In this article, we’re going to take a look at what abandonment is, uncover some of the common signs of abandonment issues, and explore how you can find freedom by understanding how God responds to victims of past abandonment.
Human beings were never designed to be alone. First and foremost, we’re designed to be in a relationship with God, but in addition to this, we’re meant to have human companionship, too:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” – Genesis 2:18
When we’re born, we’re hardwired to form a bond with our caregivers that is known as attachment. This is not only because we’re dependent on them for our physical needs, but also because we have a psychological need for this relationship, too. The fear of being abandoned is an innate and primal fear and for children who have insecure or disordered attachments, the fear of abandonment becomes a reality.
Abandonment can take a variety of forms. A child can be abandoned literally by caregivers, for example, when a parent leaves and breaks off all contact with the child. Physical neglect is another form of abandonment. In this case, the failure of caregivers to adequately physically care for a child or teen breaks the sense of connection and leaves the victim feeling abandoned.
Emotional abandonment is similar to physical neglect, but its impact can be far greater. With emotional abandonment, the caregiver is physically present and meets the child’s physical needs for food, shelter, and healthcare, but remains emotionally detached and fails to offer an emotional connection. For example, a parent may reject their son or daughter’s emotional needs, may be emotionally abusive and/or manipulative, or starve the child of attention.
Other kinds of abandonment a child can experience include:
- Having a parent (or two parents) who experience mental illness or substance abuse, which can lead to emotional neglect
- Having a parent who is a workaholic, who travels a lot for work, or works long hours, so it feels to the child as though their parent is never there for them
- Having highly critical parents who constantly tell (or imply) to the child that he or she is not worthy of their love
The Consequences of AbandonmentNo matter the type of abandonment, the consequences are far-reaching and long-lasting, going on to impact adult life. The primary consequence is a deep-rooted fear of being abandoned, or not having an emotional connection with someone you care about. However, other consequences include:
- An inability to trust
- Over-dependence on others
- Relationship difficulties
- Long-standing abandonment issues
- Chronic insecurities about yourself
- Feeling unworthy
- Being incredibly emotionally sensitive
Signs of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues can have a huge impact on your daily life and/or your ability to function in healthy relationships. Not only that, but abandonment issues can take a variety of forms, so it’s not always easy to recognize them for what they really are.
There are some signs you can look out for either in yourself or in someone you’re concerned about that tend to indicate long-standing abandonment issues:
Do you find yourself sabotaging your relationships by picking fights or pointing out problems? If so, this may be based on a subconscious desire to control the situation — i.e., if you drive the loved one away, at least their leaving wouldn’t be an act of abandonment.
Obsessing over where your loved one isIf you feel like you have to know where your loved one is at every minute of every day, this is a sign that you’re being controlled by a fear of abandonment. You may question their plans for the whole day before they leave for work, and/or text or phone them repeatedly, just to see where they are.
Refusing to “let go” of an abusive relationship
Do you struggle to accept when an abusive relationship has come to an end, and make desperate attempts to ‘win’ your partner back — even though your ex-partner was abusive or violent towards you? This is a sign that your fear of abandonment is more powerful than the rational conclusion that you’re better off out of the relationship.
Rushing into relationships
Do you bounce from one relationship to the next, investing emotionally in your new partner and becoming “clingy” very quickly? Abandonment issues often cause this kind of situation where there’s no real “getting to know each other” period and, unfortunately, this tends to drive others away.
Maintaining a cycle of abandonment
Do you find yourself forging relationships with the wrong type of person, who may be unreliable or unstable? Ironically, one of the biggest abandonment issues is a tendency to choose partners who are more likely to leave you; for example, people with mental health issues, addictions, or a history of abusive behavior.
Freedom from the Fear of AbandonmentWhen you’re struggling with abandonment issues in your adult life, you may find yourself experiencing depression, anxiety, mood swings, angry outbursts, and struggling with a poor sense of self-worth. Life can seem very bleak when you’re controlled by a fear of abandonment. Breaking free isn’t easy, either, especially if your abandonment issues have you trapped in a cycle of abandonment.
Abandonment in childhood – no matter the type – significantly affects your self-image. It’s quite common to have internalized the belief that there is something wrong with you, and that’s the reason why your parents/caregivers abandoned you physically or emotionally. Looking at yourself through this negative lens is really damaging. To find freedom, you have to be able to see yourself through God’s eyes.
God will never abandon us. This is His promise to each and every one of His children. We’re told of His promise in the Old Testament (Genesis 21; Deuteronomy 31:6) and in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:5, which quotes Deuteronomy 31:6).
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
Our hope must always be in God. We cannot control the actions of other people around us. They may hurt us, they may abandon us, physically or emotionally, and there is no way we can fully protect ourselves from that possibility. However, when we recognize that God, who cannot lie, has promised never to abandon us, we can be confident that we will never, ever, be truly alone, and we can always depend on God.
Christian Counseling for Abandonment Related Problems
If you, or someone you love, are dealing with deep-rooted abandonment issues that are having a detrimental effect on your life, you may want to consider Christian counseling. Like secular counseling, Christian counseling gives you the space you need to talk about your feelings, struggles, and obstacles with a trained professional. Unlike secular counseling, however, Christian counseling brings the dimension of faith into the sessions.
With a Christian counselor, you can explore more of how God responds to those who have been abandoned and find the strength to overcome obstacles with the help of Jesus. You will be able to move forward in freedom when you have a Christian counselor to help you break the effects of abandonment on your life.
“Morning Contemplation”, Courtesy of Alexander Shustov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone on the Beach”, Courtesy of Jose Ros Photo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wondering Where You Are”, Courtesy of Elijah M. Henderson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “No-show”, Courtesy of James Pond, Unsplash.com, CC0 License