Sometimes I dream that I am playing a game of hide and seek. I have gone off to hide somewhere in a big house. I find a good place and then I sit really still and wait for someone to come and find me. I wait for ages. Then I start to realise that no one is coming. I have been left alone, separate, forgotten. Then the dream becomes a nightmare. I wake up very anxious, it takes me ages to get back to sleep.Anonymous client
Feeling that you have been forgotten, that you don’t matter to other people can trigger terrible feelings of rejection, separation, and abandonment.
Separation, Isolation and Coranavirus Covid 19
During the covid 19 outbreak the chances of being isolated are much higher. Social distancing and lockdown have created a strange and disorienting way of living. It has increased separation, loneliness, anxiety, and vulnerability.
We are social by nature. It is natural for us to be with other people. Being alone can make us feel vulnerable and unhappy.
Psychotherapy – making sense of separation
I am very attuned to questions of trust. I seem to be wired to pick up on any hint that my partner might not be telling me the truth. When I was younger if a partner was unfaithful, I took it very badly. I was hard work, hard to be with. I think my fears around separation would get out of hand very quickly. I would have these kinds of mini breakdowns.
It is the sense of loneliness that I find hard to bear. I have always found it hard to feel safe in relationships. I know that I can be hard work. It takes me a long time to develop trust in partners. I can get anxious about confidentiality. I worry that people are talking about me.Anonymous client
Different schools of psychotherapy understand human psychological and emotional development differently. Each approach can become rather technical and sometimes dogmatic about their theory. They all have different things to offer, but one of the most accessible is attachment theory, which is developed around our need for a secure sense of attachment, a need for a secure base.
Attachment Theory and separation
Attachment theory is accessible, and we can use it to understand the way you felt looked or forgotten and left behind in your childhood. The way you knew your parents remembered you, thought about you, kept you in their minds.
It is this sense of knowing that we are important to another person that helps us develop a secure base, an internal working model that supports us.
If you were lucky, not all of us are, you will have grown up in a nurturing and supportive family. This may have given you a secure base. A secure base is like an internal safe place, an inner area of resource that we can turn to at times of stress.
A secure base
This internal sense of a secure base is made up not only from our experience of being nurtured, it is also made up of things that we find reassuring and comforting.
This might relate to books, food, films, music. It might be to do with taking warm baths or being able to curl up in your bed. We each build up an internal sense of this secure base. Having access to it comforts us.
Separation, the feeling of loss or of the threat of loss can trigger a powerful and sometimes uncontrollable feeling of psychological distress.
How we cope with loss and separation is key to our psychological strength and maturity.
Traumatic experiences, traumatic separations can destroy our sense of a secure internal regulating system.
John Bowlby’s work on attachment theory
The subject of separation became a key focus for John Bowlby, founder of Attachment Theory, and remains a shared way of understanding our emotional and psychological health.
- Bowlby’s work focussed on how our early experience of being cared for and parented leaves a marker for both how we respond to separation in later life, and how we attach to others and form relationships.
- The more our early needs for attachment and closeness were responded to, the more we may be able to adjust to changes in our social relationships in later life.
- Bowlby was interested in understanding the separation anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregivers.
Separation can disrupt our sense of connection to this secure base.
If you are someone who struggles to maintain an ongoing relationship with your inner sense of security, then psychotherapy may be very helpful for you.
Psychotherapy can help manage separation and isolation
- Psychotherapy helps us to understand more about our reactions to separation.
- It helps us to build up a better picture of who we are and how we have come to have these kinds of separation anxieties.
- In psychotherapy we take your feelings seriously. We understand that your feelings about separation need attention.
- Psychotherapy is a confidential working relationship. It gives you the chance to speak openly about your feelings, your anxieties, your bad dreams without feeling that you are going to be made more vulnerable by doing so.
- Psychotherapy can provide you with a temporary secure base in which your feelings can be understood and you can develop a sense of being remembered and kept in another person’s mind. This can all help you to feel less alone, vulnerable and separated.
Contact me to arrange a free 15-minute conversation to discuss your concerns.
If you feel that separation creates problems for you, that it makes life and relationships difficult then it might be helpful to talk about this.
I have been working with people on issues such as separation for twenty years. My work is built around helping people to develop greater confidence in themselves, better understanding of why you feel the way you do, and of helping you to develop confidence that you can manage these experiences without feeling out of control.
Contact me to arrange a free 15 minute conversation to discuss how my work might be useful to you. I have a lot of experience of using telephone and online platforms and I would be pleased to hear from you.
Telephone: 01494 521311
Mobile: 07980 750376