your avatar   Nobody Special, 28-year-old woman

My mother got pregnant when she was 15 and had me (unmarried) when she was 16. She married the man I call "Daddy" when I was 11 months old. I lived with both parents until I was about 4 then the back and forth began.

When I was 7 she remarried and had my sister, legitimately. She and her new husband wanted to move back to where he was from. So, standing there in the kitchen, she asked me to decide for myself and my four-year-old brother whether I would move in with my asocial stepdad, to a town I had never lived in, near no one I knew and with a mother who lacked people skills. Gee! Needless to say, I stayed and she left.

I have had serious self-esteem issues since then. I have been to lots of counseling, read books, and have done self-work, to no avail. My self-esteem sucks. I am always amazed when someone wants to spend time with me and think that if someone likes me, it is because I have fooled them with my charm and clever wit, which of course are not actual representations of horrible, unlovable, disgusting me. I had a counselor tell me once she thought my issues were related to abandonment. I felt a sense of peace when she told me that. I think she was right, but I can't find anything about abandonment except for kids/people whose parents have actually died. My question is, what are some resources for abandonment feelings (i.e. literature) and how can a person suddenly get self-esteem?


    Margaret Burr, MA, MFT

Thanks for writing.

You are asking for a referral to a book on abandonment. There are many; any book you find dealing with loss will address the feelings and fears you have. The problem with recommending that you read up on abandonment is that a book is just a book. What you need is a person, not a book. You don't say what happened with that counselor, but the way your relationship with her ended might give me more information about what it's like for you when you do have a person in your life who wants to help you.

What I'm suggesting is that, while information - like the counselor's assessment that you suffer from abandonment - can be helpful, it cannot heal. Relationships heal. You have had "lots of counseling," and therapeutic relationships are constructed for the express purpose of healing. So, the way your relationship with your counselor ended either, a.) added to the healing, or b.) added to the abandonment. Which was it?

You might consider going back to see this counselor (if that is possible) and working to resolve your relationship with her. This will accomplish at least two things. You'll be working through any abandonment feelings relating to her (and thus, face abandonment directly rather than by reading about it in a book), and you'll give your self-esteem a big boost (because you were worth the effort, energy, time and expense it took to reconnect with her).

I suspect that you are requesting a book to read on abandonment because the fact is that a book will not leave you, reject you, hurt you, betray you or die. A person - even a therapist - can do all of those things. But that's what will make the therapeutic investment you will be creating so valuable and potentially so healing.

If you cannot go back to the counselor you saw before, I recommend that you begin to work with another, as these same feelings will need to be addressed and resolved before you can trust in your relationship with him or her.

You are worth it. Look at all you have survived already!


Margaret "Peg" Burr , MA, MFT

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/

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