Have you been abandoned in a relationship or do you frequently abandon others in a relationship? If you answered yes to any part of that question then getting help before moving on to another relationship is vital. To help understand the issue of abandonment I have interviewed Dr. Denise Humphrey.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a clinical psychologist in Dallas, TX, working in a private practice. I lead an Abandonment Recovery Group based on the research of author and therapist Susan Anderson. In addition, I have completed level 2 of Gottman Couples Counseling, and work with both gay and straight couples, as well as individuals. Other areas of specialty include Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Adoption, and Performance Anxiety. I also have experience in providing psychological evaluations for police and fire department applicants seeking employment, along with security guard applicants.”
Where does the issue of abandonment originate?
“Abandonment is described by Licensed Social Worker Susan Anderson as our “primal fear” and “universal wound.” It can be triggered by childhood losses such as adoption or being left by parent/s in a variety of ways, such as a mom or dad leaving the family for divorce or through death. Sometimes a child feels replaced by a new sibling or feels restlessness due to physical or emotional neglect. Adolescents may feel consistently rejected by others, deserted by a good friend, come to terms with their sexual orientation and become apprehensive about peer or parental reactions. Adults might experience intense feelings of devastation when a relationship ends, when there is a serious illness that restricts or refines them, or if a career that provided professional identity, financial security, or acceptable status is ended. These are just a few descriptions of events that create feelings of abandonment. As Susan stated, “Its wound is at the heart of human experience.””
What are some signs that a person has abandonment issues?
“Feelings of abandonment include an extensive array of symptoms, including unworthiness, insecurity, shame, emotional hunger, feelings of annihilation, self-sabotage, chronic emptiness, and repeated feelings of trauma. Some of the behaviors that emerge as a way to deal with these feelings include dependency and co-dependency issues in relationships, setting ourselves up for re-abandonment and even self-medication through food, drugs, or alcohol.”
What type of impact does abandonment issues have on a person’s life?
“Abandonment history brings about feelings of loss of love, lack of significance, disconnection from people and life in general, and being ignored or left behind. These are just a few examples. Feeling abandoned is what makes heartbreak so painful and what’s behind the turmoil and uncertainty of divorce. It’s why separation arouses such intense anxiety and why losing a friend, a job, a lover, causes our self-esteem to plummet. Abandonment is what complicates our grief when someone dies: we feel left behind. Abandonment stirs up feelings of not being worthy, not belonging, and not being in control of our lives. The wound lies deep within us, beneath the surface, and is often invisible, which makes it hard to let go. Then when we attempt to love again, these issues generate feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.”
What type of help is available for someone going through abandonment issues? “Abandonment recovery is not an instant cure. To benefit, you must be ready to take responsibility for your own recovery. It can be extremely helpful to locate a therapist or facilitator in your area who has an understanding of abandonment, because the symptoms can be quite extensive. Abandonment Recovery Groups or individual therapy offers exercises for healing, emotional support, and literature to guide you, but it is up to you to take action. Become involved in a dynamic process that operates over time so that you can gain a new way of seeing and feeling, new awareness and new life-direction.”
What advice would you like to leave for someone who is going through abandonment issues?
“Begin by viewing Susan Anderson’s website at www.abandonment.net and then reading some of her publications. She is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years of clinical and research experience working with issues of abandonment trauma, heartbreak, and loss. If reading her explanations are intriguing, then search for a therapist or support group that focuses on these issues. The goal of abandonment recovery is to benefit from your experience of abandonment rather than be diminished by it.”
Thank you Dr. Humphrey for the interview. If you would like more information about Dr. Humphrey check out her website at www.denisehumphrey.com.