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Understanding The Fear Of Abandonment And Object Constancy

Understanding The Fear Of Abandonment And Object Constancy

Are you scared that you will be left alone? Fear of abandonment, to its excess, could show up as a lingering feeling of insecurity, intrusive thoughts, emptiness, unstable sense of self, clinginess, neediness, extreme mood fluctuations, and frequent relationship conflicts. On the flip side, we might cope by cutting off completely, and become emotionally numb.

Anxiety is a normal part of being in an intimate relationship. It usually comes in two forms- the fear of abandonment, and the fear of engulfment. If our previous experience in life or childhood was unstable or if we had unreliable caregivers, in relationships, we fear we will be abandoned. If our parents were controlling or we grew up in an enmeshed household environment, we will fear when people come too close we will be swamped, lose our sense of self or independence.

People with anxious-preoccupied attachment tend to experience a lot of fears over abandonment and rejection. While people with other attachment styles also have the same fears, people with this attachment pattern tend to feel them more consciously and have developed persistent emotional and behavioral patterns around these fears.

In contrast to avoidant people who are excessively independent, anxiously-preoccupied people may seek constant assurance, approval from their partners, and become overly dependent.

Do You Struggle With The Fear Of Abandonment?

You are hypervigilant and are always watching out for signs that your partner is losing interest in you. You are suspicious when your partner is not around, responding to you, or reply to your messages. You are suspicious and jealous of their contact with others. You may become needy, clingy, or challenge them, and they are frustrated that you do trust them more.

When your partner is not ‘insight’, you become overwhelmed by feelings of clinginess and a sense of ‘helplessness rage’ that you cannot express. You find it difficult to have a sense that others hold you in mind when they are away, but you also don’t want to come across as being jealous and possessive.

You feel a deep sadness and hollowness when people you are attached to are not physically by your side. You may have an unexplainable fear that someone important to you will be hurt, killed, or disappear suddenly.

You feel triggered by even the subtlest signs of criticisms. You experience ‘flashbacks’— visual or emotional — of the humiliation you had in childhood. When others don’t explicitly express praise or affection, you feel rejected; but when they compliment you or express love for you, you are not able to trust them.

You attach easily and sometimes trust people who were not ready for intimacy to begin with. You may also overstay in relationships that you know are unhealthy for you. When the relationship breaks down, you blame yourself and believe it was because you were not good enough.

Read Breaking The Cycle Of Abandonment

Sometimes, you feel like you are re-creating the psychodynamic with parents who were inconsistent in their love. Your parents were nice one day and cruel the other; warm one day and cold the other. Their contradictory communication creates confusion. As a child you could not relax into the safety net of parental embrace; even when love was given, you fear it would go away. You were always watching out for the next sudden withdrawal of affection or anger blow-out.

You compare yourself to others often and feel like you are less desirable or lovable. You have a harsh inner critic that continuously criticizes or threatens you. You may seek constant validation and reassurance from your partner, to the point where it gets tiring for both of you.

You are always watching out for the subtle signs of another person pulling away. This nervous energy saps energy that could otherwise have been available for productive work.

You don’t believe that you are good enough, so you overcompensate by being compliant and agreeable, sometimes disowning your needs. Resentment builds in the background, and you may suddenly have an anger outburst and surprises yourself and those around you. You later regret your reactions because your anger makes them distance themselves even more.

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Imi Lo

Imi Lo is a consultant for emotionally intense and highly sensitive people. She is the author of Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity, available in multiple languages, and The Gift of Intensity. Imi is the founder of Eggshell Therapy and Coaching, working with intense people from around the world. Imi has practiced as a social worker and therapist in London (U.K). She has trained in mental health, psychotherapy, art therapy, philosophical counseling, and mindfulness-based modalities. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism. Imi’s credentials include a Master in Mental Health, Master of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Diploma in Psychology, Bachelor of Social Science in Social Work, Certificate in Logic-based Therapy, and an Advanced Diploma in Contemporary Psychotherapy. She has received multiple scholarships and awards including the Endeavour Award by the Australian Government. She has been consulted by and appeared in publications such as The Psychologies Magazine, The Telegraph, Marie Claire,and The Daily Mail.View Author posts