I have counseled individuals, couples, families and business partners and authored various published books. Every individual I’ve worked with has had some abandonment wound to heal, and most relationship problems stem from abandonment wounds.
It is not possible to grow up in our society without some abandonment wounds. The following are some of the ways it can occur:
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 might start to shake violently as the old terror finally erupts.
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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 the abandonment wounds does not happen overnight, yet it does not have to take years either. Step one is to tune 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, and bring in love to the hurting part of you. Open to your concept of God or Spirit and allow this source of love and strength to nurture you.
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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;
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. Open to learning and allow the Inner Child who is in pain to give you information about the original pain that is still stuck in the body.
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 little. Keep breathing deeply and allowing your Inner Child to inform you, even if you are crying. Tell the person helping you what your Child is telling you about what happened to you when you were little. It may take awhile, but gradually you will calm down. At that point, tune into what false beliefs you may have embraced as a child that are affecting you now, and what else your Child needs right now to feel loved and safe.
Being there for your wounded child this way will gradually heal the abandonment wounds. 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 reaction 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 practitioner who knows how to release old pain out of the body through acupressure or other bodywork.
Once these old wounds are healing, you will feel a new sense of personal power. Others’ behavior can no longer trigger you into these intensely painful feelings. However, a word of caution: we may think it is healed, only to discover another level when we move into a more intimate relationship, or more intimacy with a present partner. The closer the relationship, the deeper the wounds get activated. That is why the primary relationship is the most powerful arena for healing there is.