I’d count these days in silence in-between our meetings till my heart would mend
If I’m down, I’d turn on the lights
I’d hide in the sun rays- me I’m just minding the time
If its dark, then I’d turn around and look to you for a glance
A reassurance I rely on much more than just by chance
reflection comes from the well of universal appeal
I know in these moments I would often pray and kneel
We’re often apart, yet so close we are
From as far back as an early age we’ve had to sail
For some time You were out of sight- behind this veil
And from time to time you would again be near
Much a-part of my life
No distance between us can keep us apart
I’d count the twinkle in your eyes
When father and daughter would again gather their charms
But when the most cherished of times in our hold
Disappear before us, when we forget the tale that is often not told
Never let your heart beat become defeated
Never turn away from the love you have forgotten or concealed
The customs of unreasonable people
Will sometimes turn against what is right
So lay down your emotional weapons
And reveal what you conceal
Use this logic, use your sight
Is it not for our piety that we are blessed, or is it not for our deeds that we become pious? For some this is a paradox, for others this is babble, you decide, the power to unlock the mysteries is yours.
The legacy experienced for those who have suffered from abandonment issues can lead to tragic outcomes if gone untreated. The abdication of emotional bonds from those in your family are astoundingly painful and is often passed on to future generations. The Family Constellations concept for treating such problems comes to mind for dealing with painful events that can have an ancestral beginning. The dissonant cycles of abusive behaviors are dreadfully common in human genealogies which continue to pass along maladaptive behaviors to future generations.
When challenged with emotional deficiencies from the time you are a child, you become a member of the disenchanted, the forsaken ones that have more difficulty in the journey they travel as opposed to those whom do not suffer from such liabilities. I have spent a lifetime in consternation to uncover questions about the foundations I have inherited from the family I was born into. I have learned through my investigation just what may possibly be the single most identifying personal issue I have to work out; one that stems from feelings of abandonment as a child. John Lennon has spoken about his early formative years growing up with loss and abandonment issues during his lifetime. Many of his issues stem from his early years growing up. The complications in his life when viewed from knowing that he suffered from such a condition makes sense when looking back upon his life in hindsight. The song Mother from his first solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in 1970. It is a self-evident affirmation of his misery.
It comes as no surprise that abandonment issues often stem from early childhood trauma and losses, according to Claudia Black, Ph.D. and author of the Psychology Today article, “Understanding the Pain of Abandonment.” Those losses may take the form of an absent, inadequate, or abusive parent. For example, a child who is routinely ignored by parents or who is physically or psychologically injured by them begins to believe that he is powerless and unworthy. These children may internalize a message that they cannot rely on others to be there to protect them.
When you think of the words “abandon” and “abandonment” in a family context, what comes to mind? How would you define “abandonment” to an average 10-year-old? Have you ever felt abandoned? Have you abandoned someone? What would you say is the opposite of abandonment? Can you describe (a) why some people abandon others, and (b) how abandonment affects typical kids, adults, and families?
What is “Abandonment”?
For our purposes, abandonment is a relationship dynamic that occurs when an adult or child voluntarily…
denies or ignores key responsibilities (a role) that someone expects them to fulfill, like parental or marital obligations, and/or they…
choose to end an existing relationship with someone else despite their partner/s not wanting that. This is specially traumatic when the abandoned one depends on the other person for something important, like a child or disabled adult does.
Abandonment can be psychological (indifference, apathy, “coldness,” lack of intimacy); and/ or physical. Psychological divorce occurs when one or both cohabiting mates abandon the other and their marital vows, roles, responsibilities, and relationship primacy.
Discussion of abandonment usually focuses on an adult leaving or quitting. Family members can be equally affected if a child or grandchild “runs away from (abandons) home.”
Other types of abandonment occur when a person voluntarily gives up a dream, a cause, a belief, membership in a group, hope, the will to live, a lifestyle, and/or physical possessions. When circumstances force giving any of these up, that’s an involuntary loss, not an abandonment. Do you agree?
Some traumatic relationship and role “abandonment’s” are not intentional. They occur when the person is severely wounded and unable to form appropriate bonds and maintain relationships like parent-child, mate-mate, and friend-friend. A common sign of this is thinking or saying “You were never there for me.”
This distinction is important because of traditional moral and legal condemnation of parental or spousal abandonment. Wounded parents who abandon (aren’t “emotionally available” for) their kids psychologically can’t help it. They can control whether or nor to conceive or adopt a child or to vow commitment to a primary partner – if their true Self consistently guides their personality.
What Causes Abandonment?
Opinion – an adult or child abandoning a family is usually caused by effects from the inherited ancestral [wounds + unawareness] cycle. Quitting an assigned or chosen role (like parent, grandparent, husband, wife, partner, sibling, son, or daughter) and/or a relationship can occur because…
the role (responsibility) or relationship was unwanted, and/or was accepted without understanding what it required; or…
the person feels chronically overwhelmed by responsibilities and/or stress (discomforts) in a relationship, role, or group (like a home or family); and/or…
s/he feels incompetent, guilty, and ashamed of “failing” a dependent person and/or obligation; and s/he…
(a) doesn’t see how to correct these stressor’s, and loses hope of improvement; or (b) s/he doesn’t want to correct them.
Each of these reasons is promoted by the person being psychologically wounded and unaware + making unwise role and relationship choices + lacking knowledge and problem-solving (“coping”) skills. How does this compare with your belief about people who abandon their dependents, parents, and/or obligations?
one or both parents are harsh, unresponsive, and/or absent to a young child;
parents divorce, and the absent parent chooses little or no contact with their kids or ex,
a young child’s parent or caregiver dies or becomes mentally disabled,
young or overwhelmed parents give up a child for adoption,
biological parents turn over the care of their young child to an older sibling, relative, nanny, day-care adult, sitter, or au pair. And abandonment impacts occur when…
a young child is hospitalized for some time and deprived of regular contact with her/his mother or parents; and…
a parent chooses a job that requires her or him to be away from home for weeks or months at a time, like foreign military service.
Impacts on the Family System
To fully appreciate the causes and multi-level impacts of adult or child abandonment, view the affected multi-generational (“extended”) family as a dynamic system. Psychological or physical abandonment changes a family system’s roles, roles, rituals, and traditions, subsystems, and social interactions in complex ways.
These concurrent changes cause temporary or long-term anxieties until family members adapt to them and stabilize. They may lower the family’s nurturance level (“functionality”), and usually cause most or all well-bonded family members significant losses which need to be mourned over time.
Impacts on Children
The childhood and long-term effects of excessive parental absence can range from moderate to severe, depending on a child’s age, gender, their bond with the absent adult (weak > strong), and their extended family’s nurturance level (low > high). Common experience suggests that when young children are physically abandoned by a parent or caregiver – or if a primary caregiver is “emotionally unavailable” (can’t bond) – the kids are “badly hurt.” Their hurt is a mix of…
shock, if the abandonment was unexpected and/or explosive; and…
confusion – many mental questions and uncertainties about the abandonment and what it means; and…
shame (“low self-esteem”) – feeling unlovable and unworthy, even if other adults are genuinely nurturing and attentive; and perhaps their hurt includes…
guilt’s – feeling (irrationally) that they did something bad or wrong that caused the abandonment; and/or…
fears of (a) bonding with some or all adults / men / women; and that (b) their other caregivers may also abandon them, and they will die; and healthy kids feel …
grief over (a) involuntarily broken bonds, and later, (b) over lost hopes and fantasies of reunion. If a child is raised in an ”anti-grief” family, s/he can unconsciously carry unfinished mourning into adulthood as periodic or chronic “depression.”
Combined, these stressor’s can cause mixes of significant distrust, resentment, and anger that often carry into adulthood. When combined with significant caregiver abuse and/or neglect, these stressor’s may inhibit the child’s ability to bond (“Reactive Attachment Disorder,” or RAD).
Another impact that may not become clear until adulthood is the effect of parental absence on a young child’s sense of gender identity. Typical young girls need a father-figure’s affirmation and appreciation of their femininity. They also need consistent maternal modeling “how to be female” and delight in the daughter as a special, beloved girl. Boys need to see how a father (“a man”) behaves, and to learn how to manage and appreciate their masculinity – specially how to relate to women and other men.
If these hurts are intense enough, an abandoned child can develop emotional numbness and/or selective “amnesia” (repression) to protect themselves from recalling and re-experiencing their abandonment trauma and losses. One or more of their personality subselves may be living in the past, and still fear the searing pain of re-abandonment.
These effects are often magnified because parental and spousal abandonment usually signals (a) a low-nurturance (“dysfunctional”) home and childhood, and (b) significantly wounded and unaware caregivers and ancestors.
Minor kids can be also be stressed by other family members’ reactions to the abandonment. If some family members scorn and vilify the adult or child who left, biological kids are forced to choose between loyalty to their absent parent or sibling, and other relatives. Older, less-wounded kids may be able to detach and not align with either side without excessive guilt or anxiety.
Impact on Inner Kids
Parental abandonment pain can nourish the development of psychologically powerful inner children like these. Each upset Child evokes one or more devoted Guardian subselves which ceaselessly try to soothe and protect them in various situations. Collectively, these normal subselves can disable the resident true Self and detract from the development, self-confidence, and holistic health of the child.
Some previously abandoned teens can seek love, acceptance, and security through promiscuity or frantic trial primary relationships. Others can seek it through gang and/or athletic membership, drama, and/or fantasizing of reunions.
Choices like these can mute but not heal the root causes of original abandonment pain. Unless kids’ caregivers are…
aware of abandonment dynamics and impacts,
proactively reducing their own psychological wounds, and…
grieving their own losses effectively, then…
abandonment impacts add to the stress the adults must manage. Self-motivated wound-healing often begins in midlife if the adult hits a true bottom.
Impacts on Adults
The effects of adult abandonment on themselves, their partner, and other family members depend on…
whether each person is usually guided by their true Self or not. The greater any psychological wounds and unawareness, the greater the impacts;
the bonding, loyalties, and priorities of each family member.
the effectiveness of the family members’ thinking and communication,
the quality of social support that each member has,
whether the abandonment was…
impulsive and sudden, or planned and foreseen, and…
caused by a romantic or sexual affair, and…
the affect of the abandonment on the family’s financial stability and security; and…
the family’s grieving and anger policies, and religious or ethnic traditions.
Depending on factors like these, the abandoning person may feel significant regret, guilt, shame, anxiety, relief, frustration and/ or remorse for a time, or chronically. S/He may need to privately or socially distort what happened [e.g. deny it, and/or choose a victim role (“I had no choice!”)] to justify their “irresponsible,” “selfish,” or “immoral” behavior.
These compound emotions and related thoughts can add to the impact of the adult’s unhealed wounds from their own childhood, and may promote addictions, self-neglect, and relationship avoidance’s and “cutoffs” with key family kids, adults and supporters.
Abandonment and related cutoffs and “strained relations” can cause all family members significant losses and stresses. Unless the family is pro-grief and intentionally working to reduce psychological wounds and unawareness, these stressor’s may significantly lower the family’s nurturance level. T hat raises the odds that the next generation will inherit and spread the toxic effects of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle.
A major impact variable is whether family adults criticize, scorn, and shun the abandoning adult, or view her or him with compassion as a helpless victim of childhood neglect. Typical adults will need to be guided by their true Self to feel genuine compassion and forgiveness.
Unaware and uninformed lay and professional people risk focusing only on the abandonment and its effects, rather than on the primary problems causing it (above) and how they affect the family system.
A therapy client whom I’ll call Marvin came in to reduce a significant depression . Our initial inter-view strongly suggested he was had survived a low-nurturance (neglectful) childhood. He said that his son had just turned six – the same age as when Marvin’s father had left his mother and him to fend for themselves. She never told him why his father left, so he had to invent his own explanations.
His wounded mother couldn’t provide a pro-grief home, so young Marvin repressed his normal feelings of confusion, anger, loneliness, and sadness. He said that for years he feared he had done something that drove his father away. When I suggested that his “depression” might be long-overdue normal grief for his profound childhood losses, he said he felt “relieved.”
Over some weeks, I invited him to tell me how his father’s abandonment had affected him as a boy, man, and divorced father. As he examined and described that, normal emotions surfaced, including bouts of healthy tears and intense anger at both parents.
Marvin became interested in learning healthy grieving basics (Lesson 5) so he could protect his young son from blocked grief. As part of his own mourning, he decided to confront his mother about his father’s leaving and her “never talking to me about it.” He eventually stopped meeting with me as his “depression” gradually faded.
When an adult or teen abandons their mate or family, all members and close friends experience at least temporary stress from significant losses and family system changes. Though details vary, there are several common personal tasks that family adults and kids need informed support with:
admitting and grieving (accepting) a web of losses (broken bonds), starting with “making sense” of what happened, and why;
self and mutual forgiveness;
admitting and reducing excessive guilt’s and shame to normal;
adjusting and stabilizing family roles, rules, rituals, loyalties, priorities, and identity;
maintaining or improving the family’s nurturance level; and…
reducing fear of re-abandonment to normal – specially in young kids.
An empty place inside me visits when I feel no connection to others beside me. I feel abandoned by those whom I have known at times when in need. I must admit that I have sought out others for solace, yet I am known more for my alliance with seclusion much of the time. I tend to turn inwards more than to seek others. My early life has comprised itself with members whom have not mitigated some of life’s lessons when I was younger. I did receive some good counsel but my memory still concedes to instruction that was either not very effective, deficient, or downright contemptible. I wonder if that has some bearing on my disposition for solitude. I do not hold any ill will towards those aforementioned, as I realize one must not live in the past. The wounds of the child sometimes stay deep within me, my invisible scars, but I seek to focus on the teachings learned later in life’s journey. The wounds sustained in childhood can and often do remain with us for a lifetime. But as in any journey, we make choices on paths that come before us.
I found that I turned to my educators to find out answers that might complete my inadequate feelings about myself and thinking about the world. In my studies in speech communications and psychology courses I learned that we as humans will comprehend more from how a person says something, than what is actually said! The body language and the non-verbal dynamic of communication is far more powerful than just the verbal dynamic, hence, the ethical statements such as Mathew 23:3 which states….”All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (King James version)
Also noted are the parental affirmations of this concept when they exclaim “Do as I say, not as I do!”
Looking back, the acquisition and purpose of my studies were not for the job quest, but rather an ardent search for an education that would answer my questions about the best possible life. As in the words of John Lennon…”You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!”
The road of self-reliance is a difficult path, but a path that can result in a greater capacity for free thinking, and resourcefulness, and thus magnifies ones assessment aptitude. The downside, is that one may stumble many times before the lessons are learned in the social arenas.
Amongst the jackals and exploiters of the world that I have met head-on; I have had to shield and fend for myself in the process. (A jackal is one who allows themselves to be used). The proliferation of souls that feed off of others only shows me that many have not been shown a way to better their existence. I also do remember having met some very charming people and inspirational experiences that have balanced out those times of misfortune that cross our paths, but the most hurtful experiences are those who are actually in your family; the ones that you should be able to trust the most. The betrayals of family members happens more often than not and is part of our mutual experience in everyday life. I should also add that many have probably had a similar circumstance in dealing with these social happenings and I do not see them as a significant adversity for most cases. I think them to actually be fairly common. Unfortunately there are also those cases that are far from the norm, continue to exist and leave many to be disposed to some very hellish tribulations.
The shocking truth is that my disposition tends to lead me to the profiles outlined in the ASCA or Adults Surviving Child Abuse. Researching some of these characteristics I found some resources that leave me in utter dismay when looking at some of the correlations to my conduct. Though I do not think I would fit into a classic case outlined here, I must admit there are some strikingly familiar similarities when looking at the cases of emotional abuse experienced in childhood.
Emotional abuse refers to the psychological and social aspects of child abuse, and it is one of the main causes of harm to abused children.
Many parents are emotionally abusive without being violent or sexually abusive, However, emotional abuse invariably accompanies physical and sexual abuse. Emotionally abusive parents practice forms of child-rearing that are orientated towards fulfilling their own needs and goals, rather than those of their children. Their parenting style may be characterized by overt aggression towards their children, including shouting and intimidation, or they may manipulate their children using more subtle means, such as emotional blackmail. Parents may also emotionally abuse their children by “mis-socialising” them, which means that they may encourage their children to act in inappropriate or criminal ways with direct encouragement and/or by surrounding the child with adults for whom such behavior is normative.
Signs in childhood
From infancy to adulthood, emotionally abused people are often more withdrawn and emotionally disengaged than their peers, and find it difficult to predict other people’s behavior, understand why they behave in the way that they do, and respond appropriately.
Emotionally abused children show a range of specific signs. They often:
feel unhappy, frightened and distressed
behave aggressively and anti-socially, or they may act too mature for their age
experience difficulties with academic achievement and school attendance
find it difficult to make friends
show signs of physical neglect and malnourishment
experience incontinence and mysterious pains.
Signs in adulthood
Adults emotionally abused as children are more likely to experience mental health problems and difficulties in personal relationships. Many of the harms of physical and sexual abuse are related to the emotional abuse that accompanies them, and as a result many emotionally abused adults show a range of complex psychological and psychosocial problems associated with multiple forms of trauma in childhood (Glaser 2002).
Significant early relationships in childhood shape our response to new social situations in adulthood. Adults with emotionally abusive parents are at a disadvantage as they try to form personal, professional and romantic relationships, since they may easily misinterpret other people’s behaviors and social cues, or misapply the rules that governed their abusive relationship with their parent to everyday social situations (Berenson and Anderson 2006).
Now it is too common for students in an abnormal psychology class to view abstracts and read the DSM-5 (formerly known as DSM-V) and suddenly relate to some of the disorders discussed within the pages. (DSM -5 is the planned fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In my day my abnormal psyche class used the DSM-III in the mid-eighties and I found out that many of my classmates had some interesting discoveries about themselves, until my professor set them at ease stating the cases in more detail and putting their minds at rest. Can you imagine thinking that you may have schizophrenic characteristics or some other mental disorder just by comparatively reading about symptoms or cases and as you are studying the material you begin to start applying it to your own behaviors?
For whatever the reasons I think I have come to recognize the terms with my unresolved childhood dilemma’s about my upbringing and worked some of them out. I must say that I am not in bereavement about those days since they have opened my eyes to looking at the world in a certain way. I certainly admit that I do struggle at times when some of those memories come up, but I find that the sensitivity felt in this case can be a collaborator and not a crutch. The term I think for this outlook may be “resilience” to such factors and quite possibly the strengthening ingredient in my illustration. Understanding the nineteen-sixties also gives us some perspectives on the why it happens. Emotional abuse can, and does, happen in all types of families, regardless of their background. Most parents want the best for their children. However, some parents may emotionally and psychologically harm their children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused themselves as children.
Emotionally abusive behavior is anything that intentionally hurts the feelings of another person. Since almost everyone in intimate relationships does that at some time or other, emotionally abusive behavior must be
distinguished from an emotionally abusive relationship, which is more than the sum of emotionally abusive behaviors.
In emotionally abusive relationships, one party systematically controls the other by undermining his or her confidence, worthiness, growth, trust, or emotional stability, or by provoking fear or shame to manipulate or exploit.
It’s important to note emotional abuse is about the effects of behavior, not the words used. You can say the most loving words with sarcasm and
silently communicate contempt through body language, rolling eyes, sighs, grimaces, tone of voice, disgusted looks, cold shoulders, banging dishes, stonewalling, cold shoulders, etc. There are dozens of ways to be emotionally abusive…
Steven Stosny concludes…
Merely refraining from abusive behaviors will do nothing to improve a relationship, though it may slow its rate of deterioration. To repair the harm done, there must be a corresponding increase in compassion on the part of the abuser. Abusers do not change by receiving compassion; they change by learning to give it. Emotional abuse does not result from storms of anger; it emerges during droughts of compassion.
From fear to freedom, from despair to an awakening, I have seen the emotional gamut via personal experience as well as considering that one definition also conversely defines the other. The understanding of these emotional boundaries illuminates the capacity for our experience and teaches us the wisdom of aspiration. The brilliance of the human mind is the seemingly infinitesimal synaptic connections and associations that allow us to circumvent adversity with ingenuity which we can pave even through the anguish of suffering. The unfortunate burden we have is balancing the emotional and the intellectual aspects of our understandings. I believe it takes the spirit, the drive, or the “gut” response to complete the process. If you subscribe to the tripartite mind, then you will understand the argument made here. We are not just the sum total of our feelings, thoughts, and desires, but rather in the synthesis of these attributes there resides the spark and the essence of our being. Beyond the limitations of our personalities, each of us exists as a vast, largely unrecognized quality of being or presence-what is called our Essence. Real self knowledge is an invaluable guardian against self-deception. As much as traversing the enneagram paradigm in that it can reveal the spiritual heights that we are capable of attaining, it also sheds light clearly and non-judgmentally on the aspects of our lives that are dark and unfree.
Meditations and having “presence” (awareness, mindfulness), and the practice of self-observation (gained from self-knowledge), and understanding what one’s experiences mean, is the beginning of the process to undertake a transformation for yourself.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death
“I have lived eighty years of life and know nothing for it, but to be resigned and tell myself that flies are born to be eaten by spiders and man to be devoured by sorrow.”
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