What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alicia remembers standing on the wooden porch steps the day her mother told her she was going to visit a sick neighbor. The truth was, there wasn’t a sick neighbor, only a boyfriend with an expensive car and the promise of a new life. That was the last time Alicia saw her mother.
Joshua’s father, a legendary football coach, was home almost every night. The only problem was that he was physically present but emotionally unavailable. He was either on the phone pursuing the next superstar recruit or strategizing for Saturday’s game. Joshua had a coach for a father, but never a father for a coach. He grew up feeling powerless to win the competition for his father’s attention and affection.
Whether in a physical or emotional encounter, everyone will cross paths with abandonment. For many, abandonment proves a negative, life-altering experience; others remain unscathed, and a rare few emerge strengthened by their bout with rejection.
Why does being abandoned produce bitterness in the heart of one, yet leave another unaffected? The answer is not found in questioning why others leave. The answer is hidden in how one reacts when people choose to leave. Healing from abandonment begins by focusing not on what has happened but on how we respond when negative things do happen.
Identifying the Fear of Abandonment
Thinking about living without someone you love can be overwhelming. But for a moment, consider that very fact: what if your feelings become a reality? What if your children and grandchildren move across the country? What if your best friend dumps you for new friends? What if your spouse of twenty-five years decides to leave you for a girl half his age?
Losing someone you love through rejection or death is difficult. Feelings of grief or betrayal can produce intense, even erratic emotional responses.
What then is the appropriate response to actual or perceived fear? How do you handle harassing thoughts trying to convince you, One day, those you love most will abandon you? Or defeat the nagging feeling lurking in the pit of your stomach when you think about your children being lost or taken? How do you combat fearful thoughts of things that have not happened? What about the insecurity that sneaks into your heart when you see your wife talking to another man? Will your faith ever prevail over your fears? Can you conquer the fear of abandonment? As a matter of fact, yes. You can fight your fears and win.
It will take time and effort, but you can overthrow the fears that seek to sabotage your joy.
How do you begin? By taking the first step and unmasking the source of fear.
I knew a young woman who lived in constant turmoil and crisis. Over coffee one day I asked her to share her story. I noticed she continually used phrases like, “I am not good enough”; “No one ever stays in my life for long”; “I will never be happily married.” The sad truth is she attracted what she confessed. She devalued her worth and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. What about you?
Have you created an environment for your insecurities to thrive?
If so, it is time to dethrone harassing thoughts that devalue your self-worth, ruin your relationships, and destroy your dreams. What you think about most determines your feelings and fears. Let’s face it. Many people wrestle with abandonment issues, but few are willing to acknowledge the feelings of inadequacy and failure they experience as a result of being abandoned.
How and when does the fear of abandonment begin? To answer this question, we must first consider the source of fear. There are two basic types of fear. The first is healthy fear.
Can fear be healthy? Extremely healthy, as it stems from the reasoning part of the brain and warns of real or impending danger. For example, healthy fear acts as a warning signal cautioning a child to look both ways before crossing the street. Or it rationalizes with a teenager not to accept his friend’s dare to dive off a seventy-foot cliff.
There are numerous benefits to healthy fear. On the flip side of the equation, unhealthy fear works against our better judgment. Stemming not from logic but from emotion, unhealthy fear plays tricks on one’s ability to think sensible and balanced thoughts.
The easiest way to process feelings of fear is to consider their source. If you want to qualify your fears, ask yourself the following questions. Can my fears be substantiated by facts? Are my fears replacing my faith? Am I fearful of things or situations that do not exist? Remember, feelings born out of negative thinking create unnecessary anxiety. Negative thoughts produce negative feelings, and negative feelings are the source of unhealthy fear. Let me share an example.
A precious lady named Sue admits, “I have nightmares about my daughter falling into an abandoned well and being severely wounded, and I am unable to come to her rescue. The bizarre thing is I have never fallen into a hole, neither do I know anyone who has. Why am I overtaken by the fear I will be unable to help my daughter in a time of crisis?”
The struggle to identify feelings associated with the fear of abandonment is difficult if not outright frustrating.
Abandonment is a complicated issue. I have witnessed the devastation of relationships gone wrong and the injustice of victims who felt as if they deserved the heartache of abandonment. Although no one reacts to loss in exactly the same way, there remains one thread of commonality: few understand the impact abandonment has had upon their lives, especially when it comes to relationships.
Few people know how to deal with the emotional baggage that accompanies abandonment.
That is why I have written this book, to share with you truths that will set you free from unnecessary fear, anxiety, and wrong thinking. It is possible to overcome the fears associated with abandonment. In fact, you can begin the journey to freedom right now. Learning how to recognize the symptoms and characteristics associated with the fear of abandonment will get you on the fast track to recovery. Are you ready to begin the journey?
Excerpted with permission from Downside Up by Dr. Tracey Mitchell, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2013.
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Everyone has suffered the trauma of abandonment in some form. Maybe your parent left for a different life. Maybe it was your spouse. Or friends. Or your church. Maybe abandonment knocked the wind out of you or maybe you just fear it like a hurricane is headed your way at some point but you don’t know when. I’ve been there. I’ve had a best friend dump me completely out of the blue right when I needed her support the most… a husband of 24 years have an affair with a much younger woman… a son go off the rails into sin not even aware that what he’s really seeking is the comfort of a deep relationship with God. Traumas can take over our whole lives leaving us bitter and wary of friendships and trust. Or we can grow through them. Are you ready to face the emotional baggage and start thriving? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, FaithGateway Women