By Shoshana Bennett, PhD
Abandonment issues can certainly appear after we’re grown—contrary to popular assumption, they’re not always caused during infancy or early childhood. Still, whenever the problem begins, you can be assured that these issues can be completely overcome and need not stand in the way of having a healthy, satisfying relationship.
One of the most common causes of abandonment issues is because a loved one suddenly left without warning. The “leaving” could be from someone close to you unexpectedly dying or parting another way. If you are abruptly left by the lover you adore or feel rejected in some major way, these incidents can be traumatic and make you anxious and insecure. In turn, this self-doubt can cause you to become suspicious of future relationships, often producing a cycle of this self-fulfilling prophecy. This effect can (and usually does) continue until you get help.
When we take a careful look at the childhood of an adult who has developed a fear of abandonment, there had been warning signs from way back, when the individual was young. It’s like building a fire: first, you gather tinder, then you place the kindling on top and then, add the fuelwood. At that point, all that’s needed is a lighted match (another trauma, like rejection) to make it spontaneously combust into flames. The more “flammable” experiences that are gathered together in the psyche, the greater the risk of developing a fear of abandonment.
The first traumatic experience resembling abandonment in your life might have, for instance, been the memory of a first breakup of a serious relationship (or one that you thought was serious). Those experiences of rejection and loneliness begin to add up over the course of a lifetime. Not being invited to events, feeling left out of social situations or feeling betrayed will enhance the likelihood of the abandonment fear. In the emotional system, these experiences—large and small—are cumulative. The more you feel alone, rejected or betrayed, the greater you risk developing a fear of abandonment. Of course, the development of the issue will also depend on your temperament, personality and sensitivity. Trauma is in the eye of the beholder—what’s scary and troubling to one person, might not be for someone else.
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