What does the feeling of abandonment represent in psychology?

This article addresses a topic that has a psychological, social perspective and multiple concomitant factors. The idea of ​​abandonment necessarily supposes that individuals need, in one way or another, the help of others, either physically, psychologically and personally or through institutions designed to do so.

In this context, Social Psychology analyzes the relationships that develop with respect to subjects, groups and institutions, in addition to the different issues that are seen in the influence and social attraction, communication systems, agglutinating elements, the variations, which underlie the mechanisms that manage the life of communities, organizations and social institutions.

The dependence (psychological, physiological, social, material) is fulfilled from the moment the fetus begins to form in the womb. However, the abandonment of parental care, even without awareness of it, becomes even more evident from the birth of the infant, becoming a social problem, with profound repercussions on the psychological and physiological development of the infant.

Now, the feeling of abandonment can occur at any stage of a person’s life.

Developmental psychology is interested in the study of the various stages that make up the life of human beings, from conception to death. The development of the life cycle encompasses the physical, cognitive and psychosocial dimensions.

The conformation of more or less adaptive, more or less competent and more or less socialized individuals will depend on the more or less harmonic congruence of these factors.

As will be seen, the figure of abandonment by itself is related to other categories of interest to psychology, such as deprivation, aggressiveness and frustration.

How can you define the feeling of abandonment?

From the perspective of psychology, the feeling of abandonment is defined as a syndrome that manifests itself in the lack of underlying emotional security, linked to early experiences of loss, which occurred in the early stages of the individual’s life.

The syndrome appears after prolonged and consistent experiences of deprivation of the consoling presence of the parents or their loving attitude. Consequently, a state of adaptive suppression occurs, by which the subject’s social behavior is affected.

The feeling of abandonment affects the behavior of the individual, hindering the learning and socialization processes, leading to a wayward, fickle and irritable behavior.

The importance given by psychoanalysis to maternal deprivation , related to the temporary or perennial absence of the figure of the mother, or its neglect with reference to food, daily care and affectionate physical contact is indisputable . When the deprivation is habitual or the absence is intermittent but chronic, the sequelae in the emotional and intellectual development of the infant are irreversible, although in adult life they can be manageable.

It should also be understood that the feeling of abandonment can occur in other situations of adult life, such as divorces between couples, separation due to migration, separation between children and parents, close relatives or forced distancing from the elderly. Even an individual may feel abandoned by society itself.

Characteristics of the feeling of abandonment

As has been described, the feeling of abandonment is related to the rupture or absence of the emotional bond between individuals, which is regularly accompanied by the abandonment of material or moral commitments and results in feelings of frustration.

The emotional wound is one of the most characteristic consequences of abandonment. Due to its subjective features, it cannot be seen as skin scars, but it manifests itself in organic dysfunctions (somatic diseases), in problems of adaptation to the environment, in aggressive and antisocial personalities and behaviors.

It could be said that abandonment occurs with or without physical absence. That is to say, taking as an example the relationship between parents and minor children or adolescents, the feeling of abandonment of children can occur in families that remain physically united.

The feeling of sadness and restlessness that a child experiences can arise only from affective inattention, even if his material needs are covered. In fact, emotional neglect refers to disinterest, coldness, and apathy on the part of parents or guardians.

In addition, emotional neglect is related to dysfunctional families (there is no clear definition of roles), extremist parents (dominant or carefree), castrators (they do not value the abilities of their children) and demanding (they demand more than their children can give).

Authoritarian parents or guardians have pre-established, unchangeable and non-negotiable rules , which are imposed on their children at the bottom of the table . They show insensitivity to their children’s emotional responses and expressive needs and just want to be obeyed. In an equivocal way, expressions of affection and physical contact are seen as signs of weakness, so in practice they do not exist.

The behavior of individuals raised under strict parameters end in the conformation of similar behaviors, which they replicate with their children; acting against authority or becoming timid and dependent.

When parents or guardians are carefree and lax about basic guidelines and the upbringing of minors, the existential loss of infants occurs. Excessive freedom is assimilated by them as disinterest in their lives.

From an emotional perspective, indifference marks affective deficiencies in the individual, which can appear more clearly when raising their own children.

Castrating people regularly had castrating parents. Castration is within the scope of children’s abilities and potential, whether due to authoritarianism, neglect of responsibilities, parental narcissism and search for perfectionism.

The need for constant correction, the limitless demand, the search for perfection in all children’s activities, demanded by parents, lead to internal conflicts, exhaustion and a feeling of loneliness. In the long run, people are tormented by not being able to reach beyond their real capacities.

Physical absence is one of the most common causes of the appearance of abandonment syndrome. The reasons for such absence are multiple. For example, children of divorced parents must live with their father or mother or in a second home (formed by the father or mother with their new partner).

The emotional pain that this generates, described as a feeling of existential emptiness, could accompany the individual throughout his life.

At an early stage, it is possible to observe in school-age children (between 5 and 12 years old) some traits in their habitual behavior that may indicate an emotional conflict or certain nonconformity.

It is up to the psychologist to locate the cause in cases in which the child manifests lack of concentration, irritability, self-absorption and disinterest in playful activities. There can be multiple factors, including abandonment.

In short, the emotional abandonment suffered in childhood will be expressed in different ways in adult life. Here are some sequels:

  • The individual lacks emotional intelligence: he is not able to identify his emotions and those of others.
  • The person repeatedly experiences a feeling of emptiness, without being able to make sense of it.
  • The subject is fragile in the face of any situation that comes his way: he is regularly overwhelmed by the situations he must face.
  • Consubstantial with the previous point, the individual usually suffers from low self-esteem.
  • You can go to the extreme, wanting to show yourself to your audience as a perfectionist.
  • The person tends to show a strong sensitivity to the rejection of others.
  • The adult subject shows distrust and is not clear about what he expects of himself and what others expect of him.
  • In their role as father or mother, the subjects tend to be elusive and unloving towards their children, which would imply the continuation or replication of the learned behavior.

Of course, the analysis and diagnosis of the syndrome of emotional abandonment corresponds to a specialist, the indicated manifestations are only referential.

What does the feeling of abandonment imply?

Much of what has been described so far has already answered the central question of this article.

However, it must be emphasized that the psychological implications of abandonment at any stage of life (especially in children and adolescents)  are very serious. 

Certainly, the adaptive capacity of the human being plays an important role here; However, the common thing is that traumas occur that time does not heal, but an adequate coping therapy.

The feeling of abandonment has a origin as diverse as it is complex. The absence of parental or loved one’s love does not have to be conscious or intentional.

Although the feeling of abandonment has a clear origin in the role of parents or guardians, it also occurs in individuals who have been orphaned, in situations of family breakdown due to drug addiction, forced migration and divorce, as already mentioned.

The consequences associated with emotional neglect in childhood have been outlined. Adults who have gone through more or less constant episodes of this type, in their first years of life, often have difficulties when trying to establish lasting affective bonds. They are suspicious, vulnerable, apathetic (to a greater or lesser extent) and experience difficulty in mediating apparently spontaneous events of anger and sadness.

When it comes to the feeling of abandonment produced by separation or divorce, and even the feeling of society itself, the person can become self-defeating with recurring thoughts such as: <I do not deserve to be happy> <I am a failure> <I am useless> <it is not worth insisting on achieving dreams because I will not achieve it anyway>

In addition, co-dependency and the need to receive approval from others are recurrent. They do not find a balance between the feelings they invest in others and those they finally receive. 

The abandonment syndrome can appear recurrently due to some stimulus, situation or external agent. When this happens, the person tends to return to states of inaction and apathy. All these episodes, it should be emphasized, must be faced with the help of a psychotherapist, because they constitute signs of post-traumatic stress.

The sequelae of abandoned syndrome are also identified in apprehensive personalities. Paradoxically, people tend to get along with partners who are also conflictive and find it difficult to establish romantic relationships for fear of being abandoned.

Emotional conditioning gives rise to unhealthy dependency relationships, which end up feeding back the apprehensive personality of the individual. The fear of being abandoned ends up coming true.

It is very difficult for a relationship to grow stronger in a climate of emotional dependence, control, mistrust and jealousy.

In the dynamics of human interrelationships, it is perfectly normal that during each stage of life old acquaintances disappear and new friends appear. The feeling of constant abandonment hinders the rational understanding of that reality. Those who suffer from the abandonment syndrome experience these changes as something negative.

The original bond (mother-child), as has been analyzed, marks the emotional guidelines of the future. It is in childhood that the attachment bond takes place. This determines all relationships in adult life.

And a maxim seems to agree with all the scholars of the subject: behind an independent and secure adult was a dependent, cared for and loved child.

In other words: the constant feeling of abandonment has its origin in an abnormal and dire development of the attachment bond.

What to do before the feeling of abandonment?

In these lines the character of abandonment and its sequel in the form of a “wound”, whose scar is difficult to close by itself, has been noticed. There are healing psychological mechanisms; However, there are also internal and external stimuli that keep the emotional wound as a drag for the rest of life.

Among the psychological healing mechanisms that should be activated are self-esteem and forgiveness. Liberation from the painful situations of abandonment necessarily involves forgiveness, although it is certainly not easy.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is very useful in this case because it allows the psychologist to activate the self-protective and healing fields of the subject’s mind.

Strictly speaking, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ( EMDR ) or Eye Movement Desensibilization and Reprocessing ( EMDR ), is a psychotherapeutic method that affects the subject’s processing system, favoring its reestablishment.

Psychological and physical abuse, abandonment, the death of loved ones, among other traumas, affect the individual’s processing system and generate various symptoms and thoughts, namely: anguish, sadness, pain, fear, resentment, insecurity, loss of self-esteem, statements such as <I am useless> <I am stupid> <I have bad luck> among others.

The EMDR method focuses on the physiological elements of emotional problems, generating a transformation of the traumatic memories that produce abandonment.

In the field of psychotherapy, communication is also useful in helping to release the emotional burdens of the past. The exchange of painful experiences favors their catharsis and a sense of solidarity and emotional security.

Coping with the feeling of abandonment necessarily goes through the gradual disconnection of anger and resentment that it produces. Human memory is a kind of territory made up of sedimentary layers, the darkest parts of which can remain in the background while the most recent memory flows above it, loaded with fond memories, dreams and desires to live.

In conclusion

Self-reflective capacity is a quality that must be cultivated from the moment the individual’s personality begins to emerge. This occurs in adolescence and stabilizes around the age of 21.

The development of emotional intelligence is part of that necessary search to know and be able to deal with positive and negative emotions. The awareness of them is essential in a process of overcoming the feeling of abandonment.

Good and bad emotions are manifested through behaviors and attitudes towards life events, which is why self-reflective capacity is important.

What is required emotionally? After identifying the emotions, it is more relevant to know what and how to do to satisfy their needs.

Self-knowledge serves to identify the old prejudices that you have about yourself. Surely, from there you will realize that your emotional needs do deserve the number one place in your existential priorities.

You must be compassionate with yourself, take care of yourself, not be so self-critical and ask for specialized help when you notice that your world tends to overflow.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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