“The child within me still cringes at the possibility of emotional abandonment. A word, a tone of voice or gesture-or lack of it-can drive me to act in ways that I think will prevent a friend or lover from leaving me.” -Rokelle Lerner
One of the first topics I explored when I started consistently posting to my blog was abandonment. Specifically, the topic was my intense fear of abandonment. I explored its probable origins and how it plays out in my adult life. In my ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) program, there is a statement in the 14 traits of an adult child that states:
We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
This statement has been extremely profound in understanding my adult reactions to abandonment, or even the very thought of possibly being abandoned. Taking a look at this issue and understanding its origins has been essential in maintaining healthy relationships for myself and others that are involved with me.
When I refer to healthy relationships, I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but family relationships and friendships as well. I’ve recently had my abandonment wound triggered in several friendships and this has been very difficult for me. Without going into specifics, I’ve been struggling with the following:
- letting go versus holding on
- isolation versus connection
- confrontation versus avoidance
- acting versus reacting
It’s a challenge for me to figure out what the best approach is when I feel like I’m being abandoned. I have to be very careful to not “do anything to hold on to a relationship,” while not completely withdrawing as a coping mechanism…I’d rather be the one who abandons rather than the one who gets abandoned!
I’m sure that those who are emotionally stronger are able to deal with things better when they feel they are being abandoned. I’m usually envious of those kinds of people. It’s like it’s no big deal, on to the next friend, on to the next relationship. Next!!
This doesn’t work for me. And I’m accepting of this. I’m accepting of the fact that I am just designed differently than some. I am very sensitive, I have a heart as big as the ocean, and I am extremely compassionate. It’s just the way I am. It is the way God made me. I no longer think of my sensitivity and compassion as a detriment, but as a beautiful part of who I am. As a matter of fact, it is who I AM.
So when there is a possibility that I am being abandoned, I hurt.
And I think the first step is acknowledging the hurt. If I deny the hurt is there, or pretend its not a big deal, then I start making unhealthy choices. I hold on too tight or I shut down.
If I avoid the hurt, my fears of abandonment…not the concept of abandonment itself will rule my life.
As with everything, working through these fears is a matter of progress not perfection. I will get there…one day at a time.