There’s a pattern of dysfunction called the Triad many of us have without even realizing it.  This is one of many things I learned about myself in therapy. 


Triad refers to the way people Think, Feel, and Behave. 

 1. Self Activation -Think

This involves an action of taking care of ourselves.

 2. Abandonment Feelings -Feel

This is the result of taking care of ourselves.  If we have any ‘gaps’ from our childhood, they rear their ugly heads about now.

 3. Acting Out – Behave

This is our reaction to the abandonment feelings.


A simple example of the triad for me would be spending money on myself.  I’d buy new clothes (self-activation), feel guilty for spending money on myself (abandonment feelings), then return the clothes.  (acting out).

The message I got growing up was I was not worthy of spending money on. Having money wasn’t the issue, but spending it on me certainly was.  One way that message played out was being told new school clothes were an extravagance.  Dad had plenty of money for alcohol and his toys, including three airplanes.  The more he spent on himself, the more he drove the message in that though we had money, I wasn’t worthy of it.

Some people will react to a scenario like this in the opposite way, using ‘shopping therapy’ as a panacea for their abandonment feelings.  But for me, I continued the familiar pattern of not spending money on myself.  It’s the very same thing, just opposite sides of the same coin.

When we try to change a dysfunctional cycle without understanding what our abandonment issues are, we invariably slip into the triad.  It isn’t enough to tell ourselves to simply think differently.  We must process the driving force behind our behavior.  It’s only then we can be free from it and begin living the life we were intended to.


How about you?  What’s your triad look like?