The Illusion and Reality of Abandonment

“Adults can’t be abandoned,” I said in a clinical conference with 500 or more persons in the audience. They were stunned and were contemplating running me out of town after being tarred and feathered.

“Wait a minute – I didn’t say adults don’t feel abandoned.” A mother says, “But my adult son stopped coming to see me. He abandoned me.” “My wife abandoned me 30 years ago,” a client said to me in a therapy session. Actually I’ve heard, “They abandoned me,” hundreds of times.

But you see adults don’t get left on the steps of an orphanage or at the door of a police station, and they don’t end up in a mall holding the hands of the security guard looking for daddy.

Most children after the Industrial Revolution, and even now, experience a variety of forms of temporary or permanent abandonment. Fifty percent of households in the U.S. is a one-parent home, and a one- or even two-person home – will in fact leave their children unattended for brief to long periods – not maliciously – but cooking, cleaning, phone ringing, doorbells ringing and 30- to 40-hour work weeks.

In order to not experience abandonment there would need to be extended family, caregivers, etc. to meet a child’s needs every hour of every day. Remember 20 minutes in a soiled diaper or crying hungry in a crib, feels like eternity.

When someone leaves us, a husband, wife, lover, or even a good friend, we may enter into “Child Time.” A non-returned phone call on Monday leaves us feeling like 24 hours is 24 days by Tuesday.

Many reading this brief post have been abandoned so many times in childhood and adolescence that we become habituated to constantly abandoning our essential self. We give ourselves away to be with someone for fear if we don’t, then someone will leave us and never come back.

Bottom line – we as adults abandon ourselves quite frequently until we don’t, and once we learn how to keep ourselves, when another adult leaves us we will feel loss, grief, anger, disappointment, despair and depression, but we won’t feel “abandoned,” because we are connected to our deepest self. 

Here are some ways to stay connected:

  1. Learn more and more ways to implement self-care and self-soothing.
  2. Bring in any, or many, supportive friends to be with you as you come out of “Child Time.”
  3. See a counselor, therapist, priest, rabbi, etc.
  4. Get out in nature as much as possible.
  5. Cry, scream into your pillow, write “loss letters.”

I hope this helps.

One thought on “The Illusion and Reality of Abandonment

  1. John, thank you for yet another postioning of truth to take me further into what I have known in my body but could only get to the door and now you’ve opened it.
    Go well

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