By Susan Anderson, author of The Abandonment Recovery Workbook | Updated 9/29/16
Healing abandonment involves summoning your creative energy. Your task is to create positive gains from adversity, growth in the place of woundedness. Whether you are struggling through a painful breakup, triggered by childhood issues that impinge in your life, fired from a job, feeling dismissed by a friend, or isolated because you can’t seem to find a relationship, abandonment recovery involves digging deep for personal resources you haven’t had to tap before, discovering a new wellspring of power.
Healing the primal wound of abandonment doesn’t come naturally to most people. Left to our own devices, we tend to do the very thing that interferes in the process and prolongs our suffering. That is, we use our cerebral cortex to try thinking our way out of the grief – analyzing, reviewing, and obsessing about all the particulars and details of the relationship. But the healing powers lie not within the constant tick-tick-ticking of the brain, but within the creative processes within the body. We don’t think our way out of abandonment, we do our way out. And doing is a creative process.
There are five phases of Abandonment. They spell SWIRL: Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalizing, Rage, and Lifting. We swirl though the phases within an hour, within a day, within a week, within a year – overlapping cycles within cycles. If we know how to handle the feelings at each phase, we emerge out the end of the funnel-shaped cloud better able to create love and connection than before. The abandonment recovery program provides hands-on exercises for each of the phases.
In the first stage, Shattering, the rug has been pulled out from under you. Your waking moments are sparked with painful awareness. You feel hopeless, beset with always and never thinking.
I’ll always be alone.
I’ll never find happiness again.
As you face the dreaded unknown, you use your imagination to create powerful positive images of your future. You don’t have to believe these images; that would be asking too much of people who feel bereft of hope. You just have to keep conjuring them up to maximize their positive impact on the brain.
You learn how create the moment of Now – a peaceful place that takes you beyond your anguished thoughts about the past and fearful thoughts about the future. In the moment of now, past and future have no relevance. There is only Now. It is a momentary oasis. During abandonment most people can only stay in the moment for seconds at the time, but your task is to keep returning to it as if it were a mantra as you make your way through the emotional challenges of your day.
Getting into the now is easy when you are feeling happy, but it does not come naturally while suffering intense anxiety and anguish; therefore you have to keep creating it. The program helps you the moment. I. e. you learn to use your senses of hearing, sight, touch, taste – one sense at a time to bring you out of pain and into the now.
In the second stage, Withdrawal, when you are pining and yearning for your lost “object”, the program shows you how to create a powerful new relationship with yourself. You make your own “abandoned inner child” the new “object” of your devotion. Love yourself sounds like one of those easier-said-than-done aphorisms, but the program gets you to accomplish it behaviorally. Thus during your most desperate hours, you are creating emotional self-reliance.
The Internalizing phase is when you are beating yourself up for losing someone you love, feeling unlovable, and questioning your own worth. But through guided visualization you learn to create positive images to guide your future. Unlike the “Secret” or “laws of attraction” abandonment recovery does not rely on belief, since the cornerstone of abandonment grief is pervasive hopelessness. You have temporarily lost your belief in the future, feeling that you’ll never find peace or happiness again, that you will die of loneliness. Abandonment recovery relies not on belief, but on creative use of your imagination.
Other systems suggest that if you believe a particular image strongly and consistently enough, it will become a reality. But abandonment recovery operates differently. You only have to conjure up positive images of your future for its benefits to take hold. This does not mean that what you imagine will occur, as if my magic. The positive images serve as focal points, beacons of light that help to guide your recovery. Your imagination, rather than your belief system, promotes healing from the inside out.
It doesn’t hinder the process to be a doubting Thomas. It is expected that you will return to dread and worry. What matters is that you continue creating positive images of your future – just pretending them – even if for only a few seconds at a time, and implanting these images in your mind’s eye. Practiced regularly, conjuring these images act acts like physical therapy for the brain and serves to guide your creative energy in the here and now.
During the Rage phase, you are railing against the situation, lashing out, feel agitated and depressed. But rather than fall back on old patterns of self-sabotage, the program helps you channel the rage-energy creatively. You initiate behaviors that, when practiced regularly, turn into healthy new patterns and eventually become habit, part of muscle-memory.
During the Lifting phase, you are experiencing intervals of relief from the pain – i.e. maybe you’re suddenly stunned by a flower’s beauty. The program helps you resist the temptation to leave your bruised feelings behind, to burry them beneath the scar tissue of the abandonment wound. The danger of lifting above your feelings is that you can lose emotional sensitivity where your heart-wound has formed a scab. If you submerge your feelings under those emotional calluses, you can develop self-defeating patterns, one of which I call “abandoholism” –being attracted to the unavailable. The reason this pattern develops is that you want to break out of the deadness and “feel” again, but the only feelings you can still “feel” are insecurity and deprivation. The program guides you to create love-focus for your hard won emotional attunement. You create a new life of depth, purpose, meaning, and deeper connection.
The creative process of recovery helps you benefit from abandonment rather than being diminished by it. In abandonment recovery, imagination is your higher power. •
Susan Anderson is the author of The Abandonment Recovery Workbook, as well as Taming Your Outer Child and The Journey from Abandonment to Healing. The founder of the Outer Child and Abandonment Recovery movements, she has devoted the past 30 years of clinical experience and research to helping people resolve abandonment and overcome self-sabotage. Visit her online at www.abandonment.net.
Based on book The Abandonment Recovery Workbook: Guidance through the 5 Stages of Healing from Abandonment, Heartbreak, and Loss. Copyright ©2003, 2016 by Susan Anderson. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.