Friday Counseling Issues: Abandonment, Part 5

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. 



7 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: Abandonment, Part 5

  1. Anne

    This topic is deeper with more ramifications than I ever imagined. What a vicious cycle this all can become.

    For those who have had no reassurance (or worse) for many years, having a healthy relationship is daunting. Trying to trust another, trying to accept one’s self, trying to give to the other, trying to trust another, trying to accept one’s self, trying to give to the other…exhausting for all…where does it end…it’s enough to make either/or resist trying…not necessarily out of narcissism, but out of sparing themselves and the other.

    I can certainly see how it can come to narcissism. There is a point where the line is crossed from true self-doubt to selfishness…daunting again, though, for one whose judgment and character have been questioned for many years.

    “It’s a circular pattern, like a snake eating its own tail.” Exactly. All I can think of is, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”–“There’s a light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free.”

    Ongoing thanks for your ministry here…staying tuned 😉


  2. Even though I was abandoned by my father as a teen, the oldest of 6 children, I am the only one that has not turned to some form of addiction to cope. I’ve always been an artist, so that may be my refuge. That and my faith in God through Jesus. I like people that are very self assured, but not obnoxious about it. I find the blowhards as people who don’t really like themselves at all and that’s why they drive others away. Most can sense what others really feel, hence “bad or good vibes” and respond accordingly. It has been very hard for me in any relationships because I do find most to be as disappointing as my father leaving. Most people are just not very sincere or stable, but I guess most are just doing the best they can.


    1. Yes, most of us do the best we can. I’m glad you’ve found your way through a lot of the pain of abandonment. As far as other relationships are concerned, sometimes we just set our expectations idealistically high, so that no one can attain them. Doing so keeps us from enjoying people, and that’s sad.


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