A person who has been abandoned, whether physically or emotionally, tends to develop habits of self-harm. Usually, these habits involve substance abuse: Alcohol, drugs, cutting, sexual promiscuity, obesity. Because he believes he is not worth loving, he doesn’t care much about taking care of his health.
The tendency to try to bury the hurt and fear under alcohol, food, sex, or drugs is very strong. Of course, doing so only creates more problems and makes healing slower and more complicated.
Along with self-abuse comes the need for constant, excessive reassurance. This need is not, of course, restricted only to those who have been abandoned. We’ve all known people who seem to need to be told often and with feeling that they are ok, that they are loved, needed, look wonderful, have talents and gifts, and so forth. And we all know how draining it is to be in the position of the one who must always give the reassurance that is demanded, without ever getting anything back. The inevitable result of such a relationship is that sooner or later, the one who is always required to give reassurance will drift away to find a healthier relationship. Once again, the abandoned person’s self-perception is validated; she is not worthy of being loved, of having friends, of being cared for. In a twisted kind of way, she feels kind of good about being proven right.
Some who counsel in this area believe that abandonment and narcissism are closely related. That’s an interesting theory, and makes some sense to me. The truth is, when any of us focus on our misery to the exclusion of anything else, we are truly putting ourselves and our needs first and foremost. “No one else loves me,” goes the inner monologue, “So I will focus on loving myself.” Because no one wants to be around a person who is fixated on his own value, needs, appearance and popularity, he is quickly abandoned again. It’s a circular pattern, like a snake eating its own tail.
Self-esteem becomes part of the dialogue here as well, in psychological realms. If you’ve been following my Friday Counseling Issues posts for some time, perhaps you’ve already read how I feel about the whole concept of self-esteem. If not, you can go here. Scroll down to the bottom–I think there are four posts–and read to the top. My position is not popular in today’s mental health arena, just so you know ahead of time and won’t be too shocked :)
Next week, we’re going to look at some ideas to help yourself if you have abandonment in your history.