Broken Man Abandonment
Written By: Mark Smith
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I just finished listening to the biography on Steve Jobs. His amazing story confirms every single theory in my evolving E-book on Abandonment. Jobs was abandoned by his biological parents. Graduate students Abdulfattah John Jandali, a Syrian and Joanne Simpson reluctantly gave thier son up for adoption. Jobs met his biological father just once, accidently at a popular Silicon Valley restaurant his father managed. Neither knew that they were biological father and son. Jobs did connect with his biological mother later in life. While he proclaimed that he grew up feeling chosen by his adoptive parents rather than feeling abandoned by his biological parents, this early abandonment was no doubt the most impactful experience of his whole life. Patterns repeat from one generation to the next. Sometimes these patterns are spooky in how they play out. When Jobs was 23 years old he abandoned his own out of wedlock child. Care to hazard a guess how old his biological father was when he skipped out? Yep, exactly 23. Weird, huh? That type of 'coincidence' is very common in family systems. I loved the book on Jobs. He was a once in a generation unforgetable character. He had more issues than most of us by a long shot. He could be rigid, perfectionistic, blunt, rude, insensitive, controlling, superior, denying of reality, unloyal, abandoning, untruthful, irreverant, manipulative, abrasive, self sabotaging, abusive, petulant and childish. His behavior ultimately got him tossed out of his own company for 11 years! You have to be a pretty big jerk to get tossed from a company that you brilliantly birthed. I believe that many of these dysfunctional attributes were rooted in his deep sense of abandonment. Jobs could also be courageous, creative, bold, visionary, uncompromising, wise, a step you ahead, prophetic, talented, intuitive, colorful and the greatest corporate leader of our generation. If you suffer from Abandonment issues know that you aren't a freak. You you not mentally ill. You are in good company. We all have more than our fair share of issues. We are all a little crazy. If life gives you lemons then you a great opportunity to make some really awesome lemonade. It was because of Steve Jobs' deep woundedness that he became an iconic figure who changed the world, not inspite of it.
Through the years I have had the following client many times over...male, 35 to 56, strong personalities, know it alls, alpha males, very successful financially, controlling, arrogant, commanding, intelligent, highly independent, workaholic, oblivious, self absorbed and resistive of therapy. You know the type. What distinguished these guys is that they all had severe abandonment issues hidden underneath their impressive, to that point bullet proof psychological defenses. However, as soon as their wives bring up the very real possibility that they might want to go through life without their Mr. Know It All he is completely and utterly shattered.
He becomes a desperately needy little boy who all of a sudden can't seem to stay away from the therapy office. They have a difficult time sleeping, they can't focus to work much, they cry a lot, they even might ruminate about not knowing if they want to continue living. All this stuff is the polar opposite of who they have always been. It shocks and scares them. They didn't know that their was a desperately needy and insecure little boy at their core. When this guy comes in the first order of business is to get them out of crisis. I assess for suicide, I refer for medication, get them involved in a supportive therapy group, get them reading materials about Abandonment and Countdependency and assure them that what they are going through is normal and actually good for them and their families and that they will get through it. I usually see this guy three times a week for the first month or so. His whole life ha been turned upside down and he needs a lot of answers and reassurance. His poor wife doesn't know what to think. In a way she liked him better when he was Superman and God Himself rolled into one. She doesn't know what to do with this broken, needy, somewhat pathetic fellow who has now taken possession of her husband's body. I assure them as well that it is a good thing and that they will locate a man who is neither extreme who will learn to see them, hear them, take good care of them while still being a leader and a strong man they can respect. One such fellow referred to his sad, needy little boy as "that little f#*king son of a b#%€h". At times they blame me as if I had the power to reduce them to a wounded 4 year old in a handful of sessions. They are always asking me for a plan or some tools or a time table for results. When I tell them that the Recovery Process doesn't really include any of those things but rather lots of crying, brokenness, humility, apologies, amends, therapy sessions, giving up power and sharing feelings they usually begin cussing me! They are terrified that they are going to lose their superpowers of working like a machine, being able to fix anything, always being in control, knowing no fear, being able to inspire their followers and generally being the Man. They have hidden their feelings, needs and weaknesses from long before they can remember. They believe the complete myth that through their superior intellect, education, iron will and drive that they have over cone the legacy of brokenness bestowed upon them by their parents. What they didn't know was that time and marriage are actually designed my Mother Nature to break down psychological defenses so that the wounded little boy underneath can come out and heal, cry and play.
My own therapist (Yes, I still go. Don't even think about seeing a therapist who doesn't), a grizzled addictions specialist in Indianapolis named Rick Gustafson, has taught me the concept of 'Right Sizing' as a man. Right sizing is no longer aspiring or needing to be Superman but rather just being a normal human being. It also means not feeling overwhelming shame and sad little boy pain when things majorly don't go your way. It is having human standards of performance rather than unrealistic and perfectionistic standards. Remember the character 'Hawkeye' played by Alan Alda in the 70's TV show MASH? Okay, many of you are too young to have watched the show but I'm sure that you know who I mean. Hawkeye had an unrealistic belief in his ability to defeat death itself. He refused to "let the bastard (death) win". The problem with that kind of thinking is that ultimately the bastard always wins. Ultimately we all fail and fall short. Many men struggle with experiencing failure. They have had little experience with it. They were high school football stars, they made great grades in college, they married the woman of their dreams and they climbed up the corporate ladder like it was an Olympic event. They've been absolutely killing it their entire lives. Having their marriage crumble apart is the first thing in their lives that they are just not able to fix. Then this crazy infantile pain comes up out of nowhere and they begin to think that maybe they are losing their minds. They have never before felt so much emotional pain. It is vital that they learn about their Abandonment issues. It explains exactly what they are going through. It can give them direction and hope. The way to get over their pain is actually to embrace it and go right through it. They can't bury it behind their now matured and healthier psychological defenses anymore. While most of these hurting men make progress as they regain the respect of their wives and families, build a healthier work style and learn to be vulnerable human beings, some of them don't fair well at all. For some of them the pain is just too great and they just give up, turning to their favorite addictions, self destructing, dropping out of therapy, playing the victim role, nursing bitter wounds, walking away from their marriage and some even taking their own lives. I don't judge these men, I just hurt for them. An arrogant version of this kind of melt down of a man is being brilliantly executed these days by Mr. Charlie Sheen. Don't be that guy. Embrace your deep pain with humility and grace. Right size yourself. You aren't falling apart, you are being given the opportunity to see more reality and to learn to have some empathy. It's all good.
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