Friday Counseling Issues: Symptoms of Abandonment

The second, and perhaps most pervasive, symptom for those who struggle with abandonment is that of guilt.  It is not unusual at all for the victim of personal assault or other mistreatment to feel a strong sense of guilt or responsibility while the perpetrator feels little or none.

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Why would someone who has been abandoned feel so guilty?  It’s because, in his mind, there is no other possible explanation except his own:  I must have done something; I must not be worth staying for; it’s my fault, and no one will every truly love me. She will be convinced that she has been abandoned for some wrongdoing or just  because she is not loveable. She would continually analyze her appearance, behavior, intelligence, and so on to figure out where she had messed up. This type of erroneous thinking settles in quickly, and the victim becomes guilty of something that was never his fault.

If there is no one the abandoned person can turn to for help, no one to talk with to express these negative thoughts, then the thoughts become set in cement. A pattern of negative self-talk sets in that is completely untrue, but the person who was left behind believes all of it.  That belief colors all of his relationships, and especially intimate relationships. He becomes so convinced that he is not loveable, not worth staying for, that he actually develops behaviors that push people away.  His negative beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, and the cycle of guilt and shame continues.

The cure?  Recognizing negative beliefs for the lies they are; taking steps to learn to spot the lies and replace them with truth. Sometimes, it is just easier to accept blame ourselves rather than to face the truth that the person who left was the one with the lack of character.  We don’t want to believe that a loved parent or spouse, for example, was actually able to just walk out on us for reasons that had nothing to do with us at all, but everything to do with that person’s lack of commitment and character. Perhaps there were mental/emotional/spiritual problems that were unrecognized.  Whatever the cause, the result is a great deal of pain for those who are left behind, and getting good pastoral or professional, Bible-based counseling is a very good idea.

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7 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: Symptoms of Abandonment

  1. Geri

    Once again I’m so thankful for this topic. Often well meaning Christians eager to see believers stand on their feet and walk in faith as if their past evaporates upon salvation, leaving no trace or impact, abandon and further imprison victims of abandonment (also betrayal) in their cage of pain. I’m beyond thankful that Jesus has often met me in my prison, revealed to me the lies I believed and held my hand as I have stepped out in faith many times. But often I still fail to trust and retreat causing further pain. The physical agony of emotional pain overwhelms at times. This is the thing I keep struggling under and seeking to escape. But more and more I see I must only remain steadfastly gazing at Jesus holding his hand as he alone truly understands.
    Really getting some much needed help here.
    I truly believe that discerning the lies believed are a huge key. It is so natural for a child to believe in the goodness of their parents and believe the lies they tell and believe about themselves. I rejected the notion for years and years that my dad was a gambler. Did not see it at all. Mom covered for him, argued behind closed doors, never dreamed it could be remotely true. Until one day I acknowledged the possibility with some evidence I had previously rejected, and suddenly many pieces fell in place. It is amazing how hard it is to see truth when as a child, you trust and love. And Jesus requires this same child like faith to walk with him. No wonder the millstone awaits them who offend one of these little ones.

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  2. Geri

    Sorry, still thinking. “If there is no one the abandoned person can turn to for help, no one to talk with to express these negative thoughts, then the thoughts become set in cement” that’s the thought I was responding to at first. It reminded me of the first times I asked for counsel in the church. I learned quickly not to ask for help. It was good because it forced me to do deeper business with The Lord. But so painful as I interpreted it as rejection, abandonment. But God used it for good. Still I wonder if there wasn’t a better way. Many have said every believer is equipped by the word and Gods spirit to counsel. I believe it can be so. But not many are given to it.

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  3. Anne

    A phrase that has seen me through is in Ephesians 1:6, “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” And one hymn, of a very special few, that is printed and in my Bible: “The King of love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine for ever.”

    Geri, “I see I must only remain steadfastly gazing at Jesus holding his hand as he alone truly understands.” Exactly. And isn’t it an extra blessing to meet up with someone, a real live or virtual someone, that helps us know we aren’t imagining things and helps us to hope again?

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    1. Anne and Geri, I’m thoroughly enjoying your comments and conversation. I’m so thankful that you’re both feeling encouraged and helped by what I’m writing here. I’m praying for you both, and appreciate your prayers for me that God will continue to lead when I prepare and write on this topic.

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