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Abandonment Anxiety with survivors of abuse

by Matt Pappas

One of the many issues that survivors of abuse suffer from is fear of abandonment, or abandonment anxiety. It can be intertwined into much of our abuse recovery but until we realize it we might not even be aware just how much of a role it has in our daily life.

This feeling of being abandoned is not just in the physical sense, but the emotional side as well.

For a long time, I had never equated abandonment to my healing journey until it was directly pointed out to me in a session with my Life Coach. It makes sense though, total sense, when we logically look at how it affects us.

Abandonment anxiety can affect our relationships, our self-worth, and our daily decision making.

If we were abandoned, in any sense of the word, our minds will keep reminding us of the potentially harmful outcomes for any situation we encounter. While these warning signs are good, and normal, we have to be careful not to let them rule our lives and keep us from embracing new, healthy, experiences.

Perhaps you can relate to some of the abandonment struggles that I suffered through and still deal with today. I’ll touch on them briefly but you can always search the blog for more in-depth posts and thoughts on these topics.

Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, at the hands of the teenager up the street so long ago, there is definitely a sense of being abandoned.

In this case, not so much physical abandonment, but more on the emotional side.

My sense of self-worth was crushed before it ever really got started. So, my healthy emotional needs being-abandoned-feeling-abandonedfor love, support, and validation as a child, were twisted into a sick version of lies and manipulation. I was left feeling like the only way I could ever fit in and be cool, was to participate and allow that kid to use me for his own sadistic gratification.

In terms of family relationships as well, my realistic and normal needs of to feel supported and loved


were abandoned and turned around into a type of validation that only came with emotional pain. Again, if I wanted to feel like I belonged, I had to give in to something that hurt me deeply each time.

Being bullied in school, there is definite abandonment here as well. I was ridiculed, manipulated, and beat up both emotionally and physically. I was left outside of the cool kid activities, the last one picked in gym class for teams, and normally sat alone on the bus.

When you are laughed at and looked down upon by those whom others look to as being the ones to emulate, it takes a toll. It ingrains into your head, a feeling of not being good enough. The more you endure that emotional trauma, the harder it is to fight off as we get older.

There is no “just getting over” this type of stuff. Emotional trauma does not heal at anywhere near the rate that physical trauma can.

What about being abandoned in the Narcissistic abuse sense? Yes, no doubt about it, that is a valid feeling.

In my case, emotional support and validation were never part of my home life so I was left to feel alone and like I couldn’t reach out to anyone. My desires, my likes and dislikes were constantly dismissed in favor how I “should feel” or how I “should act”.

This left me no sense of self, and no ability to feel like my interests mattered. The way that I felt about any given situation or topic was always turned into, “well that’s not right, don’t think like that. You need to feel this way”.

Talk about a lack of confidence in my own decision making during my growing up years! If I wasn’t on the same page as my mother was or the church was (seemingly 1 in the same), then I was flat out wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. “You don’t think like that Matt, it’s not right. God doesn’t honor that and neither do I”.

Relationships, here is a situation of both physical and emotional abandonment that I endured.

My first marriage lasted for less than 5 years, and ended with me being left at the doorstep with two young kids. I had to pick up the pieces as a parent and a young man in his mid 20’s who had no clue what happened and what I did wrong at the time.

My second marriage lasted for 12 years, and ended with the love of my life leaving me to explore life in a different direction and experience what she never got too, because she got married too young. Again, I was left to pick up the pieces, this time as an older adult at 41 and now with a 3rd child.

Every serious relationship that I’ve ever had has gone south and left me feeling alone, beaten down emotionally, and completely used up. To say that I was and am gun-shy about relationships now is an understatement.

It’s a big reason I put up so many walls to keep others out, and protect my heart from any more pain. I’m already “that guy” whose been divorced twice. Those feelings, growing up and being in a family where divorce is pretty much not an option, can definitely enforce the feeling of being a black sheep.

So, is it any wonder that abandonment anxiety is such a big part of my healing journey? Once I put the pieces together of how much it ties into my very existence, it paints a very real picture of the work ahead of me.

On the flip side, by validating these feelings as being real and justified, I can understand them better and be more focused in my survivor work. When you are tune with yourself, congruent if you will, you know how certain situations affect you and can work towards dealing with them in a more positive, self-validating way.

In addition, you can share your fears of being abandoned with those whom you trust. This gives your partner, spouse, or friends an understanding of what troubles you and how they can best support you. It helps them to not make incorrect assumptions about you, but rather acknowledge your insecurities and help you overcome them by being patient and validating.

Abandonment Anxiety is real, it’s justified, and it’s not uncommon. Just like other types of anxiety though, once we recognize the role it’s played in our lives, we can more counter it with self-care, mindfulness, and wise mind/rational mind thinking.

Your feelings are real, my feelings are real, but we don’t have to let them dictate our future.


Also, my good friends @AthenaMoberg and @BobbilParish have done a video about abandonment that really is a must see!



Images courtesy of Pixabay.com

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Charlie Jaxx September 21, 2016 - 3:36 pm

This is something I struggle with every day. I recently had a session with M about abandonment. She said it was a very important part of my recovery and healing. As you know different scenarios. But with mental and verbal abuse. Domestic violence. Bullying. Having to do things in order to get love or others feelings reciprocated. Once they get what they need…They leave. Ive become very guarded and walled. Even paranoid. I’m so afraid to let anyone in because every time I do…They leave. Everyone that I have ever loved has left me. For some reason or stupid excuse. And the aftermath of picking up the pieces isn’t pretty. I suffer from depression and anxiety as it is. So it amplifies those feelings times ten.

When I do love, it’s with my whole heart unfortunately. That’s when I set myself up for destruction. When I let the drawbridge down and someone in. The paranoia of that person leaving is so overwhelming it throws me into a full fledged anxiety attack. It’s awful. ?

So this post really hits home and my heart. Thank you for posting Matt.

~* Charlie *~

Matt September 25, 2016 - 9:13 pm

Being your friend for so many years Charlie, I had a feeling this post would have some extra meaning to you if you read it. No matter what I will always be your friend, and please always know that you are amazing survivor. You have survived so much and every day that you keep fighting you are doing so much good for yourself and others.

You give your all in everything you do and to everyone that is in your life, and those of us that are blessed to be in your life are eternally grateful.

Dawn H September 21, 2016 - 5:10 pm

I, like you, Matt, never equated my abandonment issues with what happened to me. This is something in my life that is also a daily struggle. It is like literally waiting for someone to leave me….because…everyone does…

In my adult life, this has not been so. As I go on my healing journey, I have a spouse who has been with me for close to 18 years now. I have a best friend, who I have finally stopped giving permission for her to leave me whenever she is ready.

Thank you for sharing about this. Thank you for sharing healing.

Tammy Friedrich September 21, 2016 - 6:09 pm

I understand this oh so well it’s an ongoing healing process and open communication . Always waiting for something to go wrong instead of living in the moment and waiting for something to go wrong or a loved,one,to leave. As survivors healing we need to learn to communicate our feelings and fears as,difficult as it may be. We need to validate each other

Joy Richardson September 27, 2016 - 10:06 pm

I have dealt with abandonment issues since I was a child, and I think that’s when I developed Borderline Personality Disorder. My husband knew how much I struggled with it, and left me time after time. This was the last time. I have kind of been going through a prolonged breakdown. I don’t really know how to overcome the feeling that I am not loveable enough to stick with. I thought it was for better or for worse…

Abandonment can lead to addictions. - Surviving My Past October 3, 2016 - 9:31 am

[…] The more you dig deep in your healing, and peel back the layers of your past, you begin to see more and more how everything is interconnected. This was the case again, when I recently wrote a post about Abandonment Anxiety and survivors. […]


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