The Many Causes of Feelings of Insecurity and Abandonment
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
Abandonment issues are created through early neglect or abuse by the parent(s) who are unable to love or treat the child well due to their own psychological or addictive unresolved issues. Some parents are not emotionally available to fulfill the child’s needs and they are fulfilling their own needs by turning to their addictions, career, selfishness, anger or unresolved psychological issues. Other causes of neglect happen when the parents are unavailable when they work long hours or have a large family with not enough time and resources for all of the children. As more parents get caught up in alcohol and drugs or in their narcissistic needs, our societies will have more children growing up with issues of abandonment.
The neglected child feels an absence of being taken care of by others either physically or emotionally. The child can feel fear, shame and terror and absolutely powerless and hopelessness. Out of great insecurity and feelings of powerlessness, a needy child is born. If that child’s parents raged, the child learns to either suppress due to fear of being further rejected or punished or to express great anger.
Some abandonment issues can be related to physical security and fears of survival of the physical body. Rejected children can fear annihilation if their emotional and physical needs are not met. The external rejection and lack of love are internalized by the child along with beliefs of being unworthy, undeserving and unlovable. These children can grow up to become jealous and insecure in their relationships. There can be a fear of future abandonment affecting issues of intimacy, loss, loss of control during illness and death.
Not having homeostasis and balance in themselves, insecurely attached people anxiously seek it from others. They look outside of themselves for self soothing–this is called external locus of control. They can use significant others as emotional pacifiers. They turn to another person to calm themselves rather than learning and using self-soothing approaches thus putting themselves at the mercy of another person.
One woman said, “I don’t know what real love is. I latch on to others so I won’t feel completely alone. My parents threw me in my room when I was little. I felt I had done something really bad and I was bad.” As an adult, her husband became overwhelmed with her neediness and distanced when she demanded he calm her high emotions. Autonomy is learning to take care of your own high arousal states.
The neglected or abused child suffers psychological injury as his basic physical and/or emotional needs are not met. He or she is deprived of soothing support and the necessary stimulation to produce brain growth. Normal childhood development is disrupted, leaving the child empty and needy and fearful of being rejected and abandoned further by the parent. This anxiety is replicated in later life by fears of losing the partner. They become insecurely attached and excessively try to cling on to those who make them feel safe. Attachment disorders are viewed by trauma researchers as the core issue in vulnerabilities that can emerge as post traumatic stress disorder.
Other forms of feeling deserted include being the overly adored baby or child of a parent’s eye and then having to share attention with a new baby or a parent’s new job or passion. Or it could be a parent turning away from interest in you to getting a divorce or their having an affair. These scenarios are “Paradise won and Paradise lost” where a child went from full parental favor to a big fall with those accompanying feelings of confusion and helplessness. Feeling unwanted can set up loneliness and fears of facing solitude.
Trauma theorists agree that some of the personality problems we experience as insecure adults harkens back to the days when we were small and experienced overwhelming feelings we couldn’t process. Relational trauma and feeling overwhelmed occurred when we didn’t feel safe and there was no one there for us. Small issues and large ones-we have all been abandoned in some way or the other:
- Abandonment’s such as being left in the crib with a wet diaper, crying or being left with an unfriendly babysitter. Or having a parent who favors a sibling or who doesn’t step in and prevent bullying in the family. People report being left alone and feeling deserted as a child when their divorced parent, high on the excitement of or depressed at being single, moves one new love interest into the house after another. Having a cruel parent or step parent and the other parent not stepping in and stopping the abuse is a further form of feeling discarded and unimportant.
- Instances of hurt and rejection happen outside the family as well. Being bullied, not having friends at school or friends who betray you. Feeling hurt because you were not invited to a friend’s party just might harbor back to not being picked for the team on the playground. Any childhood trauma where you were left alone feeling humiliated and helpless.
- Children who are hospitalized without the parent present can feel desperately alone and frightened. Medical procedures can be traumatizing to a young child and feeling cast off and alone in a strange environment while in pain can cause post traumatic stress symptoms. There can be many ways we learn heartbreak as a child.
- Being the unfavored child in the household or the scapegoated one who was picked on. Or experiencing severe neglect where your basic emotional and physical needs were not met. Emotional manipulation, mind games and verbal abuse and manipulation by a parent can cause the child to be confused and feel disconnected.
- Now there is a new form of abandonment coming from our addiction to technology: Excessive social media use by parents and teachers is leaving children untended. Adults are using phones and computers to tune out of the world to deal with their stress. Children want to be listened to and validated. When the parent turns away to meet their own electronic addictive need such as “I need to know what’s going on in my social media networks” and “I need constant chatting or connecting to my friends” or parents who spend hours on video games, the child feels left out. As today’s children who use video games to cope with stress grow up, this issue will only get worse begging the question, “Who exactly is raising our children?”
- Trauma experiences: Psychiatrist Allan Schore did an extensive review of the research on early child development and brain science to examine the effect of early trauma on brain development and attachment styles. Children from homes where they do not feel safe become easily stressed as their world is not predictable. Trauma memories became deep wired in their nervous systems. Their emotional centers in their brains–the limbic systems and amygdala-become overly active. They do not have parents who teach them how to calm strong feelings and so develop affect regulation difficulties which stay throughout life. They grow up feeling unattached to others.
“If your heart is wounded, console and comfort it and don’t hesitate to reach out to others for help in doing so. I hold my heart in the gentle arms of love. I allow others to help me heal.”
Sue Patton Thoele, The Woman’s Book of Spirit