The Agony of Abandonment
Nothing can shake the soul of a person more than abandonment. No matter what time of our lives it happens, it is excruciating and life-altering.
This article will focus on abandonment and ways to heal from its effects.
What is abandonment?
Abandonment is an act carried out by someone who leaves someone alone and feeling helpless. Often, the person doing the abandonment is running away from their responsibilities as a spouse or a parent.
For instance, a woman who has two children and her spouse decides they want freedom, so they go away, leaving broken hearts in their wake. This example is only one possible scenario, as there are many ways to abandon a person, including death.
Emotional abandonment also occurs when a parent or caregiver is physically present but absent emotionally. Perhaps they grew up in a home with a neglectful or traumatic family and are now absent from their own family.
There is not one cause of abandonment, and it is unclear why someone would do so. As mentioned before, experiencing abuse or poverty might play a role in the person’s not connecting or interacting with their child or spouse.
Abandonment issues often arise when an individual has experienced being abandoned in the past and lives the rest of their life afraid of losing someone close. Fear of abandonment is a form of anxiety and often begins in childhood due to traumatic loss.
Abandonment issues can also significantly affect a person’s life and relationships. Fear of abandonment is not considered a mental health condition like depression but is a form of anxiety.
People living with abandonment issues often experience problems with their relationships in that they are terrified the other person will leave them. There are other signs and symptoms in adults, including:
* Being a people pleaser
* Having an inability to trust others
* Giving too much in a relationship
* Avoiding others to avoid rejection from them
* Being codependent
* Insecurity when dealing with friends or family
* Needing to control others
* Sabotaging their relationships
* Unable to express emotional intimacy
* The inability to form and maintain healthy relationships
While all children can also form abandonment issues, it is normal for children under 3 to fear being left alone. Below are the symptoms that show you should be concerned.
* The child constantly worries about being abandoned
* Having a fear of being alone
* Frequent illness without an apparent cause
* Isolating from family and friends
* Low self-esteem
Abandonment issues are heart-rending and, when paired with a mental health issue such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative identity disorder, are destructive.
The Long-Term Effects of Abandonment
When children face abandonment, they grow up feeling unsafe and that people around them cannot be trusted. The emotions accompanying abandonment include feeling they do not deserve positive attention or adequate care.
Physical abandonment may include:
* Lack of supervision
* Physical or sexual assault
* Narcissistic abuse
* The inappropriate offering of nutrition
* Inadequate clothes, heat, shelter, or housing
People who are victims of abandonment are more likely than others to develop devastating mental health disorders. Mood swings, anger issues in later life, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and depression are a few mental health conditions that can form.
It isn’t only behavior that is changed by abandonment; also, the long-term consequences affect future generations. Research has found that offspring born to abandoned and neglected parents inherit brain abnormalities. The regions most affected are the amygdala and medial prefrontal regions of the brain.
Those who lived through rejection from their caregivers have difficulty trusting themselves and tend to hide their feelings, beliefs, and ideas to fit in and please others. Self-abandonment occurs when you don’t value yourself or don’t act in situations in your best interest.
Here are a few examples of self-abandonment:
- Not trusting your instincts. Overthinking and ruminating on decisions and assuming others know more than you or are better than you.
- Not recognizing your feelings and needs. Not seeing that your needs are valid and feeling unworthy of self-care.
- Judging yourself. Being critical and judgmental, being mean to yourself and saying hurtful statements often accompany abandonment issues.
- Not honoring your values. Doing things to please others even though you do not believe in and go against your values.
- Having the inability to speak up for yourself. This includes not asking for what you need, having problems setting and enforcing boundaries, and allowing people to take advantage of you.
It is difficult to treat yourself well if you believe the lies that were told you about your self-worth.
Treatments to Heal Abandonment Issues
The treatment of abandonment issues focuses mainly on establishing healthy emotional boundaries and building many new responses when old thought patterns of fear emerge or reemerge.
Two primary treatments that work together to treat abandonment and neglect issues include the following.
Psychotherapy. While psychotherapy is not for everyone, seeking a mental health professional’s help can help those who were the victims of childhood abandonment and neglect. They can learn to overcome their fears of being abandoned again. Therapists work with their clients to understand where the fear originates and how it affects their relationships.
Self-Care. Self-care includes ensuring the survivor healthily meets their emotional needs by forming friendships and relationships and allowing themselves to trust.
Should you love someone who has abandonment issues, there are ways you can support them while they heal such as validating their fears.
However, treatment can teach new ways of thinking and cope with ending the overarching and debilitating power of abandonment in childhood.
Why Does Being Abandoned Hurt So Much?
Children are hard-wired to depend on their caregivers for their emotional and physical needs. When caregivers neglect their children, the kids internalize that behavior as rejection and nothing harms a child more than rejection.
The child grows up believing they are not enough and have no place in the world. How could they believe any differently? Weren’t they told those messages by the rejection of their caregiver?
The old tapes of you are not nor will you ever be enough plagues adults neglected as children.
Adults who experience abandonment also may feel they are not enough. They are told either verbally or nonverbally that they are inferior and should never have been born.
Is it any wonder that people who experience abandonment feel suicidal?
A Note for Those Who Care for Someone with Abandonment Issues
You should acknowledge the feelings of your loved one’s fear of abandonment without judgment. This move is vital to maintaining open communication.
Validating a loved one’s fears doesn’t mean agreeing with them but supporting their feelings to build on trust and compassion.
The treatment of abandonment anxiety can be very successful, but it requires commitment and self-care.
Many people with abandonment issues do not see how destructive their behaviors have been to their relationships until it is pointed out to them, and they begin to heal.
You are Enough
If this piece leaves you with no other message, I’d like you to remember that you are enough.
Not because you are rich
Not because you are beautiful
Not because of your education
You are enough simply because you exist, making you automatically a worthwhile human being. Use this piece to change your opinion of yourself by recognizing that the emotional damages you have incurred have robbed you of your self-respect and dignity.
That can change.
You can build yourself up by using affirmations, meditation, or whatever means you choose to reassure yourself that what I have said is true.
Say to yourself several times a day especially when you are stressed that you are enough because you are.
“It’s about waking up in the morning and saying: No matter how much is done and how it’s done, I’m enough and worthy of belonging, love, and joy.” — Brené Brown.
“Don’t dilute yourself for any person or any reason. You are enough! Be unapologetically you.” — Steve Maraboli.
“Live life. Be brave. Believe in yourself. Be kind to others. Smile daily. Love as much as possible, and always remember, you are enough.” — Unknown
Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.