Abandonment issues can cause severe damage to intimate relationships and are often a major reason for breakups. Abandonment issues represent a very deep and primal human fear--the fear of being alone. At some point in our lives, we have all experienced the feeling of being abandoned--moments in our childhood when we felt alone and helpless, the ending of a significant relationship, a best friend moving away, the death of a loved one. Abandonment is about the loss of love and connection. The pain of abandonment can be so traumatic that many people develop a true phobia for it. Therefore, a person who has experienced severe abandonment is likely to encounter long-term psychological challenges primarily based in the fear that abandonment will recur.
While abandonment fears typically develop from a loss in childhood, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce, they can also stem from a lack of physical or emotional care. Many people with a fear of abandonment state that they never felt as though they had a “tribe” when growing up and often felt like the “other.” This consistent feeling of disconnection creates a strong sense of distrust and a deeply rooted fear of being left alone. In adulthood, these early childhood experiences manifest into a panic of being abandoned by the significant people in one’s life. Therefore, adults will go back and forth from clinging to and pushing away the people they love most in an effort of self-protection.
Children who experience abandonment and neglect, whether physical or emotional, have large gaps in their development. These gaps, which are also referred to as “holes,” are missing certain structures that form in the brain from healthy associations with people (particularly parents) as well as the feeling of being protected by their caregivers. In order for children to develop healthy attachments and a healthy sense of self, they must feel as though their parents will be there for them no matter what. A child’s brain is asking the same question over and over again. “Are you here with me?” When parents support, respond to, and defend their child, the child not only feels safe, but also receives the message that he or she is valid in the world. If a child does not feel protected by a parent or primary caregiver, the child will experience severe trauma that creates holes in the brain structure. Therefore, with few inner neural reserves, the child becomes overwhelmed with emotion, which greatly impairs coherent thinking or action. Often, the only way to find a way out is to flee or isolate. Disassociation (which can appear as ADHD) is a very common way children (and adults) deal with abandonment trauma.
The sense of being abandoned creates low self-esteem, anger, dramatic personalities, desperate attempts for attention (due to the overbearing need to be seen), depression, loss of relationships, substance abuse, etc. And as an adult, the feelings resurface as the traumatic memories continue to be activated in the brain. The trauma which is buried in unconscious memory looks for certain situations and people to help reenact the trauma in hopes of healing. However, with abandonment and neglect, this rarely happens, partly because an awareness of the larger picture is so infrequently available.
If you or your loved one is struggling with abandonment issues, please know that there is a way out. I can support you through the process of facing your deepest fears, so they no longer affect your relationships and overall health. Please reach out and contact me today to schedule an appointment in my Longmont, Colorado office.