How to Handle the Fear of Abandonment
The fear of abandonment is perhaps one of the most damaging phobias. When it comes to human relationships, lies and betrayal are certainly detrimental. However, those with abandonment issues tend to do the sabotaging in an attempt to protect themselves from future harm. This constant destruction of one’s relationships can lead to a vicious cycle; creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the abandonment actually comes true.
To gain a better understanding of this psychological condition, let’s explore the causes and symptoms that accompany it. After all, the fear of abandonment is universal to the human experience – although some may feel it much more intensely than others.
According to GoodTherapy, abandonment issues often stem from childhood.
Many people experience abandonment as a physical experience. When a child is abandoned, it usually means the parents have physically left them through traumatic events such as death or divorce.
While emotional abandonment is much less obvious, it is just as painful. This type of rejection happens when a caregiver stops showing love and attention.
These experiences cause the brain to go into high alert, constantly scanning situations for any signs that abandonment is about to reoccur. The brain’s hyper-vigilance becomes more intense and begins to pervade many aspects of one’s life.
Anxiety over being abandoned is primal in that all of us experience this feeling at some point in our lives. This fear is what makes us strive to do better in our careers, marriages, and personal achievements. It forces us to seek out secure relationships and try to mend any disconnect we have with those who are important to us.
Although many experts believe the fear of abandonment develops in childhood, this condition can appear later in adulthood as well. One may become financially or emotionally dependent on another adult who then dies or leaves.
This universal fear of abandonment becomes especially problematic when it creates an unsteady mental state.
Some symptoms of this disorder include:
- Chronic feelings of insecurity;
- Long-term depression;
- Overwhelming feelings of jealousy;
- Decreased self-esteem;
- Constant self-deprecation;
- Feelings of losing control over life, and;
- Obsessive and intrusive thoughts about being abandoned.
What the Fear of Abandonment Looks Like
Although the fear of abandonment can affect any area of life, it is particularly common in romantic relationships. Whether you’re married or dating casually, this psychological disorder can become very destructive if not properly dealt with.
In a typical relationship, abandonment fears may look like:
- Feelings of resentment if partner participates in activities without them, such as spending time with friends or taking a day to relax alone;
- Moving too quickly in a relationship out of fear their partner will leave them if the relationship is not progressing to the next level fast enough;
- Feelings of jealousy if partner has friends of the opposite sex or close relationships with others such as co-workers;
- Over-analyzing the relationship on a frequent basis and picking on the negatives instead of focusing on positive aspects, and;
- Pursuing relationships with those who are emotionally unavailable.
In all the above scenarios, the person holding this fear is slowly destroying the relationship with constant feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and resentment. These feelings are often rooted in the belief that abandonment is bound to occur and reoccur. Eventually, abandonment inevitably does take place because the other partner is unable to handle such ongoing negativity.
The fear of abandonment makes it harder for the sufferer to achieve intimacy or feel worthiness. Over time, codependency, separation anxiety, and depression will set in. Ultimately, this person will seek out relationships that reinforce their beliefs in an attempt to avoid shame and humiliation.
Overcoming Fear of Abandonment
With a bit of therapy and awareness, this psychological condition is most certainly treatable. The best way to overcome fears of abandonment is to practice love for self and cultivate confidence in one’s abilities. It’s also a good idea to clearly state all of one’s needs before entering an intimate relationship.
The three main elements to consider on the journey to recovery are self-compassion, mindfulness, and humanity.
Having compassion means you offer kindness and understanding toward others when they are suffering. Self-compassion means you extend these same graces to yourself during difficult times.
When overcome with fears of rejection, take time to comfort yourself and recognize that you deserve care at this moment. We can all be more loving to ourselves, even if we feel the pain of someone else abandoning us.
In its most basic form, mindfulness is the "human ability to be fully present". This means we are aware of where we are and what we’re doing without becoming overwhelmed or overreacting to what’s going on around us.
All too often, our minds take over and we become immersed in obsessive thoughts about a recent incident or situation that may occur in the future. Next time you feel your mind racing, be kinder to yourself. Let your thoughts float away, instead of running off with them. Chances are your insecurities are clouding your judgment and your fears are not rooted in reality.
During recovery, it’s important to remember we’re all human. Each one of us struggles with various issues during our lifetimes. The more we accept this fact, the more we can cultivate strength and self-compassion. Those who struggle with fears of abandonment must remember they are worthy and not alone.
By reversing these cruel thoughts, the sufferer can stop believing these incorrect messages and see situations for what they really are. It’s during this process that one may finally realize those fears of abandonment were unwarranted. In fact, he or she is fully loved and respected.
Moving on from Fear of Abandonment
The pain that stems from fears of abandonment can feel very real and destructive. But by tracing these feelings back to its roots, the better one can separate those negative experiences from the present. Practicing patience and self-kindness make it possible to lead a fulfilling life that is rich with healthy relationships.
Whether rejection happened in childhood or later in life, it takes great courage to face one’s initial fears of abandonment. But when one faces these feelings, it’s possible to liberate oneself from the chains of the past.
We all have the ability to create a new story for ourselves. One that is rooted in love, positivity, and feelings of worthiness.
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