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How to overcome emotional effects of childhood abandonment?

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  • #34007
    tinydancer
    Participant

    Hello, this is my first day as a Tiny Buddha member. I have a question on how to overcome the many emotional and relationship issues I harbor from my childhood. I apologize for the length, I tried to keep it as short as I could but there are a few issues that are all kind of linked together.

    Some background: My father abandoned my mum and I when I was born and I didn’t meet him for the first time until I was 18. Now I see him once a year, and I do feel (at least consciously) that I forgive him and want to have some kind of father-daughter relationship with him even though it might never be that close.

    But I have found more and more recently that I still carry a lot of emotional pain around not growing up with a dad and the feeling of having been abandoned while he raised his other children (from other marriages) as his own. I had some contact with my paternal grandparents when I was younger but they were rather ashamed of me and my grandmother referred to me as her “friend’s child” in public, which is something I still feel much anger and pain about. My father for the most part of his life had a very important, high-paying job and was able to raise his other children in financial security and give them love and attention. Meanwhile my mum struggled on her own with no support and I have grown up constantly in fear of not having enough money to get through the week, and I have a problem with not wanting to rely on others for help, because I feel that you must always do everything on your own because nobody will be there for you and that’s life. I grew up very envious of my friends’ lives as they had nice clean houses and I lived in public housing and I couldn’t invite friends over. It was only when I was about 16 I started to think of my father and this life of ease and comfort he gave to all his children except me, and while I did not know him, I still felt grief that he didn’t love me.

    Now that I am older I find myself displaying typical symptoms of a daughter whose been abandoned by her father in childhood – I am constantly falling for guys who are not interested in me or are unavailable, who ignore me and show no interest in me. I can’t seem to fall for someone who actually likes me or I seem to have trouble attracting people I like, etc. There is that old saying that men seek their mothers and women seek their fathers in partners, and I feel that my taste in men stems in large part from having a non-present father figure growing up, and so I seem to be attracted to men who display no interest in me.

    As a result I have a lot of negative self-talk. I feel like I will never find anyone who likes me back, or that nobody I like could ever like me back. I also find it very difficult to ‘switch off’ this kind of talk in me head. Even when I try to be positive, tell myself that I am worthy of love and will find someone, the minute I get yet another rejection or something reminds me of past rejections, this old feeling returns and the cycle starts again. I feel that I cannot approach or talk to guys I like because my head automatically says “I guy like that could never like a girl like me” and even he did, my reaction would be to not actually believe it. I am shy and little standoffish, I don’t like to open up and let people in because I am afraid they will not like what they see, that deep down I am not actually adequate enough for them, and I fear that when they ‘realize’ this they will abandon me.

    I don’t know why, but I feel like this is all linked to my childhood and my inability to truly let go of the past and the anger and hurt I’ve kept inside over my relationship with my father. Even writing this and thinking about it makes me feel very emotional. I really want to let go of this because it holds me back a lot. I see how many incredible life experiences my peers have had so far in their lives, and I feel deep pain and resentment that I have not yet experienced them because of my upbringing. I know it’s so silly to think like that and that people have things so much worse off than me. I know deep down that it wasn’t my fault my father left but it’s difficult to get over the feeling that you’ve been abandoned for a reason. I know consciously there is nothing holding me back from happiness, but somehow my mind and my heart can’t truly let go of this wall of poverty, rejection, abandonment and inadequacy that has been built around me and that I have helped keep standing.

    What are practical things I can do everyday in my life to help me let go of the past completely, move on from this pain and resentment and start feeling that I am worthy and deserving of love? I would really like to know, I believe the answer is not external, it is within me, but I’m not sure where to start and some advice would be appreciated.

    #34078
    Geoff Dykes
    Participant

    I truly wish that I could provide the answer you seek but I have responded to your request on the basis that I consider the mother of my 5 year old son to be someone who shares a very similar life experience. Whilst her dad did not leave her mother he was always at work and since she was an only child she has grown up harbouring a very serious grudge for her feeling of being neglected. Consequently she has had many failed male relationships and has serious self-worth and esteem issues which when we first met were totally eradicated through the excessive attention that she received from me which of course she was not accustomed to.
    Your penultimate paragraph hit the nail on the head for me because you mentioned the deep pain and resentment that you experienced because of your upbringing and the comparison with your peers ‘incredible life experiences’ because this is how the mother of my son views her own situation – bitterness, jealousy and envy eating away at her otherwise kind and generous soul.
    In the case of my ‘partner’ she has sought solace in anti-depressants and alcohol but I believe the one true favour that she has done herself is to heed the ancient Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ through her in-depth study of astrology which was one of the common interests that brought us together.
    When you look at your natal chart you will begin to understand/appreciate the karma/life path that you chose before incarnation and you will hopefully begin to understand why your life is as it is. Combine this knowledge with the advice of many sages and you will realise that there are many reasons to be positive and that dwelling in the past or wishing for a brighter future are both actually futile. I’m not sure whether you know of the works of Eckhardt Tolle but he espouses living in the present moment (The Power of Now being one of his works) for by doing so you create the future you deserve.
    I wish I could have answered your request in a more practical manner, as your asked, but this is the best I can do right now.
    Astrology may, or may not, be the key to unlocking your inner knowledge – it works for some but not for all.
    The very best of luck seems somehow an inappropriate phase because I believe luck is created by attitude so instead I shall wish you success in finding what you seek.
    Namaste
    Geoff

    #34101
    Louise
    Participant

    I wanted to reply because you sound like me. I’m still single and working through my issues but I am finally in a place where I feel I am deserving of love, confident that I will meet someone but where I am also happy if it doesn’t, somewhere I never thought I’d be. I hope I can say something to help a bit.

    First of all, I think you’re going in the right direction; you’ve already worked out what your patterns regarding men/relationships are, where they come from and you also recognise that the answer lies within you. Try and see the time on your own as your friend, an opportunity to work on yourself. you’ve aksed for things you can do every day; if you don’t already, i’d recommened practising Yoga and mediation. Yoga can be useful for releasing negative emotions and mediation will help you to quieten the mind and reduce the negative thoughts. Even if you still have the thoughts, we will learn just to notice them before they drag you down into some negative reaction and you’ll stop taking them so seriously. As a side note, i’d also suggets doing yoga with a female instructor to avoid the risk of the yogic student-teacher crush! Like Geoff says above, i’d also recommned Eckhart Tolle’s teachings. They have really helped me a lot. He’s also spoken on this topic quite a bit.

    Regarding your background, have you asked your dad about his reasons for leaving/staying away? If you feel you can, it might help to talk to him about it and let him know how you felt growing up. Perhaps you could write him a letter. even if you don’t send it, just writing it down will help them emotion to come out, as you noticed when you were writing your post. Remember also that had your dad stayed, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t have these same emotional issues. My dad was around, but I still have the same problems, which i think are down to my relationship with both my parents and my family as a whole. I know you said he was a loving father to his other children; maybe he was that way because he felt he was missing out on his relationship with you and wanted to make up for it. If he’d stayed and had a poor relationship with your mum that would also have affected you negatively. Talking to him about his reasons, if you haven’t already, may help you put the past to rest.

    Something that’s also helped me is realsing that (almost) everybody, even those people we least expect, has problems with self-esteem on some level. I remember a while ago, really liked this guy thought he was the sexiest, best-looking, nicest, most wonderful person ever. Like you, I had the same ‘he’d never want me thoughts’, until I was his friend on facebook and saw him writing about all his insecurities and asking why he couldn’t get a girlfriend. You never know, the guys who are ignoring you ma be doing so because they’re also shy and don’t believe you’d ever be interested in them!

    Another thing that has helped me is (re)discovering the things I like doing and taking up new hobbies, although make sure it’s something you genuinely like and not soemthing you think will help you meet men. Having fun, or perhaps developing a new skill can help boost your self-esteem, bring more people into your life and will leave less space for the negative thoughts to distract you.

    Hope this has helped!

    #34102
    Paperdollcut
    Participant

    Hi Tinydancer, I can totally relate to how you’re feeling because I am where you are at now.

    My dad abandon my mother and I because he wanted to start a family with another woman – He wanted a son. For 10 years my mother and suffered a lot from this ordeal and we are still suffering from it. My dad never gave us a single cent and never took pity on us. Similar like you, my dad spends his finances on his family, they are living very well. I don’t know your age but forget about relationship because every guy you’re seeking now is to substitute that emptiness in you. You’re constantly asking yourself why? Why did he left you? Why do you deserve this? Why am I suffering so much? Babe, you’re lonely.

    Likewise, I had a lot of failed relationship and my career wasn’t stable. We are still struggling to make ends meet. Just three days ago, I called him and told him how much I miss him and I needed a father and all he could do is to tell me to move on. I suggest you stay focus on making money. Forget about love and have your finances stabilize first. Your mother needs you and we are fortunate that our mom brought us up. It ain’t easy for our mothers to go through divorce and single handedly bring up a child. I gave up on relationship and have been single for six years. Now I just want to focus on my career because money is what we need now.

    Though I am still feeling hurt but I have decided to stay focus and start making money because I need to feed myself and my mom. You need to stay focus. Forget about dads. Give yourself a year to build a career, once you start making money you will find your life very different.

    #34119
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hello, like the ladies before me I too grew up without my dad. I knew him, saw him about two times in my life, he was never interested. The older I got the more it seemed to hurt me. I ended up marrying a man at 19 because I finally found somene who liked me and cared for me. Well we are divorced now and I also raise our daughter by myself…. at least he sees her regulalry. What helped me to get out and over this feeling of being worthless and lonely is simply time and patience with myself. Constant affirming that “I am great, I am loveable, I am worthy of all those great things that everyone wants and needs” Look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say ” I love you” I truely and deeply love you. It feels funny at first and you might get very emotional but that is good. I have done a bit of counseling over the years, read many self help books like ‘A new Earth’ from E. Tolle and also books about not loosing yourself in a relationship. t is hard but life is too short to let these thoughts stop us from living a happy and fullfield live! Learn to love yourself, fill your life with things that make you smile, happy and feel content. Also never see any man you may meet as a potential partner rather as a human and then eventually as a possible friend. The rest will come by itself if it’s meant to be. I just poured my mind out, I hope this is still helpful to you. Wishing you all the best. Work on yourself, give yourself something to be proud of.
    Things to do : 1. read 2. learn 3. affirmations 4. yoga 5. meditation 6. counseling 7. writing (poems, diary) 8. Keep Smiling 🙂 Monday to Sunday even if it hurts

    Sending you my love Anne

    #34212

    It took me a long time to work out my own childhood abuse and self-esteem issues, but I did get there. Going inside and getting to know my spiritual self was the key. Through observing and changing my thoughts about myself and my life, I was able to change the way I felt and learn to love myself. Loving myself was the major turning point in my life – realizing that I don’t need anyone else to love me. It’s good you have acknowledged you haven’t let go of the hurt and pain, which was true for me also.
    One thing I did was a guided meditation and it was very powerful and healing.

    Love and peace,
    Marilyn

    #37734
    Ami May
    Participant

    hi there:) i can find myself so much in your story!!! my mother left my biological father and he never cared about me, either. he is very rich, but did everything in order that he is only forced to pay the minimum alimony. when i was 3 years old (he lives on another continent), he called and lied to me, that he is about to visit me. i was waiting for weeks. it hurts so bad only thinking about that. how can one be so cruel to his own child? i have met him for the first time when i was 21 years old and i think he is in general a very, very bad person and i am thankful that my mother left him. still, i am so scared of being abandoned by men, or laughed at. my stepfather, whom i met when i was 3 years old did also do me harm regarding my relationshsips to men. he never accepted me, made me feel stupid and inferior many, many times.
    most of the time i can accept myself (i am very proud of it, since it was so hard work to get to this point). But i still do have very, very bad days. when i meet a nice guy i treat him badly, because, unconsciously i guess, i think it´s better to be left for something you are not, than rather for your true self. of course, this is no solution. then, i am also atrracted to guys i don´t even know and probably never will. i imagine a life with them and get lost in day dreams. i feel soo ashamed for this and i have never told anyone. i think, i´m dreaming of a prince charming fairytale-style, because i want a man to come up to me and tell me, that i am fine the way i am. that i am lovable. everytime i get rejected, whether for my true self or my bad behaving self, i feel hurt deep down in the roots of my identity. at the lowest points i even think, that maybe i have a gene or something that makes me akward in the eyes of guys. i am soo scared to stay alone and to never have children and a family. that is one of my biggest goals in life. what even hurts me more (i do have experiences with guys, still, not that much as my peers) is that a friend of mine told me, that guys dont come up to me cause i´m tall and blonde and they might think i am a slut anyways. thats so unfair, because i wish so badly to have somebody to love, hug and share time with…

    #37757
    SerCay
    Participant

    Hi Tinydancer,

    I’m very sorry for the way you feel.

    I absolutely relate to how you feel because I have childhood abandonment issues myself.
    My dad was a sick person, trying to cheat all the time and my mom and him fought a lot.

    The constant tension in the house, raised me to have no emotional connection to my parents whatsoever, even though they love me to bits.

    I have grow up to be a person struggling with school, carreer, friendships, love life (I too always find men that are bad for me), codependency (found that out on this site), and most important: lack of self esteem and self love.

    At first I thought, come one, it doesnt make sense, i do love myself! I think Im pretty! But after research and realization I noticed that I loved myself in a shallow way.
    I constantly let the outside determine how I feel about myself. There we have the problem.

    Try to realize that you need to find ways to start loving you..you don’t need validation from guys you meet who dont show any interest. Once you have reached the point to be validating yourself and loving yourself, you will also find that it doesnt bother you that much how people think of you. It lingers in your head now every time such a thing happens, because you have not yet reached the point where you can console yourself because you dont love yourself yet.

    You ARE loveable and a wonderful person. A lot of us who have been raised in bad families grow up to be very sweet, empathatic and caring people.
    Use your qualities on yourself.

    I know I’m trying to get there and I know I will one day, and so will you.

    Maybe one day you will be truly able to forgive your dad and see him for the persn he is, and not the person who has hurt you. I have..
    I love him but I will never understand him, I now accept that his brain is wired differently than I find normal and I am in peace with that…
    Sto critisizing yourself for having the typical traits of someone with such a youth, it’s not your fault, you will get over this.
    It means a lot already that you have realized what the problem is. I believe you have come half way by realizing.

    so yes yes yes the answer is within you.

    Stay strong and please see that life is beautiful and you are wonderful and loveable
    Hugs

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 5 months ago by SerCay.
    #52149
    Seeking Zen
    Participant

    Tiny Dancer Hi

    I honor your journey and feel your pain. You have, I believe, the most important quality for overcoming childhood abandonment, the will and desire too. How to accomplish this?

    I am approx 2.5 years into this journey of overcoming childhood abandonment. My background along with what’s worked (practically as you’ve asked) follow:

    My Background:
    Childhood abandonment struggles have been with me for 40+ years. I’m a bit more sensitive than most. Growing up the home I lived in was empty.. Dad worked out of town and was not present when he was home. Mom worked full time, went to school full time and then worked 60+ hours a week. I was the target of her end of day stress and anger. She invalidated my experiences and cultivated doubts in me…At the time I was not strong enough to stand up to that… Siblings are older and were not present… Lacking social skills I struggled through school with rejections, awkwardness, bullies and few friends… I feel your pain.

    Confronting my abandonment issues began in earnest 2.5 years ago when I was laid off and my marriage was crumbling. I am now capable of standing up for myself and letting myself experience my feelings. Knowing I matter, venting and expressing 40+ years of unexpressed unacknowledged feelings and learning what I need and want are all works in progress.

    What Worked For Me in a Practical Way?
    > Addressing Feelings which have been deeply suppressed for a long time….
    Learning the language of feelings… Feelings that were too scary too radioactive for me had to see the light of day and I had to let myself experience… I deeply suppressed these…. hurt, anger, rejection, frustration, conflict, confrontation, fear, doubt, overwhelmed…
    > Lots of crying… I experienced these feelings in waves… first hurt more recently doubt and anger. Each wave brought with it more tears.
    > Sometimes to get to the sunshine requires passing through a storm.
    > A good therapist. I tried 3 or 4 therapists before finding one I worked well with (very important). I’ve been in therapy 2-3 times a week and it has changed my life in a positive way.
    > Surround myself with a small group of family and friends I confided in. Stating out loud my fears and doubts has a cleansing effect on me…
    > Made of list of when I feel ____ I can _____ (fill in the blanks)… for example when I feel overwhelmed I can do less, say no, remember there are no dead ends in life…
    > My feelings matter… I know this and am working towards feeling it. I’ve been consumed with needing and getting others to like me and neglecting my feelings.
    > What do I need? What do I want? Still figuring these out. I know I need the people I surround myself with to hear me and be able to empathize with me.
    > Would like to amplify SerCay’s comments… You are lovable and use sweet, caring and empathetic qualities on yourself… I still struggle with this.

    New Knowledge
    > Reading the book Transitions by William Bridges
    http://www.amazon.com/Transitions-Making-Changes-Revised-Anniversary/dp/073820904X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393839362&sr=1-1&keywords=transitions
    If you are going to read one book read this one.
    > Watch the Last Lecture by Randy Prausch

    > Watch Brene Brown videos… Listening to Shame and The Power of Vulnerability
    http://new.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame
    http://new.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability
    > Watching Robert Irvine Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network… He is terrific at diagnosing issues and finding solutions. He’s a new role model for me.
    > Cut Throat Kitchen also on the Food Network… This show teaches me how to act when dealing with conflict and competition…

    Hope this helps.

    I am interested in starting a dialogue (this forum, chat, maybe talk) with others who have experienced childhood abandonment and would like to work through this too. Is this of interest to anyone?

    #52378
    Stefanie
    Participant

    I am going through this process right now! I was abandoned not once, but twice by my parents. It has taken me a long time to figure out why relationships were not working out for me. I have known something was wrong for awhile now because I am fairly attractive and intelligent, was asked out a lot, yet remained single. For a long time I believed it was because the right person had not come along yet.

    Wrong. I eventually figured out that my feelings for men who lost interest in me lasted way past what was good or healthy for me. As long as I allowed my confusion to last over why he lost interest or a relationship did not work out, I was not available for any other man who might have a genuine interest. I have been fortunate enough in life to be surrounded by people who are very healthy emotionally and are in good relationships. That’s when I picked up on what it was that I was doing that was different.

    I read somewhere that I am suffering from a rejection attachment. What I do different from my girlfriends who do not struggle with this issue because they grew up in loving, stable families, is that as soon as it is clear that a guy is unavailable in some way, they realize this relationship is not working out anymore and it doesn’t make them feel good. They move on. I don’t. I stay stuck in a cycle of self blame, feeling like it was something I must have done that caused him to lose interest. And a majority of the time, I hadn’t done anything wrong. They just lost interest.

    There are the obvious jerk moves such as standing someone up on a date, we can get past that. However, my friends were very discriminating about the other more subtle signs, the numerous ones that exist in the gray area, where many of us who are not completely healthy get stuck. They waited to get involved emotionally until the guy was very clear about his interest in pursuing a relationship and made them feel safe. They did not try to make any old guy that they were attracted to into this man, they waited for the right man to come along. And they did not blame themselves or the other person when things didn’t work out. They just simply moved on.

    I hope to get to this place. I am getting better at paying attention to how someone makes me feel, especially in dating. If it is not clear what their intentions are and I am confused, I pay attention to that. I am getting better at letting go of men who I find attractive but leave me confused and wondering what is going on. This is really working for me. Now that I know I have a “rejection attachment,” I can also learn when I am attracted to a man in an unhealthy way. Some guys do play games that activate this and the ones that do generally are unhealthy or emotionally unavailable in some way as well. They aren’t bad people and aren’t generally doing it to hurt someone. It is just that they are not aware yet that these behaviors won’t bring them happiness in the long run, and they use them because they have worked before. Because I want peace in my life and I want to be happy, I stay away from these unhealthy situations.

    #53160
    Blueocean
    Participant

    Hello there,

    I think all the main answers here are great advices . Love yourself and believe that you’re worth it. This doesn’t have anything to do with the fact your father did “his best” at that time. If you have the chance to talk to him, do it, it helps but still you have to do some work to release any anger, forgive and heal .

    It takes time and patience. Do things that you love and start the day with a smile with positive affirmations: Meditation helps, and it can be done in many ways. You have to learn to love yourself and find your inner peace.your balance.

    I can tell you this because even if I had a father in my life, he unfortunately never showed me real affection and despite of being raise in a loving family and even with an overprotected mother, ás a child I got the feeling of being abandoned or without importance to my father because He didn’t pay attention to me as others fathers do with their children.
    He had his own issues and I could understand he didn’t know how to do it better, shame he didn’t try to learn or figure out but in any case i forgive him because i know it’s a feeling not a reality, though the feeling made a big scar in my life which i recognize in my relationships, by mostly giving myself and suppressing most of the time my feelings to don’t hurt others or make them leave me but , who truly loves you and wants to love you will listen to you and will share the time to get to know you BEACUSE EVERY HUMAN IS WORTH OF LOVE. Work on that and don’t compare with others, just cultivate your inner connection with your soul.
    Hope it helps, accept what it was and believe it’s ok and it will be ok.
    love.

    IC

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