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How I Survived Abandonment: 12 Tips for a Complete Recovery

02/09/2015 09:24 am ET | Updated Apr 10, 2015

I developed the abandonment recovery program after the love of my life -- my marital
partner of eighteen years -- suddenly up and left me for another woman.

Ironically abandonment had been my special focus as a psychotherapist at the time. It served as a basis for empathy and insight which guided my work within psychiatric hospitals, school systems, and private practice for over twenty years. And now abandonment had inflicted its deep personal wound in me. I felt as if I'd been stabbed in the heart by my best friend.

Abandonment had severed through the dense layers of attachment, abruptly cutting me off from a lifeline of nurturance and love, leaving me to suffer the fresh gaping wound alone. To survive, I began a journey of discovery.

As a specialist in the field, I'd already perused the psych literature and self help books and had found nothing to address the intensity of abandonment pain or explain how to overcome its traumatic impact. This was an emotional crisis severe enough to affect future relationships and create patterns of self sabotage. So I set out to blaze a new trail from abandonment to healing.

Initially I was forced to devote my energy to pain management. Hour by hour, day by day I toughed it out, all the while searching for tools powerful enough to prevent the experience from swallowing me whole.

I searched through remote branches of science and the mouths of true survivors to find tools that eventually restored my sense of self and brought me to greater life and love than before. Here are some tips that helped me in the early stages of my journey:

1) Self validation: Acknowledge the severity of the emotional wound you have sustained. You can wear out our friends' ears going over the details of your abandonment, but they cannot possibly grasp the depth of the pain or its persistence. Become your own validator.

2) Physician, heal thyself; tend thy own wound: Take 100-percent responsibility for your own recovery.

3) Pain management means time management: Build in daily activities that are life-sustaining, including time with supportive friends, therapists, and support groups. Create quality creature comforts. Work provides well-needed structure. Throw yourself into work to enjoy its 'occupational therapy' benefits.

4) Get into the moment and stay there as long as possible: The future has been disrupted by the breakup, and your past is where your love attachment pulls so painfully. The only safe place is the split second of now. When your painful thoughts intrude, return to the moment, favoring now as you would a mantra.

5) Put your suffering to constructive use: Learn to transform pain into growth. The program guides you step by step through five stages of abandonment and recovery.

6) Cleanse old wounds: Abandonment has opened you up to old wounds that hearken back to your lost childhood. You didn't choose to have open heart surgery without anesthesia, but now that abandonment has ripped you to the core, use the hands-on exercises to resolve long neglected core needs and feelings.

7) Acknowledge your strength as a human being: All our lives we try to ward off being abandoned -- a human being's greatest fear -- and now the worst has happened. Yet we live. We survive. We can go on. We have tools.

8) Emotional self-reliance: At no other time are you better positioned to become emotionally self-possessed than when abandonment has pulled the rug out from under you. Use the tools to ground yourself. Experience the sublime power of standing on your own two feet.

9) Feelings are not facts: Feelings are temporary and fleeting. From the center of self, observe your feelings washing over you. Find serenity in the now.

10) Challenge despair: Hopelessness is yet another feeling, not a reality. Hopelessness is what makes abandonment feel so terrifying and torturous. Challenge your always and never thinking, reminding yourself: This too shall pass.

11)The power is within you to turn this experience into an opportunity for profound positive personal growth. Vow to benefit from abandonment rather than be diminished by it. The abandonment recovery program helps you find greater life and love than before.