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.
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 partners 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 little children, 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 consequence of a mismatch in two people’s values, needs, and life paths.
We could no longer be ‘rejected’- for the value of our existence does not depend on the opinions of others.
We could no longer be engulfed or trapped- we can say no, set limits, and walk away.
As a resilient adult, we could cradle the two-month-old inside of us that was terrified of being dropped; We learn to stay inside of our bodies even in fear without dissociating; and we could stay in relationships with others even in the midst of uncertainty, without running away into avoidance and defenses.
Rather than getting stuck in a search for the ‘missing piece,’ we come to recognize ourselves as a whole and integrated being.