Overcome The Fear of Abandonment
The fear of abandonment is a psychological phenomenon that affects many people around the world. This fear can originate from a variety of sources, including childhood experiences, past traumas, or unresolved relationship issues.
The fear of abandonment resembles a roller coaster ride, evoking a whirlwind of emotions. Envision yourself encountering a surge of panic at the slightest indication of rejection or emotional distance from your loved ones. Your heart races, your palms grow clammy, and your mind becomes consumed with thoughts of being undesirable or unloved.
This fear takes a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, rendering you perpetually vigilant and hesitant to let others form close bonds. It is truly remarkable how such an intangible concept as the fear of abandonment can exert such a profound impact on our lives.
But fear not. The first step towards conquering the fear of abandonment is understanding it. By delving deep into this fascinating subject matter, we can gain insights into our own fears and develop strategies to overcome them.
From exploring the roots of this fear to acquiring healthy coping mechanisms, the possibilities for personal growth and self-discovery are boundless.
Abandonment – being left alone.
The fear of abandonment is a very real fear. Maybe you’ve knowingly experienced this or maybe it’s haunted you under the surface for a long time.
Chances are someone has abandoned you along your life journey to some extent.
Maybe it was a parent, an ex, a sibling, or a friend.
Maybe you’ve been abandoned recently and you’re freaking out. Or maybe your partner has detached emotionally, checked out, and you’re over it. Or, maybe you’re miserable in your relationship, but you are petrified to leave.
Many years ago, I’d heard about abandonment issues in my college psych courses, but I never really understood it at a deep level until it came upon me like a tsunami in my mid-thirties.
One of the reasons I never really experienced this fear intensely is because shortly after high school, I secured myself in a relationship. Under the surface, I had no idea I was dealing with an INSECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE that formed in childhood.
(Check out this article to learn more about attachment styles)
I had no idea that my parents weren’t able to help me form a secure attachment style because they were weighted down with their own emotional trauma.
So, as a young adult, I did what most women did at that time – I got married, had three children and for the most part, I felt safe and secure. At that time, I did not feel the fear of abandonment – at least consciously.
Fear Of Abandonment: Under The Surface
Fast forward 15 years when I decided that I wanted a divorce and jump into a different relationship with someone else. This was a relationship that wasn’t so safe. Both of us were emotionally immature, carrying around a lot of wounds.
I’d also been chipping away at my soul for years, losing parts of “me” all along the way. I had no idea who I was or what I truly wanted in life. I leaked my power out all over the place. I had quite a bit of emotionally baggage I’d never dealt with.
It was in that relationship that the fear of abandonment and I became well acquainted.
You see, codependency (or Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style) and the fear of abandonment go hand in hand. While not everyone struggling with codependency has a fear of abandonment, it is likely that those who have a fear of abandonment are struggling with codependency on some level.
If you fear being abandoned, you are probably doing a more than wonderful job caretaking and people-pleasing those around you in an attempt to keep them happy – so they won’t leave you.
It’s a paradox. You get a good feeling from having others depend on you, but really it is you depending on them for security, because you are so afraid that they will abandon you. This is a learned behavior.
You’ve learned to look to others to soothe your underlying insecurity.
And though it’s alright to depend on others sometimes, an over-dependence can lead to all sorts of negative emotions and situations.
Psychological Concerns of Fear of Abandonment
If you struggle with abandonment issues, chances are that you’ll have some psychological challenges that pop up throughout your life – oftentimes recurring.
For example, if a child was emotionally neglected by a parent, their life may be marked with anger or mood swings. They may suffer from low self-esteem and not be able to engage in healthy relationships with others. Or they may be distrusting of others and not let themselves be vulnerable in a relationship.
Such abandonment issues can cause one to feel unworthy, which can cause other things to arise like depression, anxiety, codependency, and more.
For example, when I was in that toxic relationship, I spent a lot of time helping and people pleasing (or partner pleasing). Sometimes my “help” would not go as planned and I would freak out inside.
I distinctly remember one time I offered to get an extra key made for my ex’s house and the new key wouldn’t work. They were locked out and called me, quite upset. I instantly went into “freak out” mode, feeling inadequate, thinking it was my fault the key didn’t work. I went and got a second key made and that one didn’t work either, so we had some tension there.
I wanted to “perform the task” so badly out of fear of being inadequate (which would lead to them being mad, which would lead to them wanting to be with someone else, which means they would ultimately abandon me).
See, it was that thought process (inadequacy, anxiety, fear, ultimately abandoned) that kept repeating itself in that relationship and it was this instance that I really got it.
I really saw the toxic pattern. It was my “aha” moment, so-to-speak, where I clearly saw my unhealthy thought patterns, which caused me so much anxiety and fear.
Finally, after I realized this, I told them to take care of the key situation. I took a tiny leap toward self-care, setting a boundary, and standing up for myself. I started becoming better at recognizing this fear when it would pop up, and rather than letting it trigger me, I would be more apt to stay present in reality, rather than reverting back to unconscious fears created in childhood.
Feeling Abandoned? Start Digging
The fear of abandonment can significantly impact your relationships, inevitably surfacing at some point. However, once you develop an awareness of this fear, you can delve deep into its underlying causes. It’s important to acknowledge that seeking professional assistance may be necessary to confront the raw truth and initiate the healing journey.
I learned that I had some deep-rooted issues from childhood that needed to be worked through. Unconsciously, I was petrified of being abandoned. This fear got its root all the way back in childhood where I felt abandoned on all sorts of levels. I didn’t feel seen or heard by my parents – at least to the degree that I needed. They were there, but they were struggling with immense inner pain themselves, so they really couldn’t be there for me the way a child needs.
And this caused me to feel abandoned, but I repressed those uncomfortable, scary feelings.
But it sure did pop up later in life.
During the brief periods when my ex and I would separate, an overwhelming sense of terror would engulf me. I vividly recall a particular night when I found myself curled up in the bathtub, immersed in hot water, assuming a fetal position, as excruciating inner pain coursed through me. It was as if I were undergoing physical withdrawal, and fear consumed every fiber of my being.
I couldn’t grasp the rationality behind my intense terror.
What was it that frightened me so profoundly? Was it the mere prospect of being single?
The intensity of my fear left me utterly perplexed.
That was years ago and since then, I have done a lot of healing work surrounding the fear of abandonment. I have faced it head on and it’s been a process to work through it – and still can be at times.
You see, I had to revisit my childhood to contend with some of my fears. I did some inner child healing work. I read up on the topic. I journaled and meditated regularly. I did holotropic breathwork and attending counseling. I even saw a somatic experiencing practitioner, who helped me process unresolved trauma.
I was very interested in the healing process and was willing to do whatever it took to get free.
Many adults discover that those negative feelings they did not process way back in childhood come back for attention years later.
The inner child, who didn’t know how to process wounds (aka trauma or neglect of some sort) will tend to drive your emotional car until you do some inner child healing.
This is why most people revert back to immature coping methods when they encounter stress or conflict.
Acting Like A Child During Conflict
I was told on numerous occasions that I acted like an immature child when I encountered relationship conflict. I was letting my inner child control my life and she did so until I went through a healing process regarding childhood wounds. I had to take charge as an adult and let my inner child simply relax. I learned to parent my inner child and take responsibility for my emotions – grow up emotionally.
It was a process and I’m still learning and growing in this area even today, because that little girl can still pop up when conflict arises in a relationship. She wants to detach and run away as fast as she can.
You see, she learned as a child to shut down when conflict arose. It was too painful of a sensation to feel. So, her nervous system disconnected, and it still does every now and then, but a big difference today is that when this happens, I am more aware of what’s going on and I don’t let that scared inner child run the show.
At least most of the time. I’m still a work in progress.
Doing The Work In A Relationship Or Single?
I found that for me, I needed to take a season alone to contend with many negative emotions and old wounds. I could not heal and grow in a toxic relationship. I had never taken a season single to heal and grow since I was a teen, so it was necessary! It was challenging at times, but it was exactly what I needed to face my fears and old wounds without having to worry about anyone else in the picture.
You may be able to do the work in a relationship, and if so, wonderful!
Several resources have helped me contend with my fear of abandonment and other negative emotions. Reading books on Attachment Styles, codependency, inner child healing, and spirituality helped me immensely. I also found a great therapist and began daily meditation and prayer.
Granted, disciplining myself to meditate and connect with my higher power in silence regularly is not easy, but it is worth it, as meditation gives us a chance to gain some control over our thought life, connect deeper with the Creator, and allow emotional healing to occur.
I found several books to help me tremendously with inner child healing.
Presence Process by Michael Brown: Helped me to commit to daily meditation and come to understand the necessity of integrating old childhood wounds into my body for optimal emotional health.
Journaling as I journeyed through my past proved helpful too. It wasn’t easy to revisit my past, but it was necessary and helpful, so consider taking a season to do this yourself.
- How are you doing when it comes to the fear of abandonment?
- Do you freak out when your partner threatens to leave you or do you feel like they will leave you for another person?
- When they pull away some, do you feel fear rise within you?
- Do you want to leave your toxic relationship, but you’re terrified? Afraid you won’t make it on your own?
If so, it’s a great idea to seek professional help on the matter and begin reading about inner child healing or shadow work.
Psychotherapists are trained to help you revisit your childhood and work through fears that you now experience due to trauma or abuse from way back then. I encourage you to take a season and attend counseling.
I wish, wish, wish, I would have camped out in a counselor’s office when I first began dealing with the pain that was triggered when I got divorced. It would have helped me understand what was going on with my crazy emotions and probably saved me a few years’ worth of intense pain!
Along with professional help, continue reading about attachment styles and codependency. If you have a codependency support group nearby, feel free to attend. You can also pull up videos on this topic via YouTube and receive a great deal of helpful information there.
4 Tips To Overcome Fear of Abandonment
There are various ways to overcome fear of abandonment, including personalized approaches. In general, the following are 4 things you can do to start overcoming this fear:
1 – Delve into Your Inner Narrative:
Understanding the stories we tell ourselves about abandonment is crucial for healing. Take the time to explore your inner narrative surrounding abandonment. Engage in introspective activities such as journaling, therapy, or meditation. By examining your thoughts and emotions, you can identify patterns, challenge irrational beliefs, and replace them with more realistic and empowering perspectives. This process of self-reflection and rewriting your narrative can help alleviate fears of abandonment and foster a stronger sense of self-worth.
2 – Cultivate Self-Compassion:
Practicing self-compassion is essential in overcoming the fear of abandonment. Often, this fear is rooted in feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness. Counteract these negative self-perceptions by developing self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and patience, just as you would a dear friend. Embrace your strengths and acknowledge that everyone has their own insecurities. By cultivating self-compassion, you can build resilience and a solid foundation of self-love, reducing the fear of abandonment.
3 – Foster Supportive Relationships:
Creating a network of supportive relationships can help you overcome the fear of abandonment. Surround yourself with those who understand your struggles and provide a safe and nurturing environment. Seek out friendships and partnerships built on trust, open communication, and mutual support. These relationships can serve as a secure base from which you can challenge your fear and develop healthier patterns of relating. Remember, building strong connections takes time, so be patient and allow yourself to gradually open up to others.
4 – Practice Emotional Independence:
Fear of abandonment often stems from relying too heavily on others for emotional validation and security. Developing emotional independence is a crucial step in overcoming this fear. Take small steps to cultivate a sense of self-reliance and autonomy. Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, pursue personal interests, and invest in self-care. By nurturing your own emotional well-being, you become less dependent on others for validation, reducing the fear of abandonment and fostering healthier relationships.
A wonderful book on the topic is:
Fear of Abandonment Journal Prompts
1- Reflect on a specific incident or relationship from your past that triggered feelings of abandonment. Explore the emotions that arose and consider how this experience has influenced your perspectives and behaviors in subsequent relationships.
2- Imagine a scenario where your fear of abandonment manifests itself in your current relationships. How do you typically respond to situations that trigger this fear? Are there any patterns or coping mechanisms that you rely on? Reflect on the effectiveness of these strategies in fostering healthy connections.
3- Recall a time when you experienced a sense of security, trust, and belonging in a relationship. What factors contributed to this feeling of safety? How did it contrast with moments when you felt abandoned or disconnected? Consider how these experiences have shaped your expectations and fears in relationships.
4- Explore the role of self-worth in relation to the fear of abandonment. How does your perception of yourself impact your fear of being left behind? Reflect on any negative self-beliefs or insecurities that may contribute to this fear and contemplate ways to nurture self-compassion and self-validation.
5- Consider the impact of the fear of abandonment on your personal growth and fulfillment. Are there areas of your life where you feel hesitant to take risks or pursue opportunities due to this fear? How might overcoming this fear open doors for personal development and a greater sense of empowerment?
Fear of Abandonment Prayer:
“Divine Spirit, some days I feel so alone it’s absolutely horrible. I feel like I’m in the desert with no food, water, shelter, people, etc. Nothing. Where are you? Why can’t I feel you? Great Spirit, please help me trust that You’re always with me, even when I’m struggling to feel you. Help me see and feel with my spiritual senses, rather than trust my natural senses. Help my unbelief!”
Sending big love your way,
If you’re interested in exploring shadow work and discovering the potential it has to enrich your relationships, there is a wealth of helpful resources available.
A wonderful book to start learning more is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.
You can also take my online Inner Healing Shadow Work Course, which is an extensive course for the most affordable price out there on shadow work.
Also, engaging with trained therapists or spiritual counselors can be an invaluable source of support when undertaking this journey. With all these tools at your disposal, you can start to uncover the power of shadow work and use it to enrich your relationships in powerful and meaningful ways.
Q: What is shadow work?
A: Shadow work is a form of inner exploration that focuses on understanding and integrating the parts of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden away due to shame, guilt, or fear. This process helps us uncover any unresolved trauma and gain insight into our current relationships with both ourselves and others.
Q: How can I start engaging in shadow work?
A: A great way to begin exploring your shadows is by taking an inventory of all the aspects of yourself you may be keeping hidden away. Once you have identified these emotions, it’s important to reflect on how they are impacting your current relationships. Additionally, there are various books, guided journals, and online courses available that offer an excellent introduction to the practice of shadow work.
Q: What are the benefits of engaging in shadow work?
A: Shadow work has a myriad of potential benefits, including gaining insight into our own patterns and behaviors, healing any unresolved trauma, and forming healthier relationships with others. Additionally, it can help us uncover our unique gifts and strengths that may have gone unrecognized for years. Ultimately, by facing our shadows head-on we can start to create meaningful connections based on trust and understanding.
Rediscovering Sacredness Guided Journals
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In this course, we will delve into the “shadow” aspect of your psyche, or the unconscious parts of yourself. We will work to improve our understanding of emotions, open our hearts, learn to regulate an anxious nervous system, and awaken to a deeper sense of spirituality. Through this process, we will aim to tear down any walls we have built around our hearts and embrace a greater sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
And speaking of guided journaling, as a bonus to this course, you’ll get to download our most popular shadow work journal as a PDF that you can use on your mobile devices or print out.
Rediscovering Sacredness offers helpful resources & guides to help you identify and heal your inner wounds. Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, there’s hope for emotional healing, growth, and spiritual awakening. We focus on digging deep, doing the inner healing work, shadow work, ancient wisdom techniques & rituals to assist you live the kind of life you were meant to.