Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse. We are here to provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal, give direction to those seeking guidance and to expose sexual predators for what they are and their methods of getting into our lives.

I’ve Got Abandonment Issues

21 Comments

This week we conclude our 3-part series with Rachel Grant as she provides insight on the topic of abandonment. Whether you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse or not, this is a subject that many folks experience at some point in their lives. If you have or know someone who has, you will benefit from her wisdom. Thank you so much Rachel for blessing us with your words and your spirit.
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Abandon: to leave completely and finally, forsake utterly, desert, to give up, discontinue, withdraw from, withdraw protection or support

When it comes to abandonment, we are very much driven by a fear of the unknown. We do not know if the people we are connecting to may one day withdraw their protection or support. They may “forsake” us, and not just a little, but utterly. The greater the connection, the greater the risk, because we have more at stake should the person choose to walk away.

In an effort to alleviate this terrible sense of “not knowing,” we will often do a variety of things. We will over-control, seek constant reassurance, or be on high alert for anything that looks like withdrawal. Worst-case scenario, as soon as we start to feel close, we will push away and sabotage the relationship.

The fear of abandonment is extremely common in those of us who have been abused. We have experienced very real and tangible abandonment, the loss of protection by those who were supposed to care for us. Unfortunately, we then begin living as if this is going to be the case with everyone we come across.

For quite a long time, I had the false belief that “people always leave.” As a result, guess what, people around me often didn’t stick around for long, because I would pretty much act in a way that ensured they would not want to! It is hard to acknowledge, but we have to be straight about the role we play that leads us to re-create the experience of being abandoned over and over again.

Earlier, I gave you just the first part of the definition of abandonment. Here is the rest:

To give up the control of, to yield (oneself) without restraint or moderation

When I read this, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I need to abandon myself to abandonment!” Our relationships can thrive if we are willing to shift our focus and energy away from trying to prevent the withdrawal of others and enter into an open, free space, where we are present to the fact that they are here with us right now, in this moment. Instead of maneuvering to try to get some guarantee that they will always be here no matter what, we can appreciate the person for being here right now.

The point is, that fear of abandonment keeps us so focused on the future “what ifs” that we miss out on what is happening right now. Another, and more tragic, outcome is that we behave so poorly as a result of our fear, that we pretty much guarantee that things will fall apart.

There is no getting away from taking risks in relationships. We can, however, learn to take calculated risks. This means we have to get out of the nasty habit of connecting to others who are so high risk that we are pretty much setting ourselves up for failure.

One client, intent on maneuvering to get some guarantee that his girlfriend would never leave, would text her every couple of hours to keep tabs on her. If he did not get an immediate response, his meaning making machine would immediately kick into gear, leading him to thoughts such as “She must be with someone else.” As we worked together to challenge his false beliefs, he first had to acknowledge that, while it was possible that she was with someone else, it was unlikely given all of the experiences they had shared. Furthermore, her actions time and again indicated she was committed. The risk he was taking in trusting her therefore seemed well calculated. We then decided that he must hit the pause button (no meaning making) for four hours after sending a text and would limit his texting to three times a day. Over time, his fear and anxiety gradually abated and he was able to form a deeper bond based on trust and respect rather than fear and anxiety.

We need to practice giving up trying to control the future and remain in the present moment. We also need to give some thought to the types of risks we are taking—are they measured (even if still daring) or just playing with fire?

REFLECTION
1. Who abandoned you and how did they abandon you?
2. What have you come to believe about people and relationships as a result?
3. What do you do to protect yourself from being abandoned?
4. How can you shift your focus from trying to control future outcomes to what is happening right now?
5. How do you know if you are taking a calculated risk or not?

Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Trauma Recovery & Relationship Coach. She is also the author of BeyondSurviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. With her support, clients learn to identify and break patterns of thought and behavior that keep them from recovering from past sexual abuse or making changes in their relationships.

Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. With this training in human behavior and cognitive development, she provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. Rachel is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches.

Learn more at http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com

Author: Together We Heal

In 2006 David took the first step in acknowledging the sexual abuse that was perpetrated against him from the ages of 12 to 15. During those 3 years, the foundation his family had worked so hard to build within him was destroyed by one man, his youth minister. The result was his heart, mind and faith were lost. After having kept this secret for more than 25 years, he was finally able to reveal to his family and friends the reason behind the addiction and self-destruction that at times had him incarcerated, eventually left him destitute and nearly ended his life. Fortunately he was blessed with amazing friends and a loving family who helped him get the help and therapy he so desperately needed. He was finally able to get clean from the grip of addiction and face the demon of sexual abuse that had clouded his life for so long. Now he and his wife work to aid their fellow survivors through the non-profit they created, Together We Heal. The mission of Together We Heal is to provide guidance for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, educating parents and all adults through public speaking on matters concerning Childhood Sexual Abuse and giving a safe forum for victims of abuse to share, learn and heal. "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr. Seuss Follow us on Twitter @Together_WeHeal "Like" us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/Togetherwehealorg Visit our website - together-we-heal.org

21 thoughts on “I’ve Got Abandonment Issues

  1. Really nice article. Thank you for posting. I’m wondering what tips or resources Rachel might suggest for parents dealing with teens who are dealing with abandonment issues.

  2. Hi Missy, Thanks so much for your question. When it comes to supporting a teen (and really anyone for that matter) who has a fear of abandonment, the first step is to work with them around their sense of self (worth, value, confidence, etc.). We first have to come to be grounded in who we are and our value so that we can approach relationships from a healthy place. When we are constantly on guard, afraid of being abandoned, it is so often because we don’t believe we actual deserve love, respect, connection, etc.

    With teens, showing up for them consistently and reflecting their value for them until they are able to own it for themselves is a key first step.

    I’d be happy to chat with you in more detail — you can give me a call any time! 415-513-0700

  3. Excellent article and I see many of my own struggles in this which I keep working on. I tend to think EVERYONE is going to not want me around and hate me and give me the silent treatment … and all the other things that were done to me as a kid. It has taken some strong willed friends and relationships to not give up on me when I am pushing them away with the full force of a category 5 hurricane. I’m thankful I have these people in my life, but I still struggle with this and it can rear its ugly head before I could start to notice it. Thanks for this article. I will highlight it on my blog.

  4. Very nice..Thank you! The recovery process from abuse is such an exciting, yet hard journey! My significant other and I recently entered into a business venture together. Soon after, I felt myself pushing him away. He noticed too and as we talked about what was going on, I realized I couldnt explain it. I was feeling closer to him and more connected which scared me. My response was to push him away even though its not what I wanted. As I described this to him, he felt confused and hurt. It didnt make sense to him why being more connected would cause me to be afraid. Anyway, the very next day I read this article! I was so relieved! I couldnt wait to read it to him! It helped us define what was happening, which opened the door for understanding and healing! Thank you very much! One more step in the right direction:-)

  5. Hi Don, I can certainly relate! and I too am grateful for the people in my life who held tightly to me even as I was struggling and pushing them away. It’s great that you are becoming more and more aware of this pattern. Perhaps spend a little time reflecting on your “pushing” behaviors — do you withdraw, become aggressive, sarcastic? Do you notice feeling anything in particular right beforehand (e.g., you stomach hurts, you feel tired)?

    Very best on your journey!

    (By the way, what’s the link for your blog?)

    • Hi Rachel. My biggest reaction is I withdraw and sometimes to the point where I convince myself there is no way out and leaving this world is the best solution. Generally speaking, I’m usually much more emotional than normal and will feel tearful at just about anything (like I see everything being hurt). Physical reactions generally involve neck/shoulder and arm pain, but not necessarily. I have done a lot of serious work on myself with a healing practitioner that has helped me walk through these things. It is a person that I feel so safe and absolutely no judgement from that I can share these things and know that they are there walking through the fire with me. One time in particular though, my partner just came and held me for a long time, until I broke down in tears and shifted everything within me. It takes the right person to do that with me, but where words would have failed, his embrace showed me he loved me no matter what – even when I couldn’t love myself. Glad to say things have greatly improved from those low points and I’m healing more and more each day. My blog is http://mindbodythoughts.blogspot.com/

      • Thank you for sharing this Don. It’s a great reminder that physical touch can be extremely powerful, healing, and reassuring.

  6. Thankyou so much for this article. The abuse I suffered was so long ago; twenty years in fact, but it seems to follow me anyway. I’m so tired of constantly fighting to react and behave in the ways I know I’m supposed to, when it goes against what I feel. (The fear) What you mentioned abt the constant need for reassurance or the desire for some sort of guarantee hits way to close to home.. however I’ve never heard it put into words in that way. Any tips on getting rid of the obsessive thoughts that accompany the anxiety? Its so exhausting.

  7. Hi BJ,

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your journey, and I can certainly relate to the frustration that comes when trying to break out of certain patterns of thought — it is exhausting! Especially, when you don’t know or aren’t aware of the skills and tools you need.

    I would encourage you to this recent talk I did on the 3 Steps to Let Go of the Pain of Abuse and Finally Feel Normal — http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/media/3-steps.mp3

    I think it will go a long way in getting you started — and you can always schedule a free 60 minute Discover Your Genuine Self Session with me to learn more about how my program helps folks just like you move on from the past.

    Very best,
    Rachel

  8. Maybe BJ needs to go back to the one that loved her..and still does knowing the truth..
    ..

  9. This is an excellent article that resonates with me. Not only for my own abandonment issues but for the relationship that has just ended for me. Sadly, this lovely man that I was in a relationship for over a year has ended through his profound abandonment issues. He was adopted and his adoptive mother died when he was ten. His adoptive father was abusive and he left when he was 14 years old.

    I found being with him to be exhausting the constant contact, the pushing for committment, the control, his constant need for reassurance, his withdrawal if he perceived I didn’t love him anymore even though it might have been something so minor as I was distracted by a problem with had nothing to do with him! And his inability to live in the moment!

    He ended it in what I call an abandonment rage. I feel so sad because we had talked about his rejection issues a few weeks beforehand which he had admitted to being the major problem in all his previously failed relationships and he had organised to go to counselling. He admitted he had rejected all his previous girlfriends, over 20 in 7 years. He said he rejected them if he sensed they were losing interest.

    I am in counselling for my own issues, but after reading this article I feel I would like to send it to him. Bad idea?

    • Hi Kathy,

      I think it’s a good idea, if you feel he might be receptive. And please feel free to use any of the articles here to send to him that you think he might relate to and would help your situation. I’m always encouraged when I read a comment like yours…it tells me we are focusing on the challenges all survivors face. Please keep me posted as to how it goes. You can email me directly at dpittman@together-we-heal.org

      David

  10. At beginning of this article it states as being a conclusion to a 3 part series. Where to I find the first ones?

    Thanks!

  11. This article has really helped me. I wonder if Rachel has any coping strategies on when partners are away on business. This is a massive struggle for me as I don’t know from one week to the next if he will be here. I constantly fear that he’ll not want to come back if he enjoys time away so much. Can you help? Thanks.

    • Hi Lauren, you can find more info from Rachel at Rachel Grant coaching on what she has on the topic. Let me know if you need any additional help reaching out to her.

      • Hi Lauren,

        First know that this is normal, but there certainly strategies you can you. As a first step, it doesn’t sound like you get much warning which can be unsettling. But, a way you can cope is to create a ritual that you and you husband use when he departs and when he returns. This creates a container for the connection and gives you something to look forward to. Also, download my newest gift, a three part audio series and guidebook. Just go to http://www.rachelgrantcoaching.com; you’ll see it there on the homepage. Then, if you want to dive deep, we can always explore working together. Keep me posted!

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