January 25, 2012

I've Got Abandonment Issues

Abandon: to leave completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert; to give up; discontinue; withdraw from; withdraw protection or support 
When it comes to abandonment, we are very much driven by a fear of the unknown. We don’t know if the people we are connecting to may one day withdraw their protection or support. They may “forsake” us, and not just a little, but utterly. The more we become connected, the greater the risk, because we have more at stake should the person choose to walk away.

In an effort to alleviate this terrible sense of “not knowing,” we’ll often do a variety of things. We will over-control, seek constant reassurance, or be on high alert for anything that looks like withdrawal. Worst case scenario, as soon as we start to feel close, we’ll push away and sabotage the relationship.

This fear of abandonment is extremely common in those of us who have experienced a trauma, been abused, or just suffered life. We have experienced very real and tangible abandonment – the loss of protection by those who were supposed to care for us. Unfortunately, we then begin living as if this is going to be the case with everyone we come across. I certainly had for a long time the false belief that, “People always leave.” As a result, guess what – people around me often didn’t stick around for long, because I would pretty much act in a way that ensured they wouldn’t want to! That’s a hard thing to acknowledge, but we have to be straight about the role we play today that leads us to recreate the experience of being abandoned over and over again.

Earlier, I only gave you the first part of the definition of abandonment. Here’s the rest:
To give up the control of; to yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation.
When I read this, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I need to abandon myself to abandonment!” If I give up trying to control for abandonment, then I will actually begin taking steps towards real connection. I could abandon the confined space I create for relating to others when I shift my focus and energy away from trying to prevent their withdrawal and enter into an open, free space where I am present to the fact that they are here with me right now, in this moment. Instead of maneuvering to try to get some guarantee that they will always be here no matter what, I can appreciate the person for being here right now.

Point is, the fear of abandonment keeps us so focused on the future “what ifs” that we miss out on what is happening right now. Another, and more tragic, outcome is that we behave so poorly as a result of our fear, that we pretty much guarantee that things will fall apart.

One last thought. We will never be able to get away from taking risks in relationships. We can, however, learn to take calculated risks. This means we have to get out of the nasty habit of connecting to others who are so high risk that we’re pretty much setting ourselves up for failure. Today, I want to encourage you to practice giving up trying to control for the future and to remain in the present moment. Also, give some thought to the types of risks you are taking – are they measured (even if still daring) or just playing with fire?

REFLECTION
- Who abandoned you and how did they abandon you?
- What have you come to believe about people and relationships as a result?
- What do you do to protect yourself from being abandoned?
- How can you shift your focus from trying to control future outcomes to what is happening right now?
- How do you know if you are taking a calculated risk or not?

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2 comments:

  1. Great article, Rachel! Abandonment is a big issue for those of us who grew up in traumatic environments. Calculated risk is the name of the game! Learning to discern where people are safe and where they are not is a really important skill. None of us are completely trustworthy but some are more safe than others.

    Thanks for your heart for hurting souls.

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  2. @Misa: thank you so much for taking the time to comment and encouragement!

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