Triggered by leaving : fear of abandonment : fear of loving

I wrote this post a few weeks ago: 

When we have suffered significant loss or abandonment, the prospect of someone leaving can retrigger the compounded old feelings summoning up at gut level how terrible it felt to be left all alone, often with painful feelings that may have been too much for us to manage as children.

Such fear of abandonment plays a huge part in Borderline Personality Disorder.  If we suffer in this way the prospect of someone seemingly leaving, ignoring or disregarding us can trigger what looks like an intense over reaction.  Or alternatively we may just shut down and close ourselves off, denying the level of pain and fear we feel and covering it with rationalisations.

The prospect of getting close and really relying on someone will also trigger this fear.  We fear being engulfed by huge feelings we may not be fully conscious of if and when we do get close and so we avoid closeness as well.  And we might not even be aware of it.

I am choosing to write about this subject today as a week ago my therapist left for a month’s break to Greece.  I was rationalising about it prior to her leaving.  I noticed my symptoms stirred up over the three days following our last session.  I then had a lot of thoughts about how therapy is probably an indulgence and not doing me any good really and I would perhaps be better to abandon the whole thing.  Luckily these days I have more insight into what is occurring for and I won’t have to react. I can just watch the thoughts and feelings as they arise.

Today I had a big insight into the loneliness I felt around a certain time of day when difficult things were occurring for me as a child.  I was able just to lie flat on my back and tap into the feelings.  If I don’t do this my body tends to get pulled around.  In therapy we had recently gained an insight into why my body symptoms are especially difficult around this time of day when I was left alone and then never connected with emotionally when my parents came home.

A few nights ago I had an interesting dream.  I was in the back yard at my house and the entire ground was waterlogged. It had become a bog.  I was holding onto one of the branches of the tree so as not to fall in, the branch broke and then a while later a ladder appeared out of left field and I clung onto it and was saved from drowning or being swallowed up by the bog.  As I have considered the dream over the past two days it is clear to me it is speaking about the fear I feel around feeling my deep feelings of powerlessness and grief which stem from childhood, feelings which are probably really being kicked into gear by my therapist’s absence.

I have been reading a very good book on Borderline Personality Disorder this week called The Borderline Personality Survival Guide.  It really is excellent and fully comprehensive.  It explains so clearly what the latest research is showing about how the borderline brain is wired.  It debunks many of the myths such as that all borderlines are manipulative, attention seeking psycho’s who react in irrational and crazy ways.  it explains how and why those with the disorder react in the way they do.  Their brains are wired to feel emotions more intensely.  Due to trauma from the past they are also less able to cope with stressful re-triggers in the present, at least until they learn about what has impacted them negatively from the past.

I have never been diagnosed with BPD myself but I do share a bit about it in my blogs and my therapist has said that many of us are on the borderline spectrum.  Another therapist once told me that I live very close to the borderline of the unconscious.  My work in therapy is to reclaim land from sea to see what is hidden in the unconscious that may be buried.  Rationalisations won’t lead me to the truth, but my gut will, if I trust it and if I am brave enough to face and unpack the fear of hurt that comes when I risk opening my heart to connection and love and allow myself to feel the bittersweet poignancy of one I love, leaving for a time and how sad and powerless that can sometimes make me feel.

9 thoughts on “Triggered by leaving : fear of abandonment : fear of loving

  1. I understand the feelings of abandonment so well, I also understand feelings of not feeling wanted. These two have been colliding forces in my life since childhood. However the feeling of not being wanted always won. I would leave a situation before I was ever asked or told it was over. I think it comes from childhood and not being believed when I was molested by two different people and my mom didn’t believe me. It was hard to trust at a very early age. I felt unloved.

    1. Such a difficult experience for you to go through Ava. This afternoon a layer of grief opened up for me about what we lose by not developing a sense of basic trust and safety in the world. To not be believed makes it so hard to trust again and to trust yourself too, on some level.

  2. I can so relate to this post. The fear of abandonment is excruciating. My therapist reminds me on a regular basis that she’s not going to abandon me. But it’s still difficult to really comprehend that, because everyone always leaves, so what makes her any different? I trust her more now, but I still get these overwhelming moments of intense fear. Thanks for the heads up on the book. I’ll definitely be reading it.

    1. Hi Rayne I can thank another blogger for recommending that book. Abandonment fear is a big one .. i remember reading something that said as adults we cannot be abandoned only left, the deepwr abandonment feelings are Inner Child issues with very deep roots.

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