An ex once said to me, “You don’t have abandonment issues in dating. You’re never the one being abandoned; you are the abandoner.”
While this was hard to argue, I knew that there was an inertia that hindered me from emotional intimacy with others. When it came to dating, I would rather move on to the next relationship rather than dip my foot in the pool of vulnerability. In my mind, that pool was swirling with crocodiles, licking their chops at the opportunity to pull me under to a watery ‘death by feelings’.
It wasn’t long before abandonment issues became the foundation of my conflict avoidance. Breaking up was a sure-fire way to avoid anxiety around confrontation and the torturous process of talking about my feelings. My abandonment issues had always been a crutch—a medal of honor that signified the untouchable pain for which I should be pitied, and the reason I couldn’t be held accountable when it came to my detachment in relationships. I lived in a permanent state of assumption that all friendships and relationships would end; it was just a matter of when.
My birth mother gave me up when I was five-months-old. My child’s mind was incapable of rationalizing the painful circumstances that surrounded the separation from my mother. The only way I could cope with my loss was by believing I had some sense of control—that it was somehow my fault. I believed that I had most certainly done something wrong to be rejected by my mother, and this belief seeded me with a profound sense of unworthiness. M. Scott Peck says, “Children, abandoned either psychologically or in actuality, enter adulthood lacking any deep sense that the world is a safe and protective place.” My mother didn’t put me on that path soon after I was born; she waited five months. In my mind, I had become too much for her.
I came into my adoptive family with an inherent sense of guilt for burdening my birth mother. I felt that I had already proven to be disposable, and so I did everything in my power to ensure that I would not be a burden to my new family. If I was a strain on this family, then they would relinquish me as well. From a very young age, I did not want a lot of pampering from my mother. I was very independent and head strong about doing things on my own. I couldn't trust—or even accept too much of—her love because I didn't know when it would be taken away.
Over the years, I concluded that love was conditional. In relationships, I was always the one over-giving and rescuing others, and I didn’t allow myself to receive nurturing in return. I could never stay in relationships very long because they were just another encumbrance I needed to handle. When partners said “I love you,” their love meant nothing because I felt they loved a surface representation of me.
I carried a deep shame that I was flawed and incapable of loving others the way that they needed to be loved. I’m saddened to say that I never once asked myself how I needed to be loved. I unwittingly cast my needs aside for the sake of being needed by others.
By my late 30’s, I was desperate to seek out a deeper level of fulfillment in my life. In order to do that, I needed to start peeling away the layers that shrouded my heart. I moved to a different city and began a Masters in Spiritual Psychology, at the University of Santa Monica. It was through experiential learning, during each class weekend, that I embarked upon two years of talk therapy. As I started to heal my challenges, the world around me showed up in different ways. I no longer processed my experiences with rage and biting sarcasm. I realized that all of my issues with others were merely mirrored aspects I loathed within myself, and I now had the tools to bring healing to my inner experiences.
One of the most pivotal tools in rewriting my abandonment story was the willingness to reframe the ‘wrong’ as a blessing. The reason being, our feelings stem from our thoughts. If we choose different thought patterns, then we trigger different emotional responses.
Those who suffer from abandonment issues will frequently experience instances of abandonment throughout their lives. It is only when the person learns the lessons from abandonment that the experiences of abandonment will go away. My lesson to learn was that I was worthy of love. My soul knew that I needed to be put in situations where I experienced perceived abandonment. I say “perceived” because I now choose to believe that I was never abandoned in the first place.
There are two choices I have when looking at how my mother gave me up:
“I was abandoned” – My mother carelessly deserted me on the side of a road, not knowing what random stranger would pick me up. I was 5-mo-old at the time, which meant she didn’t develop a strong maternal bond. She did not love me enough to keep me. I was forsaken.
“I was loved” – My mother knew I was sick with bronchitis and didn’t have the resources to nurse me back to health. Giving me up after five months was excruciating for her. She feared for my life. Giving me up was the greatest act of love my mother could demonstrate – surrendering me to someone who could take better care of me. I was found.
In meditation, I have revisited that scene where I was first separated from my mother. I’ve seen my mother watching me from afar, making sure someone would find me on that path. I’ve sat by her side and held her hand while she’s waited for me to be discovered. I’ve picked up the baby during excruciating cries of confusion, hugging her tightly until she’s fallen back to sleep. These meditations have allowed me to connect with my mother in ways that have healed both of our souls, opening my heart to release cathartic tears that were accumulated over a lifetime.
My abandonment story is just that – a story. My new story is wrapped in love, and my early beginnings no longer hold a charge for me. The first step toward healing is to ask yourself if you’re ready to let go of your story. Intention gives way to opportunities for healing, and we are fully supported when we are ready to own our worthiness of love. As Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
What's your story, and how do you want to re-write it?