As people, we are wired for attachment. From the moment a baby is born, they seek out the breast of the mother that carried them, and the nature of that first relationship sets the course for who we become. While many are fortunate to be born into loving homes with parents that take care to fulfill the needs of their children, this is not the case for everyone living in this broken world. Neglect, abuse, divorce, or death can leave a child feeling rejected and insecure, which can develop into abandonment issues later in life.
A person with abandonment issues has a pervasive fear of losing relationships with those they value most, and this can manifest in a number of different ways. They generally suffer from low self-esteem, feeling that they are unlovable, and can recreate the trauma they experienced by pursuing relationships with individuals who are emotionally unavailable.
Their sense of worthlessness pervades into many areas of their life, with failures serving to reinforce this narrative. Other symptoms of abandonment are a sense of distrust in people, hyper-sensitivity, and negative emotions like anger, fear, and jealousy together with anxiety and depression.
Abandonment issues can also be the result of more subtle influences, and can stem from a perception a child has of being neglected by a caregiver, or other factors such as excessive bullying from a sibling, being criticized as a child, or a parent who suffered mental health or substance abuse issues.
While we all have some level of fear of abandonment, when a person is crippled by their abandonment issues, their lives are affected in a negative way. The good news is that no matter how severe this fear is, as Christians we have the power of Christ at work in us to heal us from these emotional wounds.
3 Ways to Overcome Abandonment Issues
Together with a trained Biblical counselor, a person who has recognized abandonment issues in themselves and who wants to move past them, can uproot the stronghold that fear of abandonment has created.
Some ways to work through this include:
Root yourself in your value as a child of God.
While God has made us to have a strong connection with our parents, and they serve an important role in giving us the love and care we need to thrive, He is our perfect Father. Our earthly parents may fail us, and that may have caused abandonment issues. However, we are not stuck there.
Together with a Christian counselor, we can meditate and accept the truth of the promise that our value is not found in what we do or our family of origin. Rather, our identity is that we are a child of God. John 3:16 reminds us that the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us is that He sent His own son, Jesus, to die on the cross, so that we can have a redeemed relationship with Him.
Take your fears captive.
The sad part of any trauma is that the narrative is difficult to escape from. We might accept a level of disassociation and be freed from it, only to find our abandonment issues erupting in the most unexpected places. Part of thecounseling process involves developing the strategy and habit to take these thoughts captive.
As Corinthians 2 10:5 tells us, we are to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” While this can seem hard at first, through prayer and practice, it is possible to replace negative thoughts with those that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8)
Give yourself compassion.
While it might be relatively easy to be compassionate and caring toward others, people with abandonment issues can find it extremely difficult to show compassion toward themselves. Part of working through the issue is coming to terms with the fact that they were not responsible for what happened.
Often, children can take on the weight of the responsibility for a divorce or an abusive parent, but this step is about thinking through what happened and being kind to that little person who suffered, and to the adult they have become.
Getting help to overcome.
If you are struggling with getting to a point where you feel confident in your own value as a person, loved by God, and feel that your abandonment issues are preventing you from enjoying relationships and living a full life, do not hesitate to contact a Christian counselor to start your healing journey.
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