An infant's life can be really scary.
That's because survival literally depends upon our connection with our parents. As such, there are many ways abandonment fears can get triggered and imprinted in an infant, thus setting the abandonment pattern for how the grown-up will relate to loved ones in the future.
As infants, we are extremely sensitive to every nuance in the behaviour and reactions of our parents. After all, they already know about this world and we only just arrived.
The conditions that give rise to these abandonment patterns don't necessarily require that Mom/Dad permanently leave the scene. For instance, they can be physically there but abandon you by not being emotionally present, an abandonment situation that is easily and painfully recognized by the infant.
Parents can also abandon you emotionally if they find another interest that absorbs their time and energy, such as a new relationship, a new child, etc. This is why birth order or the time spacing between children can have such a strong impact on the growing child.
Indeed, research shows that an infant will show signs of clinical depression from abandonment if Mom is absent for more than two weeks. These "depression" and abandonment neuropathways develop at a time when early experiences have a crucial impact on the developing brain. Susceptibility gets imprinted, so that in adulthood we're at higher risk for depression and abandonment issues.
Abandonment issues can be resolved
From day one, and throughout our lives, we have a biological need for connection with others. We need security, protection, physical contact, communication, and a sense of belonging. As infants, the only way of satisfying these needs is to learn how to communicate them to our caregivers. The catch - we must do this before we even know how to speak!
In other words, we originally learned to relate to others exclusively through experience.
The pattern of relating that you learn in the early years forms a fixed emotional template that determines all your later relationships. If the parenting you experienced was indifferent, inconsistent, or even abusive, then your emotional template will program a dysfunctional pattern of relating to people that will hamper you for the rest of your life.
Now the brain's plasticity, or adaptability, continues as long as we live. This means that you can replace that template at any time, but you need to have new experiences. You need to somehow reproduce the conditions in which your personal template was originally formed so that a new one can arise.
Feelings of abandonment can be worked through in a loving relationship with a partner who understands. However, what's critically important is that these abandonment fears be communicated and owned by you.
It doesn't necessarily mean that your partner must change his or her behaviour. But through his or her loving care and understanding you can begin to resolve these abandonment fears. You resolve these abandonment fears by experiencing something different.
This process can take years however and it's inherently fraught with difficulties because our fears in relationships can undermine a solid foundation.
And here's where therapy for abandonment issues comes in.
This is often the best option – resolving your unresolved abandonment issues before they reach a crisis, when therapeutic interventions for abandonment are less effective. By having new, growth-producing experiences with the right therapist, you can gradually transform the dysfunctional abandonment template that you've been burdened with.
This won't happen with conventional talk therapy – it doesn't begin to go deep enough.
But with the right therapist, someone who is acutely attuned to your emotional and physical states, you can identify those dysfunctional emotional patterns of abandonment and gradually replace them with new, mature ways of relating.
Transformation is possible because plasticity is continual.
Find the right therapist for you and you're half-way there.
Author Bio: Dr. Suzanne LaCombe is a psychotherapist / psychologist and publisher of MyShrink.com, an educational website on using counseling to expand your life. To learn more about Abandonment Issues visit MyShrink.com.
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