Have you ever wondered where your sense of loneliness comes from? Why sometimes the feelings of isolation are so dark and deep, they may cause you to entertain thoughts of not waking up the next morning? Occasionally, it’s so painful that you can barely muster the strength to do anything besides lie in your bed and wait for the darkness to pass?
Where do these feelings come from? And why do they hang around like a bad penny? At times just beneath the surface, other times buried for a while…but, always there.
For the most part, abandonment wounds are the offspring of an ignorant society—and are implanted right after we are born!
Envision what life is like for a newborn infant. To be in a completely new environment with strange sounds and smells. Immediately after being born, you are torn away from your mother and placed in a nursery to be monitored, only being allowed to bond with your mother during times that the doctors and nurses have scheduled out.
To make matters worse, you were born in an era where new parents were told by pediatricians to let their babies “cry it out” in their cribs.
Imagine, you can’t speak, only whimper and cry to have your needs met.
You feel a gnawing sensation in your stomach or perhaps your diaper needs to be changed, but you don’t know you’re hungry or that the reason your bottom is sore is because your mother needs to apply diaper cream. Heck, you don’t even recognize that you have a stomach or a bottom!
No, you only know you’re uncomfortable and you certainly can’t help yourself. You don’t have the capacity for such thought, anyway. Something just doesn’t feel good and so you begin to cry. No one comes and so you cry some more. After a while, you’re in such a terrible state that you shut down and go to sleep from the sheer exhaustion of it all.
Meanwhile, in another room, your mother–and perhaps father–believe you were crying because you wanted to be picked up and that if they went in there and did so, you would become spoiled. Their suspicions were confirmed when you finally went silent. In their minds, they “won the battle”, you “soothed yourself” and went back to sleep, and they went back to business as usual.
And this was the pattern throughout your first year and beyond. Sure, your parents probably ensured you were fed and changed — perhaps according to the advice of doctors or self-help books. Maybe they changed your diaper every two hours and fed you according to the guidelines for your age at any particular stage.
Not much different than raising a pet or a houseplant, really.
Sadly, until recent years, people didn’t realize that leaving an infant to cry in its crib essentially instills abandonment wounds that stay with a person for the rest of their life. What this harmful advice did in reality was teach babies that they couldn’t trust the world.
And because of this oblivious advice, we now have multiple generations of humans who are depressed, on prescription medications, and–in spite of therapy— living in a state of mere existence.
And that’s just the beginning. There are other, equally sad incidents that happen in one’s life after the first year which intensify abandonment wounds, such as:
- A parent leaving his or her children
- Being placed in daycare while a parent goes to work
- The perception of being deserted by a friend (such as in elementary school)
- Being picked on or bullied in school
- A pet dying
- Being placed for adoption
- The feeling of being pushed aside after the birth of a new sibling
- Having a parent or caregiver who is emotionally unavailable – such as in the event of a parent who is a workaholic, alcoholic, addicted to drugs, and/or narcissistic
- Being the recipient of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Being unseen or misunderstood by parents or other caregivers
- Being shamed for having human emotions
- One’s parents divorcing
- Having a parent who is a perfectionist and who only shows affection when their child lives up to their standards
- Being treated poorly by a teacher
…and many of these happen during childhood alone! Sadly, I can attest to the fact that there are still teachers in various public school systems who persist in publicly humiliating and shaming their students. And since all administration cares about is whether their school is SOL-accredited, they often turn a blind eye to this ill-treatment.
Can you imagine being ignored and shamed at home, only to receive the same treatment at school?
Maybe you can. Which might explain the answers to the questions in the first paragraph of this article.
Abandonment means different things to different people because, while we all share the universal wound of abandonment, it may have been formed by different circumstances. It’s also experienced differently according to one’s level of emotional resilience.
Almost everyone has abandonment wounds to heal, and most relationship problems stem from abandonment wounds. Further, unresolved abandonment leads to insecure attachment styles that we carry into our adult lives. Consequently, we go out into the world and unconsciously choose the precise people to help us reenact the trauma – in the hopes of curing it at last.
But with abandonment trauma, by its very nature, that rarely happens.
What happens is we often stay enmeshed with toxic partners in a perpetual cycle of repetition compulsion and varying states of stress and panic – which we often become addicted to!
Moreover, being in an actively triggered emotional state seriously jeopardizes rational brain function and possibilities for healing. It feels much more like a return to the wild, than trying to rationally navigate shaky terrain.
Overcoming Abandonment Trauma
Without guidance, many people don’t completely heal from the trauma of abandonment and its lifelong presence. Their fears and doubts remain unsolved. However, there are a few steps to get you started on this journey.
1 – If you’re in a toxic relationship, leave. If you can’t leave right away, at least start devising your exit plan.
See: The Better Life Bundle and learn how to get started
2 – Find an emotionally available attachment figure who is loving, accepting, and consistently available. This could be a family member, a friend, a 12-step program, someone from your Church, a coach, a therapist, or even God (whatever God, Spirit, Or Higher Power you personally believe in).
3 – Develop self-awareness and self-compassion. Self-awareness is a stepping stone to developing emotional resilience so that you’ll have better control over your emotions instead of your emotions controlling you. Self-compassion will hopefully inspire you to develop better boundaries in relationships so that no one can use your abandonment triggers against you.
4 – Learn to enjoy being alone with yourself. With practice, the more time you spend alone, the more comfortable you may become in your own skin while helping you truly get to know yourself. This will hopefully provide you with more patience to accept yourself as you are, wherever you are in your journey, without the need for anyone’s acceptance or validation.
Copyright © 2016 by Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach
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