Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Fear of Abandonment

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on May 21, 2015

Why do we fear abandonment? How do we balance dependency with self-reliance? These are the core issues of happiness in that if we can feel both self-reliant and dependent then we have reached a sweet spot of confidence and pride. Psychotherapy promotes dependency on the therapist, while at the same time, stressing self-reliance as a goal post. This duality, by its nature, supports the notion that dependence and self-reliance are not mutually exclusive. The fluidity of self-reliance alternating with dependency is an art, which throughout life, and particularly through traumatic experiences is the challenge. Too much tilt in either direction leads to pathology and unhappiness.

Marnie, twenty-eight, comes to mind. She is very anxious to have relationships such that she creates fantasies in her mind which stem from brief  “hook ups”. Each brief encounter with a man gives her a feeling of security, short-lived, leading to a persistent cycle of these very brief connections. She is aware that she feels desperate and this solves her problem, but like the alcoholic who knows that alcohol is a problem, this does not translate into a change in behavior. Marnie and I work together to help her see herself deserving more, more stability, more love, and more stimulation, while at the same time we work on her appreciating herself and all of the qualities that she brings into a relationship. The work involves both an in-depth approach to her judgment as well as an in-depth approach to her lack of self-esteem. The more she can appreciate herself, the more likely she will find someone who she can appreciate. The big picture is clear. The work involves helping her tolerate difficult feelings without acting them out, without seeking immediate gratification. Gaining frustration tolerance is the key towards her maturity. Marnie has a bright future, but she has to reflect and not act in order to reboot her emotional life.

2 Responses to “Fear of Abandonment”

  1. Shelly said

    So the key, I feel, is to develop Marnie’s feeling of self-soothing and self-appreciation. You want her to cut her feelings of dependence on you so she can “mature” into an adult. Marnie needs to develop an adult voice, which, in essence, is the Dr. Vollmer internal voice, so that she can constantly be true to herself and not be the doormat she has been in the past. Have I got it right?

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