Abandonment

What is abandonment?


aban·​don | \ ə-ˈban-dən  \

The dictionary* defines abandonment as withdrawing protection, support or help. It's the act of deserting, leaving completely and finally. 

 

Abandonment. It can happen anytime - childhood, teen or adult years.

 

The causes are many. They may include neglect, rejection, betrayal, divorce or death. 

The symptoms of abandonment are also many; addiction, anxiety, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem, trust issues, eating disorders and co-dependency ~ to name a few.

 

What are the consequences of feeling abandoned?

Our self-image is formed by how fully our needs are met. When our core needs for love, shelter and security aren’t supported from experiences with events or significant people in our lives, we develop coping skills that often include hiding our own feelings, interests, and goals. These responses are our learned ways of providing protection for ourselves through uncertain and vulnerable times and turn into the ways that we  continue to abandon ourselves.

The Cycle of Self-Abandonment

The coping skills we used for self-protection and comfort evolve into patterns of hiding our feelings, ideas, and beliefs.  Along with becoming ingrained behaviors, they've also become the essence of how we perceive and feel about ourselves. In other words, these become the patterns of low self-worth and self-abandonment that we continue into our adult years. 

Self-abandonment pulls us away from our sense of self-worth, self-love, self-respect, self-care and self-knowing. Yes, it pulls us away from our “self”. This form of separation leads to feelings of emptiness, confusion, and lack of purpose. There is a way back though, to feeling fulfilled, connected, and filled with enthusiasm for this life we’re living. And that begins and ends with our relationship with ourselves. No matter what happened in the past, it’s the past.

Shifting the Pattern

Self-abandonment may be how we learned to cope early on, but it doesn’t need to be how we continue. We’re all familiar with the fight or flight response. We respond to an event that threatens our sense of safety. When the danger, either physical or emotional is threatening enough, our response becomes a patterned way of protecting ourselves from future trauma.

 

If we continue to behave as though the original danger is still there, even though the event happened years or decades earlier, we wind up living in an illusion. 

When we relive the memories and emotions of an experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, our body also relives the experience through the emotions we’re feeling as though it’s happening again in the present moment. If it’s an unpleasant experience, this keeps the body in a repetitive and stressful state of high alert. And if this is a story that we’re used to telling ourselves and others about our lives, we remain stuck in a repetitive loop. The goal is to move from chronic states of hypervigilant protection to more frequent states of relaxation.  

The idea that I spend my life defending is that we all have the ability to create the joyful and meaningful lives we desire. We have the abilitiy to rise up from adversity both in spite of our previous circumstances and often because of our previous circumstances.

 

It took courage to learn how to protect ourselves. Now it’s time to be courageous again and let down the walls. It may feel odd to tap into parts of oursevles where we feel vulnerable, but that's also where we tap into our strength.

Where to Begin?

How do we change these patterns after years feeling out of touch with our needs and wants?

It takes practice. It’s one step at a time. There are several ways to start trusting, caring for and creating a loving relationship with ourselves. Part of the transformation begins with a shift of perception. And the more we get used to the new thought and behavior patterns, the more quickly the evolution continues. 

What else happens? The need to get most of our emotional needs met from the outside world decreases. Once we become more in touch with what matters most to us, we’re able to set better boundaries, speak up when necessary and take action towards what we find to be exciting, joyful, peaceful and self-expressive. The more we tap into our authenticity, the more alive we feel.

I've walked this path and stand stronger because of it.

Now I’m speaking directly to you.

It’s time to come home to yourself.

~~~

 

Potential Causes of Abandonment:

There are several ways that a sense of abandonment may develop which include:

 

  • Trauma:

    • Trauma from death, abuse or poverty may play a role along with the level of emotional support that a child receives following a loss. 

  • Death:

    • Death or desertion of a parent or caregiver can create an emotional void that is often filled by fear.

  • Abuse: 

    • Physical and sexual abuse, along with other types of abuse, can create lingering mental health issues, including a fear of abandonment.

  • Poverty:

    • If basic needs are not met due to poverty, we can easily develop a scarcity mindset which can expand into also being fearful that emotional resources such as love, attention, and friendship are also limited.

  • Emotional abandonment - neglect:

    • People who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned, especially during childhood, are more likely to develop this issue. 

  • Relationship loss:

    • Divorce, death, infidelity, betrayal.  A romantic partner may have suddenly left or behaved in an untrustworthy manner.

  • Rejection:

    • Being rejected by peers leads to forced isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and fear.  

  • Prolonged illness:

    • The prolonged illness of a loved one taunts with the ongoing threat that this person may leave. 

  • Stress:

    • High levels of stress may make naturally occurring anxiety worse. This can worsen fears and lead to new anxieties.

Potential Symptoms of Abandonment

How do self-abandonment behaviors surface in our life? Self-abandonment can lead to some of the following issues:

  • Addictions

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Codependency

    • focusing on the needs of others and neglecting ourselves

  • Defensiveness

    • overly sensitive to criticism

  • Depression

  • Disordered eating

  • Ignoring your needs and feeling unworthy of practicing self-care

  • Insecurity

  • Isolation

  • Low self-esteem

  • Helplessness

    • feeling as though we have little control within our lives

  • Mood swings

  • Obsessively thinking about the abandonment.

  • People-pleaser

    • neglecting our own wants and needs and working hard to please others.

  • Perfectionism

    • setting unrealistic expectations

  • Relationship Issues;

    • repeating the original pattern of abandonment through choice of partner

    • sabotaging relationships

    • clinging to unhealthy relationships 

    • seeking constant reassurance

  • Self-blame

  • Self-depreciation, being self-critical undervaluing ourselves

  • Suppressing feelings

  • Trust issues

    • difficulty trusting in others and, most importantly, not trusting our own instincts.  

*Source: merriam-webster.com and dictionary.com

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