Therapy for me: abandonment

published Sep 21, 2010, last modified Jun 26, 2013

What abandonment causes in children, and how that affects them once they become adults.

From the book No more Mr. Nice Guy:

These two factors — their fear of abandonment and their ego-centeredness — create a very powerful dynamic for all children. Whenever a child experiences any kind of abandonment he will always believe that he is the cause of what has happened to him. These abandonment experiences might include any of the following experiences:

    • He is hungry and no one feeds him.
    • He cries and no one holds him.
    • He is lonely and no one pays attention to him.
    • A parent gets angry at him.
    • A parent neglects him.
    • A parent puts unrealistic expectations on him.
    • A parent uses him to gratify his or her own needs.
    • A parent shames him.
    • A parent hits him.
    • A parent doesn't want him.
    • A parent leaves him and doesn't come back in a timely manner.

 Toxic Shame

These abandonment experiences and the naive, ego-centered interpretation of them, creates a belief in some young children that it is not acceptable for them to be who they are, just as they are. They conclude that there must be something wrong with them, which causes the important people in their lives to abandon them. They have no way of comprehending that their abandonment experiences are not caused by something about them, but by the people who are supposed to recognize and meet their needs.

This naive, ego-centered interpretation of their abandonment experiences creates a psychological state called toxic shame. Toxic shame is the belief that one is inherently bad, defective, different, or unlovable. Toxic shame is not just a belief that one does bad things, it is a deeply held core belief that one is bad.