In today’s world of hyper-sensitive reactions to issues of perception, feathers can get ruffled. Today’s topic of abandonment is, at the very least, a touchy subject. Why? Because the perception of being abandoned is an opinion and perspective. For example, a child may feel she was abandoned by her parents. Meanwhile, her parents, having done no self-reflection, defend their style of parenting and feel that their child was given everything. Or, in another example, a man may feel he was abandoned when his wife left, while from his wife’s perspective, he abandoned her when he had an affair. Regardless of the origination of the feelings of abandonment, trauma, and wounding, there is an opportunity to grow personally and heal.
There are two main types of abandonment—physical and emotional.
Most of us are probably familiar with physical abandonment. This is when the physical presence of a person upon whom we depend is gone. For example, if as a baby our parents dropped us off somewhere and never came back, that would be considered physical abandonment. There are also varying degrees of physical abandonment, and all involve neglect in the areas of the physical presence of people, food, water, shelter, warmth, and rest. For example, if one parent was missing in action, if both parents worked a lot and we were as they say, “a latchkey kid,” or if one or both parents died, or were gravely ill physically or mentally, we would be considered abandoned—physically. Or, if one or both parents had an addiction and were physically present, but they weren’t “there,” and were not able to talk or care for us, this is also considered abandonment. If we did not receive physical nourishment, shelter, and physical care, such as making sure we went to the doctor as needed, got a shower or brushed our teeth and had clean clothes, bedding etc., we were also abandoned. Any of these scenarios could be considered physical abandonment.
Another form of abandonment is emotional. Those who experience physical abandonment automatically experience emotional abandonment. So, what is emotional abandonment? Well, we all have emotional needs, and if they’re fulfilled, we have a foundation for emotional health. When these needs are NOT fulfilled, we feel the results of abandonment. These results may include, but are not limited to: struggling in relationships, anxiety, codependency, inability to develop trust, tendency to sabotage relationships, low self-esteem and image problems, addictive behaviors and food disorders, aggression, angry behavior, withdrawal, sadness, daydreaming while trying to make sense of our story and identity, difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, and more.
We have needs that must be fulfilled.
Our fundamental needs are outlined on the bottom three layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These needs include safety and security–meaning attention, affection, and stability in the form of consistency.
Here’s an example of what it might look like to have our emotional needs met. If we were a baby and began to cry, our caregiver would come to us, discover what we need, and care for that need, which may simply be a need to be held—both physically and emotionally. In another example, let’s say we were bullied or beat up on the street or at school. Our parent would meet our physical AND emotional needs. He or she would take us to the emergency room, or bandage us up for healing, address the people who hurt us, and the adults who failed to protect us from the bullies. And, they would talk to us, assure us that we don’t deserve to be bullied, that we deserve to be treated better, and teach us how to respect ourself and not allow people to bully us. They would look us in the eyes, give us their full attention, let us know that they care about our safety in every way, and give us a hug or another form of affection. They may also teach us self-defense, send us to karate lessons, or another method to build our confidence and self-protection.
Most of us are unaware that we experience abandonment.
The most common form of emotional abandonment is done unconsciously, by parents and others who are out of touch with their own emotions. Here’s an example. Let’s say a parent of a teenage child feels fear and insecurity about their child abandoning them or not needing them anymore. Instead of looking into themself and becoming self-reflective, and finding the deeper reason they feel this way (which often stem from their own unhealed abandonment issues), they may have emotional outbursts, pout, sigh, roll their eyes, complain, fake an illness, or otherwise try to guilt their child into remaining dependent and nearby. They may even continue supporting their child financially into adulthood, as a means to control their child’s loyalty and behavior. I’ve worked with clients in their sixties who’ve lived this very experience, allowing themself to be tied to their parents’ bank book and manipulations, as well as living in a victim mentality of self-pity and blame. We could talk about countless examples of how people with conscious or unconscious abandonment issues attempt overt or covert control over others, to mask their fear and insecurity. If our parents had any unresolved abandonment issues from their childhood whether conscious or unconscious, chances are high that those issues were passed on to us.
Why is it important to know if we experience abandonment?
Because it limits us. It causes a myriad of fears and insecurities. To compare, think about how even one insecurity affects everything—how we think, feel, and act towards ourself and others. It affects our self-worth, our ability to receive compliments, our ability to receive gifts and kindness. Feelings of abandonment, whether we are aware of them or not, breed insecurity and limit our ability to experience healthy relationships.
I choose to heal.
Personally, I’ve spent years working through a long series of perceived abandonments from parents, a sibling, friends, and mates. During this healing, I uncovered an extremely helpful insight for shifting my perspective and inviting healing. This insight can cut the root of abandonment out, allowing all the branches of insecurity and fear die off more quickly… and some of them die easily. I’m not saying that we won’t need any other form of support or healing, however, if we make this shift in our perspective, we can free ourself from feeling abandoned now, and ever again. Not to slight or belittle any of our feelings of abandonment, pain, disappointment, or whatever it is we may feel about our relationships, what I am about to say, can address the underlying misperception that can cause these feelings. Are you ready to open your mind and fasten your seatbelt? We’re going to get spiritual but not religious.
If we, as adults, believe that we have been abandoned, are abandoned, or will be abandoned, we have a fundamental chink in our spiritual armor. And that chink is idolatry. Idolatry is idolizing, worshiping, or giving power to someone or something that is less than the true, supreme source of power, be it God, Life, Source, or whatever we may call it. An idol is an object or practice that one believes has special powers to help and heal, powers APART from God.
This concept is a mistake. There is NO power apart from God—whose power makes the world spin, the sun rise, our hearts beat, our bodies move and every single thing in this experience work. Said another way, why would we blame or look for healing of our abandonment wounds from the person who we perceive to have inflicted it? Why would we idolize our perpetrator as having the power to control our healing? Alternately, why would we idolize abandonment itself, giving it the power to keeps us stuck? And why would we try and fill our abandonment void through addictions or other relationships, when we can go straight to the Source of our healing—ourself and Life/God?
As children, we may not have known better than to idolize our parents.
We may have seen our parents as all powerful providers. When we give our power to a parent or someone who we believe abandoned us, we allow them to control and affect how we feel, act, and think. We’ve given our power away. We’ve idolized them and made a mistake. This mistake includes looking outside of ourself, to our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, friends, lovers, and anyone who abandoned us. By doing this, we make our perpetrator both the source of our problem and the power to change it. Again, this is leaves us powerless.
As adults, we can change our focus.
Our parents may have been our imagined source of our power, health, and happiness in the past, even if they did not deliver. In adulthood, we have the opportunity to consciously release our parents from being held hostage to our expectations of them to change. As an adult, we can accept that our problems are not to be blamed on others. Problems are not in someone else, they are in how we see things. If we can shift our perspective and look at our perpetrator as a catalyst for our enlightenment, rather than a reason we didn’t succeed, we change our focus from the perpetrator, to God. And this is freeing. It’s hopeful. Because as an adult, it is up to us to address our own life, and not blame or look for help from any physical idol, be it a human or anything else.
Feelings are feelings.
We may have built up so much resentment towards the people whom we believe abandoned us that we are unwilling to relinquish control of that defense. However, at some point, when we’re ready, we may see that the walls of blame and anger, although potentially justified, become walls that limit our own ability to ascend and move beyond our perpetrators.
It’s important that we give ourself a whole lot of compassion regarding any painful feelings we may have. Feelings aren’t always changed by our thoughts, at least not right away. However, this concept of abandonment issues actually being idolatry issues, is NOT just a thought. It’s a thought that can change the way our entire mind works, as well as the way we see ourself and everything else. With that seed for a new perception planted in our minds, I wish to water it with my respect for your free will, soul, and the power within you that makes everything work. Take care of your very fine self, will you?
What say ye?
Please share your thoughts and feelings about healing abandonment with us, so we may learn and grow stronger and more fulfilled together!
Always with love,