Fear of Abandonment

Fear of Abandonment

If anybody should be afraid of abandonment it would be me.  I was raised in a family that was emotionally detached and had very little emotional connection.  I felt like my parents weren’t there for me and they weren’t.  My dad worked 3 jobs sometimes and my mom was busy managing beauty salons.  I admired them greatly, but I felt abandoned early on to be raised by unhealthy siblings.

Looking back, I see a pattern of trauma over feelings of abandonment. Even going back to when I ran for student body president at Baylor University.  I lost the election by about 60 votes, but it felt like the whole school had abandoned me.  What actually happened, was that defeat tapped into those old feelings of not being considered, not being heard or understood.

You may feel that way. There may be some past pain and it’s affecting everything that you do today.  You haven’t overcome them or worked through it. Or you even set yourself up for failure because of them.  It’s important that anyone struggling with abandonment looks at their childhood.  Just like I had to realize that my parents weren’t abandoning me.  They just didn’t have the skills to do what I needed because their parents never taught them.

Recently I was talking to one of my colleagues at New Life about the concept that when someone gives up a child for adoption they’re really not abandoning that person.  They don’t even know who that child is.  In fact, that child hasn’t become the person they are going to be.  I have an adopted daughter who has never obsessed over her birth parents or needed to know them.  I think she understood that her biological parents didn’t reject her.  They didn’t know what a fantastic person she was going to be.  It wasn’t personal.  As teenagers, they just rejected the concept of caring for a baby.  And, of course, I’m very grateful for that.

There are, of course, some people who have been outright rejected and abandoned as adults.  They come to believe that they’re inferior, damaged goods.  But in reality it’s not that they are inferior, they’re just an inferior people picker. The people they choose have issues within them that have never been resolved, and they become the latest victims of that person’s brokenness.

If in your childhood you had someone condemning you for your mistakes instead of helping you see that all people make mistakes, then your self-esteem may be so low that you choose people who have more problems than you do.  Because you don’t feel good about yourself and don’t sense God’s love for you, you get into all sorts of horrible and damaging relationships.  Or you may mess up some really good relationships because you’re unwilling to trust.  If the abandonment that occurred earlier in your life isn’t resolved and those feelings fully grieved, then you’re going to miss the opportunity to have good, fulfilling relationships.

I’ve met people who make a vow after they’ve been abandoned that they’ll never again get close to the opposite sex, or they conclude that anyone of the opposite sex will leave them.  So they feel like it doesn’t matter who they’re with.  They want to be in control of the relationship to avoid ever being hurt again.  It is so hard to live expecting to be hurt and to be constantly on alert to protect ourselves.  Life is so much better when it’s not about me and my hurts anymore, and when I’m on mission for God.  When my focus is on what I can give to other people and how I can use my struggle to help other people, life can be much more peaceful and joyful.

The abandonment of childhood can be really difficult because it also involves trauma.  When a parent dies, that’s traumatic.  Not only does a child feel abandoned by the absent parent, but there is also trauma in not understanding death.  That trauma is exacerbated when there is the expectation that life goes on, and you should be able to get over it.  There are people who misinterpret scripture, and tell you that you shouldn’t be sad about your loss.  But that’s just not true.

If you were sexually abused, that is emotional, spiritual and physical abandonment and betrayal all in one. It’s traumatic.  I have seen people who have been horrifically abused in childhood go on to develop an amazing life full of meaning and joy.  But I have also seen people who have allowed that abuser to stay in their head and carry the abuser around with them way into adulthood.  If that is you, you should know that God has given us an ability to heal when we seek help.  People say, “Time heals all wounds.”  No, that’s not true.  If you have the wound of abandonment and you wait and do nothing about it, that infected wound will get worse and worse.

But here’s the key.  If that abandonment wound has never healed no matter how much counseling you’ve received or the support groups you’re in, when it lingers and deprives you of a full life with other people, then you definitely need to deal with your abandonment issue and the symptoms it has caused.

So what do you do if you are constantly dealing with really difficult relationships, or you’ve settled for something that is inferior because you don’t think you deserve anything better? Maybe you have to be in total control to be in a relationship? What do you do? Well, you get help, because the worst thing that you can do is to do nothing and remain miserable.

You can come to a New Life Take Your Life Back intensive workshop that will help you begin to make choices that will heal the trauma of your past and have caused you to fear being open and vulnerable with other people.  Click here to find out more!

Something else you can do is to get into counseling.  There are a lot of very good therapists around the country, but try to find a certified clinician who has the same values as you do.  If that’s what you want and need, you can contact New Life at 800-NEW-LIFE (800) 639-5433 to find someone.


If the abandonment that occurred earlier in your life isn’t resolved and those feelings fully grieved, then you’re going to miss the opportunity to have good, fulfilling relationships.

Do you need help getting connected?
Join us at one of our Weekend Workshops.
You will laugh, learn, and by God’s grace be transformed.
800-NEWLIFE | newlife.com


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Steve Arterburn is a nationally and internationally known speaker and has been featured in national media outlets such as Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN Live, The New York Times, ABC World News Tonight, GQ and Rolling Stone. Steve is a best-selling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle, Healing Is A Choice, and The 7-Minute Marriage Solution and recently co-authored Take Your Life Back with Dr. David Stoop, and The Mediterranean Love Plan, with wife Misty. Along with Dr. Dave Stoop, Steve edited and produced the #1 selling Life Recovery Bible. With over 8 million books in print he has been writing about God’s transformational truth since 1984, and has won three Gold Medallions for writing excellence.

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