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March 25, 2014
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This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in
this Web site - free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and
significant psychological wounds. This article is
for anyone fearing abandonment (rejection and aloneness), or caring about someone
burdened with that fear.It provides...
a definition of
"abandonment" in a family context;
perspective on common causes and
effects of adult and
child abandonment; and...
options for reducing significant fear of
abandonment, which stresses many people and relationships.
This YouTube clip provides perspective on what you'll read in this
If you know someone who fears abandonment
excessively, keep them in mind as you read
When you think of the words "abandon" and "abandonment" in a
family context, what comes to mind? How would you define
"abandonment" to an average 10-year-old? Have you ever felt
Have you abandoned someone?What would you say is the opposite of
abandonment?Can you describe (a) why some people abandon
others, and (b) how abandonment affects typical kids, adults, and
This article explores
these questions to build a foundation for reducing significant personal
fear of abandonment. This common fear hinders
wholistic health and burdens relationships and families,
What is "Abandonment"?
For our purposes, abandonment is a relationship dynamic that
occurs when an adult or child voluntarily...
denies or ignores key responsibilities (a role) that someone
expects them to fulfill, like parental or marital obligations,
choose to end an existing relationship with someone else
despite their partner/s not wanting that. This is specially traumatic
when the abandoned one depends on the other person for something
important, like a child or disabled adult does.
Abandonment can be psychological (indifference, apathy, "coldness," lack
of intimacy); and/ or physical. Psychological divorce occurs when one or
both cohabiting mates abandon the other and their marital vows, roles,
responsibilities, and relationship
Discussion of abandonment usually focuses on an adult leaving or
quitting. Family members can be equally affected if a child or
grandchild "runs away from (abandons) home."
Other types of
occur when a person voluntarily gives up a dream, a cause, a belief,
membership in a group, hope, the will to live, a lifestyle, and/or physical possessions. When
circumstances force giving any of these up, that's an involuntary
loss, not an abandonment. Do you agree?
Some traumatic relationship and role "abandonments" are not
occur when the person is severely
unable to form appropriate bonds and maintain relationships like
parent-child, mate-mate, and friend-friend. A common sign of this is
thinking or saying "You were never there for me."
This distinction is important because of traditional moral
and legal condemnation of parental or spousal abandonment.
Wounded parents who
abandon (aren't "emotionally available" for) their kids
psychologically can't help it.They can
control whether or nor to conceive or adopt a child or to
vow commitment to a primary partner -
true Self consistently guides their
What Causes Abandonment?
Opinion - an adult or child abandoning a family is usually caused
by effects from the inherited ancestral [wounds + unawareness]
cycle. Quitting an assigned or chosen role (like parent, grandparent, husband, wife,
partner, sibling, son, or daughter) and/or a
relationship can occur because...
the role (responsibility) or relationship was
unwanted, and/or was accepted without understanding what it
the person feels chronically
stress (discomforts) in a relationship, role, or
group (like a home or family); and/or...
s/he feels incompetent, guilty, and
ashamed of "failing" a dependent person and/or obligation; and
(a) doesn't see how to correct
these stressors, and loses hope of improvement; or (b) s/he doesn't
want to correct them.
Each of these reasons is promoted by the person being
psychologically-wounded and unaware + making unwise role and relationship choices + lacking
problem-solving ("coping") skills. How does this compare with your belief about people
who abandon their dependents, parents, and/or obligations?
How Can Abandonment Affect
Kids and Adults?
Abandonment impacts occur when...
parents divorce, and the absent
parent chooses little or no contact with their kids or ex,
a young child's parent or caregiver dies or becomes mentally
young or overwhelmed parents give up a child for
bioparents turn over the care of their
young child to an older sibling, relative, nanny, day-care adult, sitter, or au pair.
And abandonment impacts occur when...
a young child is hospitalized for some time
and deprived of regular contact with her/his mother or parents; and...
a parent chooses a job that requires her or him
to be away from home for weeks or months at a time, like foreign
Impacts on the Family
To fully appreciate the causes and multi-level impacts of
adult or child abandonment, view the affected multi-generational
("extended") family as a
Psychological or physical abandonment changes a family system's
roles, roles, rituals, and traditions, subsystems, and social interactions in complex ways.
These concurrent changes cause temporary or long-term anxieties
until family members adapt to them and stabilize. They may lower the
family's nurturance level ("functionality"), and usually cause most or
family members significant
losses which need to be mourned over time.
Impacts on Children
The childhood and long-term effects of excessive parental absence can
range from moderate to severe, depending on a child's age, gender,
their bond with the absent adult (weak > strong), and their
extended family's nurturance level (low > high). Common
experience suggests that when young children are
physically abandoned by a
parent or caregiver - or if a primary caregiver is "emotionally unavailable"
(can't bond) - the kids are "badly hurt." Their hurt is a mix of...
shock, if the abandonment was
unexpected and/or explosive; and...
confusion - many mental questions
and uncertainties about the abandonment and what it means; and...
("low self esteem") - feeling unlovable and unworthy, even if
other adults are genuinely nurturing and attentive; and perhaps
their hurt includes...
guilts - feeling
(irrationally) that they did something bad or wrong that caused the
(a) bonding with
some or all adults / men /
women; and that (b) their other caregivers may also abandon
them, and they will die; and healthy kids feel ...
over (a) involuntarily broken bonds, and later, (b) over lost hopes
and fantasies of reunion. If a child is raised in an
''anti-grief'' family, s/he can unconsciously carry unfinished mourning into
adulthood as periodic or chronic
stressors can cause mixes of significant distrust, resentment,
and anger that often carry into adulthood. When combined with
neglect, these stressors
may inhibit the child's
ability to bond ("Reactive
Attachment Disorder," or RAD).
Another impact that may not become evident until adulthood is the effect
of parental absence on a young child's sense of gender
identity. Typical young girls need a father-figure's affirmation and appreciation
of their femininity. They also need consistent maternal modeling "how to
be female" and delight in the daughter as a special, beloved girl.
Boys need to observe how a father ("a man") behaves, and to learn how to manage
and appreciate their masculinity - specially how to relate to females
and other males.
If these hurts are intense enough, an abandoned child can develop
emotional numbness and/or selective "amnesia" (repression) to protect themselves from recalling
and re-experiencing their abandonment trauma and losses. One or
more of their
personality subselves may be
living in the past, and still fear the searing pain of
These effects are often magnified because parental
and spousal abandonment usually signals (a) a
low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") home and childhood, and (b)
unaware caregivers and ancestors.
Minor kids can be also be
stressed by other family members' reactions to the abandonment.
If some family members scorn and vilify the adult or child who left,
biokids are forced to choose between
loyalty to their absent parent or
and other relatives. Older, less-wounded kids may
be able to detach and not align with either side without excessive
guilt or anxiety.
For more perspective, view this brief YouTube video on "Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD)
Impact on Inner Kids
Parental abandonment pain can nourish the development of psychologically-powerful inner children like
upset Child evokes one or more devoted
which ceaselessly try to soothe and protect them in various situations.
Collectively, these normal subselves can
disable the resident
true Self and detract from the
development, self confidence,
wholistic health of the child.
Some previously-abandoned teens can seek love, acceptance, and security through
promiscuity or frantic trial primary relationships. Others can seek it
through gang and/or athletic membership, drama, and/or fantasizing of
Choices like these can mute but not heal the root causes of original
abandonment pain.Unless kids' caregivers are...
aware of abandonment
dynamics and impacts,
reducing their own
psychological wounds, and...
grieving their own
abandonment impacts add to the
the adults must manage.
Self-motivated wound-healing often begins in midlife if the adult hits
Impacts on Adults
The effects of adult abandonment on themselves, their partner, and other
family members depend on...
whether each person is usually
guided by their true Self or not. The greater
any psychological wounds and unawareness, the
greater the impacts;
the bonding, loyalties, and priorities
of each family member.
the effectiveness of the family-members'
the quality of social
support that each
whether the abandonment was...
impulsive and sudden, or planned and
caused by a romantic or sexual
the affect of the abandonment on the
family's financial stability and security; and...
and religious or ethnic traditions.
Depending on factors like these,
the abandoning person may feel significant
regret, guilt, shame, anxiety, relief, frustration and/ or remorse for a
time, or chronically. S/He may need to privately or so-cially distort
[e.g. deny it, and/or choose a victim role ("I had no choice!")] to justify their "irresponsible,"
"selfish," or "immoral" behavior.
These compound emotions and related thoughts can add to the impact of
the adult's unhealed wounds from their own childhood, and may promote
addictions, self-neglect, and relationship avoidances and "cutoffs"
with key family kids, adults and supporters.
Abandonment and related
cutoffs and "strained
relations" can cause all family members significant losses and stresses.
Unless the family is
pro-grief and intentionally working to
reduce psychological wounds and unawareness, these stressors may
significantly lower the family's
nurturance level. That raises the odds that the next generation will inherit and spread
effects of the [wounds + unawareness]
major impact variable is whether family adults criticize, scorn, and
shun the abandoning adult, or view her or him with compassion as a
helpless victim of childhood neglect. Typical adults will need to be
guided by their
true Self to feel genuine compassion and forgiveness.
Unaware and uninformed lay and professional people risk focusing only on the
abandonment and its effects, rather than on the primary problems causing
it (above) and how they affect the
Adapting to Abandonment
A therapy client whom I'll call Marvin came in to reduce a significant
depression . Our initial inter-view strongly suggested he was had
(neglectful) childhood. He said that his son had just turned six - the
same age as when Marvin's father had left his mother and him to fend for
them-selves. She never told him why his father left, so he had to invent
his own explanations.
His wounded mother couldn't provide a
home, so young Marvin repressed his normal feel-ings of confusion, anger,
loneliness, and sadness. He said that for years he feared he had done
some-thing that drove his father away. When I suggested that his
"depression" might be long-overdue normal grief for his profound
childhood losses, he said he felt "relieved."
Over some weeks, I invited him to tell me how his father's abandonment
had affected him as a boy, man, and divorced father. As he examined and
described that, normal emotions surfaced, including bouts of healthy
tears and intense anger at both parents.
Marvin became interested in learning healthy
grieving basics (Lesson 5) so he could protect his young son from
blocked grief. As part of his own mourning, he decided to confront his
mother about his father's leaving and her "never talking to me about
it." He eventually stopped meeting with me as his "depression" gradually faded.
When an adult or teen abandons their mate or family, all members and
close friends experience at least temporary stress from significant
losses and family-system changes. Though details vary, there are several
common personal tasks that family adults and kids need informed support
(accepting) a web of losses (broken bonds), starting with "making
sense" of what happened, and why;
self and mutual
admitting and reducing excessive
guilts and shame
adjusting and stabilizing family
roles, rules, rituals,
loyalties, priorities, and identity;
maintaining or improving the family's
reducing fear of re-abandonment to normal - specially in
These are all covered in this self-improvement course.
of this article focuses on options for preventing and...
Reducing Fear of
The first step toward managing this powerful anxiety is...
The effects of an early-childhood abandonment from a caregiver's death
or absence can be signifi-cant and long-lasting. They may be subtle and
semi-conscious or obvious. It's probably unrealistic to try isolating
the effects of abandonment trauma from others caused by a low-nurturance
environment. Common symptoms of these stressors include...
__ many of these behavioral
symptoms of false-self
__ an implied or acknowledged fear of
commitment to a primary partner;
__ excessive possessiveness or control of a
__ excessive jealousy and
suspicion in primary relationships;
__ expecting to be "dumped" by the
current partner, despite genuine reassurances;
__ unusually strong emotional reactions to
stories of child neglect or abandonment;
__ strongly identifying with abandoned
children or adults;
__ strong biases against - or
reactions to - adults who abandon their mates and children;
__ inability to remember appropriate
details of known childhood abandonment;
__ excessive social isolation or
compulsive socializing; and/or...
__ other unique symptoms.
These symptoms don't "prove" excessive fear of abandonment, but they
suggest it. A normal defense against experiencing significant fear,
shame, and guilts is reality distortions like denying and
minimizing symptoms like these
Trying to reduce fears and related guilt and shame with "willpower,"
logic, and "right thinking" rarely works. Reducing fear of abandonment
usually requires creative "parts work" with common subselves like these:
which Guardian parts are protecting each of the young subselves,
trust between each of these parts and the true Self and
whether any of these Inner Kids and Guardians are living in the
past, and bring any who are to
live safely in the
present with their fellow subselves. Then...
patiently and creatively with each Inner Child to help them (a)
tell their abandonment story as often as they need to, and (b)
validate and (c) safely release any repressed mem-ories and
emotions like rage, fear, guilt, and sadness. And...
plan and makeany useful confrontations and forgivenesses with family
members and others causing or affected by the original
(relationship addiction), and
needed with the well-meaning Addict subself
to reduce any such compulsions. As you do these steps...
reducing fear of abandonment with (b) spotting
related psychological wounds
unmourned losses from other early traumas and deprivations.
repeat any of
these steps as needed to consolidate the gains and increase the
harmony and teamwork of all your subselves under the leadership
of your Self (capital "S") and other talented
Tailor these steps to fit your situation, and consider working with
a professional inner-family therapist to facilitate your progress. Keep your
perspective: the goal is not just to reduce the fear of
re-abandonment. It is to patiently unify and harmonize your talented
subselves under the expert leadership of your Manager personality
parts and benign Higher Power.
Pause and reflect - how do you feel about the ideas you just
studied? Do they make enough sense and seem credible enough?
The human saga is speckled with examples of parents and mates abandoning
their partners and children - i.e. of giving up on their
role-responsibilities, vows, and relationships, and traumatizing their
families. Other stories focus on the trauma of children abandoning their
parents and siblings. This article examines
what "abandonment" is;
usually causes it, and...
typical effects of abandonment on average
kids and adults.
It closes with
suggestions for reducing crippling adult
fear of re-abandonment using inner-family therapy, or "parts work."