A Guide To Understanding The Fear Of Abandonment And Object Constancy

A Guide To Understanding The Fear Of Abandonment And Object Constancy

In adulthood, Object Constancy allows us to trust that our bond with those who are close to us remains whole even when they are not physically around, picking up the phone, replying to our texts, or even frustrated at us. With Object Constancy, absence does not mean disappearance or abandonment, only temporary distance. People with a secure early attachment could locate a sense of trust from within themselves, rather than relying on the constant reassurance from another.

Has your childhood contributed to your fear of abandonment and object constancy? Read How Childhood Trauma Impacts our Physical, Emotional and Relational Health

For all of us, the fear of abandonment begins when we were thrown into the cold, alien world from our mother’s womb. Since no parent could be available and attuned 100% of the time, we all suffer at least some minor bruises in learning to separate and individuate. However, if we had experienced more severe early or even preverbal attachment trauma, have extremely inconsistent or emotionally unavailable caregivers, or a chaotic upbringing, our emotional development might have been stunted at a delicate age, and we never had the opportunity to develop Object Constancy.

“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.

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1 thought on “A Guide To Understanding The Fear Of Abandonment And Object Constancy”

  1. I loved Your article. It’s def me down to a T. I have Intense fear of being alone. Especially as nighttime approaches. The anxiety starts like it does every single time. II’ve dealt with abandonment issues throughout my life. My 1st husband left me ans our baby girl when she was 2. Came home packed his bags gave her a hug and a kiss and told us he had to leave. Out of the blue, no warning! Def messed my head up. It all started when i was a baby, got worse and worse as i got older. I was ripped away from my older brothers and sisters when i was 8 to go live with my mom and her new husband far away from my family and friends. I was the baby out of 5 kids who were all much older then me. Then the sexual and mental abuse started when she went to work from my step dad. Also, my mom was physically and mentally abused from my dad and my step dad. I watched her get beat up so many times. When i was as little as 5 I remember watching my dad strangle my mom so bad with her feet dangling from the floor, I would try to help her. I would punch, bite, kick or do whatever i could to get her free. My sister who was 5 yrs older would run and hide in the closet. My other sister and two brothers weren’t home a lot so they weren’t there to help. I’ve always been abandoned by people I loved since i was a baby until now as an adult. I am So fucked up because of it and from other obvious reasons. I am In a very bad place right now, my anxiety is very severe. I’ve tried suicide 2 times in my life. 18 and 25 and I think About it often. I just get this overwhelming feeling of peace when I think About it. I know i need help but can’t go anywhere to get it. I need to see a therapist that can do video chat with me. I can never keep appts. I always Cancel at the last minute. Don’t know why I do that Either. Any kind of plans I’m usually canceling.
    Anyway, Thank you for posting this article it helped me understand myself a little more.
    I am Currently separated from my husband rn and have my own apt which btw, is a horrible idea for people like me. So I let someone move in with me that I started Seeing and fell in love with him. But now I’m so confused cuz I actually still love my husband too. Can someone be in love with two ppl at the same time ?? Ugh!! I’ve made my life very complicated!!!! If you know of any good coaches that could actually try and help me I would Appreciate it immensely!!! Cuz I need A lot of help If I want To survive any longer.
    I do want to live I just don’t know how anymore. My 27 year old daughter is the only one that keeps me going every sad lonely fucked up day. She’s seriously my reason for living. She’s freaking amazing. Beautiful inside and outside. Everyone falls in love with her. She’s one of a kind and I can’t believe this train wreck of a mom raised this beautiful creature.
    So sorry I hope I didnt Scare you with all my crazy talk. I guess I was Feeling very emotional after i read your article and needed to vent to you. It’s ok if you don’t reply back. It felt good to let it out.
    Take care!! ❤️✌and that’s all I ever Wanted.!!!

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