Emotional Abandonment

If you want to change the world go home and love your family – Mother Theresa 

abandonment

ˈbandənm(ə)nt/

noun

the action or fact of abandoning or being abandon.

 Emotional abandonment in childhood can happen if the primary caretaker, is unable to be present emotionally for her baby. In my case, it’s because my mother is a narcissist or she was replicating her childhood experience or stress. It’s important for a baby’s emotional development that the mother attune to her child’s feelings and needs and reflect them back. She is not able to empathize with her child’s success or upsetting emotions. The child then ends up feeling alone, rejected, or deflated. The reverse is also true – where a parent gives a child a lot of attention but isn’t attuned to what the child needs. The child’s needs hence go unmet, which is a form of abandonment.

Children need to feel loved and accepted by both parents. Parents need to show by their words and actions that they want a relationship with their child for who he or she is, respecting his or her individuality. That includes empathy and respect for their child’s personality, feelings, and needs, not merely loving a child as an extension of the parent.

When parents are critical, dismissive, invasive, or preoccupied, they’re unable to empathize with their child’s feelings and needs. The child will feel misunderstood, alone, hurt or angry, rejected, or deflated. Children are vulnerable, and it doesn’t take much for a child to feel hurt, abandoned, and ashamed. Abandonment can also occur when a parent confides in his or her child or expects a child to take on age-inappropriate responsibilities. Abandonment happens when children are unfairly treated or in some way given a message that they or their experience is unimportant or wrong. During these times, the child must suppress his or her feelings and needs to meet the needs of the adult.

A few incidents of emotional abandonment don’t harm a child’s healthy development, but when they’re common occurrences, they reflect deficits in the parent, which affect the child’s sense of self and security that often lead to intimacy issues and codependency in adult relationships. 

If you like me were emotionally abandoned as a child, any physical or psychological rejection or withdrawal now may trigger an abuse: being blown off by a date, a job loss, a relationship ending, not receiving the promotion you expected, having your friends go partying without you, stewing while your lover reads the paper rather than listen to you, acknowledging that your spouse seems closer to your children than to you. There are a thousand ways you can feel emotionally abandoned, all of which may seem trivial to someone else, but feel deeply wounding to you. You may be acutely sensitive to slights and may feel neglected or invisible when people are inattentive or simply unable to give you what you need in attention, time, or support.

Because abandonment is a major issue for many of us, we need to learn how to deal with feeling upset when people leave us physically or aren’t there for us emotionally. 

Start by exploring how you developed into a person who is acutely distressed by abandonment, including your expectations and your ability to cope. Examine your beliefs about what abandonment means to you. Then spend time reframing your beliefs and strategizing about what you can do—other than abuse food or yourself—when these intense emotions flare-up. I’m still learning ……………………

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