081 -Addressing Abandonment Anxiety

 
 
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Love Me Don’t Leave Me
Addressing Fears of Abandonment
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC, NCC
Executive Director, AllCEUs
*Based in part on Love Me Don’t Leave Me by Michelle Skeen, PsyD.

Counseling CEUs can be earned for this presentation here: https://www.allceus.com/member/cart/index/product/id/517/c/

Objectives
~    Help clients increase awareness of their story including beliefs about and behavioral reactions to situations that trigger their fear of abandonment
~    Learn about fear of abandonment
~    Explore the concept of schemas or core beliefs
~    Examine common traps in thinking, reacting and relationships
~    Learn skills necessary to
~    Accept their past as part of their story
~    Acknowledge that their past does not have to continue to negatively impact them in the present

How It Impacts Recovery
~    Connection is a basic human need
~    As infants and children, survival was dependent upon the relationship with the primary caregiver
~    People’s beliefs about other people and relationships was formed largely based on their interactions with their caregivers
~    Healthy relationships serve as a buffer against stress

How It Impacts Recovery
~    Addressing beliefs that formed as a result of these relationships will help people:
~    Create a new understanding of these events
~    Better understand themselves and their reactions
~    Help them make more conscious, healthy decisions in their current relationships

Abandonment Experience
~    In childhood, survival depends on caregivers.
~    Fear of abandonment is a natural survival response
~    Meeting biological needs and safety are key triggers for anxiety at any age.
~    When focused on survival people cannot focus elsewhere
~    Every stressful situation becomes a crisis in the insecurely attached child

Abandonment Experience
~    In infancy/early childhood, caregivers were:
~    Away for long periods (Work, military, jail, choice, death)
~    Been inconsistently or unpredictably physically or emotionally present. (emotional distress, addiction, ill equipped to deal with a child)
~    In later childhood
~    Poor family fit/black-sheep
~    Trauma that ruptures the relationship with the primary caregiver
~    Introduction of a new, less emotionally or physically safe caregiver

Reactions to Fears of Abandonment
~    Fight or flight
~    Anger toward someone who is unavailable
~    Sadness (helplessness) when someone goes away
~    Shame (Self anger) about feeling needy
~    Fear
~    Rejection/isolation
~    Loss of control/the unknown
~    Failure
~    Questions for clients
~    What caused these fears as a child?  How were they reasonable/helpful.
~    What causes these fears now?  How are they unhelpful?
Temperament
~    Based on their temperament, children need different types and amounts of caregiver interaction
~    Wide open and easily overstimulated
~    The energizer bunny
~    The introvert
~    The extrovert
~    If abandonment fears are triggered in early childhood, it can be addressed.

*It is important to pay attention to the behaviors that are being reinforced
Schemas

~    Based on their needs and caregivers reactions, children form schemas or core beliefs about the world and others
~    Important points about children under 7:
(ages 8-12 children are developing alternate cognitive skills)
~    Children think dichotomously
~    Children are egocentric
~    Children can only focus on one aspect at a time
~    Children cannot think abstractly (consider other “possible” options)

Schemas
~    A broad way of perceiving things based upon memories, feelings, thoughts
~    Schemas that trigger abandonment fears center around:
~    Self
~    Acceptability (Rejection)
~    Lovability (Isolation)
~    Competence (Failure)
~    Adaptability (Ability to tolerate loss of control)
Schemas
~    Schemas that trigger abandonment fears center around:
~    Others
~    Acceptability/Rejecting (Distant, cold, unable to handle needs)
~    Isolating/absent
~    Competence/Critical
~    Unpredictable
~    Relationship of self to others
~    Acceptability (Rejection)
~    Lovability (Isolation)
~    Consistency (The Unknown)
~    Controllability

Attachment Styles
~    Secure: Emotionally available caregiver
~    Child seeks caregiver for comfort
~    Child is upset when caregiver leaves, especially in new situations
~    Child is happy when caregiver returns
~    Learns to:
~    Trust others will be responsive
~    Be self-reliant/try things, but if they fail know they can return to home base (self-efficacy)
~    Adapt to a variety of situations
~    Deal with stress
~    Have accurate expectations of others

Attachment Styles
~    Avoidant: Rejecting, harsh caregiver
~    Depends less on caregiver for security
~    Shows little response when caregiver leaves or returns
~    Child learns not to depend on the caregiver for comfort, connection or security
~    Ambivalent: Inconsistent, chaotic caregiver
~    Child is anxious, afraid to try/explore
~    Child is clingy and demanding trying to elicit response (negative attention is better than no attention)
~    Upset when caregiver leaves but also inconsolable when caregiver returns

Core Abandonment Beliefs

~    Abandonment:  All people leave.
~    Mistrust: People will hurt, reject, take advantage of me or just not be there when I need them.
~    Emotional Deprivation: I don’t get the love I need.  Nobody understands me, cares about me or even tries to meet my needs.
~    Defectiveness: If people knew me they would reject me.
~    Failure.  I don’t measure up.  I am not able to succeed.

*Notice the all or nothing language in these schemas.

Unhelpful Reactions
~    Fight (You don’t want to leave me because…)
~    Aggression, hostility, blaming, criticizing
~    Dominance or trying to control others
~    Recognition seeking to get attention/validation/approval
~    Manipulation and exploitation (seduction, lying, justifying)
~    Making excuses for other’s inappropriate behavior
~    Clinging and chasing
~    Flight (I don’t care if you leave)
~    Withdrawal (physical, emotional, including addiction)
~    Distraction
Questions for Clients About Core Beliefs
~    Abandonment:  All people leave.
~    What does it look like to be available (not abandon)?
~    Who in your past left you or was unavailable emotionally?
~    What did they do to make you feel rejected/abandoned?
~    What are alternate explanations?
~    Who in your past has been available to you emotionally?
~    Who in your present is available to you emotionally?
~    What do you do in your current relationships that causes people to leave?
~    Push them away How? Alternatives?
~    Cling How? Alternatives?

Questions for Clients About Core Beliefs
~    Mistrust: People will hurt, reject, take advantage of me or just not be there when I need them.
~    What does it look like when someone is trustworthy and safe?
~    Who in your past was untrustworthy or unsafe?
~    What did they do that taught you people were untrustworthy or dangerous?
~    What are alternate explanations?
~    Who in your past has been trustworthy and safe?
~    Who in your present is available trustworthy?
~    What do you do to yourself that is unsafe or dishonest?
~    How does your distrust impact your current relationships?
~    What could you do differently?
Questions for Clients About Core Beliefs
~    Emotional Deprivation: I don’t get the love I need.  Nobody understands me, cares about me or even tries to meet my needs.
~    What does it look like when someone understands you and meets your needs?
~    Who in the past failed to meet your needs emotionally, and how can you deal with that now?
~    Who in your past has understood you?
~    Who in your present understands and cares about you?
~    How can you start better understanding yourself and taking care of you?
~    What can you do to start getting your needs met?

Questions for Clients About Core Beliefs
~    Defectiveness: If people knew me they would reject me.
~    How will you know when you are accepted/acceptable?
~    Who in your past made you feel defective?
~    Are there alternate explanations?
~    How can you silence those old tapes?
~    Who in your past has been accepting and supportive?
~    Who in your present is accepting and supportive?
~    How can you start accepting yourself?

Questions for Clients About Core Beliefs
~    Failure.  I don’t measure up.  I am not able to succeed.
~    What does it look like to be successful?
~    What in your past made you feel like a failure?
~    What are alternate explanations/ways of viewing it?
~    What have you succeeded at in the past?
~    What are you good at in the present?
~    *Pay attention to minimization
~    What does being successful mean in terms of your relationship with others?
~    Who are 3 successful people you know.  What makes them successful?
~    Does success = happiness?
~    What do your kids need to do to be successful?

Triggering Relationships
~    Abandoner: Unpredictable, unstable, unavailable
~    Abuser: Untrustworthy, unsafe
~    Depriver: Detached, withholding
~    Devastator: Judgmental, rejecting, critical
~    Critic: Critical, narcissistic

~    Questions for Clients:
~    How do you exhibit these behaviors?
~    In what ways are these present in your current relationships?
~    In what ways were these present in your primary caregiver relationships
Behavioral Triggers
~    Abandonment/Mistrust
~    Change in someone’s behavior
~    Not getting constant reassurance
~    The other person’s relationships feel threatening
~    Hypervigilant to rejection and disconnection
~    Questions for clients
~    How has this threatened you in the past?
~    What are alternate explanations?
~    What would be a helpful reaction to these behaviors now?

Behavioral Triggers
~    Defectiveness/Failure
~    Criticism
~    Unexplained time apart
~    Absent or inconsistent reassurance
~    Failure
~    Questions for clients
~    How has this threatened you in the past?
~    What are alternate explanations?
~    What would be a helpful reaction to these behaviors now?

Envisioning Activity for Clients
~    What does a healthy relationship look like?
~    Presence vs. abandonment
~    Acceptance vs. rejection
~    Emotional support/compassion vs. emotional unavailability
~    Trustworthiness vs. untrustworthiness
~    Safe vs. harmful
~    How can you…
~    Create this relationship with yourself?
~    Create this relationship with others?

Mindfulness Questions for Clients

~    What am I feeling?
~    What is triggering it?
~    Am I safe (emotionally and physically) now? If not, what do I need to do?
~    Is this bringing up something from the past?
~    How is this situation different?
~    How am I different?
~    How can I silence my inner critic?
~    What would be a helpful reaction that…
~    Moves you more toward your goals
~    Moves you toward a positive emotional experience

Summary
~    Core beliefs about self, others and relationships are formed in early life
~    Due to children’s lack of knowledge, other experiences and primitive cognitive abilities, these core beliefs are often dichotomous.
~    Core beliefs can be formed around events/experiences outside of conscious memory
~    Identifying and being mindful of abandonment triggers in the present can help people choose alternate, more helpful ways of responding.

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