The Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim
E18 - Fear of Abandonment
In this episode, Shaun talks about the aftermath of being abandoned. What it does to someone mentally, emotionally, and how this negatively impacts relationships. Is this person doomed to repeat this pattern? Is there a way out of it?
Shaun talks about his experiences with fear of abandonment, and goes into detail what you can do as you go through it and come out of it a happier, healthier person.
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How's it going, everybody? Welcome to the Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim, part of the Mental Health News Radio Network. New episodes are available every Wednesday on your favorite podcast platform.
If you want to leave a voice message about any topic or have a question to be featured in a future episode, go to www.shaunkarim.com and click the microphone icon on the bottom right of your screen.
Before I get started, I wanted to go over something real quick. I’ve received some questions over the last month or so about people asking whether my friends or family members are listening to this show and what they think about it. Obviously, I haven’t exactly held back when talking about my past and tying that to different negative behavioral patterns, but at least it’s all the truth; and let’s be honest, people who did you wrong don’t want to hear how you used that situation to build something better for yourself.
It’s kind of funny, I think. None of my family members know about this show. My mom’s not around anymore, so that doesn’t count. My dad probably doesn’t even know what a podcast is; but honestly, even if everyone in my life was listening to this show, I wouldn’t hold anything back anyway.
The purpose of this podcast is to help you understand where you are, why you’re there, and what you can do to come out of it. I’ve gone through a lot in my life; more than most I’ve known or read about. The best way I can explain things is to share my experiences with you. I want to share what I’ve learned so you can live the best version of your life.
All right, here comes the show.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last several weeks mostly talking about other people’s direct negative impact on you; narcissism, toxicity, manipulation, and so on.
There isn’t a whole lot of talk about the impact people can have on you when they abandon you. Not just leaving you, but leaving you high and dry; in an extremely vulnerable state; when they’re gone, you don’t know what your next move is; maybe you even rely on them–financially, emotionally–and them leaving creates a huge void that can’t be filled by someone or something else.
What do you think that does to someone’s psyche? What about their mental health and their emotional health? What do you think nags at them during the day or at night when everything is quiet? How do they look at people, especially when they’re in a relationship with them? Based on what’s happened to them in their past, do they wrongfully anticipate the same thing happening to them in the future? Is there a healthy way to come out of that way of thinking?
So with that, today’s episode topic is “Fear of Abandonment.”
Most abandonment anxiety stems from some type of traumatic event during childhood. Obviously, there are exceptions where this happens when someone is older, but the point is there can be one or multiple events that dramatically and negatively impact someone’s life, whether this was emotional or physical abandonment. This can be something as big as someone leaving you emotionally or something as simple as not receiving adequate care, especially as a child.
This sets the foundation on which future relationships are built. This foundation is extremely weak, ready to crumble at any given moment, and anything that is top of it will come down with it.
What happens when someone’s need for healthy emotional and physical care isn’t met? Not just the random, small degree of this that inevitably happens to people. This person’s relationships with other people, no matter what type of relationship it is, is severely compromised because their past experiences have shown them what is to come.
So what are some examples of fear of abandonment? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but off the top of my head from my own experiences:
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have a ton of experience with this that I’ll get into in a moment; but for now let's start with emotional abandonment.
This type of neglect can be super traumatic. I know a lot of times it sounds like I’m bagging on parents, but given that a lot of the root causes of trauma stem from when we’re children, generally speaking that’s just the way things go. I looked into this as I was thinking about my own experiences, and it’s amazing how clear cut some of this can be.
Some of the patterns that create this trauma are when a parent ridicules their child for whatever reason; they hold back and sometimes even try to mute their child’s emotional expressions; they rely on their child to build up their self worth; and at the end of the day, instead of treating their child like children, they treat them like any other adult in their lives.
So this child has had zero room for emotional development from their primary caregiver because that entire concept was taken away from them at an early age. They were set up to fail. Do we even want to talk about what happens when this child becomes an adult? If a child is a copy machine of their parents, then is it fair to say they will repeat this pattern with their own children? If this child-turned-adult is aware enough, they may be able to use this to their advantage and nurture their own children the right way, but does that happen often enough? What about when this adult forms relationships with other adults?
This person’s self care is pretty much non-existent. They can’t meet their own needs, and they–at least in their eyes–can’t meet the needs of anyone in their life. This stress is so overwhelming, and they can feel like they have no way out of this situation.
The next one is child abandonment. Some form of children being fearful of their parents abandoning them is normal; I’ve talked about this before in previous episodes. The child knows their survival depends on their parents. But what happens when this child’s belief about this is so skewed, the degree of this is so out of whack, that they’re always afraid of their parents leaving them?
This happens when their primary caregiver has done a shitty job of providing their child a secure caregiver attachment. It’s vital this happens because, if it doesn’t, then this child is going to go throughout their childhood AND adulthood being anxious about people leaving them. Trust me on this one because I know all about it.
That means they’ve normalized unhealthy traits. Always worrying or panicking about what people think of them and whether or not they’ll leave to find someone else to be with instead of them. Concentrating becomes so difficult because all of these scenarios run through their minds constantly. Being super clingy and having separation anxiety with anyone they’re with, whether this is a romantic relationship or not. The stress of all of this is so consuming that this person gets sick a lot. What kind of life is this for anyone? Remember, this is a child experiencing these issues.
But what happens when this child becomes an adult? This matures into an avoidant personality. So that fear of abandonment now has grown into this person feeling inadequate, and often being socially awkward. That includes avoiding group activities because it’s bad enough having to interact with one person, but three, five, 10? The amount of nervousness that creates is so high, I can’t even express how bad it can be. And now this adult doesn’t have the approval of their parents, no approval from anyone because they’re extremely afraid of being judged, and this leads to low self esteem.
All of this is connected, and it only gets worse. If this avoidant personality issue isn’t resolved, then this can create a bridge to separation anxiety. So being socially withdrawn now becomes even more of this adult’s identity, and having difficulty concentrating on tasks becomes nearly impossible because they’re always thinking about the well being of their loved ones. Aches, pains–these all manifest in the body, and this is compounded with depression, and difficulty sleeping.
There are long-term effects of all of this; there’s only so much one person can handle before things take a toll on them. Mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, become the baseline for this person; their mind and their body. This all stems from being afraid of being abandoned again, and this can create all kinds of mood swings and a ton of anger. Not exactly the healthiest person, especially when this impairs their ability to trust people. This includes them feeling unworthy and having a lack of intimacy because of that unworthiness.
There’s a lot here, and there’s even more, but hopefully you get the idea now of how devastating a fear of abandonment can be on someone. Is that you? I can tell you for sure that it was me, and still is to a certain extent. So what can you do with all of this? How do you properly heal from this trauma?
First of all, acknowledge what you went through. Give yourself a break about what you went through and how you dealt with it in the past. Just sit and acknowledge all of it.
The next thing you need to do is stop judging yourself, and don’t compare yourself to other people. You have positive qualities. Don’t deny them. Stop doing that to yourself. If you can acknowledge what you’ve gone through and how you reacted, then you can do the same with all of the things that are good about you.
Here’s the toughest part–at least it was for me. If you’re in a romantic relationship with someone, talk to them about your past. Explain how this all developed for you. Help them understand that you understand that this was traumatic, and partner with each other in resolving this. This next bit goes both ways; communicate more, be clear about it, and don’t leave the mind to imagine things that aren’t happening. Correct all of that now until new habits and ways of thinking develop.
The work doesn’t end there. As a matter of fact, all of that is how you start. What you need to do, and trust me on this one, is see a professional therapist. There are a bunch of services that allow you to cater your search result to find the right person for you; and if you don’t like them for whatever reason, you can fire them and move on to the next one. This is for you, and you need to make sure you take care of yourself the right way.
All right, guys. Thanks for listening to the Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to spread the word on social media and check out www.shaunkarim.com.