Fear of Abandonment and the Thoughts That Sustain It

There's no worse wound than that of abandonment. Those who experienced it in their childhood or at some point in their past often develop a mental focus that further intensifies their fears and also puts their relationships in check.
Fear of Abandonment and the Thoughts That Sustain It

Written by Valeria Sabater

Last update: 26 October, 2022

Those who fear abandonment develop a series of behaviors that end up becoming sad self-fulfilling prophecies. Anticipating rejection and becoming obsessed with the idea of abandonment leads to oversized attitudes and reactions that end up, in all likelihood, driving partners away. After all, there’s no worse enemy than fear.

There’s also no worse wound than that of abandonment. For example, there are many people who didn’t receive adequate emotional and physical protection in their childhood. Indeed, it’s not necessary for parents to be absent for a child to feel alone and helpless. It’s a fact that growing up without the kind of love that covers, guides, and gives security is extremely detrimental to human development.

There are also those who’ve frequently been abandoned by romantic partners. In these cases, a kind of corrosive shame can develop, along with a tremendous fear that the event will happen again. Moreover, they might feel (completely wrongly of course), that there’s something wrong with them and that they’re not worthy of love.

Suffering the experience of abandonment in childhood leads to the development of an almost pathological need for others to take care of us.

Man suffering from abandonment mentality
Today, we know that many people with borderline personality disorder suffered from the wound of abandonment in their childhood.

Five ideas that contribute to the fear of abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a disturbing element present in the minds of those who once felt the weight of loneliness and lack of love. In fact, this anguish almost always has its origin in childhood.

A study conducted by Arizona State University claimed that children who’ve witnessed their parents’ relational conflict and subsequent separation often develop this fear.

Furthermore, in recent years it’s also become clear how clinical realities such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) also trigger fear of abandonment. Furthermore, suffering negligence, such as the lack of emotional attachment from caregivers, as well as certain types of abuse, lays the foundations for this clinical condition.

The imprint left by not feeling loved, cared for, and protected is devastating to the brain. It causes an individual to reach adulthood with an almost obsessive need to be cared for by others. In fact, it’s an almost biological impulse that favors the development of dependent bonds. If those bonds involve the fear of being betrayed or abandoned, it leads to problematic behaviors.

These behaviors are motivated by a mind dominated by specific cycles of thoughts. They’re a series of clearly dangerous reasoning schemas that constantly orchestrate the fear of abandonment.

People with an anxious-preoccupied attachment tend to constantly experience fear of abandonment and rejection.

1. They think they’ll never find the love they need.

Sometimes, in a relationship, those who fear abandonment have the feeling that a partner isn’t the right one for them. However, it’s usually because they don’t manage to fill their emptiness, calm their fears, or satisfy their voracious emotional needs. This is due to the fact of being abandoned in the past.

People who fear abandonment are thirsty for affection. Nevertheless, nothing and no one manages to be that long-awaited reinforcement. No love is enough, no person, no matter how hard they try, will be able to satisfy their needs for love. That’s because, behind the void, lies trauma.

2. Feeling like they don’t matter to anyone

“I’m on my own and no one cares about me”. This is the kind of harmful and destructive mental discourse that’s a constant in the individual who fears being abandoned.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether the individual has a good support network. Their wounds from yesterday act as an internal devaluer. In effect, they form a layer of negativity that prevents them from seeing the genuine affection and concern of others.

3. They believe that sooner or later, they’ll end up alone

Those who fear abandonment are fueled by the rumble of distrust and the drumbeat of fear. Their brain lives in a constant state of alarm and hypervigilance. They anticipate the worst and the worst means being despised, abandoned, and not cared for. Furthermore, it’s common for these people to be attentive to any sign, word, gesture, or behavior that (according to them) is an unequivocal sign that they’re going to be betrayed.

Everything becomes exaggerated or misunderstood. Indeed, as we mentioned earlier, the self-fulfilling prophecy is almost a constant in the lives of these people. They only see signs that suggest their partner doesn’t love them and that they want to abandon them. In fact, this often becomes reality, due to the lack of trust in the relationship. 

4. They think there’s something wrong with them and they’re not worth loving

Those who fear abandonment, rejection, or the failure of a relationship believe they’re defective in some way. They think there’s something wrong with them that stops them from being loved. Guilt, shame, and self-hatred minimize all feelings of worth and destroy any element of self-esteem.

The wound of abandonment creates sharp edges with which the individual harms both others and themselves. Even if someone wants to love them, they’ll rarely allow it.

5. They have resentful thoughts

Emotions are always on the surface in people who fear abandonment. This constant emotional reasoning creates mental states full of conflicting sensations. Sometimes, there’s fear and at others passion. However, it’s never long before hatred and resentment emerge.

When others don’t offer them what they need or the world isn’t what they want, they fall into the depths of anger. They hide behind wanting to be alone and distance themselves. This attitude makes them suffer even more.

The thoughts associated with the fear of adandonment are fueled by anxiety and the shadow of trauma.

Worried girl in psychological therapy due to Abandonment Mentality
Behind the fear of abandonment, there’s usually unaddressed trauma. Psychological therapy is the best option.

How to reduce the fear of abandonment

Fear of abandonment is a constant feeling of insecurity. This sensation invokes the appearance of all kinds of highly harmful mental scenarios. Intrusive thoughts appear along with feelings of emptiness, anxious attachment, and mood swings. Unsurprisingly, they lead to unhappy and failed relationships.

To achieve well-being and healthier bonds, those who fear abandonment must stop conceiving themselves as defective people who are lacking in something and start to recognize themselves as complete people. People who are worthy of loving themselves and being loved. However, this requires psychotherapeutic and professional support.

  • They need to understand their past and the reason for their fear of being abandoned.
  • They must understand their behavior. Above all, they must understand the thought patterns that reinforce their fears.
  • They must develop a healthier mental and emotional perspective. It should include adequate self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • They need to work on their internal dialogue, turn off their critical voice, and awaken their ability to speak to themselves compassionately.

As resilient adults, they’ll be able to cradle and heal the wounded part of themselves. Self-love and self-confidence will be their best allies in achieving this.

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  • Delaunay, Valerie. (2012). Institutional Care and Child Abandonment Dynamics: A Case Study in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Child Indicators Research. 5. 659-684. 10.1007/s12187-012-9141-y.
  • Wolchik SA, Tein JY, Sandler IN, Doyle KW. Fear of abandonment as a mediator of the relations between divorce stressors and mother-child relationship quality and children’s adjustment problems. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2002 Aug;30(4):401-18. doi: 10.1023/a:1015722109114. PMID: 12108768.

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