As always, I will state that I am not a psychologist and I do not follow the current literature or research about the subject. What I am doing is to look at the issue, based on experiences, both of myself and others, and go deeper to see where these issues may be rooted. I am doing this to bring some light and clarity to the most prevalent and common emotional issues, not in terms of analysis, but observation. My hope is that the reader may be inspired to follow this path, but also be encouraged to find their own truth. Please be aware, that anything I come up with are pointers, and written as it feels pertinent at the time.
In my own holistic medical practice, I am quite often confronted with the issue of emotional abandonment and I have seen first hand, how much an early trauma of abandonment can affect the quality of life, health and wellbeing. But it also may trigger many layers of defenses and compensatory reaction.
Abandonment means that our needs are not met as a child. Those needs are primarily physical, like being fed and kept warm and dry, as well as social, in terms of growing up in an environment that allows for the unhindered development of the interpersonal and emotional capacities, that prepare us to be self-confident, trusting, empathetic, intellectually inquisitive and comptent in using language to communicate, and capable of relating well to others. This is the requirement for a healthy mental development, and it affects the child’s ability to regulate and express emotions, form close interpersonal relationships with others, and explore and learn from the environment.
Only a secure mind is a still mind and this is at the basis of all issues around abandonment. Having said that, becomes rather clear, that any experience of not being cared for properly, can lead to an emotional state of grievance and fear, which is the common denominator of issues of abandonment.
When a small child is developing, it will slowly come to realise, that there is a difference between what it experiences as “self” – and that there is an “other”, who is taking care of their needs. This caregiver seems to be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and above all- completely reliable and trustworthy, until one day they fail to properly care for a need of the infant. At this instance, the child experiences the trauma of having to face the reality, that they are dependent on someone other. Now we all make this experience and in general, a safe and loving environment will help the child to develop sufficient self-confidence and trust, to overcome their fright, but in many cases several factor are coming together, that may cause severe damage to the health of a child, in terms of developing erroneous mental and emotional patterns.
A child that experiences a lack of being cared for, will react with sadness and fear. Those are very strong emotions and obviously a small infant will not be able to cope with an overwhelming feeling of grief for having been abandoned, and an incapacitating fear of not being able to care for themselves. The idea that the caregiver may be anything else but omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, is very threatening to a small child, so it will fabricate an idea of themselves being at fault for the failure of the caregiver, and develop skills and compensatory mechanisms to counteract the neglect. This is the basis of egoic reactive patterns, that may accompany us throughout our lives.
Many secondary and tertiary emotions may layer upon the primary emotional reaction. There may be a feeling of not being enough, being unworthy, undeserving. To mask these feelings, emotions of shame or anxiousness may develop on a ground of feeling guilty, and branch out to all sorts of tertiary emotions – from aggressiveness to passivity, jealousy to competitiveness and many more. And when being triggered, many more patterns of defensiveness may arise – stress reactions along the patterns of fight ( like lashing out), flight ( for example taking refuge in a compulsive or addictive behavior), freeze ( spacing out or dulling the senses with drugs, TV etc) or fawn (adopting a servile, co-dependent behavior, trying to solve someone else’s problem).
I think it is easy to recognize oneself in this pattern. As I said, the sense of “not being enough” is a part of the human experience and our journey has the purpose to understand that we are both – completely safe and absolutely sufficient. But the path to thsi recognition has in many ways go backwards, to where we came from.
In my own life story, I found several instances for “abandonment issues” that caused me to take on a certain pattern of behaviors that were determining my path in life – a childhood disease, being brought up by traumatized parents and caregivers, being the oldest are just three of the most obvious reasons that caused conflict and subsequently reactive patterns, along all the aforementioned possibilities. With the resolve of wanting to see truth, all these things came up, one after the other. I did not analyze or dig into old stories, I just observed my own patterns in terms of relationships, hobbies, professional choices, thinking patterns and soon it became very clear to me, why I am doing, what I have been doing all my life. Some of these reactive patterns made me successful ( in the common sense), others caused me frustrations. None of it was unusual, but understanding how it all is related, and moreover, what I did to justify these patterns and control my environment, made it easier to spot it, look at it and let it go.
And at a certain point I also understood that I had some inherited, karmic issues in me too, and that my purpose in life was to dissolve them in lieu of others, who could not do it for themselves during their lifetime.
Nowadays, I am often dealing with people facing abandonment issues. At times, it is very traumatic experiences, that happened at an early formative age or were solidified by events later in life. Sometimes people are not ready and only willing to approach their own fear and terror about these memories very slowly. That is an individual decision, the method however,is always the same – it is being as honest as possible about who we are, it means looking at reactive patterns, emotions and unconscious behaviors and understanding – on a psychological, but more importantly physical level, what these emotions and feelings, that we dread really are – fear about not being enough and feeling unsafe.
We all carry the archetype of the “child” in us, which is an expression of a human pattern indicative of innocence, playfulness and trust. The issues of this archetype are “survival” and so are issues of abandonment so closely related to our ability to drop the mask and face truth – our mental engrams and emotional patterns do not allow to approach the truth without fear, and so do we have to learn how to deal with fear, before we can really let go of patterns that do not serve us – and never have.