Love Me Don’t Leave Me
Addressing Fears of Abandonment
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
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 at 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 your 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:
~ 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.