329 -Addressing Codependency and Abandonment Fears
Counselor Toolbox

 
 
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Addressing
Co-Dependency and Abandonment Fears
Instructor: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director: AllCEUs Counselor Education
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox
Objectives
~ Review attachment theory
~ Define codependency
~ Learn about core abandonment fears
~ Identify ways that codependent behaviors might be ways to cope with abandonment trauma
~ Explore tools and activities to help clients recognize their fear-related and codependent behaviors and take effective action.

What is Attachment Theory?
~ Attachment behaviors, such as crying, calling and searching, are adaptive responses to separation from with a primary attachment figure someone who provides support, protection, and care.
~ Maintaining proximity to an attachment figure via attachment behaviors increases the chance for survival
~ From our initial attachment relationship we learn
~ How scary or safe the world is.
~ How trustworthy others are
~ If we can trust our own feelings
~ What it is like to be loved.

What is Attachment Theory?
~ The attachment system essentially “asks” the following fundamental question: Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive?
~ If the answer is “yes,” the person feels loved, secure, and confident, and, behaviorally, is likely to explore his or her environment, interact with others.
~ If the answer is “no,” the person experiences anxiety and, is likely to exhibit attachment behaviors ranging from simple visual searching to active following and vocal signaling on the other
~ These behaviors continue until either
~ The person is able to reestablish a desirable level of physical or psychological proximity to the attachment figure
~ Until the person “wears down.”
Triggers for Attachment
~ Certain kinds of events trigger a desire of closeness and comfort from caregivers.
~ Three main sets of triggers:
~ Conditions of the person (fatigue, hunger, illness, pain, cold, etc.) (HALT)
~ Conditions involving the caregiver (absent, departing, discouraging of proximity, giving attention to another, etc.)
~ Conditions of the environment (alarming events, criticism or rejection by others)

Impact of Attachment
~ How loved or unloved we feel as children deeply affects the formation of our self-esteem and self-acceptance. It shapes how we seek love and whether we feel part of life or more like an outsider.
~ As we individuate we often again seek approval.
Consequences of Abandonment
~ When biological and safety needs are not met, it can trigger anxiety at any age.
~ Fear of abandonment is a natural survival response when a person feels unlovable, ineffective/helpless
~ When people feel like they are not getting their own needs met, they often have difficulty effectively meeting the needs of others.
~ Every stressful situation becomes a crisis because they are already in “threat mode.”
~ Fear of Rejection/isolation, Loss of control/the unknown, Failure

Signs of Abandonment Issues
~ Attach to quickly
~ Move on too quickly
~ Partner pleaser
~ Settle for bad relationships
~ Constantly looking for flaws
~ Reluctant to fully invest in a relationship
~ Difficulty trusting
~ Avoid emotional intimacy
~ Feel unworthy of love
~ Jealous of virtually everyone
~ Hypervigilance and over analysis
~ Repressed Anger
~ Overly controlling
~ Self-sabotage
~ Blame yourself for breakups
Reactions to Fears of Abandonment
~ How do these supposedly prevent abandonment? What maintains them? What are the long-term consequences?
~ 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)
~ Clinging and chasing
~ Shame (Self anger) about feeling needy
Reactions cont…
~ How do these supposedly prevent abandonment? What maintains them? What are the long-term consequences?
~ Flight (I don’t care if you leave)
~ Withdrawal (physical, emotional, including addiction)
~ Distraction
Co-Dependency
~ Codependency describes a type of relationship in which:
~ One partner defines his or her worth or goodness based on someone else
~ If I can save this person it means I am good
~ If this person loves me, it means I am lovable
~ The codependent person often chooses relationships in which the other person needs to be rescued, thereby making himself or herself indispensable.
~ How might this result from low self-esteem and fear of abandonment?

Characteristics of Codependency
~ In what ways do these behaviors prevent abandonment? What maintains them?
~ Avoidance confrontation/poor communication
~ Inability to identify feelings (except chronic anger)
~ Confuse pity and love
~ Neglect your needs to attend to another’s first
~ Accept verbal or physical abuse by others
~ Take responsibility for the actions of others
~ Need to control others
~ Feel shame when others make mistakes
Characteristics of Codependency
~ In what ways do these behaviors prevent abandonment? What maintains them?
~ Do more than your share at work, or at home
~ Refuse to ask for help
~ Need others’ validation to feel good about yourself (not feel hurt)
~ Think everyone’s feelings are more important than your own
~ Feel trapped in the relationship but stay to avoid feelings of abandonment
~ Enmeshment/poor boundaries
~ Overcommitment/overwhelmed
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. (Feeling-Based Reasoning, Examine the facts, find exceptions)
~ Failure. I don’t measure up. I am not able to succeed.

*Notice the all or nothing language in these schemas.

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?
~ How do you communicate 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 cares about you and wants to understand?
~ 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.
~ Is this based on facts or feelings?
~ 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.
~ To what or who’s standards do you not measure up?
~ What does it look like to be successful?
~ Clients may need help with goal setting
~ 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 relationships?
~ Who are 3 successful people you know. What makes them successful?
~ Does success = happiness?
~ What do your kids need to do to be successful in your eyes?

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
~ Identifying and being mindful of abandonment triggers in the present can help people choose alternate, more helpful ways of responding.
~ Codependents do not feel worthy or lovable. They need someone else to validate them
~ Recovery involves
~ Developing a sense of self-worth
~ Addressing the depression and anxiety
~ Learning about and creating a network of healthy relationships

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