When our fear of being deserted by our loved ones moves beyond the natural fear of loss, it can begin to undermine and damage those very relationships we most fear losing. Thoughts of being alone can trigger compulsive behaviors so severe and unsettling that they begin to interfere with our daily lives.
A person with an undue fear of abandonment is less likely to trust others and more likely to believe that he will inevitably be let down. He will become clingy, needy and demanding of constant reassurance of his value and of the other’s affection or love. He might panic over small indiscretions, such as his loved one’s coming home late or not calling back right away.
A person suffering from fear of abandonment might agree to activities or arrangements he really doesn’t want, trying his utmost to accommodate himself to his partner, lest the latter become displeased and abandon him. When experiencing severe panic, he might even threaten to harm himself, using emotional blackmail to keep close by the person he fears will leave him.
Some individuals avoid imagined desertion altogether by not allowing themselves to become attached to anyone, or by initiating rejection before the other might do so; they might seek out reasons for dissatisfaction and feel compelled to end the relationship, before the other preempts them.
Many with such fears have experienced traumatic experiences of loss and abandonment in their past. All demonstrate a deep sense of insecurity about their self-worth and lovability, and little ability to differentiate between the need for a relationship and the desire for one.
* * *
A counselor working with such an individual helps him identify his tendency to over-generalize and the fear that is driving that tendency. She explores experiences and beliefs that may have nurtured the underlying feelings of worthlessness and helps him differentiate between those and the current people and circumstances in his life.
A counselor works with the individual both to reexamine his belief that he cannot survive without the relationship, and helps him focus on the personal strengths and attributes that will get him through even if he were to be abandoned. And she helps him identify how his behaviors may be creating the very reality he most fears.
Because the idea of “abandonment” implies a heightened sense of powerlessness, a person suffering from fear of abandonment is encouraged to explore ways he might take back power in his life.