A few weeks ago I divulged my dirty, little secret (and now not so secret and not so little) fear of abandonment and since then have uncovered an entirely new layer of myself I didn't realize existed. I came to realize that as an adult no one can abandon me...I can only abandon myself, which turns out was exactly what I have been doing.
In basic psychology there's this idea called "projection" where we attribute characteristics, feelings, and ideas we perceive to be undesirable onto someone else. Throughout my life I would become focused on all the ways in which other people had left me I couldn't see out of sadness. I would feel anxious and depressed at the idea someone was abandoning me to go somewhere else.
In actuality as adults it isn't possible for someone to "abandon" us. Abandonment implies an inability to take care of oneself, such as the case with someone who is very ill or a child. As a healthy adult you can't be abandoned...only left. In that way only you can abandon you.
I think most of us can relate in some way or another to abandoning ourselves....we distrust our thoughts and need advice from others. We don't stand up for ourselves against judgement or blame (especially if it comes from our head). We seek information in books as a way of not noticing the wisdom we have within us. According to Inner Bonding here are some ways in which we self-abandon:
- Judging ourselves ("You are not good enough.")
- Ignoring our feelings by staying in head (Do you tend to an emotion when it arises or ignore it?)
- Addictions (Fill our pain with something else.)
- Making others responsible for you (Need recognition or don't stand up for yourself.)
My self abandonment happens the most frequently by over-intellectualizing my emotions or in most cases avoiding them all together. Sure, I judge myself and have a fear of people leaving, but ultimately the others show up in response to my deep inner world I seem to want to forget.
There are moments when I start to feel things I don't want to feel. They creep up when we least expect it and fill us with confusion and a desire to "figure out" what is going on. I want it to go away, that strange nagging voice in the background that something is wrong and I don't quite feel like myself.
Some of us spend our lives ignoring that feeling of uneasiness. I have done a pretty good job of it up until now. My little girl voice screams out of fear when someone walks away and we feel our world shattered is a sign our inner child needs attention. She tells me I'm unloveable and I've spent decades pushing her away only to have her tear me apart. She shows up as occasional loneliness, a fear of letting go, and an outrageous sugar addiction. I'm afraid of what will happen when she comes to visit. Will I not be able to get out of bed because I'm so sad? Will I get lost in the abyss of feeling? I push her away and disown her because I have convinced myself that if I ignore her long enough she won't come back.
Many of us don't seem able to know how to manage or deal our emotions. Stress, addiction, over eating, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, judgement, and relationship problems all result from this avoidance. These sorts of behaviors is how our abandonment wound is able to attach deeply within the self where it works intensely to devoid us of our self-esteem and cut away at our capacity for connection.
When we stop ignoring ourselves and stay present long enough to know what we really need -- which I used to think was massive amounts of cupcakes and never having a full day alone -- we heal. Almost as if by magic, when we embrace our pain it goes away.
As an adult one of the largest lessons we learn is how take responsibility and be accountable -- this includes our emotions. How we deal with feelings as an adult changes the entire way we relate to ourselves and others. Instead of ignoring emotions or being consumed by them, we learn to understand them and appreciate what they have to teach us. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is building a healthy relationship to emotions. When we don't give feelings space to be they become wounded and morph into anxiety, depression, or loneliness. Basically, a little time to notice how we feel right now pays off in dividends later.
One of the ways we heal our pain is to stay put. Not to check out emotionally when a feeling arises or to overly intellectualize as a way of talking ourselves out of it (I'm speaking to myself here). Not to place the responsibility onto someone else to stay with us because we aren't willing to stay with ourselves. This experience is different than simply being present, as it requires a presence within ourselves. As we grow closer to our soul we can feel that primal pain of abandonment more prominently and use it to know when we need to take a moment to listen. Feelings are information that we learn best from when we are actually willing to feel. When instead of abandoning ourselves in a time of need, we actually stay put.