Thursday, April 23, 2015

Post Estrangement: changing the face of abandonment

One of the first issues I worked on during my healing journey was facing my abandonment issues.

I realized almost immediately that the reason I was so devastated by being shunned by my estranging daughter and her cohort of followers, was because I felt abandoned.  And I knew that unless I addressed my fears about abandonment, (where they came from and why they survived), I would not be able to heal.

Abandonment is a deep seated fear in humans.  To be abandoned as a child means you most likely will not survive.  So it is about survival of the species, a core human fear, an instinct  to do whatever it takes to not be abandoned.

As a species we will do almost anything to not be abandoned.  We strive to fit in, to make others like us, or to be needed, and we do this to prevent us from being abandoned!   We will tolerate painful situations, we will debase ourselves, we will try to make friends with the bully, we will try to become invisible so that we don’t pose a threat.  In other words we will do things that are negative for our personal well-being to avoid being ostracized, rejected, shunned or abandoned. 

At some point in time we have to recognize these fears for what they are, they are the shackles of our own imprisonment in relationships that are not healthy for our soul.

When I was feeling particularly abandoned, rejected and alone in the aftermath of being estranged, I was so devastated I was ready to do things that meant sacrificing my self esteem and my self respect to win them back!  I was even prepared to debase myself to earn my way back into the lives of the very people who were so clearly out to hurt me.  After all they were using shunning, and the pain they knew that would cause me, to manipulate and control me!

I was prepared to apologize for wrongs I did not commit!!   
I was ready to humiliate myself to get them back!   
I would have played the meek and mild doormat for one phone call or message.
I was prepared to walk around on egg shells to pacify their egos!
I was willing to play second fiddle to give them the glory of their center stage spotlight!

In other words, to escape the agony of abandonment I was willing to neglect my own needs for validation and respect! I was almost willing to live a lie so they could think they were right!  And then I realized that to do this would mean I had to sacrifice what little self esteem I had left! 

This was when I realized I had to confront these deep seated fears.  I realized that I had to come to understand and master and control the survival instinct for belonging.   I came to realize that I would remain in that place of suffering because of being abandoned by my children if I did not tackle my abandonment fears. 

My survival as a person, as a free individual, intact with self respect and self worth, now depended on me figuring out when that instinctive need to be accepted was in my best interests and when it was not! 

Learning self-acceptance was part of the journey.  That journey took me into areas like self-esteem and confidence and similar concepts.  Learning new ways to look at myself through my own vision rather than as a reflection of other people's vision of what they thought I ought to be. This was all good and beneficial but that is a whole other topic. 

For me the big breakthrough was learning that belonging and acceptance choices needed to be my choices not those imposed on me by an instinctive fear reaction. This was the big lifesaving lesson for me.

In facing this revelation I was able to take back my power, the power of being in the position to make choices.  I was able to decide whether or not to let a primitive survival fear be in charge or to use my mind to create choices that empowered me.  

  • learning that there are times to strive for being accepted and there are times to walk away recognizing that too many sacrifices are required to be accepted. 
  • learning that belonging does not mean sacrificing "self"
  • learning that belonging is not enough, there has to be reciprocal wanting you to belong. 
  • learning that belonging as a source of seeking outside validation is not the purpose of belonging, validation must come from inside myself. 
  • learning that belonging should bring joy and a feeling of being accepted for who I am
  • learning that belonging is not a replacement for feeling loved and cherished. 

Gaining control over this primal instinct to belong, was an important step on my healing journey.  It taught me to seek to "belong" where it is healthy for me to belong.  It allowed me to start the process of letting go of the struggle to belong where I was not wanted unless I made the ultimate sacrifice, changing who I am. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 04 – 23

Photo credits - as marked or unknown 

1 comment:

  1. Another really great essay, Renate. You can't possibly know how much good you are doing for people who really need and deserve it.