Abandonment is such a tender issue for trauma survivors. Most survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have had more than their fair share of genuine abandonment instances.
For severe trauma survivors, abandonment would have been experienced over and over in various situations:
- Each time your parents or caregivers turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse or physical abuse that was occurring to you right there in your own household
- Each time your parents or caregivers abandoned their role of safety and became the perpetrator of your abuse
- Each time your parents or caregivers ignored your physical needs, leaving you to be hungry, cold, unkempt, improperly dressed, neglected in any way
- Each time your parents or caregivers handed you over to someone else that was physically or sexually abusing you
- Each time your parents or caregivers left you alone for extended periods of time, leaving you to tend to your own care when you were too young to be taking care of yourself by yourself
- Each time your parents or caregivers refused to give you proper medical attention or medical treatment
- Each time your parents or caregivers ignored your pleas or cries for help, turning a deaf ear, and leaving you to deal with your crisis without their assistance
For survivors with DID, these kinds of instances of abandonment happened on a frequent basis. All too many survivors were abandoned on a weekly basis, and for some people, on a daily basis.
How does this kind of abandonment affect people?
Excessive, repeated, severe abandonment teaches survivors to not trust.
It teaches that other people cannot be counted on.
It teaches them that they are alone in the world.
It makes them believe that no one will help, or no one will be there for them.
What’s worse, it gives deeper emotional messages to the survivors, drilling in feelings about worthlessness, unworthiness, un-importance, having no value, being bad, being stupid, being invisible.
It eliminates and destroys any self-esteem the survivor could develop.
It creates a deep-seated anger, an ongoing emptiness, a constant sense of isolation.
It scars the heart and pierces the soul.
How can survivors of extreme abandonment recover from such emotional wounding?
Once a survivor truly hears and understands the fact that their parents and caregivers are responsible for the improper treatment of a child, then that survivor can begin their own path for healing.
But healing from abandonment is not easy. The wounds went deep into your core existence, and overcoming that level of emotional wounding takes a lot of time and repeated effort.
Some of the steps involved in healing from abandonment are:
- Remembering again and again that the abandonment was not your fault
- Remembering again and again that you are not a bad person because your parents or caregivers committed crimes against you
- Learning that while some people are criminals, not all people are criminals, meaning, while your parents were willing to abandon you to such a huge degree, not all people will act in the same manner
- Learning to trust again, ever so slowly, little bit by bit. Dare to try. Dare to reach out. Dare to build relationships.
- Finding people, even if only one or two, that you can build meaningful relationships with
- Being a trustworthy, reliable person so that other people will develop trust in you
- Addressing your anger issues at the true offenders of your pain. If you go “on the attack” to people that make small errors in your relationship (while refusing to address your feeling at your parents or caregivers who committed grave errors), then you will find yourself alone time and time again. Work hard at showing the appropriate amount of anger equal to the level of the mistake. Going overboard at people in the current day will not be helpful.
- Working really really hard at separating the issues that belong to people in your past versus attributing your pain to people in your current day world
- Develop relationships with pets or animals if you are too scared to trust people. Building connections with another living being, where you each rely on each other, is a great starting place
- Remembering and realizing that safe people will come back to you time and time again, unless you do something to push them away over and over again. You can keep good people in your life if you want to.
- Finding little treasures / trinkets / small reminders of people to help you maintain that sense of object permanence. Out of sight does not mean that they are gone from your life.
- Working on extended your comfort zone in terms of how often you need to hear from someone in order to feel secure in that relationship. Repeated contact, vs. excessive contact, is an acceptable way to maintain relationships.
- Finding safe but creative ways of building relationships. For example, if you are afraid to meet with people face-to-face, build online relationships. Use an online therapist or an online support group as a starting place. Connect through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Abandonment is painful, but it is still possible to build positive and healthy relationships with other people. It will take consistent work on your part to overcome the negative, damaging teachings given to you by neglectful parents and poor caregivers, but you can do it.
Unless you really want to be alone, you don’t have to be left alone anymore.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation