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Fear of Abandonment- The Child in You is Still Waiting

Fear of abandonment is a lingering feeling of insecurity, contributing to intrusive thoughts, emptiness, unstable sense of self, clinginess, neediness, extreme mood fluctuations, and frequent relationship conflicts. On the flip side, someone with a fear of abandonment might cope by cutting off completely and becoming emotionally numb. 

Fear of abandonment is a potent emotion. It is an emotional response to the fear of being rejected, ignored, or abandoned by those close to us.

The fear of abandonment is real. It can be incredibly debilitating and cause significant emotional distress for those affected. For some, the fear of abandonment may manifest in various signs and symptoms such as feelings of intense anxiety, frequent panic attacks, exaggerated worries about being alone or isolated, difficulty trusting others, extreme loneliness even when surrounded by people, thoughts of self-harm or suicide due to low self-esteem, persistent neediness or clinginess with friends and family members, and difficulty sleeping.

Fear of abandonment is often rooted in childhood experiences where we were neglected or felt emotionally abandoned by our parents or caregivers or if we had unstable parents.

Attachment Styles and the Fear of Abandonment

Attachment patterns in relationships describe how we connect with others. Typically, these patterns are ways of relating that are deeply ingrained from our early experiences with primary caregivers in childhood. Attachment can be categorized as ‘secure’ or ‘insecure’, and the two styles of insecure attachment we often discuss in psychology are the Anxious-Preoccupied and Avoidant attachments.

People with an Anxious-Preoccupied attachment often experience a palpable, overt, and constant fear of abandonment. From an outsider’s perspective, they may appear more ‘clingy’. They might constantly seek their partner’s attention and reassurance, worry excessively about their relationships, and feel uneasy whenever their partner is not around. They are typically the ones who frequently send texts to check in, seek concrete affirmations of affection—such as loving texts or words—or feel disproportionately upset by periods of separation. This attachment style characterizes the ‘pursuer’ in relationships—the one who actively reaches out tries to increase intimacy and closeness, and is often the first to try to patch things up when conflicts arise.

Conversely, those with an Avoidant attachment style are more inclined to withdraw. They value their independence and the knowledge that they can survive without the other person. In situations of conflict, rather than confronting the issue directly, they tend to withdraw, mostly emotionally and sometimes physically.

From one viewpoint, despite their contrasting behaviors, both the Anxious-Preoccupied and Avoidant attachment styles fundamentally stem from a fear of abandonment. People with an Anxious-Preoccupied attachment have not given up on their hope for closeness and security. They continuously strive for reassurance and affirmation to feel safe and loved. Their actions—whether it’s frequent messages or seeking constant validation—are attempts to secure the emotional safety they crave.

On the other hand, those with an Avoidant attachment style might seem as though they’ve resigned themselves to solitude, or at least, they might tell themselves that they have. Deep down, their actions are also a response to the same fear of abandonment that drives the Anxious-Preoccupied. By maintaining their distance, they believe they are guarding themselves against the deep despair and vulnerability that come with close attachments.

In other words, we can think of both attachment styles as fundamental responses to fear of abandonment, but they manifest as seemingly opposite behaviors: one clings and the other distances.

Couples- Abandonment article

“how you love yourself is
how you teach others
to love you”
Rupi Kaur

 

Fear of Abandonment Signs and Symptoms

Here is a list of emotional experience/behavioral characteristics that may come with severe fear of abandonment:

With the fear of abandonment, you are hypervigilant and always watch out for signs that your partner is losing interest in you. You are constantly second-guessing your relationship, becoming suspicious when your partner is not around, responding to you, or replying to your messages. You are upset by or become jealous of their contact with others. You may become needy and clingy or challenge them and make them frustrated that you do not trust them more. 

When your partner is not ‘in sight’, you may become overwhelmed by clinginess and a sense of ‘helplessness rage’ that you cannot express. You find it difficult to sense that others hold you in mind when they are away, but you also don’t want to come across as jealous and possessive.  

Your fear of abandonment causes you to feel a deep sadness and hollowness when the people you are attached to are not physically by your side. You may have an unexplainable fear that someone important to you will be hurt, killed, or disappear suddenly. 

You feel triggered by even the subtlest signs of criticism. You experience ‘flashbacks’— visual or emotional — of the humiliation you had in childhood. When others don’t explicitly express praise or affection, you feel rejected and abandoned; but when they compliment you or express love for you, you are not able to trust them. 

You attach easily and sometimes trust people who are not ready for intimacy to begin with. You may also overstay in relationships that you know are unhealthy for you. When the relationship breaks down, you blame yourself and believe it was because you were not good enough. 

Sometimes, you feel like you are re-creating the psychodynamic with parents who were inconsistent in their love. Your parents were nice one day and cruel the other; warm one day and cold the other. Their contradictory communication created confusion. As a child, you could not relax into the safety net of parental embrace; even when love was given, you feared it would go away. You were always watching out for the subsequent sudden withdrawal of affection or anger blow-out. 

Your fear of abandonment causes you to compare yourself to others often and feel like you are less desirable or lovable. You have a harsh inner critic that continuously criticizes or threatens you. You may seek constant validation and reassurance from your partner to the point where it gets tiring for both of you.   

You are always watching out for the subtle signs of another person pulling away. Your fear of abandonment saps energy that could otherwise have been available for productive work. 

You don’t believe you are good enough, so you overcompensate by being compliant and agreeable, sometimes disowning your needs. Resentment builds in the background, and you may suddenly have an anger outburst and surprise yourself and those around you. You later regret your reactions because your anger makes them distance themselves from you even more.

When overcome by the fear of abandonment, you may oscillate between being pushy and angry and being helpless and needy. You are defiant one day and people-pleasing another, creating identity confusion for yourself and those around you. 

Your feelings towards another person tend to swing between extremes, one day, they are the love of your life, and the next day you decide to withdraw your trust completely. On some days, complete dependence feels like the only option; on other days, you do not want to invest any hope.

You can become obsessed with people. You go through phases of becoming wildly addicted to someone. When you were younger, you fell in love with your teachers or classmates; mostly, these romances were one-way only; deep down, you do not believe you can have a genuine relationship with those you idealize.  

You long for affection, but when it is given, it seems you cannot take in the soothing because you panic about losing the love you have and focus your energy on getting the next ‘fix’. 

You hold grievances for longer than you would like and ruminate over events in which you feel you have been wronged.

You make intense efforts to please others but feel resentful later when your efforts are not reciprocated. Sometimes, you are deeply hurt by other people’s thoughtlessness. 

You seek advice or reassurance but remain unconvinced when help is given.  

When there is a conflict, you may storm off, but on the assumption that you can return whenever you are ready. You might underestimate the strain this puts on the relationship until your partner protests by leaving you. 

You get distracted by your fear of abandonment and relationship stress to the point that you have a hard time focusing on work which holds you back in your career.

Fear of Abandonment Explained: ‘Object Constancy’

How do psychologists and neuroscientists explain and understand the fear of abandonment? One approach involves the concept of ‘Object Constancy,’ particularly within the framework of relational psychoanalytic theory.

Object relations theory proposes that a person’s ability to engage in meaningful relationships with others is based in part on their capacity to develop a sense of ‘whole object relations’. This refers to the individual’s capacity to form cohesive and integrated representations of objects, including themselves, other people, and objects in the environment.

Neuroscientists have found that our parents’ response to our attachment-seeking behaviors, especially during the first two years of our lives, encode our model of the world. If, as infants, we have healthy attachment interactions with an attuned, available, and nurturing caregiver, we will be able to develop a sense of safety and trust. If our parents could respond to our calls for feeding and comfort most of the time, we would internalize the positive message that the world is a friendly place; when we are in need, someone will come and help us. We would also learn to calm ourselves in times of distress, forming our resilience as adults. If, in contrast, the message that we were given as an infant was that the world is unsafe and that people cannot be relied upon, it would affect our ability to withstand uncertainty, disappointment, and the ups and downs of relationships.  

Most people can withstand some degree of relational ambiguity and not be entirely consumed by worrying about potential rejection. When we argue with loved ones, we can later bounce back from the adverse event; When they are not physically by our side, we have an underlying trust that we are on their mind. All of this involves something called Object Constancy  the ability to maintain an emotional bond with others, even where there is distance and conflict.

Object Constancy and Object Permanence

Object Constancy originates from the concept of Object Permanence— a cognitive skill we acquire at around two to three years old. It is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, touched, or sensed in some way. This is why babies love peekaboo- when you hide your face, they think it has ceased to exist. According to the psychologist Piaget, who founded the idea, achieving Object Constancy is a developmental milestone. To learn more, there are plenty of YouTube videos with babies demonstrating this behavior.

Object Constancy is a psychodynamic concept, and we could think of it as the emotional equivalent of Object Permanence. To develop this skill, we mature into understanding that our caregiver is simultaneously a loving presence and a separate individual who could walk away. Rather than constantly needing to be with them, we have an ‘internalized image’ of our parents’ love and care. So even when they are temporarily out of sight, we still know we are loved and supported. In other words, with Object Constancy we can experience things and people as reliable and constant.

In adulthood, Object Constancy allows us to trust that our bond with those who are close to us remains whole even when they are not physically present, picking up the phone, replying to our texts, or have become frustrated with us.  With Object Constancy, absence does not mean disappearance or abandonment, only temporary distance. People with a secure early attachment can locate a sense of trust from within themselves, rather than relying on constant reassurances from others. Yet people plagued with an intense fear of abandonment are the opposite.

For all of us, the fear of abandonment began when we were thrown into the cold, alien world from our mother’s womb. Since no parent could be available and attuned 100% of the time, we all suffer at least some minor bruises in learning to separate and individuate. However, if we experienced more severe early or preverbal attachment trauma, have extremely inconsistent or emotionally unavailable caregivers, or have a chaotic upbringing, our emotional development might have been stunted at a delicate age, and we never had the opportunity to develop Object Constancy.

 

Fear of abandonment “Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.”– John Bradshaw

 

Object constancy is a concept in psychology and cognitive development that refers to an individual’s ability to recognize objects or people across different circumstances. This includes the recognition of an object despite changes in size, color, shape, location, or other properties. It also involves being able to remember someone even when apart for a period of time. In addition to recognizing objects and people, it can also apply to emotions and memories.

Object constancy develops during early childhood and continues throughout adulthood. Generally speaking, it is seen as a sign of maturity with age since it requires an understanding of relationships between objects over long periods of time.  

Object constancy is an integral component of attachment theory that posits the capacity for an individual to maintain a feeling of security and mental stability even when confronted with significant moments of separation or disruption in interpersonal relationships. This concept of secure attachment allows for individuals to preserve an emotional connection with another person during times of distress, often enabling them to persistently recognize the worth and value of their relationship despite the potential for conflicts or disagreements.

If you have an insecure attachment, any distance, even a brief and benign one, can trigger you to re-experience the original pain of being left alone, dismissed, or disdained. Your fear of abandonment could trigger survival strategies such as denial, clinging, avoidance, dismissing others, lashing out in relationships, or the pattern of sabotaging relationships to avoid rejection.

Object constancy may also be related to a phenomenon called Splitting. Without Object Constancy, you relate to others as ‘parts’ rather than as a ‘whole.’ Just like a child who struggles to comprehend the mother as a complete person who sometimes rewards and sometimes frustrates, you struggle to hold the mental idea that both you and yourselves have both good and bad aspects. When you split, you reduce the complexities of life and relationships into two opposing forces—good or bad, loved or hated—and disregard any nuance in between. You develop an all-or-nothing mentality that leads you to jump from one extreme emotion to another quickly and unexpectedly. The result is a rollercoaster experience where emotions feel intense yet fleeting; love becomes hate overnight; trust turns into suspicion without warning.

You may then experience relationships as unreliable, vulnerable, and heavily dependent on the mood of the moment; There seems to be no continuity in how you view your partner- it shifts from moment to moment and is either good or bad. This can cause and intensify the fear of abandonment.

Without the ability to see people as whole and constant, it becomes difficult to evoke the sense of the presence of a loved one when they are not physically there. The fear of abandonment and feeling of being left on our own can become so powerful and overwhelming that it evokes raw, intense, and sometimes child-like reactions.

When your fear of abandonment is triggered, shame and self-blame closely follow, further destabilizing you. Because the origins of these intense reactions are not always conscious, it would seem as though you are ‘unreasonable’ and ‘immature.’ In truth, if we think of ourselves as acting from a place of repressed or dissociated trauma; and consider what it was like for a two-year-old to be left alone or be with an inconsistent caregiver, the intense fear, rage, and despair would all make sense.

Fear of abandonment

“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”― H. Raven Rose

The Slot Machine of Love: Inconsistent Parenting and the Fear of Abandonment

If you are struggling with a fear of abandonment and issues with object constancy, you were likely raised by an emotionally unstable or inconsistent primary caregiver.

This kind of upbringing can be both perplexing and traumatizing. Your parent may show empathy, but only fleetingly and inconsistently.  They have a hot-and-cold, on-and-off emotional pattern. Instead of receiving the steady, nurturing love and care that every child deserves, you were subjected to a confusing and erratic pattern of attention.

At moments, they might shower you with warmth and affection, yet at the slightest hint of stress or a trigger, they flip into an entirely different person—often childish, unreasonable, aggressive, or even violent. 

This Jekyll and Hyde behavior thrusts you into a perpetual state of hypervigilance and fear, uncertain as to which version of your parent will appear next. 

Will it be the caring figure, the harsh critic, or perhaps the unpredictable drunk? What might you have done wrong to trigger them? How can you get your ‘good parent’ back?

Perhaps, each time you hear the doorknob turn, you get washed over by waves of anxiety. What awaits on the other side? Is it a threat of violence or an offer of a comforting hug? The uncertainty is constant; you simply never know. Their own trauma and unresolved attachment issues mean they often don’t have a handle on what triggers their emotional meltdowns, which means they cannot fix it, even if they want to.

Indeed, your parent might have been a victim of inconsistent parenting or childhood trauma. But right now, we’re not justifying their behavior; we are focusing on you and your pain—as few have done before.

Although your parent may not have received a formal diagnosis, their emotional volatility aligns closely with symptoms identified in Borderline Personality Disorder. Intriguingly, recent research shows that many individuals with this disorder possess highly active mirror neurons. This allows them, in moments of psychological stability, to show ‘hyper-empathy,’ where they become highly attuned to emotional cues. They may show excessive care, sometimes to the point of being engulfed, intensely focusing on your feelings and needs. However, when their own unresolved trauma is triggered, they regress to a child-like state, losing their capacity for mature empathy and becoming utterly self-centered and erratic.

When they are triggered and regressed, the ‘good parent’ in them essentially ‘disappear.’ In such states, they become unreachable, leaving you feeling completely helpless and perpetually on edge.

When this pattern repeats itself, you are forced into a state of hypervigilance at home, unable to relax or enjoy the carefree childhood that should have been your right. Instead, your days were spent walking on eggshells, constantly tiptoeing around the adults in your life, always trying to mediate conflicts, and being careful to avoid triggering the next emotional explosion.

Sometimes, the impulsiveness that is characteristic of such parents can lead to reckless behaviors—like dangerous driving, compulsive hoarding, or other addictive behaviors—that add even more instability to the home environment. Having such an upbringing likely left you feeling continually unsafe and insecure, feelings that may persist well into your adult life.

In situations of conflict, these parents may also withdraw or dissociate completely. They might become unresponsive, threaten to leave and never come back, or even enter a catatonic-like state, displaying a blank expression and remaining silent. Such repeated emotional ‘disappearances’ severely impair your ability to develop ‘object constancy’—the ability to maintain a mental image of a loved one when they are out of sight.

 Tragically, due to their own emotional turmoil and frequent dissociative tendencies, your unstable parent was unable to provide the consistent, reassuring presence you so desperately needed. They might not have intended malice; it was simply all they could muster, trapped in their ‘bad parent’ mode, emotionally unavailable to meet your needs.

Child by the Door

“It’s not enough to just heal the inner child. Our inner parent has to change, too.”- Yong Kang Chan

 

Repetition Compulsion and the Fear of Abandonment

What makes it the most difficult to have inconsistent parents is the unstable nature of their empathy and warmth. Since they intermittently show a kind and compassionate side, it feels impossible to completely give up on the hope. Naturally, you would keep trying. All children need a stable and loving parent, and it is only in your nature to continue striving to find it.

But this dynamic can trap you in a relentless cycle, much like being lured into playing a slot machine—you are always trying and hoping. Sometimes, you have the fairy godmother; other times, you face the wicked witch. Even after repeated failures, you find yourself getting up and trying again, always hoping that this time, you’ll be met with a nurturing parent, not the cruel one. 

Yet, the outcome is often not just traumatizing but retraumatizing. When you reach out, hoping for a warm embrace, you may instead find a door abruptly closed, a back turned coldly away, or the hollow disconnection of a dissociated gaze. 

Just like a wound that is not even allowed to form a scab, it is constantly reopened. Each episode of their cold rejection or explosive outburst disrupts the protective layer of healing from ever fully forming, leaving all the tender places in your heart exposed and raw—all the way into adulthood.

When Old Wounds of Abandonment Reopen Today

Understanding the experiences you faced in childhood with an inconsistent or emotionally unstable parent can provide you with deeper insights into your reactions within your current adult relationships.

When your partner is angry at you, expresses a need for space, or simply seems less responsive than usual, your inner child—who has endured a lifetime of push-pull dynamics and the looming threat of abandonment from their caregiver—is understandably triggered.

Having an unstable parent posed a survival threat in the past, which explains why it has the power to overwhelm and take over reason and logic today.

Essentially, you revert to that vulnerable child, facing manipulative or passive-aggressive parental behavior, including silent treatment or disappearing acts used as punishment.

When they did this, they essentially left you in a lingering state of suspense, saying through their absence: “It is not over until I say it is over.” In other words, they held all the power. During these excruciating waits, you were left hanging, desperately longing for the moment your parent would reappear and announce, ‘everything is okay now’. You waited and waited, perhaps trembling in uncertainty and fear, only to finally receive the reassurance you needed for survival—that you were not being abandoned, that you were still loved, and that you were safe. Each moment of their absence felt like an eternity, as your young mind struggled to comprehend why love could feel conditional and transient.

This pattern of waiting and hoping for emotional closure does not simply vanish just because you have grown older. It shows up in your adult relationships, where you might find yourself constantly anxious and overly vigilant. When a partner seems absent, even if they may just be tired, or when they need time to cool down after an argument, it triggers an unbearable flood of abandonment fears in you.

In these moments, you might revert to your childhood self—waiting by the door, or by the phone, for any sign that affirms “we are okay now,” “you are safe,” or “I am not mad anymore.” But often, that reassurance does not come as quickly as you crave it. The waiting becomes a silent storm within you, as the minutes stretch into hours, and hours into days, each ticking second intensifying the dread that you could once more be left alone, unloved, and vulnerable.

During such times, you may find yourself oscillating between two modes: either you relinquish all power to your partner in the relationship, allowing them to decide when it’s okay for you to feel secure again, or you attempt to regain a sense of control by deciding to prematurely end the relationship before they have the chance to hurt you. Unfortunately, as you already know, this defensive mechanism of pushing loved ones away simply perpetuates the very fears you are trying to escape.

The repeated push-pull cycle can be profoundly painful for both you and your partner, as it rocks the foundation of your bonds every time it occurs.

Unfortunately, your partner might not be able to empathize with the depth of your anxiety or understand why just small periods of absence and silence can feel so overwhelmingly devastating for you.

But even if those around you fail to empathize with you, you must learn to extend the deepest compassion for yourself. It’s not you—it’s what you have been through. Your fear of abandonment is a natural human reaction to chronic attachment trauma. They stem from a deep-seated fear and a sense of learned helplessness. It is the response of the little child within you who endured years of uncertainty and emotional abandonment by caregivers who held complete control and declared, “it is not over until I say it is.”

If you can both learn to see the core of your struggle from this perspective, it will open the door to greater empathy and understanding between you.

Abandon-ment

“The sun loved me again when it saw that the stars would not abandon me.”- Jenim Debie

 

Fear of Abandonment: Healing Path

Corrective Experience

 In the realm of relational psychoanalysis, the concept of a ‘corrective experience’ is considered a potent antidote to the fear of abandonment. However, it’s not a quick fix; rather, it’s a relational process that demands courage and patience from both you and the new attachment figure who would provide you with a relationship container for the corrective experience. This approach is rooted in the understanding that early relational patterns deeply shape our sense of self and our interactions with others. Essentially, a corrective experience is a deep process that occurs within a relationship that offers the opposite experience of the abuse and neglect you have endured. Traditionally, this role might be filled by your therapist or psychoanalyst, but it is also possible with a loving authority figure, a stable partner, or a close friend.

When you can trust that someone will be there for you when you need them and will not betray you with manipulation, passive-aggressiveness, or empty threats, this relationship becomes a sanctuary where your deep-seated beliefs and mistrusting schemas of thoughts are challenged and eventually dispelled. You might keep testing their boundaries, challenging their patience, or even daring them to leave and abandon you. But again and again, your boundary-testing behaviors are met with unwavering support and empathy. In other words, the corrective experience deprives all your entrenched narratives. Even if the defensive part of you is resistant to change, a part of you would be moved by this new experience. 

In such relationships, you find a ‘secure base’—something that you can count on for consistent support, empathy, and validation. This experience counters your deeply ingrained belief that relationships are inherently unreliable and precarious. As the relationship deepens, you will find that slowly but surely you experience a profound shift in your relational expectations and capacities. You will become more open, vulnerable, and trusting. Your child-like self will emerge, and you can reclaim a sense of joy, relaxation, and playfulness. It is an incredibly moving process, and it does take someone incredibly emotionally mature and stable to provide that for you.

Unlike mere cognitive understanding, a corrective experience operates on an emotional level, rewiring neuro-pathways and reshaping core relational schemas. It is not based on cognitive-behavioral modification. It is a right brain-to-right brain encounter, where emotions are felt and understood in a visceral way, leading to a deep, emotional-level transformation that will last.

 Initially, this transformation may occur within the relationship with your trusted figure, but gradually you will learn to internalize the corrective experiences gained within the relationship into your sense of self and interactions with others. With time, patience, and perseverance, the fear of abandonment begins to lose its grip, replaced by a newfound sense of security, resilience, and trust. Eventually, you will emerge from the relationship equipped with the tools and insights needed to cultivate healthier, more fulfilling relationships beyond that specific connection.

Using Transitional Object

Here is a trick psychologists use for children, but it can be applied to adults too. That is to use a ‘transitional object’ to help. A transitional object is an item that provides comfort and security to a child, usually during times of change or separation. The most common type of transitional object is a teddy bear or blanket, but it can also include other items such as a toy car or doll.

In addition to helping kids feel secure when separated from their parents, this object can also help them develop self-soothing skills and provide an emotional outlet for feelings such as fear, frustration, and sadness. But transitional objects are not just limited to children and babies; they can provide comfort and security for people of all ages.  These objects allow the user to access memories of safety and familiarity during stress or change.

Transitional objects can take many forms; for children, they may be stuffed animals or blankets. For adults, it can be a piece of jewelry, a notecard, or a photograph. These items should be chosen based on personal preferences. They should ideally have some emotional significance attached to them – for example, a card that says ‘I love you’ from your partner can be helpful.

In addition to providing immediate comfort, transitional objects also play a vital role in fostering emotional resilience and coping skills. By allowing you to access memories of safety and security, these objects serve as anchors in times of uncertainty and distress. They offer a tangible reminder that despite external changes or challenges, a sense of comfort and stability can still be found within yourself. In this way, transitional objects serve not only as practical tools for managing difficult times but also as powerful symbols of resilience and inner strength.

The Paradoxes We Must Hold

Fear of abandonment itself is not a pathology. It is a natural part of the human psyche and is hardwired into our survival mechanism. On the most primitive level, the idea of being abandoned and left entirely and forever alone fills us with terror. It signifies an existential death, an annihilation- a feeling that we would cease to exist.

However, to have mature, fulfilling relationships, we must learn to trust and love without being immobilized by excessive anxiety.

 

A big part of developing Object Constancy is to have the ability to hold paradoxes in our minds. We ought to embrace that both ourselves and others are complex beings finding our ways in a fluid and ever-changing dynamic dance. In the same way, the caregiver who feeds us is also the one who fails us, we must come to grapple with the truth that no relationship or person is all good or all bad.

 

If we can hold both the faults and the virtues of ourselves and others, we would not have to resort to the primitive defense of ‘splitting’ or black-and-white thinking. We do not have to devalue our partners because they have disappointed us completely. We could also forgive ourselves- just because we are not perfect always does not mean we are, therefore, ‘bad,’ or unworthy of love.

 

Our partner could be both limited and good enough at the same time.

They could love and be angry at us at the same time.

They might need to distance themselves from us sometimes, but the foundation of the bond remains solid.

For a moment, tune into your breathing, and observe how like human relationships and everything else in nature, there is a natural ebb and flow. Gradations in life are numerous and varied. We need to breathe in to breathe out, contract to expand. A healthy relationship requires a dynamic flow between closeness and distance, ups, and downs, disappointment and fulfillment. No one or no relationship is static. If we think of our relationship as a dance or music— there is no closeness without distance, no music without intervals. If we fixate only on the times we are together and ignore the empty spaces, we stifle the pulsation and eventually squander the relationship. 

The next critical step in healing abandonment fears cultivating self-reliance. Fear of abandonment is over-powering because it brings back the deep trauma we carry from when we were little children, being thrown into this world as helpless beings, utterly dependent on those around us. But we must acknowledge that some of our fears no longer reflect our current reality. Although there is never absolute certainty and safety in life, we are adults now and have different choices. We have strength; we have resilience, and we have autonomy and freedom.

As adults, we can no longer be ‘abandoned’- if a relationship ends, it is the natural consequence of a mismatch in two people’s values, needs, and life paths.

We can no longer be ‘rejected’- for the value of our existence does not depend on the opinions of others.

We can no longer be engulfed or trapped- we can say no, set limits, and walk away.

As resilient adults, we can cradle the two-month-old inside of us that was terrified of being dropped; We learn to stay inside of our bodies even in fear without dissociating; and we can stay in relationships with others even amid uncertainty without running away into avoidance and defenses.

Rather than getting stuck in searching for the ‘missing piece,’ we recognize ourselves as a whole and integrated being.

The trauma of being dropped and left alone has passed, and we are given the opportunity for a new life.

We are now strong, vast, and resilient enough to surf the wave of human life.

If you identify with some of the above, I hope this piece is a source of hope. We are all a work in progress, and none of us has the perfect attachment, history, or relationship. It is never too late for insight and change.

fear of abandonment

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. ” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

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Consultant and Author at Eggshell Therapy and Coaching | Website

Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive experience in mental health and psychotherapy across diverse international settings. She specializes in working with highly sensitive, intense and gifted adults. Her books, 'Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity' and 'The Gift of Intensity,' are internationally acclaimed and available in multiple languages. She integrates psychological understanding with both Eastern and Western philosophies, such as Buddhism and Stoicism.