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Abandonment and THE PEOPLE WE KEEP by Allison Larkin


April’s mother left first. Years later, when April was in high school, her father started a new family, leaving April to live unaccompanied in a trailer. Time with her dad was infrequent and traumatizing. Things boiled over when he broke her guitar, her most prized possession, and April fled. She was sixteen and completely alone.

 

April was homeless for a few years. A talented musician, April tried to earn money performing in coffee shops or on the street, but it was never enough. Some people helped her, and more took advantage of her. The only constant was that April avoided emotional intimacy. Rarely, April broke the rules and let people in. But then she inevitably became scared and fled.

April was in a cycle of abandonment that started in early childhood.

 

Kids depend on their primary caregivers for love, support, and safety. When parents don't meet these needs, children assume they are not good enough and blame themselves for their caregivers' shortcomings.

As adults, abandoned children assume they still aren’t good enough. They hide their true selves from others to avoid rejection. When the (adult) abandoned child engages in emotional intimacy, they proactively flee when things get hard to avoid being discarded again.

 

Breaking the cycle of abandonment is challenging but doable. Here are some tips:

 

Examine the Reasons: Particularly attend to the causes that had everything to do with the parent and nothing to do with the child.

 

Reframe Your Self-Concept: Rather than seeing yourself as not good enough for the parents who left, see yourself as someone worthy of love yet did not receive it.

 

Treat Yourself With Love and Kindness: If you do not treat yourself respectfully, you will not expect others to and can fall into unhealthy relationships.

 

Tell Trustworthy People About Your Past: This helps prevent it from re-occurring. When increasing emotional intimacy with friends and romantic partners, tell them about your fears related to closeness and that you may sometimes want to flee. Ask for them to help you stay physically and emotionally present.

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