What is abandoholism?
You’ve heard of food-oholism, work-oholism, shop-oholism and, of course, alcoholism. Now here comes another, most insidious, addictive pattern – aband-oholism. Abandoholism is one of Outer Child’s most insidious patterns.
Abandoholism is a tendency to become attracted to unavailable partners. Many abandonment survivors are caught up in this painful pattern.
Abandoholism is similar to the other ‘oholisms, but instead of being addicted to a substance, you’re addicted to the emotional drama of heartbreak. You pursue hard-to-get partners to keep the romantic intensity going, and to keep your body’s love-chemicals and stress hormones flowing.
What makes someone an abandoholic?
Abandoholism sets in when you’ve been hurt so many times that you’ve come to equate insecurity with love. Unless you’re pursuing someone you’re insecure about, you don’t feel in love.
Conversely, when someone comes along who wants to be with you, that person’s availability fails to arouse the required level of insecurity. If you can’t feel those yearning, lovesick feelings, then you don’t feel attracted, so you keep pursuing unavailable partners.
You become psychobiologically addicted to the high stakes drama of an emotional challenge and the love-chemicals that go with it.
Abandoholism is driven by both fear of abandonment and fear of engulfment.
When you’re attracted to someone, it arouses a fear of losing that person. This fear causes you to become clingy and needy. You try to hide your insecurity, but your desperation shows through, causing your partners to lose romantic interest in you. They sense your emotional suction cups aiming straight toward them and it scares them away.
Fear of engulfment is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It occurs when someone is pursuing you and now you’re the one pulling back. You feel engulfed by that person’s desire to be with you. When fear of engulfment kicks in, you panic. Your feelings shut down. You no longer feel the connection. The panic is about your fear of being engulfed by the other person’s emotional expectations of you. You fear that the other person’s feelings will pressure you to abandon your own romantic needs.
Fear of engulfment is one of the most common causes for the demise of new relationships, but it is carefully disguised in excuses like: “He just doesn’t turn me on.” Or “I don’t feel any chemistry.” Or “She’s too nice to hold my interest.” Or “I need more of a challenge.”
Abandoholics tend to swing back and forth between fear of abandonment and fear of engulfment. You’re either pursuing hard-to-get-lovers, or you’re feeling turned off by someone who IS interested in you.
What is Abando-phobism?
Abandophobics are so afraid of rejection that they avoid relationships altogether.
Abandophobics act out their fear of abandonment by remaining socially isolated, or by appearing to search for someone, when in fact they are pursuing people who are unattainable, all to avoid the risk of getting attached to a real prospect – someone who might abandon them sooner or later.
There is a little abandophobism in every abandoholic.
For both abandoholics and abandophobics, a negative attraction is more compelling than a positive one.
You only feel attracted when you’re in pursuit. You wouldn’t join any club who would have you as a member, so you’re always reaching for someone out of reach.
How do abandoholism and abandophobism set in?
These patterns may have been cast in childhood. You struggled to get more attention from your parents but you were left feeling unfulfilled, which caused you to doubt your self-worth. Over time, you internalized this craving for approval and you learned to idealize others at your own expense. This became a pattern in your love-relationships.
Now as an adult, you recreate this scenario by giving your love-partners all of your power, elevating them above yourself, recreating those old familiar yearnings you grew accustomed to as a child. Feeling emotionally deprived and “less-than” is what you’ve come to expect.
Why does the insecurity linger?
Recent scientific research shows that rather than dissipate, fear tends to incubate, gaining intensity over time. Insecurity increases with each romantic rejection, causing you to look to others for something you’ve become too powerless to give yourself: esteem. When you seek acceptance from a withholding partner, you place yourself in a one-down position, recreating the unequal dynamics you had with your parents or peers. You choreograph this scenario over and over.
Conversely, you are unable to feel anything when someone freely admires or appreciates you.
This abandonment compulsion is insidious. You didn’t know it was developing. Until now you didn’t have a name for it: Abandoholism is a new concept.
Insecurity is an aphrodisiac.
If you are a hard-core abandoholic, you’re drawn to a kind of love that is highly combustible. The hottest sex is when you’re trying to seduce a hard-to-get lover. Insecurity becomes your favorite aphrodisiac. These intoxicated states are produced when you sense emotional danger – the danger of your lover’s propensity to abandon you the minute you get attached.
At the other end of the seesaw, you turn off and shut down when you happen to successfully win someone’s love. If your lover succumbs to your charms – heaven forbid – you suddenly feel too comfortable, too sure of him to stay interested. There’s not enough challenge to sustain your sexual energy. You interpret your turn-off as his not being right for you.
How about following your gut?
If you’re an abandoholic, following your gut is probably what got you into these patterns in the first place. Your gut gets you to pursue someone who makes your heart go pitter pat, not because he’s the right one, but because he arouses fear of abandonment. And your gut gets you to avoid someone who is truly trustworthy, because he doesn’t press the right insecurity buttons.
Enrich your mind. Follow your wisdom. But until you overcome your abandonment compulsion, don’t follow your gut – it will only get you into trouble – because your gut tells you that unavailable people are attractive.
How do you recover from abandoholism?
Abandoholics are well represented at Abandonment / Outer Child Workshops where they receive lots of support and get to practice effective pattern-busting abandonment recovery tools within a safe group setting. Abandoholism is also explored in TAMING YOUR OUTER CHILD and the WORKBOOK. Take heart, this Outer Child pattern, tough deeply embedded in primal abandonment wounds, can be overcome!