck.” It’s intermittent.

If you ever studied classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dog and all of that), you may remember that if you want to “train” a rat to respond a certain way, rather than giving a steady reward (i.e. sugar pellet), give it only intermittently. Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than steady reinforcement.

This explains the paradox of relationships. If your partner mistreats you in all kinds of emotional or physical ways, you run the risk of getting deeply hooked in.

You’d think it would work the other way – that if your partner made you feel secure, safe, and comfortable, you’d have a hard time leaving. But the irony is that many people feel freer to leave someone who has made them feel secure. Ever hear “nice guys finish last?”

But if they are made to feel chronically insecure, heart-sick, anxious, or hurt, they can get caught up in the drama of the abuse and locked into the dynamics of the relationship– especially if every once in a while, their partner gives them a little crumb of love — intermittent reinforcement.

If you are in a traumatic bond, you not only suffer from your partner’s criticism, blame, betrayal, unreliability, or neglect, but you suffer from beating yourself up for allowing it to happen.

You feel guilty for not being able to leave. Your friends may get fed up with you for being so stuck. Even your therapist loses patience. You feel judged. You feel weak. You feel ashamed of yourself.

Someone responding to the unhealthy relationship described in my last blog wrote:

I was happy to receive this message because it confirms the bind so many people are in. The more infrequently the “crumbs of love” are offered, the more hooked you are. You become conditioned, like a rat in the cage.

I’m Insecure, but It’s About Me

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Someone wrote in that his girlfriend has just pulled away after experiencing an emotional crisis in her family. The day before, they’d been like love-birds, but she’s suddenly stopped showing affection and now wants her space.

He writes, “I have been supportive and try to give her space, but I am fearful and alone and feel rejected. I fear losing her and miss her terribly.”

He asks how he can be supportive while at the same time convincing her to come back to him — without driving her away. He ends with “I feel so lost. ”

There are millions of people out there in these torturous tangles. Once someone pulls away, the balance of a relationship tips, destroying the security and mutuality. The one who feels rejected automatically feels clingy and needy — and this further tips the balance out of control.

Most people who get into this just feel hopeless. It is demoralizing to find yourself groveling for someone’s love. The desperation and neediness make you feel make you feel weak and unworthy. You feel ashamed of having become an emotional beggar.

Just a reminder: We are all capable of feeling these insecure feelings — they are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of being in a very specific and very challenging situation.

Most importantly, no matter how hopeless it seems, there is a way out of this vicious cycle. The abandonee must recognize what an absolutely fabulous opportunity this is, since the only real solution must come from within. The opportunity is to become emotionally self-assured.

Self-assured. How many people wouldn’t want to become self-assured? Well this is the best opportunity to learn how to do so.

This guy’s only other option is to lose his power to this woman. The minute he lays his emotional needs upon her, he loses ground.

So he must begin by taking full responsibility for creating his own emotional security – from within himself – by standing on his own two feet. He must immediately cease and desist from looking to her to make him feel secure.

Granted, all she’d have to do is call him and tell him how much she loves and needs him, and he’d feel secure again (depending upon many variables). But this is because she has magic power over him — she has the power to make or break his emotional well-being (not that this is her intention).

Well this is what he has to change. He cannot afford to look to her to restore his sense of security.

If she experiences him as a rock — as a self-assured rock — she will be more likely to re-attach. But his motivation must be for his own sake.

He must take 100% responsibility for making himself secure. And boy is it ever a challenge! It’s the hardest work he’ll ever do. But it’s doable. And the rewards are amazing!

Taking responsibility involves reassuring himself (this is why it’s called SELF-assurance) millions of times that he can (and must) stand on his own two feet. He can go out and look for highly nurturing activities that distract him from the anxiety. He can get into the moment by doing things that are highly stimulating and life-sustaining. This doesn’t mean that he will feel very happy doing them; the anxiety might still be running through his stomach, but he will be breaking new ground.

Think of how well this will play when he speaks with his girlfriend as she watches him going on about his independent life, fulfilling himself. He doesn’t have to pretend to be okay. He can even admit that he’s feeling somewhat lost and insecure, but that he’s using the opportunity to discover wonderful new things about himself.

Read more: http://www.thirdage.com/today/dating/im-insecure-but-its-about-me#ixzz10qC5b59q

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.