How unbearable it felt as a baby : insights into the power of abandonment depression.

I just read part of a reblogged post on someone struggling with deep sadness and fear of being excluded from her therapists life.  There was a sense that the person fell into the darkest hole with recognition and realisation of how powerful her unresolved longing was to be the one total focus of her therapist’s life and the agony of feeling cast out into the wilderness when it was revealed all so painfully that she was not.

Such powerful feelings make little sense in the light of an adult frame of reference, but can we allow ourselves to feel how it was a tiny baby or young child needing the attention and mirroring and holding of our parent and not getting it when we were struggling with huge feelings and being left wanting?  Can we allow ourselves to imagine how painful that might feel?  And can we be compassionate enough to know that as extra sensitive little ones the intensity of our feeling may have been totally overpowering?

Therapy for the borderline person needs to be one that offers a consistent and intensely available therapist who is able to mediate for the client those huge emotions as well as the powerful defences and fears that go along with this kind of ego structure.  I was made clear about this after my first therapy undertaken in 1999 blew apart just over 2 years later when my therapist went on a month long break and left me with no back up.  I eventually aborted the therapy which took place overseas and when I managed to reconnect with a therapist here in Australia and told him about what happened he said to me “Deborah that kind of broken connection is not adequate for someone with your level of wounding.”   I am very grateful that this particular therapist had so much experience working as a psychotherapist,  He was able to validate how hard the break had been for me and how necessary it was when I next chose a therapist that they have empathy to be emotionally available in a more consistent way.  The most challenging thing for those of us who have borderline traits is that at the time certain damage or lack of holdings occurred for us we did not have a sufficiently formed ego structure to make sense of them. So as adults we are left with all kinds of deeply embedded and powerful feelings that we cannot fully access on the mental realm but may be felt only on a bodily level leading us at times to feel we are going insane or will explode when old abandonment pain is re triggered.  It takes a lot of time in therapy to develop an embodied awareness of how our souls suffered when we were left all alone without support or were subjected to overwhelming events in baby or childhood that over took us and left us feeling abandoned, alone and over exposed.

The truth is when we struggle with lack of consistent mediation, affirmation and mirroring in our early years we are left with gaps or holes.  We suffer for things that are beyond words and it can take years in therapy to get a handle on them as so often we develop powerful defences against this kind of knowing which may open for us old tender raw wounds.

My heart so went out to this blogger, when I read her post.  So many others commented on the post and it was obvious it touched a raw nerve for so many.

What I also thought when reading it was something my own therapist reminded me of when I shared about how I felt I would literally die whenever I was exiled from family or friends in the past after an emotional outburst.  She explained that as humans we can carry primal imprints of how it was to be exposed or left alone years and years ago when our survival depended on being protected by the tribe.   Without that protection we may have been born apart by wild animals.  What we may not know now is that in such a situation where we cannot have empathy for how we truly suffer our own feelings can become exiled and turn against us and threaten to tear us to pieces like wild animals too.  If we cannot have empathy for how and why we truly suffer in this way we can be lost.  We may abort a therapy or opportunity for connection due to the triggering of old abandonment depression and fear we are not fully conscious of.  Such awareness of how life threatening the abandonment depression can feel is pointed out by Pete Walker in his book on Complex PTSD.   It is very painful to suffer and we need recognition of its power if we are to grow in compassion and heal.  We also need to make sure we are working with a therapist who understands this need for consistent holding so we can heal the lack of trust issue that is triggered and in time learn to unpack the dread and demands which have powerful and very deep roots in our past unconscious emotional history.

2 thoughts on “How unbearable it felt as a baby : insights into the power of abandonment depression.

  1. You are so right. It really is crucial that we have a therapist that is consistently available to us in all sorts of ways. I hadn’t really thought about that much until reading this. I think if you end up in therapy with the wrong type of therapist, someone that is not aware of/or educated in deep childhood trauma and abandonment etc, you could so easily be re-wounded and re-traumatised! I thank my lucky stars I found my therapist who is consistently wonderful to me, able to “hold” me in all of my grief and painful revelations and seems to understand me better than I understand myself! Thank you for writing this and helping me to make sense of it x

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