Latest update: June 24th, 2012
In part one (Family Issues 04-29-2011) we mentioned that often a symptom of the anxiety disorder, the fear of abandonment, is a strong need to be in control. That is because the person suffering from the disorder has lost someone in their past – due to separation, divorce or death – and may unconsciously blame themselves for the desertion.
The insecurity associated with the fear of abandonment can ruin relationships, and prevent an individual from living a normal married life. In general the abandonment issues begin in childhood, possibly when a child/teenager loses one or possibly both parents. However, even in cases where both parents are alive and lived with the family, the child may not have gotten the emotional support, love, guidance and care that is necessary for healthy development. As a result, the child may be left with feelings of abandonment. As these children grow up, they become extremely sensitive to rejection. People with this disorder often misinterpret even innocent comments or actions and interpret them as rejection. For example: a person choosing to spend time with his or her friends instead of the spouse – this could be perceived as abandonment. Another example: if a spouse stays out late and forgets to call, the partner, who suffers from fear of abandonment, may move into a whole other level of fear.
If these feelings continue to linger, as they often do, the event will be etched into the portion of the mind that is sensitive to the feeling of abandonment, until the anxiety sufferer will begin to question the viability of the relationship. As this process begins, the one who perceives being abandoned will start to feel unloved and unworthy, and can begin to get angry. The afflicted partner may start to get very controlling in an attempt to save him or herself and the relationship. Sufferers may start to smother their partners to the point where they become jealous if he/she spends free time with anyone else.
People with this disorder fear that their partner will not be dependent upon them, and will leave them to be abandoned once again, as they were in childhood. At times they may feel that in the end people will always let them down, and with these thoughts they can justify why they live defensively, and end relationships prematurely. This also means that they will be constantly on the lookout for signs and proof that they are right, even if they are truly not.
What is fascinating is how Hashem sets up the healing process: the individual with abandonment issues will often marry someone with a need for independence. As a result, he or she will be forced to face and work through these childhood issues. At first he or she may not even be aware of the abandonment fears because the mind will keep the feeling in the unconscious portions of cognition, so that the relationship can progress. In time, and sometimes right after sheva brachos, the one who is prone to feelings of abandonment will begin to react to signs of independence from their partner, fearing being left.
The problems begin as sufferers become emotionally blind-sighted by their own oversensitivity, and don’t realize how they have begun to smother their partners. This, in essence, creates self-fulfilling prophecies or self-projection. While self-projecting, people paint a picture of what they see happening in the future, which may then materialize because they already expect that scenario to occur. In this case, people self-projecting assume their needs will not be met, and then the other spouse will fail to provide the emotional support needed.
This was the case for Raizy & Yoni. Soon after the wedding Yoni made it clear that Raizy must listen to Yoni and not her family anymore. He explained that he is looking out for her best interest – not her family – and that as long as she listens to him everything will be fine. Yoni had been abandoned in early childhood, yet he was not aware that he needed to work out his many abandonment issues. He was also not aware that Hashem creates situations where two incompatible people meet for the purpose of healing. That is why when Raizy opposed some of Yoni’s requests, he thought he needed to end the marriage. Yoni could not comprehend that Raizy also had needs and one of them was to be self-sufficient. Somehow Yoni perceived her need for independence as her family’s interference and felt it would only be a matter of time before Raizy would leave him. These feelings caused Yoni to become more needy and clingy, which in turn caused Raizy to pull away and defend her needs to be self-sufficient and independent. The opposition threatened Yoni more and caused him to become more attached. When Raizy felt stifled she stayed out late and didn’t bother to call.
Can you see how out of control some of these relationships can get? Two people met to unconsciously heal their childhood wounds, but consciously do not know how or where their problems stem from! Overcoming fear of abandonment is not an impossible feat if a couple has the determination to get through the stages, so that they can truly attain the shalom bayis they dreamed of.
Moishe Herskowitz, MS., LCSW, developed the T.E.A.M. (Torah Education & Awareness for a better Marriage) approach based on 20 successful years of counseling couples – helping them to communicate effectively and fully appreciate each other. As a licensed clinical social worker and renowned family therapist, he developed this breakthrough seminar to guide new couples through easy-to-accomplish steps towards a happy, healthy marriage. Moishe Herskowitz is a Graduate School Professor at the Touro College Mental Health Program. To discuss topics from an article, or ask questions, he can be contacted at CPCMoishe@aol.com or 718-435-7388.
About the Author: Moishe Herskowitz, MS., LCSW, developed the T.E.A.M. (Torah Education & Awareness for a better Marriage). As a licensed clinical social worker and renowned family therapist, he guides new couples through easy-to-accomplish steps towards a happy, healthy marriage. He can be reached at CPCMoishe@aol.com or 718-435-7388.
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