Do you ever feel like your real self is somehow less than or unlovable? Like you have to be perfect or you’ll be rejected? Do you sometimes panic when you don’t receive a quick response to a text, email or voicemail? What about not speaking your truth in relationships because you think it might drive your partner away? Do you tend to settle for crumbs? These reactions could mean that a fear of abandonment is wreaking havoc on your life.
Abandonment is a primal fear that often stems from childhood. If you experienced parenting that were cold, judgmental or distant, you may have unconsciously created a sense of self as invisible, worthless, unlovable or not belonging. This fear can also develop further, later in life after a devastating loss or break up.
Fear of Abandonment in Intimate Relationships
Dating and intimate relationships tend to resurface the disappointments of past relationships and even our childhood wounds. It is like setting the replay button where you deal with the same hurtful scenes, the abandoning father, the judgmental mother, the first love who dumped you, the ex who took everything in a nasty divorce. It is from all these painful experiences in love that we come to form mistrust and abandonment fears. The deeply held belief that results from these experiences are: I am not someone who can be chosen or loved in a consistent deep way.
You know you have this belief pattern when the deepest need you can easily recognize is wanting to be claimed and to receive unconditional love and commitment, yet your pattern of behavior is to hide out, accept relationships that give you very little, or even push caring people away. This is abandonment fear in action in your life. You feel like you need to protect yourself or settle for less, because what’s looming ahead is loss of love.
Sound familiar? OK, but no beating yourself up for having this pattern! It was a natural reaction to your childhood and adult love experiences. Plus, we ALL have primal fears when it comes to relationships. It’s just that some of us have stronger issues in this arena.
Three Ways to Heal Your Fear of Abandonment
So here’s great news. I’m going to show you three powerful ways to heal and transcend your fear of abandonment and create healthy relationships!
Healing Your Fear of Abandonment: Turn Loving Attention on Yourself
It all starts with your relationship with the single most important person in your life. That would be YOU. Step one is to turn loving attention on yourself, which is called self-soothing. This attention turn-around disengages your focus from being firmly centered on others and how they—are, did, or will—abandon you! Here is a simple way to do this (even if you are feeling down on yourself right now!):
- Get a photo of yourself or just look at your Facebook profile photo.
- Now imagine you have this unique beloved daughter or son (not your actual child, if you have one.) Just imagine you have a beautiful child that you adore…. you love her or him soooo much! You just know their perfection. Their real beauty inside and out, their innocence, their gifted nature….
- Now look at your photo of yourself, imagining that you are your own precious adult child, notice how much you love this child as you study their beautiful face , feel the essence of their loving soul, know their innocence and the caring of their big heart. Appreciate this adult child who is you—fully.
- Now more…. appreciate this adult child who is you even more. Feel love towards this adult child who is you, a totally unique, one-of-a-kind being, feel even more appreciation and love!
So this is one powerful way you can be like a loving parent to yourself. Psychologists call it self-soothing. In fact, just doing the exercise will help you—you do not have to believe it will!
Healing Your Fear of Abandonment: Noticing & Questioning the Negative Self-Talk
Step two is noticing and questioning negative self-talk that emerges in your mind—the kind that leads to you having fear of abandonment. For example, in a new unfolding relationship when the guy doesn’t make a fuss about your birthday, it may bring up an experience from adolescence where your father ignored how good you looked in your prom dress and made a fuss about your sister instead. It was in this pivotal scene from childhood that you may have first decided that you were unlovable. Layered upon that are scenes from guys you dated who simply disappeared out of your life.
So, in dealing with your current boyfriend who forgets your birthday you revisit the abandonment fear-generating belief, “I can’t have love because I’m not lovable.” This cascades into a second one, “All men let you down in the end.” And finally, “This relationship is not working.” These core abandonment fear-generating beliefs have emerged because of a simple breakdown in the here-and-now that might be fixed. Instead what happens? Massive disappointment, sadness, hopelessness, withdrawal, irritability, angry jabs…and what effect does that have on your relationship? It goes downhill. And more abandonment fears rear up!
Instead of allowing this abandonment fear to run you, your self-talk and your relationship into the ground, just notice the negative self-talk that starts it all. And ask yourself, is this belief true? Really true?
Healing Your Fear of Abandonment: Use Specific Affirmations to Replace the Negative Self-Talk
Finally, the third method is to disengage from that negative self-talk. Replace it with positive self-talk. Focus on self-appreciation. Here’s a special technique which will help you immerse yourself in these energies.
First, make a list of affirmations focused on being visible, chosen, claimed, lovable, and loved. These are positive statements that start with “I” and are in present tense. Then, as you write them out, imagine that you are your ideal relational self, the self you would like to become.
Here then, are some examples:
- A wonderful person who is visible, seen, and appreciated.
- Claimed by an adoring partner.
- Fully lovable and loving.
- A perfect child of the Divine (or Universe).
- Unconditionally loved.
- Deserving of being chosen and loved.
For example, choose one statement to say to yourself when you get up in the morning and before you go to sleep. Even if you are not feeling it! In fact, your mind will still register the positive statements. And your abandonment fears will lessen over time.
So there you have three ways to ditch abandonment fears and live your life full out! Please go ahead and give all three methods a real effort. But if you need additional help be sure to ask me for a free session with one of my expert coaches.