Author Topic: Self Abandonment  (Read 18094 times)

Certain Hope

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Self Abandonment
« on: July 09, 2008, 09:53:13 AM »

Managing Abandonment Depression in Complex PTSD
By Pete Walker

excerpted from:

The etiology of a self-abandoning response to depression.

Chronic emotional abandonment is one of the worst things that can happen to a child.

It naturally makes her feel and appear deadened and depressed.
Functional parents respond to a child's depression with concern and comfort; abandoning parents respond to it with anger, disgust and further abandonment,
which in turn create the fear, shame and despair that become characteristic of the abandonment depression.
A child who is never comforted when she is depressed has no model for developing a self-comforting response to her own depression.
Without a nurturing connection with a caretaker, she may flounder for long periods of time in a depression that can devolve into The Failure to Thrive Syndrome.

 In my experience failure to thrive is not an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather a continuum that begins with excessive depression and ends in the most severe cases with death. Many PTSD survivors "thrived" very poorly, and perhaps at times lingered near the end of the continuum where they were close to death, if not physically, then psychologically. When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic.

She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment described in my article "Shrinking The Inner Critic in Complex PTSD" (see link for this article: Shrinking the Inner Critic). Her inner critic also typically becomes emotional perfectionistic, as it imitates her parent's contempt of her emotional pain about abandonment.

The child learns to judge her dysphoric feelings as the cause of her abandonment. Over time her affects are repressed, but not without contaminating her thinking processes. Unfelt fear, shame and depression are transmuted into thoughts and images so frightening, humiliating and despairing that they instantly trigger escapist 4F acting out. Eventually even the mildest hint of fear or depression, no matter how functional or appropriate, is automatically deemed as danger-ridden and overwhelming as the original abandonment. The capacity to self-nurturingly weather any experience of depression, no matter how mild, remains unrealized. The original experience of parental abandonment devolves into self-abandonment. The ability to stay supportively present to all of one's own inner experience gradually disappears.

Certain Hope

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Re: Self Abandonment
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2008, 08:04:10 AM »
One very common flashback-scenario occurs as follows:

Internal or external perceptions of possible abandonment trigger fear and shame,

which then activates panicky Inner Critic cognitions,

which in turn launches an adrenalized fight, flight, freeze or fawn trauma response (subsequently referred to as the 4F's).

The 4F's correlate respectively with narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, dissociative or codependent defensive reactions.

Here is an example of the layered processes of an emotional flashback.

A complex PTSD sufferer wakes up feeling depressed. Because childhood experience has conditioned her to believe that she is unworthy and unacceptable in this state, she quickly becomes anxious and ashamed.
This in turn activates her Inner Critic to goad her with perfectionistic and endangering messages.
The critic clamors: "No wonder no one likes you. Get your lazy, worthless ass going or you'll end up as a wretched bag lady on the street"!
Retraumatized by her own inner voice, she then launches into her most habitual 4F behavior.

She lashes out at the nearest person as she becomes irritable, controlling and pushy (Fight/ Narcissistic)

- or she launches into busy productivity driven by negative, perfectionistic and catastrophic thinking (Flight/Obsessive-Compulsive)

- or she flips on the TV and becomes dissociated, spaced out and sleepy (Freeze/ Dissociative)

 - or she focuses immediately on solving someone's else's problem and becomes servile, self-abnegating and ingratiating (Fawn/Codependent).

Unfortunately this dynamic also commonly operates in reverse,
creating perpetual motion cycles of internal trauma as 4F acting out also gives the critic endless material for self-hating criticism,
which in turn amps up fear and shame and finally compounds the abandonment depression with a non-stop experience of self-abandonment.