Abandonment Issues: The Hurry to Heal Requires Standing Still…

How does one heal some of their deepest abandonment issues? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Unlearning things that you internalized from the earliest stages of your life will take time. At the top of 2023, I had to come to terms with a friendship ending unexpectedly. I didn’t want to accept it because in my mind, it meant I was unworthy of love and care.

I initiated a clarifying conversation with this person because I genuinely didn’t know the reason for the shift in communication. She initially let me know she was open to having a conversation, but later left me on ‘read’ when I asked when would be a good time to talk. This was extremely disappointing because I felt like this was so uncharacteristic of the person I’d known for the past two years. Simultaneously though, her leaving me on ‘read’ was a response too. She wasn’t interested.

Fortunately and unfortunately I experienced transitions in other friendships recently, that made accepting this situation a tiny bit easier. It was unfortunate and confusing, but by this point, I knew that I just had to let it be. Sometimes people leave unexpectedly. People will not always be able to meet you where you are. Sometimes we also fail people. It’s a privilege to know why someone chose not to continue with you on your journey – not a requirement. That truth…is hard to swallow. I gave myself credit for doing what I could, which was asking for a conversation. Now it was time to move on sans this relationship, which is often challenging for people with deep abandonment issues.

Usually, when difficult things take place in my life, I take them very personally. I viciously criticize myself, engage in negative self-talk, and reassure myself that I don’t deserve good things. This is what I’ve always believed, largely due to my tough-love upbringing and what I learned from my grown-ups. I was reluctant to accept what happened because of a lack of self-love due to childhood emotional neglect. It became clear to me that I needed to address these abandonment issues urgently. If not, the dissipation of relationships would continue to upend my life and lead to unhealthy cognitive distortions.

When I talk about my childhood as characteristic of “tough love”, what I mean is that my grown-ups lacked the ability to express affection and care in ways that were gentle and encouraging yet firm. My normal as a child consisted of being ridiculed, shamed, and beaten for things that my parents disapproved of. Like the summer afternoon my dad decided it was time for me to learn fractions…

I could not seem to grasp the concept of part-versus-whole and that would be demise on that hot summer day. The exercise asked that I classify each fraction into greater than, less than, or equal to one. I guessed a few right answers, but incorrectly labeled “one-seventh” as “greater than one”. My father lost his mind. He slammed my head into the table and asked me, “How could one-seventh be greater than one, you damn goat?”.

My father sent me to my room as “punishment” and I remember feeling sad, stupid, and ashamed. This example is one of many that I’m sharing to illuminate what I mean regarding my upbringing lacking emotional safety. I felt inadequate and rejected because of situations like this and my identity became characterized by constantly doubting my abilities. These types of interactions laid the foundation for my abandonment issues. They made me feel devalued by the people responsible for me, creating a lingering hunger for love and acceptance.

As an adult I’m still hyper-critical of myself, especially when I fall short since. I never learned that I was deserving of grace or that it was okay to make mistakes. Inadvertently, conflict in my adult relationships, has long been a challenge for me. I’ve internalized conflict to be an indication of my own inadequacy. No wonder someone’s decision to stop talking to me out of nowhere was confusing and felt like a personal failure. If I continued to internalize failed relationships as a statement of my value, unhappiness and inadequacy would become my identity. This is not what I wanted, and so I’d have to unpack why this incident felt like rejection…

When I was scolded or beaten as a child, especially for trivial things, it hurt deeply and it confused me. I always felt like my parents’ anger was misdirected and I couldn’t understand why they despised me so much. Couple that with the fact that there were seldom any interactions between us that were jovial and warm. It’s a perfect recipe for a child who feels rejected, ostracized, and insecure. Children need to feel safety and belonging at a young age in order to develop healthy self-images and secure attachments. The constant rejection I felt from my assigned protectors, forced me to seek love and acceptance elsewhere. I didn’t have a healthy sense of self, thus believing that if people were treating me poorly, I deserved it. If people decided to no longer associate with me, it is because I wasn’t worth being associated with…

Healing our abandonment issues will keep the world from completely demolishing us. It’ll allow us to see ourselves as capable and deserving as well. Abandonment wounds in me have been so deep that I often deprioritize my own needs, while focusing on pleasing others. In reality, no one can save us from our abandonment wounds and limiting beliefs. We have to take the time necessary to dig deep and reacquaint ourselves with the desires of our younger selves. Our younger selves had dreams – they were fearless! Recognize that this might require temporary isolation too. The goal isn’t to stay isolated though. The goal is to quiet the noise that takes away from our ability to hear ourselves. Personally, I’ve been pouring into my writing journey. I wrote a lot as a child but abandoned the idea of writing as a career because I feared ridicule.

What I am learning is that the more you do the things that terrify you, and the more you honor your inner-most desires, the more confident you become. There’s an overwhelming sense of pride, joy, and power that you feel when you make sh** happen – especially the stuff that scares you. Literally no one can take that accomplishment from you and going after it is one of the highest forms of self-love.

For anyone trying to hurry past real trauma, consider taking a beat and tapping back into your inner child. Stand still in the discomfort and ask yourself where this pain is coming from. There are so many questions I’ve had for myself whose answers were deeply embedded in my abandonment issues. Who would’ve thought that getting reacquainted with the needs and desires of my younger self would help me to heal the wounds that have been hindering me as an adult? The magic won’t happen overnight, but a commitment to the work will allow you to learn healthier ways to cope with adversity and traumatic situations. This is what it means to heal. We all stand a chance of healing from traumatic wounds if we stand still, run our race, and answer the tough questions.

Heal, friend.

Don’t hurry.

Abandonment issues can come from emotional rejection as a child.

2 thoughts on “Abandonment Issues: The Hurry to Heal Requires Standing Still…

  1. Hi Carla,
    How are you? I stumbled on your Linkedin post about being recently laid off ( so sorry – I truly hope something great comes out of it and it reaches many viewers). I saw you had posted your blog and clicked on it by curiosity and I’m so happy I did. I’m African-Canadian and just reading this post “Heal. Don’t Hurry” made me so emotional because I’m currently going through a similar stage in my life. I don;t know if this post could have come at a better time in my life. I registered for a Therapist this morning because I believe my childhood experiences left me with abandonment problems. Interestingly, the fear of abandonment didn’t really start manifesting itself until I started dating. I have realized I give too much power and attention to people who do not deserve it. I also do at times the same as you where I overshare, ovetext and overcommunicate with people (especially if I’m seeing someone). This pattern stems from an insecurity I’m still trying to figure out.

    I don’t want to overwhelm you but I wanted to share that I’m so glad you were able to overcome some of your bad patterns and you are continuing to heal. I am starting my journey and its a little scary since I’ve never spoken to a professional but I think its time I do this for myself.

    Something else we have in common is that a left teaching (I was a french teacher) and transitioned into Learning and development (Instructional Design). It was a 3 year transition and I’m happier now in my career than I’ve ever been.

    Take care and thank you for sharing your story.

    Winnie

    1. Hey Winnie! Thanks so much for sharing the impact this had on you. It literally brought a huge smile to my face; I’m so glad you made the decision to speak to a therapist and I hope that u find someone who’s a good fit – that’s important! Your message gave me additional reassurance to keep going, so thank you so much for your kind words. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well! Seems like we have similar professional backgrounds and I’d love to be a part of your network. Good luck to you!!

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