Blog 3. How It All Starts: Abandonment In Childhood Can Effect Relationships In Adulthood.
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As a relationship therapist time and time again I observed the following:
There are many effects from being abandoned as a child. This is one example.
It could be said that we all fall somewhere between having been abandoned or under-protected and smothered or over-protected.
Abandonment can also refer to any feelings of rejection experienced whilst growing up – not heard, not seen or ignored. Smothering can refer to a parent being overprotective and not allowing a child emotional freedom.
We have all probably experienced these emotions to some extent. However, when they are deeply felt and experienced repeatedly this is when the emotions felt, become ‘part’ of our belief system we carry about ourselves and others. This could lead to intimacy problems later on: either a fear of being rejected or ignored or a fear of relationships due to having been smothered or overprotected.
Here is the one example of abandonment. (I’ll be blogging about other examples as well as the consequences of overprotecting).
This is the sort of fictional story I have heard time and time again with regards the sad consequences of abandonment. Please note that when I use a ‘he or him’, this story could so easily be reversed – he could be a she, or the partner could be a he:
He was orphaned as a baby and he lived in a children’s home until he was fostered as a teenager. As an adult he then met someone who pursued him relentlessly. Finally he succumbed and began living with his devoted partner. He was totally surprised and remained surprised that anyone would want him. Having been abandoned you would think he would be over the moon to have finally found someone who loved him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t settle down. His fear of being rejected was far more powerful than the reality of being loved. In other words the blueprint of rejection had been internalized and had become part of his belief system. So he had affair after affair.
On one level his partner had taken on the role of his mother. For the first time he felt loved especially as his partner had pursued him without letting up. Even when his partner had caught him having an affair, the partner’s unconditional love meant he was forgiven each time. However deep in his psyche was the anger and rage he harbored towards his mother for having abandoned him – another behavioral blueprint set up from his childhood.
So each time he had an affair it was like he was unconsciously getting back at his mother, symbolized by his devoted partner. He didn’t realize that what he was doing was that by ‘attacking’ his committed partner, he was actually acting out his rage towards his mother.
However, on another level, he deeply needed to be loved. But fearing that he would once again be abandoned he set up the affairs. It’s a case of ‘if you abandon me then at least I’ll have someone else to go to’. Or simply put, before you abandon me I’ll abandon you’. So through his fear of intimacy he was warning his partner, via his affairs, that his partner shouldn’t come in too close. He had not experienced intimacy as a child so he couldn’t bear anyone becoming too intimate for fear that they might abandon him. Not being able to commit to only 1 person is often the direct result of a fear of close intimacy – an intimacy that he had not received as a child. Having not been held and loved and nurtured, an intimate bond would be very scary and intimacy with another human being would feel odd.
Sadly, 10 years later his partner died leaving him utterly devastated. What he had feared had finally come true.
I had heard so many similar stories from my clients.
Sadly, we most probably can all relate to this story in some way. To some extent we have all been abandoned because from the minute we are born, we all have to deal with the fact that our parents cannot be there for us every minute of the day. How we deal with this reality becomes our relationship or emotional blueprint.
(Not everyone who is abandoned goes on to have affairs. I have used this example to show how we can use certain situations, in this case an affair, to show how if we fear intimacy, how we can keep intimacy at bay. We often all use situations either consciously or unconsciously to keep intimacy at bay because we all know, that nobody can be there for us every minute of the day. We all often abandon someone either, our personal or even business partners, before they abandons us. I will blog more about affairs later on as it’s quite a large topic).
How we choose our partners or how we even pull or push people toward us or away from us, will depend on our early childhood experiences.
Experiencing emotional abandonment or rejection on any level consistently through childhood will probably mean that trusting another person will be hard. Finding a person that loves you is one thing but fear that they, like everyone else, will abandon you creates all sorts of problems. We often create what we fear.
Often when we have repeatedly experienced negative emotions and feelings, our expectations are that others will treat us in the same way in adulthood. We ‘bring’ what happened in childhood into adulthood. Unfortunately this is not always constructive.
This is why it is so important to understand our childhood – so we can understand how we relate and what our ‘knee-jerk’ reactions are. How we deal with situations may not always be positive and it may be undermining what you so deeply want and yet cannot somehow achieve.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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