Relationship Therapy & Counselling East Midlands – and also nationally and internationally….
Relationship Therapy – The Chaser, Runaway and Walker. Terms coined by Dr. Michael G Millett in his internationally acknowledged and celebrated work with ALL types of human relationships.
His work and concepts are featured in books, magazines and other hard-copy professional material in the UK, Ireland, the USA and Canada and Australia and New Zealand.
This particular article has been mentioned, cited and featured in books and magazines since 1999.
“We seek it here, we seek it there, we look for love everywhere! We expect it to come to us, usually through another person. ALL our conditioning says it is something that happens to us.
The mythology of our fables, legends and modern day entertainment industries say it is something we ‘fall into’.
And yet…and yet real love cannot be acquired, possessed or accumulated. It cannot be known when we think it comes from outside ourselves. The ultimate paradox is we are it !! We are love ! Each one of us is a source of love that has forgotten that ‘love is what I am’. Say it now “I am love”. Doesn’t feel right does it ???
That’s because its been so long since we knew and experienced ourselves in this true way. And yet we all know that the deepest trust and the purest love is known and experienced only when we give it, not take it. As we give love in whatever way is appropriate, we are the ones to experience it first, on the way out.
Falling in love is impossible. It is only infatuation, obsession with an external object which appears to fill a gap in ourselves.
As soon as the object or person is remembered when they are not present and when they do not need to be remembered, it is simply attachment which, if sustained, will become a dependency.
And attachment and dependency are NOT love.
But you already know that…don’t you?”
Please do not commit plagiarism of any material!
We come from all walks of life. We are men and women. We have differing sexual orientations.
We have different life expectations, different experiences, different lifestyles, some of us are in relationships, some of us live alone.
Despite the differences in our individual experiences, we are human beings and reveal or share ourselves with another in intimate ways and explore with that special new person and appropriately receive the shared self of that person.
Therefore the beginning stages of a potential love relationship can be intense and exciting.
Most people easily relate to that “rush” of first love and romance; the stuff of songs, endless greeting cards and warm memories. Healthy intimacy, however, is characterised by more than romance, intensity and sex.
Intimacy evolves over time.
It can be difficult for anyone who is not a `Chaser` or `Runaway` to understand how love or sexuality can be exploited or evolve into destructive patterns of addiction and compulsion.
Yet for the Chaser and Runaway, romantic love, sexuality and the closeness they offer, are experiences most often filled with pitfalls, anxiety and pain.
Living in a sometimes chaotic emotional world of desperation and despair, fearful of being alone or rejected, the Chaser and Runaway endlessly long for that “special” relationship.
They live in a fantasy world and therefore can be forgiven in believing that another person is necessary to feel complete. Their relationships will fail !!
In its simplest form, `The Chaser` and `The Runaway` is what we are looking at and experiencing here if we believe the above statement.
When love and sexuality are used as a way to cope, rather than a way to grow and share, partner choice becomes distorted.
Compatibility becomes based on “whether or not you will leave me”, “how intense our sex life is” or “how I can cajole you into staying”, rather than on whether you might truly become a confidante, friend and companion.
To say “I love you”, one must first know how to say “I”.
The Chaser is an Obsessive/Compulsive “love” experience done in the face of harmful consequences. Chasers are usually the people who come to see me in my practice with `Relationship Difficulties` due to their distress, depression and difficulty within a relationship.
They are compulsively driven to try and get someone else to tell them they are loveable and loved.
Women are more often the Chasers in the relationship, though men are also Chasers.
It also occurs in `same sex unions`. Chasers cannot seem to get their needs met within a relationship and think that they are desperately in need of their partner to “complete” them.
They seek to be rescued, cared for and protected and given unconditional love. Often these people are so preoccupied with their partner that they have difficulty with work, their own interests and friends, concentration, self-care, and self-esteem.
Possible Characteristics of the Chaser style can include:
- High break-up rate despite deep involvement
- Intense grieving following loss
- Unstable self-esteem combined with self-doubt
- Prefer being “cuddly” than actual sex
- Although like to work with others, often feel under-appreciated
- Views partner as unsupportive
- Daydreams about success but often unable to sustain efforts
- Vulnerable to eating disorders
- Perceive parents as intrusive and unfair
- Tend to be emotional, especially when under stress
- Worry about rejection during daily interactions
- Have a tendency to self-disclose to every one and like others to disclose
- Jealous and untrusting
- Easily distracted by mood swings (even when it is positive)
- Preoccupied with personal relationships; can’t turn thoughts away
- Hostility and anger
- More likely than the Runaway to be overtaken by religious emotions
- Afraid of separation
- Afraid of death
The three following characteristics can sum up the major behavioural symptoms of a Chaser:
- Chasers assign a disproportionate amount of time, attention and “value above themselves” to the person to whom they are chasing, and this focus often has an obsessive quality about it.
- Chasers have unrealistic expectations for unconditional positive regard from the other person in the relationship.
- Chasers neglect to care for or value themselves while they’re in the relationship.
The Chaser’s childhood history is one of abandonment. When investigating their family of origin,
one can find that Chasers have been neglected in one way or another, from alcoholic, work-addicted, or emotionally unavailable parents.
This also can happen with a parent who dies, goes away or is mentally ill.
They don`t receive enough connection and nurture from a parent or care-giver.
From this experience, the child feels a void that can destroy their self-esteem.
The belief is that their worth must be low to have deserved a parent not meeting their needs.
The internal message becomes “If the person who is supposed to love and support me (parents) doesn’t, then I must not be worth very much.”
As a method of surviving this abandonment, many children create a fantasy of the “perfect Father/Mother” or that they will someday be rescued from their life by a Prince/ss, Knight in Shining Armour etc. or a super-nurturing female. This fantasy creates a state of euphoria due to the release of endorphins which temporarily relieve the emotional pain.
This is a survival technique because the reality of their major caregivers not meeting their needs is too painful to fully realise.
This lack of nurturing and support determines their worth and value.
When the Chaser grows up, this void as well as this fantasy continues. They meet another person to whom they are attracted, and the fantasy of a “rescuer/healer” is placed on their partner.
It is with this person, they hope to have all of those needs met they didn’t get when they were younger.
The personal needs that the Chaser was addressing before the relationship decrease as the dependence upon the “fantasy” increases.
Rather than bond with another person, the Chaser begins to live through their partner.
When the realisation happens that their partner cannot fill this void and their needs aren`t being met, the pain from their childhood is revisited and the anger/pain/resentments projected onto their present relationship.
Thus begins the withdrawal from the relationship and the fantasy itself.
Chasers want intimacy, can`t tolerate `healthy intimacy, so they will choose The Runaway who cannot be intimate in a healthy way.
The Chaser believes that if this partner cannot fill this void or deficiency, no one will be able to, and they will have to live alone. Often they fear being alone so much and that there is no-one there for them.
This again is an unbearable reality leading the Chaser into a depression.
They are not biologically addictive, but the withdrawal can be very long and painful.
There is a perceived need so great, it can feel like life or death.
The Runaway is the obsessive fear of being engulfed, imprisoned and/or drained by intimate contact.
This compels them to avoid sharing themselves and listening to others as a way to allay their fear.
Possible Characteristics of the Runaway style can include:
- Less invested in relationships
- Show less grief following loss
- During sex with a partner, fantasizes about someone else
- More casual sex
- Prefers to work alone
- Workaholics as a way to avoid close relations
- Tend to recall parents as rejecting and rebuffing
- Tend to have experienced childhood trauma (e.g., abused, alcoholic parents)
- Withdraws from partner when partner or self is stressed
- Find social interactions boring and irrelevant
- Does not like self-disclosure by self and others
- Positive mood induction fails to increase their creativity
- Unable to remember relationships well
- Hostile/hateful when provoked
- More likely to be atheist/agnostic; “born again” religious experience during adolescence if mother was not religious
- Have death anxiety but tend not to reveal it directly
Runaway’s usually enter the therapeutic relationship with me within couples counselling or for another addiction, such as Sex Addiction or Chemical Dependency.
Runaways have a difficult time staying in a relationship because of the fear that their partner will take over their lives, or their partner being “too demanding” on their time, energy and emotions.
Relationship intensity feels frightening and draining to them.
The three main characteristics of a Runaway can be said to be:
- Runaways avoid intensity within the relationship by creating intensity in activities (often addictions) outside the relationship.
- Runaways avoid being known and avoid sharing about themselves in the relationship (their thoughts and feelings) in order to protect themselves from engulfment and control by the other person.
- Runaways avoid intimate contact with their partners, using a variety of distancing techniques, such as judging the Chasers behaviours, anger and rage behaviours, distractions such as TV, computers and radio, and sports and leisure activities as well as a `wall of silence` or always being calm
(this is a way of not revealing their emotions and corresponding thoughts).
The childhood history of a Runaway is one of enmeshment or engulfment and control by someone else`s neediness. When they were young, a major caregiver lived through them or used them.
The child was shown from a young age that their job was to care for the major caregiver rather than having their own needs met.
The positive role could be “mummy’s little soldier/girl” or “Daddy’s little princess/man”.
In other words, this child becomes the “surrogate parent”.
These children are depended upon through a variety of experiences.
Sometimes when one of the parents is unavailable (divorce, illness, addiction, death), the other parent will attempt to get their needs met through the child.
To many, this relationship appears to be very close. But in reality, this parent is taking away the child’s freedom and sense of self.
Their job is now to care for the parent.
The internal message is “My worth is determined by my ability to care for others, and in the process I will be sucked dry”.
This is their belief about their own worth and value.
The child being the scapegoat can also present enmeshment; the child acts out all of the feelings for the family.
This child gets a lot of attention for being the “best of the bad”.
If there are a significant amount of unexpressed feelings in the family, this child will unconsciously attempt to relieve the pressure by acting out.
This has now becomes their “job” and this attention determines their worth and value.
From these experiences, the child learns that their job in life is to meet the needs of others. When they meet a Chaser, it triggers the old message of being needed.
But they cannot get too close, or they will be suffocated by their partner, just as they were in their past. They now believe more intimacy will bring more misery.
To keep themselves safe from this “reality”, Runaways often look for intensity outside their relationship in the form of addictions, other relationships, work etc.
The Runaway`s withdrawal from a relationship is different from the Chaser because there is an initial sense of relief from “escaping”.
At the termination of the relationship, the Runaway has no one to take care of.
This triggers fear for the Runaway because taking care of others has been his or her only identity.
This withdrawal can become a painful experience feeling as real as life or death.
The Runaway often returns to the Chaser out of guilt, he/she feels responsible for that person some how because that is how it felt in the Runaway`s family of origin.
CYCLE OF CHASER / RUNAWAY
Unlike the healthy person seeking partnership and sex as a complement to their life, the Chaser and Runaway search for something outside of themselves (a person, relationship or experience) which will provide them with the emotional and life stability that they themselves lack.
Similar to a drug addict or alcoholic, Chasers and Runaways use their arousing romantic/sexual experiences in an attempt to “fix” themselves and remain emotionally stable.
When the Chaser and Runaway come together, the initial response is bliss and fantasy.
This despite the fact that their entire relationship is filled with positive AND negative intensity.
These relationships are the epitome of “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”
Initially the relationship is blissful because both of the people’s “needs” are being met.
The Chaser believes that they have finally met the person who can “fill” them.
This situation is familiar to them.
Also, there is hope that childhood wounds can be healed.
They are with someone who will rescue, comfort, and seduce them.
The Runaways believe similarly – that the Chaser is familiar, and there is a chance that their wounds from childhood might be healed.
The Runaway hopes that by meeting someone whom is not perceived as powerful and controlling, they might not be engulfed.
They both are distracted from their lives by this initial bliss and the fantasy keeps them from really seeing themselves and with whom they are involved.
Ultimately though, this bliss does not last long. They begin to be repelled by each other when the fantasy fades.
When the reality of the neediness from the Chaser shows itself, the Runaway does what they feel they need to do to survive.
First, the Runaway will often try to separate by using criticism of the Chaser. They also avoid intimacy and revealing conversations by always watching TV or listening to the radio loudly in the car. Then, they might begin to act out with other people, gamble, work, drink, or act out in some other addictive way.
Many Runaways act out in sex addiction. They attempt to separate due to their past enmeshment being triggered.
This then triggers the history of abandonment of the Chaser.
The Chaser begins to feel the withdrawal from the Runaway and begins to be haunted by it.
Many Chasers act out (or act in) with Alcohol, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Behaviours, and self-harm thoughts or actions.
The Chaser was abandoned in their childhood and their worth was determined by neglect. Though on a conscious level they fear abandonment, their belief system refuses and denies true/healthy intimacy. They live in a fantasy of intimacy and sabotage real intimacy. Thus, they get involved with unavailable Runaways.
So, the fear that rules their relationship is really of intimacy.
Runaways have a conscious fear of engulfment, but why would they continue to be involved with Chasers? They have been engulfed in their childhood, learning that their value came from serving the needs of others above their own needs. If they have no one needing them, no one to serve, then they have no “right” or “worth”.
So even though they push away the Chaser, when the Chaser becomes distracted in their own addiction or in another person, the Runaway’s fear of abandonment surfaces.
Often they then seduce the Chaser back, or begin the cycle again with another person.
The Chaser is not difficult to re-engage. A simple bouquet of flowers or a telephone call can trigger the fantasy all over again.
The cycle can be more confusing as one person can interchange these roles.
A Runaway can escape the intimacy in his or her primary relationship by `Chasing` someone else.
Or a Chaser may be so effected by the withdrawal process, that they become a Runaway.
In some relationships for example, a son could be `Chasing` his mother, thus being a Runaway with his girlfriend / boyfriend / wife.
ELEVATED THERAPY`s “WALKER” PROCESS
This addictive cycle (Chaser/Runaway) can destroy many relationships and can continue in people’s lives for years.
With willingness, you can become “The Walker” and recovery through therapy is possible.
Willingness emanates from no longer accepting the self-defeating cycle.
To seek therapy from The Chaser/The Runaway Syndrome, requires strength and hope to walk through the withdrawal pain into recovery and become `a walker`.
When I work with people, we look at these four things:
1. Address any addictive processes outside the relationship (alcoholism, eating disorders and so on).
As we have seen, Chasers and Runaways engage in other or secondary addictions to mask the pain of their past and/or present relationship.
To begin therapy within a relationship or indeed after it has finished with an individual, these addictions must be addressed before the relationship or other things can be worked on.
I use many therapeutic interventions and ways of working that assist with this process as well as my use of primary ‘elevated’ counselling.
If these addictions are not dealt with and the symptoms are not in remission, recovery is impossible.
2. Disengagement from the addictive part of the relationship process.
The next step is to disengage from the addictive part of the relationship.
Many people hope that they can be in therapy with their partner.
The reality is that two people in therapy can maintain a relationship, but they can NOT recover “together”.
Thus if someone is a Chaser or Runaway they must separate from aspects of their present relationship or avoid entering one while working on these issues.
For those people within Chaser / Runaway relationships, this does not always mean they must leave the relationship.
Rather, it means to separate from actively working on their relational issues while in the beginning stages of therapy.
It really means to work on self first.
Usually these relationships are filled with intensity; thus the job of the two people in the relationship is to avoid this.
To begin the process, the 2 people in a relationship must avoid any contact that leads to fighting, intensity, criticism, and painful issues.
Most importantly, the partner must not be deeply involved in the details of the other partners relationship recovery/therapy.
A good reminder of how to do this is “the three gets”
- Get off your partner’s back
- Get out of your partner’s way
- Get on with your life.
It is also important not to “bomb” the other partner.
Bombing is usually done to reconnect with the partner even if it is done through negative intensity.
There are “anger bombs”, “abandonment bombs” (I can’t stand living this way), “seduction bombs”, etc.
3. Release old stored up feelings from childhood abuse/neglect experiences.
This next step in therapy is to release held feelings from childhood that have inhibited the ability to function in a relationship.
For the Chaser and the Runaway, it is important to recognize this as an addiction and like with most other addictions; we must investigate how our past impacts our present situation.
For both the Chaser and the Runaway it is important to heal from the childhood abandonment.
Healing has two main components:
- to claim feelings about what happened in childhood – both adult feelings now and the old childhood feelings.
- to claim, modify and balance any existing hurt, immature, toxic, childish thinking or behaviour still present.
I often recommend Journalling which the client can do at home and can be an important aspect of this, as a person working on family of origin issues benefit from expressing their feelings with safety.
In this work, they can become aware of childhood experiences and their feelings about them.
Also the use of EFT and working on negative statements is strongly recommended which can connect into their Journalling. Experiential work including “Inner Child” work can be very powerful and productive and healing too.
I do Inner Child Work in session with them. Getting them to visualise themselves in their childhood, and communicating with that part of themselves at a conscious and unconscious level which supports healing from the abandonment or enmeshment.
My latest work within this area “Empowering Your Heart“, through Energy Psychotherapy and Spirituality unleashes the most powerful energy you have which is love in order to change your life.
The Chaser can begin to re-parent themselves rather than looking for someone else to do it.
They have to shift the belief that someone else will take care of them.
The Runaway can affirm that their worth is not determined by taking care of another person.
They have to let go of being adored, all important and all perfect.
Using inner dialogue to investigate the abandoning and enmeshing experiences from the past can assist the client in breaking free from the denial of “I was not abused in my childhood”.
4. Here I work with the client on underlying symptoms of co-dependence.
The next step in this work is to confront the five core symptoms of co-dependency, which are:
Much of my work in session centres on these five core symptoms utilising a whole range of therapeutic procedures including hypnotherapy.
People with addictions and childhood traumas struggle with these parts of their lives so much.
For the Chaser and the Runaway, they need to work on improving their own sense of self-worth and value.
The messages from their childhood gave them an imbalanced sense of self-esteem.
They may feel less than or more than.
Regarding their boundaries, Chasers usually exist with no boundaries and Runaways usually use walls.
For both, their reality is distorted and they are living out a reality from their childhood.
In terms of their dependency, the relationship is impacted by either being too needy/dependent, or being anti-dependent.
And finally, their internal sense of balance and moderation has been impaired.
Their ability to be `centered` within their relationship has been lost.
For the Runaway they must break the enmeshment from their major caregiver. For many, this is a very difficult process, as the role of “special” is hard to give up.
They must also re-parent themselves with functional boundaries and the reality that they cannot “save” anyone but themselves.
The Runaway needs to focus on developing healthy boundaries rather than utilizing walls of criticism and addiction.
They also must know that the reality of intimacy is not enmeshment, rather, it is the contained
sharing the self with another person in a balanced way.
A necessary step for the Chaser is to destroy their fantasy of the Runaway. Chasers need to recognise the different aspects of the fantasy that they have about the Runaway.
They may need to engage in writing and experiential exercises, procedures and therapeutic processes to facilitate this.
When they begin taking care of themselves, not only does the reality of their relationship become apparent, but their self-esteem also increases.
The most important steps for the Chaser is to focus on self-esteem and dependency.
These two concepts promote self-care that is essential to breaking the dependence on the Runaway.
I often use focusing, re-birthing and transpersonal therapy here.
If both partners are receiving therapy and help and these issues are being worked on, the couple can begin to work on their relationship together.
Remember that relationships in therapy do not have the intensity that co-addicted relationships have.
It is difficult for most addicts to live without intensity.
The couple as a unit must work on the five core symptoms as well to heal the relationship from the addiction.
Some guidelines in beginning a relationship again are:
- Be more present for your partner. They are again a priority.
- Pay attention both to your partner and yourself.
- Be open. Part of therapy is about being rigorously honest.
- Ask for what you need and want.
- Let go of attachment to the outcome. `No` does not mean a rejection of you as a person.
- Learn to celebrate the “no.” This is about recognizing and celebrating your partner taking care of himself or herself.
- Note what you get. Be aware of the “yes’s” rather than “no’s.”
There are many communication tools and therapeutic interventions and processes to continue relationship recovery as well as continuing in couples and individual counselling at Elevated Therapy International.
Many I have mentioned here in my article for you.
Our childhood role models for how to carry out relationships have proven inadequate. If these issues are not addressed, this relationship cycle will continue on and on recycling our childhood trauma over and over again.
For a Chaser and Runaway or Sex Addict, the signs or symptoms presented here consist of pervasive patterns of emotional instability inevitably leading to isolation, heartache and loss.
Not everyone who can relate to this has an addiction problem, many people may have their judgement distorted by a difficult person or situation from time to time in their lives.
However, when these situations become constant and the norm, lived over and over again in some form or another, the diagnosis can be made.
Chasers and Runaways who are not in therapy and recovery, like any addict, do not learn from their mistakes and the subsequent consequences of them.
Unfortunately, it is often only when the pain of these behaviours and situations becomes greater than the pain and challenges of actually creating change, that therapy and subsequently recovery begins.
In a healthy relationship, it`s not one`s job to take care of an adult!
Characteristics of “The Walker”, this balanced `centred` secure attachment style include:
- More trusting
- Less lonely
- Tend to have long-term relationships
- Enjoy sex, especially with long-term partners
- High self-esteem and high regards for others
- Seeking social support when under stress
- Generous and supportive when lovers are under stress
- Self-disclose appropriately and like others to self-disclose
- Positive, optimistic, and constructive in interacting with others
- Relatively unafraid of death
- More creative and cognitively open following a positive mood induction
CHASER / RUNAWAY
|Person:||Desires:||Attracted to:||Behaviours:||Process of person’s relationships:|
|Chaser||Security, safety, acceptance, “oneness” (merger).Fears.
Greatest fear is abandonment. Underlying fear is healthy intimacy (in enmeshment the core of the person is actually sealed off).
|Self-contained individuals who appear strong, stable (often avoidant or obsessive compulsive, like their families of origin).||Line up next relationship before leaving current one – forming love triangles. Instant closeness, looking for “magic” feeling. Idealizing partner. Obsessing about partner. Talking obsessively to others about him or her.
Acting out anger and revenge for being abandoned.
|Enters relationship in haze of fantasy – found this stable, strong, accepting individual. Gets high from fantasy. Denies how walled in Runaway really is. Runaway gradually becomes distant and shuts down, abandons relationship in some way. Chaser acts out anger & revenge, turns to affairs and addictive sex. Partner capitulates and renews relationship, or Chaser moves on to new relationship. Sense of self and self esteem does not develop – Chaser remains in dependent position. Ability to tolerate fear and discomfort must develop for growth to occur.|
|Runaway||Wants to be connected, but not closely. Fears.
Greatest fear is intimacy/engulfment. Can have a hard time rejecting others or saying no.
|Individuals who provide much of the enthusiasm and intimacy for both of them.||Ambivalence all the way through, may be in relationship because can’t say no.||May show initial traditional romantic pursuing, but ultimately enters relationship because Chaser provides most of the “intimate energy”; may fear would never make into a relationship otherwise. As Chaser wants more and more attention Runaway attempts to please by giving it to them – at least initially. Eventually Runaway becomes overwhelmed by enmeshment and/or neediness of Chaser, becomes critical, and eventually backs off from relationship or abandons it. Feels relationship has failed, sometimes gets involved with addictive behaviour or affairs to distance, distract, or numb out. May return to relationship out of guilt or fear of being totally alone, or moves on to connect with another partner.
Cycle of abandoning and returning can go on and on, especially if Chaser starts to move on.
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