NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Self Abandonment - Part 2: A Clinical Vignette

In my last article about self abandonment I defined self abandonment and the circumstances where this dynamic occurs.  In this article, I give a fictional clinical vignette to further illustrate these dynamics.

Self Abandonment: A Clinical Vignette

As I mentioned in my prior article, some of the ways that self abandonment can take place include the following: a pattern of ignoring your well-being to focus on others, placing your well-being in the hands of others and them for your happiness, and judging yourself harshly.

A Fictional Clinical Vignette About Self Abandonment

Nina started psychotherapy in an emotional crisis.

Her three year relationship with Mike ended a month prior to her starting therapy when Mike told her that he no longer wanted to be in a relationship.

He denied that he was interested in anyone else. He said he felt pressured by Nina to take the next step in their relationship and he wasn't ready to do that.  He said he wasn't sure if he would ever be ready with her or anyone else.

Self Abandonment: A Clinical Vignette

Nina felt devastated when Mike broke up with her.  At 35, she had hoped that they would eventually get married and have children.  Now she wondered if she would ever be married and have a family.

After the breakup, Nina couldn't sleep, she couldn't concentrate at work, and she often cried throughout the day.

All she could think about was Mike and how much she wanted him back.  She tried to reach Mike by phone, text and email to try to reconcile their relationship.  But after he broke up with her, he refused to respond.

Nina felt she couldn't talk to anyone about the breakup because, after they met Mike a few times, her friends warned her that Mike would hurt her.

They thought he was narcissistic, and they disliked that he was openly critical of Nina in front of them (see my article: Could It Be That Your Friends See Things About Your Significant Other That You Don't See? and Belittling Behavior in Relationships).

Her friends also thought he was immature and irresponsible when he told them that he wasn't showing up for work because his boss didn't give him the praise he felt he deserved.  His attitude resulted in his losing one job after another.

Nina defended him to her friends by telling them that they didn't understand him.  She saw a side of Mike that no one else saw and she thought they were being harsh.

After listening to Nina complain to them and then defend him many times, her friends were tired of of it.  They told her that it would be better for her not to talk about it with them anymore.

Before the breakup, Nina continued to see her friends, but she stopped talking about her relationship with Mike and, at her friends' request, she no longer included Mike in their get-togethers because they didn't like him.

Now, Nina felt alone and miserable.  She couldn't believe this was happening to her, and she didn't understand why Mike broke up with her.

It was true, she said, she suggested that they move in together.  But she didn't expect Mike to have such a strong reaction to their conversation, "It's not like I gave him an ultimatum."

Nina's psychotherapist focused on helping Nina to get through this difficult time (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Strategies).

She taught Nina how to develop a wind down routine before going to bed so she could sleep better.  She also taught her how to do a relaxing meditation, a breathing exercise, and recommended that Nina keep a journal to express her feelings.

Once Nina was more on an even keel emotionally, Nina and her therapist explored the dynamics in her relationship with Mike with an emphasis on Nina's self defeating behavior.

Her psychotherapist explained the concept of self abandonment to Nina and tried to help Nina to develop insight into her own behavior.  But, initially, every time that her psychotherapist talked to Nina about how she didn't take care of herself, Nina would try to talk about Mike and what he said and what he did.

In a gentle, tactful way, Nina's therapist kept bringing the focus back to Nina and pointing out how Nina kept avoiding looking at her own behavior because she was so focused on Mike (see my article: Overcoming Codependency: Taking Care of Yourself First).

Nina wasn't accustomed to focusing on herself.  At first, she felt like she was being selfish and self centered (see my article: Is Self Care Selfish?).

But, over time, Nina began to understand how focusing on Mike was a way to avoid looking at herself and that she wouldn't develop insight into what happened until she was able to look at her own dynamics in the relationship (see my article: Changing Maladaptive Coping Strategies That Don't Work: Avoidance).

Gradually, as the therapy progressed, Nina realized that in her relationship with Mike and in her prior relationships, not only did she focus on her boyfriend, she abandoned her own needs and gave away her personal power (see my articles:  Relationships: Are You Giving Away Your Personal Power? and Taking Back Your Personal Power).

Over time, Nina also realized that she wanted so much to be in a relationship that she avoided the warning signs that were there all along and that her friends could see more objectively (see my article: Are You Ignoring the Early Warning Signs in Your Relationship?).

Nina and her therapist were able to trace back these ingrained dynamics to Nina's family history.  As the oldest, Nina became a parentified child to a single mother who turned to Nina for mothering from the time Nina was a young child.  She also expected Nina to take care of her younger siblings.

Nina worked through the trauma of her emotional neglect as a child (see my articles: What is Childhood Emotional Neglect? and  What is the Connection Between Childhood Emotional Neglect and Problems Later On in Adult Relationships?).

She also talked to her friends about the breakup and what she was learning about herself in therapy.

When she began dating again, she didn't allow her fears to get in the way of being more discerning when she met men (see my article: Choosing Healthier Relationships).

Although it was difficult for her, Nina also learned to like herself more and to take better care of herself.

Self abandonment can occur in many different ways.  It often involves codependency in relationships, as illustrated in the fictional vignette above.

Psychotherapy can help people who engage in this self destructive dynamic to develop insight, learn how to take better care of themselves, and change this self defeating pattern.

Getting Help in Therapy
Self abandonment usually involves unconscious behavior that has its roots in early childhood.

It's very difficult to change this self defeating behavior on your own, even when you're aware of  it, because the early roots of this behavior usually remain out of awareness.

Working with a skilled psychotherapist, you can develop insight into your behavior and change your pattern of relating to yourself and others (see my articles: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

It takes courage to seek help in therapy to change (see my article:  Developing the Courage to Change).

By taking care of yourself and choosing healthier relationships, you can lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrated Psychotherapy).

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.