NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Integrative Psychotherapy: Discovering the Root of Self Abandonment

In prior articles, I've discussed fear of abandonment where it involves a fear of being abandoned by other people (see my articles: How Psychotherapy Can Help You to Overcome Your Fear of AbandonmentThe Connection Between Abandonment Issues and Codependency, and Fear of Abandonment: Leaving Your Relationship Because You're Afraid of Being Abandoned).  There is also another common issue around abandonment that involves always being the "giver" to the point where it's hurtful to oneself, which is a self abandonment, the focus of this article.

Integrative Psychotherapy: Discovering the Root of Self Abandonment 

Self Abandonment: Always Being the Giver to the Person Who is Always the Taker
Many people, who focus on others more than they focus on themselves, tend to be givers to people where there is little to no reciprocity in their relationship.  As a result, the people who are givers are always giving and the people who are receiving are always taking.  This is a typical codependent relationship  (see my article: Overcoming Codependency).

While others, who are outside of this situation, might see the imbalance in this type of relationship, the person who is the giver rarely, if ever, notices the problem.  They're so focused on giving that they emotionally abandon themselves on behalf of others, especially others who are all too willing to take advantage of them.

The following fictional vignette illustrates this dynamic:

Tania began therapy after a tumultuous breakup with her last boyfriend.

She and Ray were dating on and off for four years.  During that time, Tania lost several friends, who didn't like Ray and who were constantly telling Tania to leave him.  They were tired of hearing Tania complain about the on again off-again relationship with Ray.

The breakup occurred after Ray lost his job again, and Tania couldn't afford to give him any more money.

Prior to that, Tania had given Ray thousands of dollars over the years every time he was terminated from a job, and he never paid her back.  But she was unable to help him this time because it would have meant she couldn't pay her own bills.

She explained to her psychotherapist that Ray interpreted this as Tania not caring about him, and he ended their relationship and refused to talk to Tania, which upset her.

Tania told her therapist that she would have given Ray the money if she could have afforded it, but she just couldn't do it.  She felt hurt and sad that Ray thought she didn't care.

As Tania and her therapist talked about Tania's history of relationships, it became evident that Tania had a similar pattern in all of her past relationships.  She would give and give until until she couldn't give anymore, then her boyfriend at the time would leave her (see my article: Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?).

Despite her friends trying to tell Tania that Ray and the other boyfriends were taking advantage of her, Tania didn't see it when she first started therapy.  She felt that her friends didn't understand the men that she dated and why she sacrificed so much for each of them (see my article: Could It Be That Your Friends See Things About Your Lover That You Don't See?).

When she was describing her family history to her psychotherapist, she said she was raised in a religious household where the emphasis was on putting others first.  She felt that she was practicing the beliefs that she was raised with, but her parents and siblings didn't agree.  They felt she was carrying it too far because she wasn't taking care of herself.

Tania's psychotherapist practiced Integrative Psychotherapy, which included an integration of psychodynamic therapy and other forms of therapy, including EMDR therapy, Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis, and Ego States work, also known as Parts work (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

Her therapist recommended that she and Tania explore the part of her that tended to give so much to others--to the point of hurting herself--and to expect little to nothing in return.

In doing Ego States therapy, Tania was able to sense the part of her that felt she had to give to others even when it had a negative impact on her.  While she was in a relaxed state, Tania went back to a memory with Ray where she gave him her last $2,000 so that she had little money for herself.  She had so little that she had to cut back on seeing her friends until she got paid later in the month.

When she was back in that memory, Tania remembered feeling she must help Ray, even though it came as a big sacrifice to her.

As she got back into that self state, she remembered having a moment of doubt before she gave she gave Ray the money but, at the time, she quickly brushed that feeling aside because it made her feel guilty.  Rather than brushing that feeling aside during the therapy session, her therapist asked her to stay with it and see what else came up.

As Tania held together both feelings--the feeling that she must give the money to Ray and the feeling of doubt that she had--Tania felt the inner conflict, which was mildly uncomfortable for her.  But she was able to tolerate the inner conflict while she was with her therapist, so she stayed with it and gave that doubting part of voice, "If that part could speak, it would say, 'Don't give him the money.  He always loses his job and you bail him out even when bailing him out hurts you'" (see my article: Shifting Self States).

Immediately after allowing this doubting part to express itself, Tania told her therapist that she felt guilty for feeling this way, "This is what my family and friends were saying."

It was clear to Tania and her psychotherapist that this doubting part was small in terms of the influence that it had on her and especially in comparison to the part of her that felt compelled to give.

But after she expressed the doubts that made her feel so guilty, she was surprised that she also felt more relaxed.  She realized that this conflict between these two parts of herself were going on inside for a long time, but she never allowed herself to feel the doubting part for long.

Over time, as Tania and her psychotherapist continued to do Ego States work, Tania discovered other parts of her that were angry and sad.

The sad part of her contained feelings that she wasn't allowing herself to feel before she started therapy--sadness for herself that she gave so much and got so little in return.  The angry part, which she also suppressed until now, was angry with Ray and her prior boyfriends for not appreciating her more.

She also discovered another part of her that was very young and felt unlovable (see my article: Overcoming the Emotional Pain of Feeling Unlovable).

The part that felt unlovable was at the root of her need to always give to her boyfriends.  That part felt that since she was unlovable, she had to keep giving so that these men would love her.  But she realized that it never worked out that way.

Not only did her boyfriends not appreciate her, but when she had no more to give, they left her.  So, she experienced self abandonment as well as abandonment by them.

Tania worked hard in therapy to distinguish these conflicted inner states and to separate the parts of herself from her religion.  She even spoke with her minister about her pattern of giving so much to her boyfriends and getting little to nothing in return.  He told her that Ray and the others took advantage of her and she needed to take care of herself first.

Over time, Tania was able to see that, before these men ever left her, she abandoned herself because she felt so unlovable and unworthy, so she and her therapist used a technique in clinical hypnosis called the Affect Bridge to trace back when she started to feel this way.

Once they discovered the earliest memory of Tania feeling unlovable, which was part of her childhood, they were able to use EMDR therapy to work through the trauma related to unresolved childhood issues.

With regard to abandonment issues, most of the focus in psychotherapy tends to be on how clients feel abandoned by others.

But many clients also abandon themselves when they become overly giving with people who take advantage of them.  Each client has his or her own underlying reasons as to why they continue to engage in this dynamic.

Integrative psychotherapy, which includes a combination of different types of therapy depending upon the needs of the client, is often effective in getting to the root of these problems so they can be worked on and resolved.

In the fictional vignette above, the therapy began with psychodynamic therapy (essentially talk therapy) and then the psychotherapist used Ego States therapy to help the client to understand the various parts of herself involved in this self defeating dynamic.

In this vignette, initially, the client was much more aware of the part of herself that felt compelled to keep giving to boyfriends, even when they were unappreciative.

As Tania and her therapist were able to distinguish other parts of herself that she had suppressed in the past, she discovered a sad part and an angry part that were in conflict with the giving part.

The Affect Bridge, a technique in clinical hypnosis, allowed the client to trace back the earliest memory related to the over-giving part which felt unworthy and unlovable.  As a result, they discovered the root of the problem.

Using EMDR therapy, they were able to process this earlier developmental trauma so that it no longer affected Tania.

Although this work is summarized briefly of necessity since this is a blog article, the therapeutic work involved is neither quick nor easy since it usually involves many layers of history.  But it tends to be faster and more effective than just talk therapy alone.

Getting Help With Integrative Psychotherapy
Integrative psychotherapy gives the psychotherapist and the client much more flexibility to use different types of therapy to get to the root of the problem and resolve it.

Using psychodynamic or talk therapy alone could take years to get to the root of this type of problem, which is a common problem for many people.

If the dynamics in this article resonate for you, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who practices Integrative Psychotherapy.

Rather than continuing to engage in self defeating patterns, you could work through these issues in Integrative Psychotherapy and free yourself from your traumatic history (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who uses Integrative Psychotherapy in a collaborate way with each client to develop the most effective psychotherapy plan.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.