Children who were abandoned
grow up to love people
who abandon them.
This stopped me in my tracks with its truth. Inherited pain is real.
Abandonment can be physical but it can also be psychological. Neglect comes in many forms. It’s found in even the most privileged of families and maybe “especially” in those families.
Consequences can be long-lasting.
They can also be tough to fight back against because unless abandonment is completely obvious, it’s difficult to identify. If our parents provided us a good life, it’s hard to think that maybe they weren’t there for us in other important ways.
For good or for bad, the threads of social inheritance connect us to the past. People who had wonderful, wholesome upbringings, with loving parents who provided a safe and loving home are some of the happiest people I know. Their adult relationships seem picture-perfect. But even if they aren’t perfect, they’re functional. These folks don’t have dysfunctions they might unconsciously pass down.
The rest of us
And then there are the rest of us, whose childhoods were marked by complexities, sadness and emptiness, in various degrees. Even after the best of therapy, staying as functional as our friends who had a more functional upbringing is a challenge.
When love is withheld from children, the grown child can feel that as ‘normal.’ So while it seems obvious that we should get back at least what we put into a relationship, the abandoned child will accept far less than they deserve. The adult who was abandoned as a child thinks it’s normal to keep trying to squeeze blood from a lemon. Just like they did with their parent. That can keep someone like that in a dysfunctional relationship for a long time.
It’s not what we want, but it’s familiar. And there is comfort in the familiar.
Thinking back to my past relationships I can see at least one that was marked by my own abandonment issues. No surprise that I was stuck to that one for quite some time, unthinkingly repeating patterns of the past. I was too young to realize what I’d experienced was abandonment.
The pain of my first divorce came clearly from that root, too. He left and I didn’t expect it. When you’ve got abandonment issues, few things are more painful that an unexpected loss.
After that, and after my young divorce, I was always the one to leave. It was important that I control my life and avoid abandonment. That’s how I coped.
Inherited pain is like an app that runs silently and invisibly in the background of our lives. This was definitely one of those insights that hit me like a bolt of lightning when I read it. If you think it might be helpful to someone else, I hope you’ll share it with them.
Gently supportive gifts for healing and grief are found here now.