Abandonment Issues & Relationships

Abandoned, lost property,

All of the lost unclaimed things

Do you fear that you might be discarded, lost and left behind?

Abandoned children and animals are very vulnerable.  Abandonment threatens our security.  As adults we may be less vulnerable now, but if you have had a traumatic experience of being abandoned in your early years, then abandonment issues and fears will often remain.

abandonment issues - child running away

How we develop

As babies we were completely dependent on our mothers.  Somehow, we have had to manage the development and transition from dependency to independence, from small child to adulthood.  For many people these changes may work very well.  For others it will have been a complicated and emotionally challenging experience.

If you went through traumatic experiences in your childhood you may have been left with abandonment issues.  Your early experiences may have dented your confidence and you may have ended up compensating for this in particular ways.

Broken families, second marriages, divorces; in many cases these experiences lead to abandonment issues which cast can a long shadow over a life.

We tend to discover our psychologies in stages as we mature and develop.   The way our love relationships work frequently reveal anxieties we did not know we had.  For example, our anxieties about how we feel when a partner threatens to leave us.

A client told me:

I took my new girlfriend to a party to meet my friends.  Without telling me she left the party and went home. I was looking for her and couldn’t find her, I felt awful.  She apologised the next day and expected everything to be normal.  I tried, but I felt different about her.  In the end I broke the relationship up, I just couldn’t go out without someone who abandoned me.

You will have your own history of how abandonment issues have developed at different points across your life.

If you grew up with the fear that to be demanding of your parents might mean you could be abandoned by them, then you may have learned from an early age that you should keep your true feelings to yourself.

Sometimes we make a conscious decision to keep our worries and feelings to ourselves.  Other times we can’t remember when the habit of covering things up began.  We may not even be aware that we live a kind of covered up life.

Winnicott wrote about the ‘false self’ (1971).  In Winnicott’s model, a false self develops to protect and conceal the true self.  the false self works and does a very good job protecting your more vulnerable identity, but it gets in the way of you being spontaneous and creative and having more satisfying relationships.

What do you do to conceal your abandonment issues?

Problems start when our abandonment issues,  that we work so hard to conceal, start to come to the surface.

You try to repress it, but it keeps coming back.  This is how unexplained physical symptoms develop.  You might start to develop obsessional behaviours, not because you like cleaning or tidying things up, but because you are trying to manage an underlying anxiety, in this case your abandonment issues.

How can you be true to yourself when to do so means you might provoke destructive actions like being abandoned?

These are ancient human worries. Think of the story of Hansel & Gretel – the step-mother who encourages the father to abandon the children in the wood.  In the story, in the face of being abandoned and trapped by a witch the children manage to escape and find their way home.

What do your abandonment issues relate to?

  • Early family experiences?

When our original experiences of family and upbringing start to surface we see more about how we were raised.  We realise there is more to us than the stories we were told about our childhoods.  We discover more about the reason for our insecurities.

How do we respond to our abandonment issues?

  • We tend to respond either destructively or creatively.
  • Pathological responses can push us into addictions.
  • Problems with concentration, confidence, with delivering the kind of work we are capable of can dominate.
  • You may struggle to have healthy relationships.   Abandonment issues make it very difficult to develop healthy love relationships.
You need to find a way of dealing with your insecurity through a healthy and creative solution.
  • A creative response is where we try to develop more insight and understanding into ourselves.

Psychotherapy and counselling, self-discovery, working to live in a way that doesn’t mean we have to conceal our true nature is helpful.  Working in psychotherapy can protect us from repeating the same kinds of destructive behaviours again and again.

Psychotherapy can help you make sense of your experience.  It can help you to understand where your fear of abandonment comes from, and what it relates to.  This can enable you to engage with the underlying fear of abandonment rather than continuing to try to cover it up in ways that are exhausting and compromise your ability to live well.

Psychotherapy and counselling may support you to find a better way to live with your abandonment issues.

Contact me

Having the chance to speak in a confidential setting is often key to developing a clearer understanding of our sibling relationships and our emotions. It can provide a place to learn more about the origins of our emotional lives.    

By giving yourself a safe space to look at these things you may start to discover a greater sense of possibilities, and this may be the beginning of developing a greater sense of understanding how to relate to yourself and your siblings.

The chance to reflect on ourselves, our feelings and experience can be powerful and transformative.  Out of this, you may be able to develop a clearer understanding of how you and your sense of your problems have developed.

I have been working with people on issues such like this for more than twenty years.  My work is built around helping you to develop greater insight into who you are, and how you live. 

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.

Mobile: +44 7980 750376
Email: toby@tobyingham.com