How Chronic Loneliness May Be Linked to Abandonment Issues
You may know the feeling well—an unending sense of loneliness, emptiness, or isolation. Perhaps you feel it first thing in the morning when you wake up. Maybe you notice tinges of it that you notice throughout the day. Or perhaps when you settle in at home after a busy day of work, the feeling starts to creep in.
On paper, your life is seemingly full—you stay busy with a job that’s satisfying, you have a close knit group of friends, you get out regularly and do things you enjoy, or maybe you’re even in a romantic relationship—yet those painful feelings are still present.
The most frustrating and powerless part of all is your wondering, “where is this coming from and why?” You’re ready to understand what causing you to feel these painful emotions and you desperately want to know how to feel better.
This is a common issue that many of my clients seek help for. They report having intense emotions like the ones I’ve descried above but they’ve also found really good “coping skills” to numb them—hello binge watching another television show with a bottle of wine! Of course, we all go through periods of feeling lonely or even depressed. And a healthy amount of distraction is totally normal. That’s part of being human. What I’m describing here is a profound and deep sense of isolation. The kind that doesn’t seem to really ever go away not matter what you do.
When I work with clients either on a private retreat or via coaching, more often than not, the root to these intense feelings of loneliness, emptiness, or isolation is often connected to unhealed issues with abandonment.
Let’s start by identifying some more common characteristics related to unhealed abandonment issues:
- Decreased self-esteem
- Chronic depression and anxiety
- You have a hard time trusting in relationships.
- You find it challenging to be vulnerable.
- Chronic feelings of insecurity.
- You’re highly critical of others and yourself.
- You may get involved in relationships to people who are unavailable in
some way (emotionally or physically).
- You have high tolerance for people mistreating you
- You minimize your talents or potential.
- You overachieve to avoid criticism of others.
Abandonment issues in adulthood manifest from unhealed experiences of feeling abandoned in childhood.
And those experiences of abandonment in childhood may not be as overt as you believe or even recall. Being emotionally neglected by a caregiver is reason enough for a child to develop a fear of abandonment in her adult years—which is usually minimized.
An example of this could be that the adults in your life didn’t give you permission to express a wide range of emotions. Maybe you were punished, scolded, or ignored if you felt angry or sad. Or maybe the caregivers in your life were so preoccupied with their own emotional issues or life stressors that there simply wasn’t room for your own feelings. Of course, more overt examples involving abuse and neglect certainly contribute to abandonment issues as well.
Maybe your childhood was pretty sound but you still identify with many of the listed traits above. This is totally possible as well. Despite a pretty decent upbringing, other external factors that can contribute to a child developing issues with abandonment into adulthood include what your temperament was like as a child, the “fit” between you and your caregiver(s), or experiences of abandonment in your later years.
Regardless of what experienced on this spectrum in your childhood, the common theme here is that your needs (emotional or physical) were consistently unmet to some degree. You felt abandoned. As a result, you as the child, who becomes the adult, learns that not only is the world an unsafe place where your needs won’t be met but you, yourself, are unsafe, unworthy, or unlovable.
This is what leads a person to experiencing self-abandonment.
Not only were you taught that your needs aren’t important but you were also NOT taught how to ask for what you need. This is where those painful feelings come from—a lack of self-care and self-nurturing. When I say “self-care” here, I’m not just talking about bubble baths and flowers. I’m talking about setting boundaries, feeling safe enough to ask for support when you need it, and expressing emotions in a healthy way.
Now you’re thinking, “I’m ready to heal.” What’s next?
Think of it this way—healing your abandonment issues is going to take giving yourself the very thing you didn’t get as a child—steady, consistent, loving presence and patience. Essentially, a whole lot of self-love. And I won’t sugar coat it—it’s an imperfect journey. Healing abandonment issues means learning how to “re-parent” yourself and loving yourself. It takes time and patience to unlearn life-long belief systems or “programming” from childhood. But it’s certainly not impossible.
There are various resources and paths to healing out there. If it interests you, I personally offer a coaching program called Enlightened Love: Holistically Healing Love and Sex for Women and private holistic healing retreats for women. However, you may choose to work with a local therapist or coach or search for alternative resources like books or workbooks before you feel ready for a deeper dive. There’s no right or wrong way. Listen to what you feel most called to.
Regardless of the path you take, I believe the first step to healing ourselves is understanding our past and why we think and behave in the ways we do. We certainly shouldn’t become consumed or overly preoccupied with our past. But knowledge is power. We can use our understanding of the past and childhood as data to inform how we can make healthier decisions and heal in the present moment.
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If you’d like to learn more about the private retreats I offer or my Enlightened Love coaching program, please click through the links below:
 List adapted from the book Love Me, Don’t Leave Me by Michelle Skeen, PsyD and www.therefuge-ahealingplace.com/ptsd-treatment/abandonment/