This is something that is not exclusive to Dissociative Disorders. Abandonment, and more importantly the fear of, is at the heart of many developmental, emotional and mental disorders. More importantly, we must first understand what the term means to those of us who fear it, and why.
The world abandonment, usually means to most people, to be left without hope for return. Like so many things in trauma, the straightforward definition does not apply as much here. To abandon a trauma victim in many cases, is actually a good thing. If you were to use the standard meaning. Let’s change this a bit and bed the perspective, to more closely follow how we felt. How, in our guesstimate, many survivors feel.
Perspectives are as individual as the person whom is experiencing the event. Two fairly normal and well adjusted may see something as fairly innocuous, however another person or persons will have completely different, frightening and evening threatening. This is not a phenomenon, simply evolution. Without a change in perspectives, there would never be growth. Carl Sagan, states quite clearly there can be no change without external stimuli. It is the reactions to that stimuli that cause Change. When the body is subjected to constant acute stimuli for an extended period, the changes become evolutionary.
We want to look here at abandonment specifically. To make comparisons we first look at what is defined as abandonment or the root word abandon. Merrimack Webster, says this:
Definition of abandon
(Entry 1 of 2)
1a: to give up to the control or influence of another person or agentb: to give up with the intent of never again claiming a right or interest inabandon property
2: to withdraw from often in the face of danger or encroachmentabandon shipsoldiers forced to abandon their position
3: to withdraw protection, support, or help from abandoned his family
4: to give (oneself) over unrestrainedlyabandoned himself to a life of self-indulgence
5a: to cease from maintaining, practicing, or usingabandoned their native languageb: to cease intending or attempting to performabandoned the escape
Clearly perspective is an important part of definition. There are many definitions here, which are only compounded by tense and context. The very idea of defining something as fact is at best a sneaky illusion. As we see from the many choices above, the wording leaves room for interpretation. The fact is implied then that there is not only the known truth in different perspectives; But something unknown that lies beyond the current accepted realities. This is the realm where creativity, evolution and self come together.
Types of abandonment as We Perceive
Coming from a trauma family, a family where every member is seeking power and validation, we have a perspective like many of our readers. Expecting the worst from people while at the same time clinging to an idea of closeness.
For all of our readers that get told” It’s all in your head”, congratulations! Because it is. The brain is the most vital organ in the body. Funny how so many people feel that having mental issues is akin to something like a hangnail. Only they will get treatment for the hangnail. Abandonment of this type, for us is quite terrible.
The entire premise behind the Complex Trauma concept is quite simple. The harder and longer you inflict guilt, fear and shame on anything, it will break. The abandonment that comes not only from being rejected and humiliated by your own parent, it being punished for when you did reach out for help. Trying desperately to understand why our life had to be so bad? That old replay of self-hatred starts to just stay on constantly. Reaffirming the negative self image portrayed by the ones that are supposed to always protect you. The aloneness is monumental.
No matter what we were doing after school, when the time came close to 18:15, we were always on the lookout for him. Even if we were upstairs, we would here his footsteps coking into the house. Dad was a big man. Standing over six feet tall and with our general build. Broad. Anytime he waled it were as if his steps were designed to intimidate everyone who heard them.
Shortly after, if we had been in any sort of trouble that day, or even sometimes if we had not, he would call to us. The fear becomes overwhelming in us almost immediately. The waves of adrenaline flooding body, almost exhilarating. Even though we had no idea many times what the cause was for our summoning, we knew that a failure to comply would just prolong the pain.
In Brian’s own words:
“Dad would always get angry at us in the kitchen. When we would answer his call, we had to say yes to whatever he said we did He would keep hitting us if we didn’t. He would then tell us to goto the punishment room upstairs. This was a spare bedroom with nothing but a small wooden chair in the room. Everything else had been removed for my time out periods.
Once in the room we would stand until he would knock us down. We would curl up in a ball, trying to cover or face and ears from getting hit. We couldn’t let him see us trying to cover up. That only makes him angrier. As we looked through the fingers covering our face, we could see our mother smoking a cigarette looking down at us with her hands on her hips. Smiling. I loved mom so much. Why wouldn’t she help me. Yes lay there crying. Begging and pleading with my mom to help me. Why did I deserve this. When he would finally stop, he would tell me to stand. Even before we could come to our senses we knew he was going for our hair.
Dad grabs our hair and turns around into “the position” facing the back of the chair, bent over and stripped naked. We knew now the “punishment was coming”. We would always be silent and just cry. Begging our mom to tell me why I was so messed up. Why I was such a bad kid” We didn’t care anymore what they did to us. We only wanted to know why we were so bad. Why the only man we felt truly loved us, raped us from the time we were in diapers. Our beloved grandfather. “”
A key part in feeling safe, Is feeling secure in your surroundings. What does secure mean? How does a child that grows up in an environment where they’re is no safety, implied or otherwise, even know what to look for. Trauma survivors are lacking the vocabulary for healthy relationships. This is not to say we cannot learn, but we have to reinvent our neural pathways, and instinctive responses.
During our time as a troubled kid, we did truly believe at one posit we were pretty good. More importantly we came to believe that our dad was pretty bad. Even now it is hard to say bad things about him. I just always wanted him to like me. His hatred for me was well known, and our family was usually a source for gossip.
The few times we just told the truth, and cried out for help; The retribution was legendary. Everything from school counselors to police officers. The amount of people that came to believe we were nothing more than a delinquent child. A bad seed.
The wrath of dad was not only harsh but cruel. To bring question to our house, and what happened in it was a cardinal sin. “What happens in this family, stays in this family!” Dad would scream at us. Mom was not exempt from dads rules. She would pay the price along side us quite often.
The abandonment for us did not come from being left alone. We were given plenty of food and shelter. What we lacked was a safe place to allow ourselves to grow. To mature and come together as a complete persona We we’re left to the raging whims to do our after, while our Mather looked on. Compounding the abandonment, our mother would have her own punishments for us as well. We think her anger at us was the only way she could vent her frustrations with dad. We were the tailor made victim.
To be abandoned, either physically or emotionally is detrimental. People in authority have used forced isolation, solitary confinement, for centuries as the ultimate punishment. The scientific community has overwhelmingly agreed. That the damage done through solitary confinement is in humane. The feeling of aloneness, leads to something much worse, emptiness. The same applies to emotional abandonment.
Compounding the damage damage of being alone, remember this is considered torture to many adults, was detrimental to us. Not only were we now confused by the abusive actions that had been dispensed to us like cough medicine, we now duplicated the abuse, inside our own system. Having the voices inside our head persecuting every choice as we stumbled through time. We were not only alienated by our peers in school, by our family members at home, and even by the axial system designed to protect me; We were abandoned by the very system protecting me.
When we ran away from home we were terrified, each and every time. The fears instilled to us by our parents and their world, have taken root well, but the further away we would get from them, we increased our distances every occurrence, the easier we could breathe. Our anxieties were less sleeping in youth shelters in London, than in a comfortable bed in a large home. We began to feel a strange sensation the longer we were away, a feeling foreign to us, closeness. Even though we didn’t recognize or even feel comfortable with this strange sensation, we wanted it like a stallion wants a mare.
It is truly easy to see why so many with the gift of plurality, have also been labeled as Borderline. Freud discusses the early development of the child, and the importance of object constancy. This is defined as “knowing something is there without being able to see it”. When a young baby plays peek-a-boo, as even we have many times, they are ecstatic to see your hands open and see you. The joy is greater each time because they do not KNOW you are there without visual reinforcement. When their eyes are covered, to them you are not there, and do not have any expectations on a time to return. So every time they see you the joy is compounded into the giggling happy child you want.
Can you imagine the aloneness the child must feel during those moments of perceived abandonment? This is an instinctive reflect to insure mother and child are not easily separated. The hyper awareness of a mother combined with the separation anxiety caused by an undeveloped sense of object constancy, provides a good two way system. When the child matures further, the cognitive abilities begin to form and object constancy is solidified and reinforced by nurturing behaviors. Here is where trauma survivors become divergent.
Having felt an immense and unending self hatred, abandonment, and reinforced with abusive behaviors, we have no idea what object constancy is. Our entire basis for relationships like emotional peek a boo. We are so happy and overjoyed one moment, but in the very next we are as alone and scared as an orphaned foal. The only time we can hold onto the joy, is when we can actually see someone in our life. Touch them. And know they are truly here. Literally when they are gone from our sight, even just to awake from sleep alone, and the cold sweats begin, as panic pushes ahead.
We believe this to be the reason Borderline, Dissociative and other like kind disorders focus so much on the early childhood abandonment. This is why our relationship are super intense, and fast. This is also why our jealousy is real and strong. Combined with years of self loathing g, reinforced by our caregivers; We developed a pattern of Love, Push, Pull, Panic, repeat.
This is the first time, processing here and now we have ever been able to get this right. Thank you to whom ever is still reading.
Love, Push, Pull, Panic and Repeat, has been a these many trauma survivors emulate. Especially early childhood complex trauma. Just ask our exes, they will all tell the same story. Whether a wife, mistress, or girlfriend, the pattern is clear.
Love. We love intense and red hot. We are passionate, caring and feeling. Not because we care about another’s feelings, we do, but we are projecting our expectations onto another. Do unto others kind of thing. Ladies love us, we are “the one” so many times. Lol. Then as we become close, we start to disbelieve they are genuine in their feelings, as we are a piece of crap. Right? Me, Kevin is usually the ken that the ladies fall for. I am vulnerable and sweet. A little shy and did we say sweet? We get called a real gentlemen all the time. They love it so do we.
PUSH. Then we start to push them away as we know, we are crap and they don’t really love us. We become scared. Replacing our vulnerable outer layer now with a fortress of a system. Our defenses screaming at us incessantly how we are stupid, dumb, and anything else you can imagine. We just need to be realistic, they will say. We begin to close off that opening in our armor that allows us to be vulnerable. I hide deeper in my system, unconsciously, yet completely on purpose. We know now that hiding from the system when it’s in a time of crisis is not a good choice. But the idea that nobody could see me for who I really was. A liar, fake, drama queen, ugly, fat, stupid, worthless and nothing but a burden.
Pull. As the system realizes we have pushed so far, we are getting what we thought we wanted. Our relationship begins to crumble. The closeness we still long for fading in distance. Just like driving north out of Las Vegas, your not sure how long it will be before you see life again. We begin to try and reel in our fears, our jealousy and the actions that accompanied. Even as we try and grasp at every fiber of existing love, we can feel the distance growing. The aloneness is upon us, even if we are not yet separated. The alone, that inevitably leads to emptiness.
Panic. Yes, we have full on panic attacks when we feel like the person we pushed away is leaving us. Many times we can sense it before they can. Hyper vigilance or experience either could be the reason why. However the fact remains we will have a meltdown. We will throw ourselves on the fires of humiliation, happily accepting the guilt, real or assumed, and begging for forgiveness. This is truly when all modicum of respect is lost for both parties. The partnership is at an end.
As you can see. Having no foundation of object constancy, or a model of warmth and a nurturing environment, will almost certainly lead to disaster. Abandonment is not a single dimensional concept. The collateral damage is multi dimensional and severe. The inability to form a sense of self is directly correlates to the stability and safety of the child’s environment.
We focus a lot on building self confidence, and teaching children the difference between right and wrong. Meanwhile we are neglecting the basic human needs of safety. Even a strong plant will not grow in an abusive environment.