Abandonment Depression

 

 

The following is via Pete Walker  

Pete has so kindly given me permission, to use his info here.

 

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 HERE 

 

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. See HERE  about 4 F's.

 

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.

 

We can gradually deconstruct the self-abandoning habit of reacting to depression with fear and shame, inner critic "freak out", and 4F acting out. The processes described in this article and my paper: "Managing Emotional Flashbacks in Complex PTSD" see  HERE  awaken the psyche's innate, developmentally arrested capacity to respond amelioratively to depression and the fear and shame that attaches to it. It is a long difficult journey however, for even without attachment trauma, feelings of fear and depression are difficult to accept and weather.

 

 

The normalcy of depression


We live in a culture that judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the "pursuit of happiness".

 

Taboos about depression even emanate from the psychological establishment, where some schools strip it of its status as a legitimate emotion - dismissing it simplistically as mere negative thinking, or as a dysfunctional state that results from the repression of less taboo emotions like sadness and anger.

 

I believe we must learn to distinguish depressed thinking - which can be eliminated - from depressed feelings - which must sometimes be felt. Occasional feelings of enervation and anhedonia are normal and existential - part of the admission price to life. Moreover, depression is sometimes an invaluable harbinger of the need to slow down, to drop interiorly into a place that at least allows us to restore and recharge, and at best unfolds into our deepest intuitiveness. One recurring gift that typically comes cloaked in depression is an invitation to grow that necessitates relinquishing a formerly treasured job or relationship that has now become obsolete or moribund.

 

Overreaction to depression essentially reinforces learned toxic shame. It reinforces the individual's notion that, when depressed, he is unworthy, defective and unlovable. Sadly this typically drives him deeper into abandonment-exacerbating isolation. Deep level recovery from childhood trauma requires a normalization of depression, a renunciation of the habit of reflexively reacting to it.

 

Central to this is the development of a capacity to stay in one's body, to stay fully present to all internal experience, to stay acceptingly open to one's emotional, visceral and somatic experiences without 4F acting out. Renouncing this kind of self-abandonment is a journey that often feels frustratingly Sisyphean. It is a labor of self-love and a self-nurturing process of the highest order, but it can feel like an ordeal replete with unspectacular redundancy - with countless, menial experiences of noticing, naming and disidentifying from the unhelpful internal overreactions that depression triggers in us.

 

 

A relational approach to healing abandonment


I am a relational therapist, because I believe this journey requires reparative relational experience. Healing Complex PTSD and the attachment disorder that typically accompanies it is an interpersonal journey which needs to be initiated and shepherded by a therapist, partner or trusted friend who has the capacity to stay unreactively present to their own depression and the various affects that attach to it. When a therapist has this level of emotional intelligence, she can guide the client to gradually release the learned habit of automatic affect-rejection and overreaction.

 

A key operation here appears to depend on the eye and ear contact of a bi-hemispheric brain process Daniel Siegel calls "the co-regulation of affect".

 

Safe and empathic eye and voice connection with an individual with "good enough" emotional intelligence provides a working model and a "limbic resonance" to help her stay unreactively present to her depression and the fear that attaches to it. This, in turn, promotes the integration of right and left brain functioning - helping the client to feel and think simultaneously and egosyntonically.

 

 

 

 

 

© 2019 HealingFromComplexTraumaandPTSD.com

Author Lilly Hope Lucario   All rights reserved.

This site was designed with the
.com
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now