“Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.”
– John Bradshaw
If we have an insecure attachment, any kind of distance, even brief and benign ones, can trigger us to re-experience the original pain of being left alone, dismissed, or disdain. Our fear could trigger survival strategies such as denial, clinging, avoidance and dismissing others, lashing out In relationships, or the pattern of sabotaging relationships to avoid rejection.
Without Object Constancy, we relate to others as ‘parts,’ rather than ‘whole.’ Just like a child who struggles to comprehend the mother as a complete person who sometimes rewards and sometimes frustrates, we struggle to hold the mental idea that both themselves and ourselves have both good and bad aspects. We may experience relationships as unreliable, vulnerable, and heavily dependent on the mood of the moment; There seems to be no continuity in the way they view our partner- it shifts moment to moment and is either good or bad.
Without the ability to see people as whole and constant, it becomes difficult to evoke the sense of the presence of the loved one when they are not physically present. The feeling of being left on our own can become so powerful and overwhelming that it evokes raw, intense and sometimes child-like reactions.
When abandonment fear is triggered, shame and self- blame closely follow, further destabilizing us. Because the origins of these strong reactions were not always conscious, it would seem as though we were ‘unreasonable,’ ‘immature.’ In truth, if we think of them ourselves as acting from a place of repressed or dissociated trauma; and consider what it was like for a two-year-old to be left alone or be with an inconsistent caregiver, the intense fear, rage, and despair would all make sense.
“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”
― H. Raven Rose
Healing The Void
Fear of abandonment itself is not a pathology. It is a natural part of the human psyche and is hardwired into our survival mechanism. On the most primitive level, the idea of being abandoned and left entirely and forever alone fill us with terror. It signifies an existential death, an annihilation- a feeling that we would cease to exist.
However, to have mature, fulfilling relationships, we must learn to trust and love without being immobilized by excessive anxiety.
A big part of developing Object Constancy is to have the ability to hold paradoxes in our minds. We ought to embrace the fact that both ourselves and others are complex beings finding our ways in a fluid and ever-changing dynamic dance. The same way the caregiver who feeds us is also the one who fails us, we must come to grapple with the truth that no relationship or people are all good or all bad.
Trying hard to let go of your fear of abandonment and object constancy? Read Become A Relationship Superhero: How To Turn Insecurity Into A Superpower
If we are able to hold both the faults and the virtues in ourselves and others, we would not have to resort to the primitive defense of ‘splitting,’ or black-or-white thinking. We do not have to devalue our partner because they have disappointed us completely. We could also forgive ourselves- just because we are not perfect all the time does not mean we are, therefore ‘bad,’ or unworthy of love.
Our partner could be limited and good enough at the same time.
They could love and be angry at us at the same time.
They might need to distance themselves from us sometimes, but the foundation of the bond remains solid.
For a moment, tune into your breathing, and observe how like a human relationship, and everything else in nature, there is a natural ebb and flow. Gradations in life are numerous and varied. We need to breathe out, contract to expand. A healthy relationship requires a dynamic flow between closeness and distance, ups, and downs, disappointment, and fulfillment. No one or no relationship is a static one thing. If we think of our relationship as a dance or music— there is no closeness without distance, no music without the intervals. If we fixate only on the times we are together and ignoring the empty spaces, we stifle the pulsation, and eventually squander the relationship.
The next critical step of healing from abandonment fears is to cultivate self-reliance. Fear of abandonment fear is over-powering because it brings back the deep trauma that we carry from when we were a little child, being thrown into this world as helpless beings, utterly dependent on those around us. But we must acknowledge that some of our fears no longer reflects our current reality. Although there is never absolute certainty and safety in life, we are an adult now and have different choices. We have strength, we have resilience, we have autonomy and freedom.
As adults, we could no longer be ‘abandoned’- if a relationship comes to an end, it is the natural consequences of a mismatch in two people’s values, needs, and life paths.