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How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment

How to Overcome Fear of Abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a primal fear that everybody experiences but the degree to which we handle it varies from one person to another. In some people, it can be so overwhelming that it hinders their ability to form normal relationships.

IN some people, this fear is so deep rooted, so paralyzing that they are unable to form normal relationships for fear of being abandoned. Like many social phobias or anxieties, it is often rooted in a past trauma. People who have been abandoned before at a vulnerable age and to whom this abandonment had a profound negative impact such as excessive loneliness or exposure to abuse are like to have experience a pathological type of fear of abandonment.

Someone with a fear of abandonment is cynical by nature and can encompass clingy, demanding behaviour which can actually act in pushing people away – thus cementing their abandonment issues. In fact some people subconsciously build walls that “insulate” them from forming close relationships with others. They regard close relationships as “exposure” to potential hurt.

People Suffering From Fear of Abandonment

There is no real rhyme or reason in regards to who suffers from abandonment issues – not everybody who has lost someone at some point in their life faces these issues (after all, nearly everyone has lost someone close to them at some point in their life), and some people may not even have experienced what could be considered serious abandonment, yet still suffer from an extreme fear. It is neither logical nor rational.

Some people with abandonment issues are completely understandable – such as orphans or those who have been moved from foster carer to foster carer. They are never in one place for an extended period of time, and every time they get close to someone (a foster parent), they would be taken away and moved to someone else. So they learn that it is easier to not trust and not get close at all. After all, if they don’t allow themselves to get close to anyone, then they cannot feel loss when they leave. This is of course, a very unhealthy way of looking at things, and everybody deserves to have friends and family that they can trust and feel close to.

Another common scenario that can trigger fear of abandonment is where you have had a parent or guardian walk out on you, especially as a child. This can lead to someone questioning where their parent or guardian left them: why did they leave? Was it because they did not love you? And the sadness and emptiness left behind can hurt so deeply that they decide to protect themselves by not letting themselves get close to anyone. Anything to avoid that feeling of loss that they felt in the past will do.

The past should not dictate the future

Thankfully, if you have been abandoned in the past, you shouldn’t hold an irrational fear that this is going to repeat itself in the future. You could always overcome your fear and learn to trust again.

Face your fear

If you know you have a fear of abandonment, then the first step to recovery is to face your fear and recognize exactly where your fear stems from. You need to find the source of the fear – only then can you beat it. Quite often there will be a single event which triggered it – like the examples mentioned above. So it might be when a parent left you, or even a spouse. People have thought that they were happily married and come home to an empty house. They have effectively been abandoned by their own loved one. Ignoring the major abandonment event is not going to make you forget about it, it has the opposite effect. It will impact you more. Learn to accept this fear as part of your human experience; it is something involuntary but you can always handle it differently.

Think about the abandonment logically

Once you have recognized when and why your fear of abandonment has come about, you need to think about it logically and calmly. Writing it down is a good way of making sense of things. If you look at the situation properly with a calm head you may come to realize that the problem is rarely you. Your parent did not leave because you were a bad child – rather because of problems that they had within themselves. Problems that likely had nothing to do with you. And in the foster parent example, you need to realize that moving children from home to home is simply part of the process, and should not be taken personally. The most important part is the realization that the abandonment was not your fault. Only by realizing this, can you start to trust again as you will stop automatically expecting further abandonment. 

Learn to trust and love

Learning to trust and love is only one part of this step. The most important part is actually to learn be able to be loved. You need to not only give love, but receive love. Those with fear of abandonment often do not feel that they deserve to be loved, and they refuse to trust others because of the belief that they will just leave. So the only way to overcome this fear is to start to trust and love, and once this person you start to trust proves themselves to you, then your issues will be all in the past. Choosing who to trust is important. Do not rush this step, because choosing the wrong person to put your trust in can end up very badly and can be a major step backwards. So you need to make sure that you only trust and love someone who deserves it.

Don’t be clingy

It is one thing to refuse to get close to someone for fear of abandonment, but one symptom of abandonment issues is actually the opposite – being overly clingy. If you find that you are suffocating your new partner in a relationship, you need to learn to let go and loosen the leash. Holding onto someone so tightly might make sense in your head and you may think that it will stop them from leaving you, but this is more likely going to have the opposite effect. You need to give your partner space and trust them not to leave. Only by trusting them and having them stay loyal to you, will you truly get over your fear of abandonment once and for all.      

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.