If we were rejected as a child by parents/primary caregivers we are at high risk of growing up into adults with serious abandonment issues. This means we will be hypersensitive to rejection by others, deeply afraid of such rejection and profoundly hurt and distressed when we experience it.
Because we may be preoccupied with, or even obsessed by, the fear of rejection and abandonment we are likely to be constantly on ‘red alert’, looking for the smallest signs that someone may reject us.
Frequently, too, because of our constant anticipation that we are going to be rejected, we may believe we perceive signs of rejection where, in reality, they do not exist.
Rejection by others is so painful to us as it reminds us (consciously or unconsciously) of the intensely traumatic abandonment we experienced in childhood; therefore, when we are subsequently rejected in adulthood, we are, in effect, re-traumatized.
Being intensely fearful of rejection can have numerous adverse effects on us. For example:
– we may become extremely ‘clingy’
– we may need constant reassurance from others that they are not going to leave us
– we may socially withdraw so that we don’t get close to others in order to avoid the risk of rejection
– we may be unconsciously motivated to reject others before they get the opportunity to reject us
– we may feel constantly insecure
– in extreme cases, we may threaten/attempt suicide in response to signs of rejection from others
Due to rejection in childhood, many with abandonment issues have inferred from this (erroneously) that they must be ‘bad’ people and have then gone on to deeply internalize this mistaken view of themselves. This means such individuals tend to have both extremely low self-esteem and confidence.
Also, wrongly believing themselves to be ‘bad’, they may feel constantly guilty, expect others to somehow ‘sense’ their ‘badness’ and, therefore, perpetually feel their ‘badness’ will be exposed and that they will, as a result, become social pariahs
Some may become excessively reliant on drink and/or drugs in an attempt to alleviate the emotional pain they feel.
Finally, it should be noted that being abandoned as a child need not involve actual physical abandonment; it can, instead, involve emotional/psychological abandonment – this may come about by growing up with a parent who is cold and distant or who ignores his/her child.
Three therapies which may help with abandonment issues are dialectical behaviour therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.