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COLLAPSED DEFENSE (ABANDONMENT)

Please note: This guide is designed for existing clients who wish to understand more about specific patterns discussed in session. Please be sure to read "Understanding Defenses” first.


HOW/WHY IT OCCURS

Imagine you’re a helpless infant.  You've just woken up alone in your crib.  Maybe your stomach is starting to grumble, or you're feeling cold.  These uncomfortable sensations are new to you.  You don't really understand what you're feeling.  Though you've experienced the contentment of a full belly, you don't know exactly what you need or how to meet those needs.  You're completely reliant on others for your survival and comfort.  

 

You look up, but don't see that familiar face that's oftentimes smiling down at you.  You don't hear that familiar voice that speaks kindly and comforts you.  You're utterly alone.  

You cry out, though you don't really know what it is you're asking for.  Your belly is grumbling.  You still feel cold.  No one comes to tend to you, so you cry louder.  Does someone come?  If they don't, what do you do?  What can you do?

 

Likely, you grow increasingly distressed.  You start thrashing in your crib.  You're overwhelmed and afraid, maybe even frantic.  Your cry becomes a scream, and eventually someone comes.  Are they happy to see you?  Are they emotionally attuned to you enough to understand your needs and meet them?  Do they understand the degree of physical and emotional support you need?  Do they soothe and comfort you in your fear and tend to your needs, or are they frustrated, impatient or even angry at your crying?  

* * *

At this very early stage of development, we all experience life as symbiotic.  That is, we don't understand that we're separate from our caregivers or our surroundings.  In the womb, you were one with your mother.  You existed in, and as an extension of, her body.  You were fused energetically, physically and even psychologically.   When your mother moved, you moved.  You ate whatever your mother ate.  Floating in a sea of amniotic fluid, you were one with what surrounded you.  Although you could feel the shifting currents, you didn't yet understand that you were different and separate from your surroundings.  When your mother was filled with emotion, you, too, were filled with emotion.  Your physical needs were met (or not), without even having to ask.

At birth, this radically changes.  The cord is cut, and we enter into a world of sensory magnificence (and sometimes overload).  No longer floating in a protective womb, you can be easily overwhelmed with sensation. You feel cool air moving through your lungs for the first time.  Lights and shapes dance before your eyes.  Sounds, which had seemed muffled in the womb, are louder and clearer.  Many of the sensations are pleasant.  Others are not.  Things irritate your skin or your eyes or your ears. 

 

You also begin feeling the needs of your small body, though you have no understanding of what those sensations mean or how to satisfy those needs.  Without the all-providing umbilical cord, we all begin to experience real physical need for food, warmth, comfort, containment, safety and heat.  At times, we feel hungry, tired, wet, uncomfortable or frustrated.  We must receive what we need and experience the resulting satisfaction many times, before we’ll begin to understand our own needs.  We are learning how to receive.    

You were living in a sea of sensation - some pleasant and some unpleasant, with very little understanding of how any of it worked.  You were extremely vulnerable and needed an incredible amount of support just to survive.  With a limited understanding, you still expected your needs to be almost-magically met by some larger, unitive force.  You tried to communicate these complex emotions and experiences the only way you can.  You cried when you were hungry.  Perhaps you turned away when you were bored. 

 

Did your parents understand your early attempts to communicate with them?  Did they respond appropriately?  Did they meet your very real needs for food, warmth, tenderness, safety and connection?  How closely were they attuned to you?  Were they consistent?

Were your caregivers attuned to all of this felt vulnerability and need?  Did they offer you consistent, gentle support? Even as you were making great strides in your capacity to care for yourself (i.e., learning how to crawl, feed yourself, walk, talk, etc.), your life still depended largely on the people around you.  Did they consistently feed and care for you, and help you explore and feel confident and safe in your explorations?  Did they help you find ways to soothe yourself without abandoning you?  Did they offer the consistent, gentle support you needed to develop a deeply-embodied sense of security and self-esteem?  

With lots of support, a new understanding will slowly start to dawn from this stage of development.  You will start to understand that life is not a continuous whole, but a collection of discrete things.  Eventually, you'll realize you're a separate and discrete being, with needs and desires of your own.  You'll also come to understand that you can attune to your own needs and ask for them to be met.  You'll learn how to receive.    

If your parents were sufficiently attuned to your needs and successfully met them most of the time, you were probably able to develop trust in the world as a benevolent place where your needs would be met.  But there are many ways that this pure trust in life can get broken.  Sometimes there’s difficulty obtaining proper nutrition because of digestive issues, nursing problems, poverty, etc.  Then, the child experiences the discomfort of not being satisfied or of not having the resources she needs to grow strong.  Some infants experience a difficult birth, and their heightened nervous systems make sensory input feel overwhelming.  Sights, sounds, textures and smells can then feel like an onslaught to an already overcharged system. 

Others experience emotional or physical separation from their mothers, due to physical distance, postpartum depression, etc.  There’s an emptiness or sense of lack, but without an understanding of why or what can be done about it.  Other children are allowed to “cry it out” or encouraged to self-soothe before they’re capable of doing so.  They learn that their cries are likely to go unanswered or that their needs for emotional support don’t matter.

Even well-intentioned parents are unable to attune to the needs of their child 100% of the time.  Many are overworked or overwhelmed by the demands of an infant.  That means, at some point in time, all of us experienced having a need go unmet.  We reached out for something, and it didn’t come.  We experienced the discomfort of a real need, without the pleasure of having it satisfied.

Unfortunately, at this young age, we have very little cognitive ability to understand why this is happening.  We have no way to comprehend the failures or our caregivers to perfectly meet our needs.  We have no way to meet our own needs.  We know only that we’re in discomfort, and we feel abandoned by life.  Feeling abandoned at this young age can be devastating.  We have a need, perhaps a desperate one, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  We become overwhelmed, confused or even desperate.  

 

You probably don't remember any of these experiences, but your energy field does. You were very vulnerable, and being abandoned was terrifying.  At this young age, your options to compensate or defend against the pain were limited.  You could continue to cry.  You could continue to reach out.  Or you could collapse and discharge the energy from your system to relieve the sense of overwhelm.  Each time the system collapses, however, the overall energy of the system is diminished, and the system is weakened.  Over time, the system becomes less and less capable of holding an energetic charge.  It fails to grow to its full potential.  This is the collapsed defense.

With collapse, this “giving up” pattern is recorded in the entire energy body.  This pattern is then continually communicated to the world.  In this way, the pattern perpetuates a sense of dependence.  It draws much needed support, but the energy body cannot hold the charge or receive it.

How collapsed the energy body becomes is dependent on how frequently the defense is used, but also on the age at which the abandonment experience occurred.  As we grow, our ability to meet our own needs also grows.  We very slowly grow in competence.  The more competence and confidence the child has developed, the more “compensated” the collapse will be.  In compensated collapse, the “giving up” takes the form of giving up the idea that others will support you.  In compensated collapse, we decide we’re on our own.  If we want our needs met, we’re going to have to meet them ourselves, as others and life itself can’t or shouldn’t be relied upon. 

The child is still too young for any real independence, however.  They still very much need support, so the compensation is only moderately effective.  The system still grows in a way that’s incapable of sustaining its full charge and that’s closed to receiving.  Although compensated collapse looks less desperate, the system still easily collapses under any kind of sustained pressure.   

WHAT IT DOES TO YOU

On a soul level, we're always provided for and receive exactly what we need at all times.  This is a universal truth, even when it appears otherwise.  At the human/material level, being abandoned or feeling unsupported at this early stage of physical and emotional development is deeply painful, confusing and frightening.  To an infant, it can be completely overwhelming.  To defend against feeling the overwhelming pain of that, the collapsed defense develops.  Although the defense is a collapse of life force energy, this is actually a life-affirming choice at the time it's made.  Collapsing allows the overwhelming charge to drain away.  Although this drains your own life-force away in the process, the defense allowed you to carry on in the world.  It made it possible for you to keep going.  

ENERGETICALLY:

Draining energy from the system depletes it.  The result is an energy body that is both underdeveloped and undercharged.  Insufficiently resourced, it’s forced to rely on outside sources to sustain itself.  It must merge with or “feed” off of others.  This keeps the system in a state of need and dependence.  Because the energy body fails to grow to its full strength, it can also be easily overwhelmed or “flooded.”

The root chakra and sacral chakra are both impacted by the collapse.  These two provide the foundation for a healthy physical and material life.  The damage to the root chakra makes it difficult to draw life sustaining energy from the Earth.  Oftentimes, the chakras on the bottom of the feet also shut down.  As the Earth is constantly resourcing us, this further condemns the energy body to a state of lack.  It makes it difficult to feel supported by life, even when support is readily available. 

The throat chakra is where we “open to receive.”  When we become unwilling to ask or to receive, the throat chakra remains underdeveloped or becomes overcharged in a desperate attempt to seek gratification of real or perceived needs.  Energy may be thrown off through excessive verbal expression.  Needs may be voiced, but in a distorted or overblown way that leaves no room to receive.  An overactive or distorted throat chakra may lead to excessive talking or eating, but without a capacity to feel heard or experience satisfaction.   In short, the system remains in a constant state of craving and confusion.

The solar plexus chakra, where we can exercise our personal will, may also remain underdeveloped.  Life may even be seen as something that happens to you.  In some ways, we're still floating in a sea, following the currents, wherever they may carry us.  The third eye chakra may become overdeveloped in the process of tracking what's happening.  This can result in spiritual gifts of attunement and psychic sight, but can also create confusion and doubt, or distortions in perception.

PHYSICALLY:

The undercharge prevents the physical body from fully developing.  It can appear youthful or even childlike in its proportions.  Lack of muscle development may lead to easy fatigue or even a state of chronic fatigue.  In areas where the collapse is compensated, there may be a relative overcharge, which cannot be sustained over long periods of time.  This puts pressure on certain parts of the body, which remain unsupported by the rest of the system.

Collapse can occur throughout the body or only in specific areas.  Oftentimes, it results in a depressed chest and slumps in the spine (S-curve when looked at from the side).  In this way, the body records and holds the memory of being unsupported or abandoned.  The neck, arms, and fingers may be elongated, as if the body is forever reaching for something just out of reach.  A variety of physical challenges can result from long-term depletion, including chronic fatigue, lack of muscle strength or over-flexibility in the joints.  It can cause back pain, OB/GYN problems, as well as sore throats, swollen glands, learning disabilities, sexual dysfunction, and mouth or gum disease.  Unaddressed, this pattern can lead to more serious issues, such as eye problems, dementia, thyroid failure, digestive problems, etc.  

EMOTIONALLY:

Until the wound is healed and the growth that's possible in this stage of development completed, the lure of symbiotic relationship will remain strong.  The part of the psyche that remains stuck in this stage will continue to seek fulfillment that's age-appropriate for an infant or toddler.  This can lead to strong fantasy-tendencies, in which our needs are perfectly met from "out there somewhere"...the perfect job, relationship, partner, experience, etc.  These child-like ways of relating are inappropriate for adults, and so create additional pain. 

 

With this defense, we tend to ask for our needs to be met without directly asking.  The requests are indirect or manipulative, and so unlikely to be met.  This leads to feelings of overwhelm, abandonment and frustration, which turns into a demand that our needs be met.  This creates a vicious cycle:  demanding or expecting support rather than asking from an open place, growing frustrated because your need isn’t being met, becoming more desperate and demanding, etc. The distorted throat chakra makes it difficult to trust. It also makes it hard to receive the support you long for.  It also makes it easy to spin into overwhelming or dramatic expression of emotion that isn't grounded in the present moment experience.  

With collapse, the inner story is always one of “not enough” (not enough time, money, talent, etc.).  Because collapse begins at a time when we’re still undifferentiated, the sense of “not enoughness” is both external and internal.  Not only is life not enough in some way, but the inner essence is felt to be not enough.  This can manifest as perpetual attempts to become good enough, through chasing the next training, the next relationship, the next promotion, etc. The inability to receive and feel supported leads to a hamster wheel of desperate attempts to gather or achieve a state of satisfaction or sense of inner worth.

As the sacral chakra is the doorway to our emotional bodies, distortions here create distorted emotional experiences.  Because the system is unable to hold a charge, emotions are experienced more intensely, and can feel completely overwhelming at times.  Rather than being a wave that can be ridden and released, emotions may rise but never fully complete or discharge.  Instead, they “loop,” being run, again and again, without ever completing or releasing in satisfaction.

Oftentimes, these looping emotions are fueled by stories we repeatedly tell ourselves.  With “story feelings,” we never sink into the deeper level of truly feeling that would allow for a healthy discharge.  We simply deplete our own field by throwing off energy.  We remain stuck in the story, which can mimic or create a sense of charge that’s otherwise lacking. 

RELATIONALLY:

Do you feel clingy in relationship? Do you try to get your emotional needs met through sex?  Do you cast your partner in the roll of parent, so you can continue to be the child?  Do you feel like you're always looking for that perfect partner who will meet all your needs?  Adult relating can feel challenging when part of your soul and psyche are stuck in the "needy infant" stage.  Even well-meaning and loving partners are flawed and will be unable to meet your needs perfectly.  If your inner story is of abandonment and "not enough," dissatisfaction is inevitable.  It also makes healthy boundaries difficult to hold, as the fear of loss can be overwhelming.  This fear clouds clear vision and healthy discernment in choosing partners.  It also forces us to find manipulative ways to get our needs met.  Collapse also makes it difficult to hold healthy boundaries or speak your truth, as the fear of abandonment or loss can be overwhelming.  

MENTALLY:

Collapse makes it hard to think and see clearly.  It also makes it hard to really commit to something we want.  Even if we do, we likely won't have the energy to see it through.  The collapse is oftentimes accompanied by a belief that “I simply won’t need.”  But this isn't possible, is it?  We all need support.  Perhaps you hold the belief of "I won't ask" or "if I have to ask, it's not love."  A distorted throat chakra makes it difficult to speak your truth.  Do you feel like you won't get what you need anyway, so why bother to ask?

Do you resonate with any of these beliefs:

  • I’m not enough.

  • There isn’t enough [time/money/etc.].

  • I’m not [smart/pretty/confident, etc.] enough to get what I truly want.

  • It does no good to ask, as I won’t get it anyway.

  • I don't really have any needs.

  • It’s better to not really try.

  • It’s better to not need.

  • I can't do it on my own.  Someone else needs to do it for me.

  • I can do it all on my own.  I don't need anyone.

These ways of thinking continually draw experiences of lack and abandonment. They tend to draw in experiences of abandonment and lack in all forms (such as job loss, relationship loss, financial strain, etc.).  Underneath all the clutter and mind-chatter is a real fear of being abandoned (conscious or unconscious).  This can really be triggered at times of loss (death of a loved one, loss of a friend, loss of a job, etc.).  This is compensated for with independent behavior that collapses under stress or over time.

 

HEALING THE DEFENSE

Healing the collapsed defense involves acknowledging your real needs for emotional support, feeling your authentic grief over not having those needs met in childhood, and learning how to get those needs met in healthy ways now as an adult.  These are lifetime tasks.  

 

Increasing Energetic Charge.  One of the most important energetic tools for healing a collapsed defense is working to increase the overall charge in your energetic field.  At first, holding an energetic charge may feel intolerable.  Because operating with an undercharged field feels familiar, increasing the charge can be experienced as overwhelming or exhausting.  One of the best ways to gently charge your field is connecting to the Earth and allowing yourself to be filled with her supportive energy.  Imagine opening the chakras on the bottom of your feet and drawing energy up from the Great Earth Mother like you’re sucking from a straw.  Take as much energy as you want, allowing it to fill your entire body.  Enjoy the process.  Be grateful.  Practice this every day.

Physical exercise is another way to build a tolerance to energetic charge. At first, it may feel quite fatiguing, and there will be a strong temptation to collapse and give up.  As your tolerance increases and your muscles get stronger, your field will be able to comfortably hold more energy.  Over time, you'll be able to go further before feeling fatigued.  This is a process of consistent, baby-steps.  Support yourself in every step, even when you're struggling.  You're already enough.  And you'll keep getting stronger.

Opening to Receive.  Learning how to receive is also a strong component to healing collapse.  Look for the places where you're already experiencing support.  Get comfortable with the phrases “it’s enough,” and "I'm enough just the way I am."  Can you let the real love that people feel for you be enough, even if it doesn't look exactly the way you want it to? 

 

A simple practice for opening to receive is to prepare healthy food and eat mindfully.  When you take the time to prepare a healthy meal for yourself, you're letting your inner infant know you're a willing and capable caregiver.  When we eat mindfully, we pay attention to taking in the nourishment that's here for us.  Focus on how good the food tastes, how much your body will receive in the way of nutritional support, or on all the energy that went into growing and preparing this gift.  Imagine the sun shining on the plants that grew the wheat to make your bread.  Feel gratitude to the farmers who tended and harvested the crops, the workers who ground the wheat, the drivers that delivered the flour, the bakers who prepared the bread, etc.  This simple practice of mindfully and gratefully receiving support is a powerful practice for shifting the underlying pattern of collapse.   

Facing the Fear of Being Alone.  With this wound, one of the major fears that needs to be faced is of being alone.  This may feel extremely frightening.  Remember, being left alone when you were an infant was life-threatening.  But you're not an infant anymore.  And you're never really alone.  Spiritual help is always available to you.  Ask your guides, angels, earth spirits, the fairies, your ancestors, your animal guides and star brothers/sisters to come closer.  When you feel scared and alone, try not to resist the fear itself.  Allow it to teach you about your strength.  Share your light and your love with yourself.  Go into the seeming emptiness.  You’ll find it’s not empty at all.

 

Identifying Needs and Asking for Support.  Everyone has needs, and you have a right to ask for those needs to be met.  Healing is a process of learning how to discern where your needs can be met in healthy ways, to fully take in the support that's offered to you, and to let that support nurture you and be enough.  As your inner "needy infant" matures, you'll begin to understand that no one is capable of meeting all your needs, but that you have the power to emotionally support yourself no matter what you're experiencing.  You have always been enough.  You will always be enough.  There's nothing you need to become or do to be enough.

If you find yourself demanding support from someone or feeling unsupported, drop out of the vicious loop by trying to find the true need underneath (i.e., this won’t be, “he needs to help with the dishes because I can’t do everything around here,” but rather something like, “this reminds me of how lonely I felt when I was little,” or “I feel unloved in those moments because it’s just the kind of thing my mother would’ve done when I really just wanted her to hug me”).  These are vulnerable places, so be patient and kind to yourself.

 

Once you’ve identified the real emotional need underneath the demand, you can then risk having a different experience by sharing this need with someone who’s capable of supporting you.  Be discerning.  Find someone in your sphere that's trustworthy and capable of being kind and supportive.  If you don't have someone, don't despair.  You can always build new relationships, and there are many, many beautiful healers, massage therapists, counselors and life coaches out there.  Find the one that feels supportive to you.  This stops the abandonment of self that takes place when you ignore the need, refuse to ask for help, or ask for support from someone who isn't capable of giving it.  Ask for your need to be met in a very specific, tangible way (such as, "I'd like you to hold my hand," or "I'd like you to tell me that I'm enough.")

Journaling.  Watch for your own tendency to abandon yourself.  A great journaling exercise is to review past experiences in which you felt abandoned.  Tell yourself the story of the experience as you saw it.  Then go back and see if you can see where you contributed to the outcome.  

Be honest with yourself as you journal about each of the following questions: 

  1. Were you ignoring your deeper emotional needs?

  2. Were you turning a blind eye to certain behaviors?  What were you refusing to see clearly?

  3. Were you playing the innocent or victim?

  4. How did you contribute to the outcome?

  5. In what ways could you have supported yourself better?

  6. Were you playing out an old childhood wound, hoping for a different outcome?

  7. Did you emotionally manipulate the other person (perhaps subconsciously) in an attempt to get your needs met?  Did it work?

  8. Did you refuse to share yourself or withdraw your energy in response to feeling unsupported?

 

Healing your wound of abandonment is about feeling the depth of your grief, as well as taking responsibility for the part you play in keeping this pattern going.  Some larger questions to explore:

 

  1. Where can I commit more deeply?  To myself?  To another?  To my creative dreams?

  2. Where is my existing support?  Where can I ask for help and from whom?

  3. What am I grateful for?

  4. What baby step can I take to support myself going forward?

Beware Story Feelings.  One thing to watch for with this defense is something I like to call "story feelings."  It's always important to acknowledge and express your authentic feelings, but there's a tendency with this defense to overblow feelings, run inauthentic or "distraction" feelings, create confusion to avoid feeling what's really there, or continually re-run feelings in a way that never allows them to complete.  A key question for identifying story feelings is, "Is what I'm feeling in response to something that's happening in the present moment?" If the answer is yes, give yourself some space to feel what your feeling, ask for some support, and do what you can to truly soothe yourself.  If the answer is no, you're probably running story feelings. 

 

As a simple example, if you open your divorce papers and feel sad, that's likely a true expression of grief.  If, however, you find yourself getting upset thinking about how lonely you're going to be next Christmas, that's likely a story feeling.  You've created a story that may or may not happen, and the energy you're using to "pre-grieve" is energy you're siphoning off as a way to stay collapsed.  It's a negative fantasy-tactic that keeps you collapsed.  You can truly support yourself when you catch yourself in story feelings and instead choose to practice trust.  Call on your angels, guides, ancestors, spirit animals, crystal friends, star brothers/sisters, etc.  Line up your support.  Ask them to be with you and to help you learn how to trust life again.  Then do your best to open to receive their love and guidance.  

Supporting Your Process.  Healing involves learning how to support yourself in the process of growth.  Every stage is perfect.  When you feel alone, can you still be kind to yourself?  When you're struggling or fail, can you still love yourself?  Give yourself lots and lots of time and space to feel into each new petal of your growth, allowing your longing and your desire to guide you.  It's not about getting somewhere.  It's about taking in the experience of your life and embracing the process.  Along the way, you may develop a deeper faith and trust in the divine that lives within you.  You'll learn how to live in a place of flow, taking in life and experiencing the deep pleasure and fulfillment of your desires, but also effortlessly letting go when the time comes.  Neither the depths of your pleasure nor the depths of your pain can destroy you.  You'll find your true, higher-self strength.  

Try using the mantra, “I am whole and complete.  I'm enough just as I am,” or “I open to give and receive, and I trust life enough to move with the flow."  Give yourself the emotional nourishment you've been longing for.  Oftentimes, with collapse, we deny our own needs.  We pretend we don't have them, or that they don't matter.  We fail to attune to ourselves and then extend an effort to meet our own emotional needs.  Healing requires a deep commitment to yourself, in your needs and in your "smallness."  This is how the inner needy infant learns how to receive and can grow.

Understand the creative power you actually possess.  Oftentimes, the very real experiences of lack you may be experiencing are the result of the defensive pattern you're using.  That defense supported you at a time when you needed support, but you may no longer need it.  Perhaps you can learn new ways to support yourself and to open to receive the support (including spiritual support) that's available to you now.

 

It’s important to remember that this defense developed very early on, during a time when you were very vulnerable.  Be patient, kind and supportive of yourself as you begin to explore these places.  Like a child learning how to walk, you'll stumble.  You won't get it immediately.  Remember, wounds show us where our greatest learning potential lies.  With all wounds, there are gifts, as well.  With this pattern, those gifts include an exquisite sensitivity to the world around you, an ability to deeply connect with the visible and invisible realms, a capacity to experience magic and wonder, and a deep understanding and connection to your emotions.  As you master the lessons of the wound, you get to learn how to truly take in life, to ask for what you need, to dance and breathe and experience life magically, to give without hesitation, to feel your true strength, to become empowered, to learn how to flow with change, and how to support yourself no matter what.  Give yourself all the support you need.  You're worth the effort.

For further support, check out my “Opening to Receive” or “Surrendering to Trust” meditations.

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