If you have abandonment, you know there is quite an art to taming the abandonment beast. It is a force to be reckoned with, for sure, and needs to be tamed in order to have a happy, healthy, and stable life.
Where Abandonment Comes From
Abandonment doesn’t have to come from being physically abandoned. It can come from an emotionally closed off family, a highly critical parent or caregiver, moving/changing schools frequently as a child, shyness in childhood, having a sibling with a significant illness, or anything more obvious like a parent’s divorce or being left at a store and being scared while you waited for your parent to come back to get you and all kinds of things in between.
What Abandonment Looks Like
People with abandonment issues often respond to things happening currently with abrupt, harsh, extreme, or panicked reactions. The reactions can take the form of rage, cut-off, emotional melt-down, hasty actions/decisions, attempts to control, etc. The key elements in all of the abandonment responses is panic and a sense of urgency. The problem needs to be addressed right now in order to control their inner panic.
When the abandonment is triggered, the amygdala (the part of our brains that store trauma) kick in and over-reacts. Logic goes out the window as the amygdala cannot tell the difference between what’s real, what’s a projection, and what’s an appropriate response. That’s why it is also referred to as a lizard brain. It doesn’t use logic; a lizard just sees a fly go by and automatically strikes at it without thinking.
Why Abandonment Is A Problem
These abandonment responses are a problem because they cause damage in our lives and in our relationships. Rash, extreme decisions are often made and knee-jerk reactions are spewed onto others in attempt to control the inner panic and fear. This reactivity actually has the opposite effect. Instead of taming the abandonment fears, it actually causes people to pull away from us due to our over reactions. Now we must dig ourselves out of the damage caused by things that were said and done in the abandonment spiral. That’s why I refer to it as a beast. It is irrational and takes on a life of its own.
Taming The Abandonment Beast
First and foremost, the person with abandonment issues HAS to recognize and understand that their over reactions are about THEM and not about the other person or event that is happening. The goal needs to shift from controlling the people and events around them (the ones who trigger the abandonment) to learning how to control their own emotional responses.
Secondly, they need to understand where the abandonment came from and learn how to have compassion and empathy for the wounded parts of themselves. Once they have some tenderness for their wounded self they can learn how to give themselves some grace and compassion, and begin to heal. As healing continues, the abandonment responses will diminish.
Thirdly, as the focus is moved to what’s going on INSIDE of ourselves instead of outside, we gain insight into what we need in order to change our responses to events happening around us. This is accomplished by learning to give ourselveswhat we need instead of relying on others for it. This may be done by removing yourself from the situation, telling yourself you’re going to be ok, relying on resources that calm and soothe you, etc.
Example, if your significant other isn’t returning a text, your logic brain may understand that the person could be stuck in a meeting or their phone has died. The amygdala (or lizard brain), however, jumps to the conclusion that the person is mad and not speaking to you. If you only rely on your immediate reaction, you will draw all sorts of conclusions that have no factual basis (other than the unreturned text). The healthy response is to suppress the anger and fear that comes with your lizard brain interpretation and to recognize that this is a conclusion drawn from abandoning events in your prior life. You force yourself to wait for an hour or two, reminding yourself of things like: there could be a logical reason like stuck in a meeting; even if they are mad, you can talk it out; you haven’t done anything to warrant an intentional unreturned text; and/or if the person is ending the relationship without even discussing it with your first, then it wasn’t a healthy relationship anyway. These self-soothing techniques can help you hold your reaction until you have more information and can have a healthier response.
Finally, this process takes time! As you gain more insight over your own internal responses, logic will begin to override the amygdala and your responses will be more logical and less intense and irrational. You will not get instant results. Your unhealthy abandonment reactions have usually been reinforced for decades before a person begins to deal with them. Be patient with yourself and keep working hard on taming the abandonment beast. The payoff is worth the effort!