Understanding the Pain of Abandonment and Abuse

Here are two things I found on the Internet, the first one is from a treatment facility website and the second one is a sort of abbreviated child abandonment 101, which includes physical abuse.  Yes, folks, here is my history, written out in black and white. The bold ones are mine.  I own them, or have owned them in the past. Lovely way to have been brought up, can not thank my parents enough. The damage was done to me and now I am responsible for reversing it. Well I damn well am going to reverse it. One way or another I am going to! Everyone tells me it can be done, but no one has yet told me how. It’s as if they are guarding some huge secret. But I will find out how and I will do it. I know I have the strength and the perseverance. I’m going to call the place below called the Refuge. If their rates aren’t too exorbitant, I may check myself in there, after my play. And hopefully, out will come a new and improved version of Samina.


Treatment For Abandonment & Attachment

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment

Treatment Options for Abandonment Trauma at The Refuge

Continuing Care- What Comes Next?

Fear of abandonment is among the most anxiety-provoking situations in childhood. When parents get home late from work or suddenly leave town, a child may feel mounting anxiety and fear about their parent’s safety. Children feel an emotional attachment to their parents and feel insecure if this is absent; often going to extraordinary lengths to re-establish it. The loss of a parent due to death or divorce often causes a child’s fear of abandonment to intensify, often well into adulthood. When a child grows up with an absent parent, they may have feelings of grief and blame themselves for their parent’s absence. When the child is completely deprived of any contact with his or her parent, they may attribute parental abandonment as a result of something the child did or did not do. Young children are egotistical, believing they are the cause for events in which there is no logical connection.

The damage caused by parental abandonment is particularly devastating if it happens before the child understands that he or she is not be responsible for others actions. If this happens, the child grows up with the belief that there’s something wrong with them that makes them unlovable. While the remaining parent may be able to provide emotional support and help the child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, oftentimes very young children will still believe they are at fault.
Other types of childhood trauma can also lead to abandonment anxiety, such as childhood abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, depression, or other mental disorders that parents unavailable can lead to long-term abandonment trauma.

Abandonment and Attachment
Children are born hardwired to become attached to caretakers which is critical for adult functioning and the development of interpersonal relationships. Childhood abandonment – real or perceived – causes problems forming secure attachments which can set the stage for poor quality of later relationships. Children who do not form secure attachments to their caregivers face challenges socializing with peers; the way most children learn social behaviors. Fear of abandonment is not found exclusively in childhood and can be seen in adults as well. Some adults who experienced childhood abandonment feel the effects and struggle to form satisfying relationships throughout their lifetime. A lack of a social support network deprives them of resiliency factors that provide protection from stress and a coping mechanism for handling the hardships in life.
While there are many effects of child abandonment, the hidden danger is that the person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of long-term attachment issues, ongoing fear of abandonment, and lack of a supportive social network. Since an adult struggling with childhood abandonment has been silently enduring the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of abandonment for years, they may not realize that their feelings can be changed.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment
The symptoms of PTSD related to early abandonment can significantly impact a person’s daily life, activities, and stress levels. Symptoms of abandonment trauma may include:
Mood Symptoms:
Intrusive, debilitating anxiety

Chronic feelings of insecurity

Chronic depression

Decreased self-esteem

Feelings of loss of control over life



Obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts about the abandonment

Behavioral Symptoms:

Attraction to those who are unavailable to re-enact of the original abandonment
Heightened emotional responses related to abandonment triggers, such as feeling slighted, criticized, or excluded

Vulnerability in social situations

Emotional flashbacks from the time of abandonment/abuse

Addiction to self-medicate

Hyper-vigilance related to perceived threat similar to original trauma

Panic attacks related to unconscious triggers

Treatment Options for Abandonment Trauma at The Refuge

The severe, long-term consequences of childhood abandonment should be addressed as soon as possible; however this does not always happen. A child may grow not knowing there is an alternative to the way they feel. If PTSD does develop, these individuals may take it in stride, failing to identify the symptoms. These people may feel hopeless; that their future won’t be any better than their present or their past. Many have come to believe that they caused the abandonment and deserve to live a life of misery.
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
While the fear of abandonment is a normal in childhood, at The Refuge, we know that there are many people who experienced actual or perceived abandonment during their development which may, in some people, become PTSD. Our PTSD and trauma treatment program includes a variety of therapeutic options to help process your early experiences and connect these with the ways this trauma has led to life-long difficulties. You deserve a life filled with happiness and the support of friends and family. Our compassionate, caring staff will provide you with empathy, treatment, and experiential methods allowing you to travel the path toward the life you want to live. We will show you how to accept your experiences as unchangeable and move past them. We’ll work with you to develop trust with techniques to aid in establishing and maintaining fulfilling relationships. We use empirically-validated therapeutic approaches, as well as experiential techniques to help you begin to heal.

Treatment approaches to abandonment trauma include:
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): focuses on social relationships and re-establishing normal roles in your life. This may include trusting others, increasing low self-esteem, setting emotional boundaries, increasing intimacy, an strengthening social situations. The goals of IPT is to help individuals establish a sense of mastery and control over life through establishing interpersonal relationships. We may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to teach you to identify inaccurate thoughts and learn to replace them with positive, accurate thoughts. Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) integrates various strategies and validates your experiences, stabilizes your negative emotions, and helps you cope with stress. You will learn to accept your experiences, view them without emotion, and establish a plan to move past them.
Group therapy: We provide a variety of group therapy options at The Refuge. Our process groups will allow you to process your experiences while our psychoeducational groups will educate you about your difficulties, treatment, and other topics. The benefit of group therapy is that you will find you are not alone in what you’ve gone through and will be with peers who understand first-hand your experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Intensive family therapy – Family Week: Families and loved ones are crucial in supporting you during your recovery. It can be difficult for those who’ve experienced abandonment to identify loved ones they feel comfortable involving in their therapy. We encourage you to identify at least one person in your life that you trust and will likely remain a stable presence in your life. Helping your loved one understand your experiences, disorder, treatment, and aftercare plan can help them understand you better and improve your relationship.
At The Refuge, we use a variety of methods to engage the senses as we are a holistic treatment center. Some of the sensation-based, experiential techniques we use include:

Art therapy

Creative expression

Ropes courses

Equine therapy

Music therapy

Dramatic experiencing


Sharing assignments and journal entries with the group and gaining feedback

Continuing Care- What Comes Next?

During your time with us, we’ll learn much about you and the trauma you’ve experienced, which allows your treatment team to identify the most appropriate aftercare options. Many people choose an outpatient setting with a high level of structure such as our partial hospitalization program (PHP). This program allows you to focus on your treatment during the day while slowly integrating back into our community. Other people may feel they’ve made enough progress with us to discharge home with referrals to traditional outpatient therapy and community resources. Whatever the next step on your journey, The Refuge will support you the whole


Claudia Black M.S.W., Ph.D.
The Many Faces of Addiction

Understanding the Pain of Abandonment

Living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame.

When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: “You are not important. You are not of value.” This is the pain from which people need to heal.
For some children abandonment is primarily physical. Physical abandonment occurs when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
lack of appropriate supervision
inadequate provision of nutrition and meals

inadequate clothing, housing, heat, or shelter

physical and/or sexual abuse

Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment. When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care.

Emotional abandonment occurs when parents do not provide the emotional conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development. I like to define emotional abandonment as “occurring when a child has to hide a part of who he or she is in order to be accepted, or to not be rejected.”
Having to hide a part of yourself means:
it is not okay to make a mistake.
it is not okay to show feelings, being told the way you feel is not true. “You have nothing to cry about and if you don’t stop crying I will really give you something to cry about.” “That really didn’t hurt.” “You have nothing to be angry about.”

it is not okay to have needs. Everyone else’s needs appear to be more important than yours.

it is not okay to have successes. Accomplishments are not acknowledged, are many times discounted.

Other acts of abandonment occur when:

Children cannot live up to the expectations of their parents. These expectations are often unrealistic and not age-appropriate.
Children are held responsible for other people’s behavior. They may be consistently blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents.

Disapproval toward children is aimed at their entire beings or identity rather than a particular behavior, such as telling a child he is worthless when he does not do his homework or she is never going to be a good athlete because she missed the final catch of the game.

Many times abandonment issues are fused with distorted, confused, or undefined boundaries such as:

When parents do not view children as separate beings with distinct boundaries
When parents expect children to be extensions of themselves
When parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, but expect children to take responsibility for them
When parents’ self-esteem is derived through their child’s behavior
When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction
Abandonment plus distorted boundaries, at a time when children are developing their sense of worth, is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy and the central cause of their shame.
Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a child’s innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult lives.


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