An Interview with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nadine Winocur
By Jaleh Weber, Dec. 10, 2010
Some people have a difficult time maintaining a relationship because of their fears of abandonment. The fear itself often times destroys the relationship before the relationship even has the chance to blossom and fully develop. To help understand where relationship abandonment fears stem from and what someone can do to overcome relationship abandonment fears, I have interviewed clinical psychologist Dr. Nadine Winocur.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am a clinical psychologist practicing in West Los Angeles, CA. I have a Masters and a Doctor of Psychology degree from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor of Psychology degree from the University of Pennsylvania. My dissertation focused on the measurement of trauma associated with abusive group experiences. I specialize in working with individual adults who have endured trauma, including childhood trauma and attachment wounds.
Where do relationship abandonment fears stem from?
Most people don’t think of relational issues as “trauma”. When they hear the word trauma they think of extraordinary situations, like gun-shot wounds, or war, or near-fatal car accidents. But to a child who’s dependent on its caregiver for survival, abandonment may in fact be life-threatening. Not only is the young child unable to fend for itself, but the perpetrator of this life threat is the one who’s supposed to nurture and protect it, and so this betrays a child’s core sense of safety in the world. Abandonment fears are a form of post-traumatic stress reaction in relation to this trauma.
So then, abandonment fears stem from a real experience of abandonment in childhood, usually by one or more primary caregivers – that is, parents or surrogate parents (e.g. nannies or relatives that figured centrally in the caregiving). Erik Erikson said that the first conflict we have to negotiate in life is that of developing a secure attachment to our primary caregiver, usually the mother. A successful outcome permits us to develop a sense of trust in others. When our primary caregiver(s) are unable to meet our needs for a secure attachment, whether due to a lack of skill, an overwhelmed and burdened caregiver, family or work stress, mental illness, physical illness or some other reason, it leaves us with the impression that we are all alone, and that others can’t be relied on to meet our needs. We try to adapt to the abandonment by developing beliefs about it that help make sense of it and help us stay as connected as possible to our survival source, our caregivers. This means that we develop a sense of personal fault and defectiveness, and it leads us to form an expectation that we should and will be abandoned again.
What type of impact can relationship abandonment fears have on a person’s overall well being?
The impact can be quite profound. It can lead to deep insecurities about our lovability and worthiness, and about others’ willingness to support us and be there for us. Fear of abandonment can cause instability in social, work and intimate relationships… depending on how pervasive and severe the original abandonment was. A terror of being abandoned may induce someone to adapt in various ways to move away from the intolerable feeling and physiological sensations, for example by becoming controlling of others, or being perfectionistic, or overly giving, or clingy, or by staying in abusive relationships, or being abusive toward others in an effort to hold onto them. It can be associated with substance abuse, avoidance of intimate relationships, an inability to commit to a partner or to a monogamous relationship, compulsive abandonment of others, compulsive sex and dating, excessive attention-seeking, and a host of other maladaptive behaviors. Abandonment fears don’t always manifest as such. A person might enter psychotherapy thinking that they have ADHD, depression, anxiety, or some other issue, when the root is actually abandonment trauma.
How can someone overcome relationship abandonment fears?
Trauma-oriented, mind-body psychotherapy is the most helpful way to overcome relationship abandonment fears. Especially what is effective is therapy that focuses on healing attachment wounds. Some of the therapies that can successfully heal abandonment fears include the DNMS ( www.DNMSInstitute.com), attachment focused EMDR (www.EMDR.com), Somatic Experiencing (www.traumahealing.com) and AEDP (www.aedpinstitute.com). These approaches tend to permit a deep emotional and physical release of the original traumatic reactions which have become stuck in the nervous system. Re-parenting, or inner bonding with imaginal, skillful caregivers, is often used to heal the original wound by imaginally providing a secure attachment now, in order to replace what was missing. This provides a corrective healing experience that, like computer programming, writes over the old, unwanted programs of the mind. The result is that unwanted points of view, negative beliefs about self and others, negative expectations for relationships, and old unhealthy coping patterns drop away, and irrational, excessive fears are replaced by more neutral, healthy emotional reactions.
What type of professional help is available for someone who is having a difficult time overcoming relationship abandonment fears on their own?
The classical psychotherapy paradigm involving a cure through the therapist-client relationship has failed to achieve much gains in the area of assisting people to develop trust. It is only within the last 15 years that psychotherapy has begun to excel in healing attachment wounds. Abandonment fears generally cannot be healed through traditional talk therapy, which is why I have recommended some of the more mind-body oriented approaches. These approaches engage the right brain where trauma and the emotions are stored, rather than developing a life narrative or cognitive self-awareness. By reprocessing the original wounding experiences in a wholistic way, a connection is made with the original self from before the trauma, a self that is okay with who it is and where it is, and that feels free to explore and experience each moment in space and time, just as it is.
Thank you Dr. Winocur for this interview on how someone can overcome relationship abandonment fears. For more information on Dr. Winocur or her work you can check out her website www.DrNadineWinocur.com.
An Interview of Dr. Nadine Winocur
By Taaffe O’Connell
Power Agent Magazine, June 2011
The task of resolving emotional difficulties is one we all face. The deeper the problem, the less likely we are to solve it on our own. In today’s society, it is very common to seek professional help to make the changes needed to lead a satisfying life. Unfortunately, finding effective help can be a very complicated process.
Too often, people find themselves in a therapy relationship that feels supportive at the time, yet doesn’t lead to lasting improvement. Many people will even discuss their feelings with countless therapists over numerous years, only to conclude that psychotherapy is ineffective or just doesn’t work for them.
A novel concept expressed by esteemed Los Angeles Psychologist Dr. Nadine Winocur is that, indeed, little is accomplished by merely talking. Dr Winocur says, “The mind is a complex collage of minds within the mind, including consciousness within the body. To reduce this phenomena to a singular “self”, which we then make observations about and attempt to manage, is reductionist and limiting. At its best, conventional psychotherapy allows us to gain insight, increase emotional expression, and achieve some degree of control over our thoughts and behaviors. But rarely does it heal the internal conflicts that give rise to our mental, emotional or behavioral challenges, change our personality structure, or create permanent transformation.
The butterfly, “Dr. Nadine’s” chosen logo for her practice, signifies more than change — it embodies metamorphosis. Dr. Nadine doesn’t just ask clients how they feel, offer empathy, formulate an analysis and provide a new perspective or plan of action, as most psychotherapists do. She facilitates a process that enables clients to develop awareness of their highest capacities and to merge with their True Self. This process dissolves old unwanted tendencies and naturally allows desirable thoughts, behaviors and feelings to emerge. This is possible because, as Dr. Nadine says, “Underneath the coping layers we have developed to survive in the world is our higher nature waiting to be liberated.”
Dr. Nadine has dedicated her life to turning her passion for psychology into a satisfying and successful career. After receiving her doctorate from Pepperdine University in 1995, she established a private practice which continues to help many individuals find their path to peace and recovery. With nearly two decades of experience in the psychology field, Dr. Nadine has become adept at treating a wide variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, trauma, abandonment fears, relationship loss, and much more. Her determination to continue learning and growing as a psychologist has led her to master several techniques that are not commonly explored by her peers, making her one of the most exceptional therapists in the Los Angeles area. Her strategy employs a combination of methods built to lead each client toward actively engendering a positive mindset.
One of these techniques is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which essentially erases the sometimes debilitating effects that painful experiences have had on personality and emotional well-being. During EMDR, patients think about a wounding experience and repeatedly shift focus between it and positive thoughts. Unlike simply talking, which generates a limited amount of brain involvement, this process stimulates both hemispheres over multiple regions. As a result, it desensitizes unpleasant thoughts and memories while replacing them with more confident, constructive and uplifting feelings.
Dr. Nadine also employs a unique variation on this system, the Developmental Needs-Meeting Strategy (DNMS), a highly structured approach that delves deeply into the sub-layers of the mind and systematically rewrites patients’ emotional development. The DNMS is gentle and compassionate — rather than focusing on wounding experiences, it engages patients to look through the eyes of parts of self that are stuck in old pain, and experience a new, positive, corrective healing experience in the present, until they achieve full satisfaction of their needs and feel joyfully complete.
Dr. Nadine says “The field of psychotherapy is experiencing a paradigm shift, with recent advances in integrative mind-body strategies leading the way. With time, attention, and the right tools, evolving becomes a given….you can transform into the person you want to be!”
True to her innovative approach, Dr. Nadine offers psychotherapy by phone and Skype for maximum privacy and convenience. For more information on Dr. Nadine Winocur, visit www.drnadinewinocur.com, where you’ll find a detailed description of her psychological processes and other resources for harnessing mental health. You can contact her at (310) 990-7320 for more specific questions regarding scheduling and individual issues. As Dr. Nadine reminds us, “Your life is all you have. Let it be the best possible – you’ll Love the outcome – and your Self!”
Dr. Winocur was interviewed for the book
“Making Marriage a Success” by Jaleh Weber
and offered the following words of wisdom:
Something that can help ensure a successful marriage is to create levity during moments of disagreement or conflict. It’s ideal if one of you can successfully move from hurt or angry feelings into compassion for the other, but often, humor is your only and best option within reach. Keep in mind to only use a type of humor or playfulness that engages your spouse versus alienates them. The point is to shift the conversation from a highly charged negative emotional state, where the two of you are at opposite poles, to one that is a bit lighter, more positive and more joined. By doing so you might create a space that permits just enough emotional distance from the pain, and enough connection with each other, that your feelings and needs can be openly discussed and resolved.
Each spouse should get into the habit of practicing mindfulness, such as by doing a daily mindfulness meditation, so that you gain conscious awareness of your actions within the relationship and can take responsibility for them. While your spouse may be the one that precipitates your reactions, in almost every case, you are the one that’s responsible for their severity. It’s critical that you take responsibility for this intensity no matter how much the other person’s words or actions may serve as the metaphorical match that lights the fuse. It’s your fuse. Take responsibility for your underlying tendencies to feel hurt, ashamed, or angry by identifying your negative expectations, perceptions, and the beliefs that underlie them, and admit these to your spouse as quickly as they arise. If you do, you are likely to develop a robust and lasting bond. For even greater depth of intimacy, find an effective strategy to heal these negative perceptions, and your relationship will become increasingly easy and enjoyable over time.