It’s not a condition,
it’s a continuum.
A therapist I once worked with said it best:
Abandonment is the gap between what you need and what you get.
Abandonment arouses the primal fear of infancy and childhood, that of being left alone to fend for ourselves. The Abandonment Wound is the result of an attachment rupture, so whether I’m using the language of abandonment or attachment, I’m generally referring to the same thing.
This kind of wound is cumulative: every loss, betrayal, disappointment, rejection (perceived or real), break-up or death can trigger the primal Abandonment Wound. Rather than dissipate, feelings incubate.
Everybody has an Abandonment Wound. The issue is not whether or not it exists within us, it’s how well we’re coping with it.
Abandonment can be so many things.
- traumatic birth
- a parent leaving their child, a child sent to boarding school, or a teenager leaving home
- a baby unattended, a child not picked up from school or other instances of neglect
- all forms of abuse including emotional withholding, shaming or mocking
- aloneness not by choice
- break-up, divorce or loving someone who doesn’t love you back
- feeling deserted by a friend
- death of a loved one (including pets)
- a child’s restlessness due to the emotional unavailability of a parent
- feeling displaced by the birth of a sibling
- teenage heartbreak
- social rejection or outcast status (gayness, bullying, awkwardness, etc)
- public shaming by an authority figure
- prolonged illness or becoming stricken by disease while others go on with their lives
- an accident, injury or shock trauma
- workplace disempowerment, stress, discontent and job loss
- financial instability, living in poverty or through bankruptcy
- redundancy or retirement
- living as a cultural minority
- relocation or displacement from homeland
- isolation from family, culture or spiritual community
- spiritual bereftness
- an implicit feeling unrelated to any initial sensitizing event (as in the case of Spiritual Abandonment)
The continuum of the Abandonment Wound is between withdrawal and pursuit. There’s a constant tension between the desire to connect and the desire to flee. It’s an attachment rupture that your body holds in the deepest part of its memory.
You may lean towards the withdrawal end of the spectrum, where you become over-functioning to compensate for loneliness and an inner barrenness. You may become extremely independent and highly performing in your work. You may have deep difficulty trusting in relationships. You may have a hard time accepting love and assistance. You may collect a never-ending stream of accolades and gold stars but no achievement ever feels satisfying enough to make you feel like you’re enough.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, your desire to connect with a feeling of comfort may make you insecure, over-reliant or “needy” in relationships. You may be overly concerned with how others perceive you. You may have strong appetites and seek comfort in substitutes like drugs, drinking, sex, shopping or spending excessive amounts of time online. There’s a deep hunger for something that feels impossible to satiate.
So. What to do?
To begin with, we explore what’s happening now that’s triggering an earlier pain. If you have difficulty accessing your feelings, we’ll start there and practice that. If you’re completely disconnected from your body, we’ll bring you back in. Whichever stage you’re in, we’ll incorporate trance work (hypnotherapy) and subtle somatics (attachment re-patterning) to accelerate and deepen your inner resources.
We aren’t just going to talk. We’re going to work. And practice. And heal.
You might start by listening to my lecture on Healing the Abandonment Wound: A 5 Step Process.
Then, if you’d like to work together, book an initial session with me. After that, plan on coming back for another 4-6 sessions over a period of 2-4 months.