Healing Abandonment Wounds Within a RelationshipBy Dr. Margaret Paul
March 02, 2009
Abandonment issues from childhood abuse, or from being left or ignored, or from being bullied, ridiculed or teased, can be healed within a relationship.
I do not believe it is possible to grow up in our society without some abandonment wounds. The following are some of the ways abandonment issues can be created:
- Being torn away from mother at birth and put into a nursery.
- Being left to cry in a crib or playpen.
- Being given up for adoption or being left in foster care.
- Being physically and/or sexually abused.
- Being emotionally abused - ignored, yelled at, shamed.
- Being pushed aside at the birth of a new sibling.
- Having a parent or caregiver who is emotionally unavailable.
- Being unseen or misunderstood by parents or other caregivers.
- Being lied to.
- Being unprotected by a parent or caregiver.
- Being left alone in a hospital during an illness.
- Losing a beloved parent or grandparent at a very young age.
- Being teased or left out with siblings or peers.
- Being ridiculed by a teacher.
- Being forgotten, not being picked up from school or other places.
- Being left at a young age to care for oneself, a parent, or other siblings.
When we are deeply wounded at a young age, we cannot handle the pain, so we find ways to dissociate from the intense feelings. Then, later in life, especially when we fall in love, these old wounds can get activated. Our beloved gets angry, withdraws, gives attention to someone else, says mean things, doesn't tell the truth, doesn't stand up for us, comes home late, wanders away in a crowded public place, misunderstands us, and so on - and suddenly the pain that has been pushed aside all these years comes roaring to the surface. We think that we are reacting to the present situation, but what is really happening is that the old, unhealed abandonment wound has been touched off. We might find ourselves suddenly enraged, or falling apart with intense tears. Our reaction seems too big for the situation, yet we cannot seem to stop the inner pain.
We want our beloved to take the pain away by stopping his or her behavior. If only he or she would not do the thing that activates these feelings, we would be fine. Yet until we actually heal these old, deep wounds, we will not be fine. We will always be vulnerable to having these wounds activated.
Healing our abandonment issues doesn't happen overnight, yet it doesn't have to take years either. The first step is to be in Step One of Inner Bonding, tuning into your feelings with a willingness to take responsibility for your pain. Once you are aware that deep pain has been activated, seek the help of someone who can hold you and nurture you while you go into the abandonment pain. If no one is available, hold a doll, bear or pillow, bring in your spiritual Guidance and nurture yourself.
It is often not advisable to seek the help of the person who activated the wound because: 1) he or she may still be stuck in their own wounded place, the place that touched off your wound, and 2) you might become dependent upon your beloved taking care of you and taking the pain away instead of actually healing the pain.
Once you are with a safe, nurturing person, or even on the phone with a safe person, hold a doll or bear or even a pillow very tightly and breath into the pain. Move into the intent to learn - Step Two - and allow the child who is in pain to give you information about the original pain that is still stuck in the body, Step Three. The body holds the memories that you repressed at the time, and now the body is releasing these memories. Many images may come up as you open to learning with your inner child. Be sure you have your spiritual Guidance with you, holding you, surrounding you with love and comfort as you open to learning about this deep pain. In order to truly understand your present reaction, you need to understand what happened to you when you were a child. Keep breathing deeply and allowing your inner child to inform you, even if you are crying. Tell the person helping you what your inner child is telling you about what happened to you when you were young. It may take awhile, but gradually you will calm down. At that point, you can move into Step Four, asking your Guidance about the beliefs that may have come up during Step Three, and about what else your inner child needs right now to feel loved and safe.
Being there for your wounded inner child this way will gradually heal the abandonment wounds so that the same abandonment issues won't keep coming up. Ignoring your feelings, trying to make them go away, or trying to get someone else to take them away will only serve to re-wound you. It is only when you no longer abandon yourself that the old wounds begin to heal. Eventually, another's behavior that previously triggered your intense reactions will no longer do so. You may feel sad or lonely when a loved one gets angry or withdraws in some way, but as long as you continue to show up for yourself, the intense pain will not be there.
If the pain seems stuck in the body no matter what you do, then you need to seek out a trauma therapist or bodyworker who knows how to release old pain out of the body.
Once these old wounds are healing, you will feel a new sense of personal power. Other's behavior can no longer trigger you into these intensely painful feelings. However, a word of caution: you may think you are healed, only to discover another level when you move into a more intimate relationship, or into more intimacy with a present partner. The closer the relationship, the deeper the wounds are that get activated. That is why the primary relationship is a powerful arena for healing, and Inner Bonding is a very powerful tool!
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Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul - For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered."
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Today, focus on your physical health. Are you conscious of what you eat? Are you getting enough exercise and sleep? Are you noticing the thoughts that cause stress? Today, practice becoming conscious of your physical wellbeing.
By Dr. Margaret Paul