Abandonment can happen to anyone. You can be single, married, divorced, come from a nurturing home or a dysfunctional one. The key issue in abandonment is honestly looking at loss. It can be a traumatic event like the death of a parent or a cumulative one such as the loss of a connection with your mother or father. Those suffering from abandonment issues may be dealing with a host of problems that can surface as low self-esteem, addictions, depression, anxiety, insomnia, or anger to name a few.
Abandonment itself is the most primal universal fear of our humanity. It is a fear that we will be left alone with no one to take care of us, protect us, or meet our most urgent needs. While most people think of abandonment in terms of a parent leaving a child to fend for his/her survival, there’s limited understanding about the range of abandonment and the depth of its impact on adult relationships.
Abandonment issues result from the loss of a significant loved one in your life. It can be the death of a parent, sibling, friend, or partner. The loss can be either a real one or a perceived one. If you feel you were not loved by your parents, that can be enough to activate abandonment issues. Others can come from great homes with loving parents but a severe loss from a romantic relationship in adulthood can be enough to trigger abandonment issues if the loss was never processed.
So how do you know if you or a friend is dealing with abandonment? Some signs or symptoms to pay attention to include:
-an intense fear of abandonment in your primary relationships
-heightened memories or thoughts of traumatic separations
-extreme sensitivity to rejection
-a tendency to avoid close relationships altogether
-or a tendency to rush into relationships and clamp on too quickly
-a tendency to act impulsively without being able to stop even when you know there could be negative consequences
What I have seen in clients dealing with abandonment is extreme fear and distress at the perceived loss of a significant relationship. For example in a relationship (can be dating or a marital one), a person suffering from abandonment worries obsessively that the other person doesn’t like them and is hyper-vigilant for any sign of withdrawal. If enough time goes by where he/she anticipates but does not receive a text, phone call, or email from their partner, distress sets in.
You may also be extremely sensitive to any threats of loss to your loved one and this can come out as controlling behavior. You may control your partner as a means of keeping your anxiety of abandonment from escalating. You may cling at any perceived withdrawal from your significant other. You may have persistent fears or worries of losing your major attachment figure.
The person believes he/she has been left or abandoned and intense anxiety and fear of loss sets in. The person may even cognitively recognize his/her fears are not rational but it does not stop the emotional reactivity that seemingly has been hardwired into the system. Why is this so?
The reason is because of our biological make-up. We were born to connect with our loved ones. If an emotional rupture occurred either in childhood or adulthood, this rupture can resurface in subsequent instances of relational break-ups.
The key to dealing with abandonment is learning to recognize your past history of abandonment and seeing how it impacts your current relationships. All of these are indicators of abandonment that occurred in our most cherished relationships.
So whether you’re dealing with a recent loss or a lingering wound from the past, learning to acknowledge and process that loss in the right context is crucial to growing from your past and living in the present.