The Fear of Abandonment: Are you stuck in a cycle? (Part 1)
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
The Fear of Abandonment Cycle
Welcome to our MoodMe Channel. I’m Dr. Nicole Lunan, a specialist in emotional intelligence and CEO and co-founder of a new app called MoodMe. Today we are going to be learning about one of the Moods featured on the app – the Fear of abandonment
This is a three-part video series brought to you by MoodMe intending to shed light and increase awareness around the Fear of abandonment how it plays into a cycle that has the power to impact your relationships negatively.
In this series, we will cover:
Lesson 1. What is the Fear of abandonment, and how does it play into a cycle?
Lesson 2. A real-life example of the abandonment cycle and how it tears apart a relationship
Lesson 3. Coaching tips and strategies How to stop the abandonment cycle
The Fear of abandonment is important to learn about because it can play in the background of your relationship life and wreak silent terror because you don’t know that it’s there. You don’t know that it’s impacting your ability to feel safe, to open up finally, to love.
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What is the Fear of abandonment, and where does it come from?
Well, in the past, you could have physically or emotionally lost a loved one. You were taught that the world wasn't a safe place because, at any moment, the people you love could vanish.
Now, you feel anxious or fearful to get close to others. The trauma you experienced plays in loops when you open your heart and acts as a form of sabotage that pushes others away. All of this plays into a cyclic self-fulfilling prophecy.
Abandonment trauma can be experienced at any age.
It is created when one physically or emotionally loses a loved one and doesn’t feel that the world is a safe place for an open heart.
Physical abandonment = Losing a parent or someone close through divorce or death.
Emotional abandonment = maybe a parent became depressed or disassociated and couldn’t support you through childhood, or perhaps the parent worked too much.
Loss, especially as a child, is challenging because we don’t have the processing tools to work through why our favorite person in the world who we trusted just vanished.
So, we end up doing this thing I call “freezing,” where we freeze pain and keep it frozen until we have the tools to deal with it, aka when we are adults.
As adults, we still struggle with this concept of allowing our inner child to feel safe, healing the past, and working through the letting go process.
Many think that the past is the past, and there isn’t any use to go back and dwell. But I’d like to counter that thought and say if you don’t take the time to heal your past self, the trauma will play in cyclic loops in your present life. Our external life mimics our inner life. To create a better life for ourselves, we have to look in the mirror and start from within.
We start subconsciously or consciously acting from this Fear.
After we received the trauma that caused the Fear of abandonment, we start subconsciously or consciously acting from this Fear. Even if you do know that you have this shadow of fear, it’s a tricky one to catch when triggered. It acts quickly to protect you from pain and begins pushing people away so that you don’t get hurt. Sometimes good people that we’d be lucky to have in our lives, people that actually care about us, get pushed away due to Fear. Or you don’t try to love at all because you already have self - limiting belief that it will end in flames and pain. I was able to sum up this whole complicated process in what I’d like to call the abandonment cycle.
How does the abandonment cycle impact intimate relationships?
The abandonment cycle again starts with pre-existing traumatic experience when a loved one has left either emotionally or physically, therefore leaving you alone with a feeling of deep distrust.
Today, we are going to use Jennifer as an example to take us through the abandonment cycle.
Jennifer’s trauma = Her father was a cheater, and therefore Jenn was raised mainly by a single mother with numerous boyfriends entering and leaving both of their lives.
Which would lead us into stage 1. And so on…….
Stage 1. The urge
Jennifer has sworn off relationships. She’s given up on relationships. She wants to focus on herself.
However, it’s been six months since Jennifer has been touched, and she’s going through a dry spell and is starting to get this innate need to be touched and connect closely with another.
I like to call this the urge.
Humans have an innate urge to connect and relate to others, and also, we are charged with this desire to procreate or engage in physical intimacy.
So even though Jenn has said she doesn’t want a relationship, she does have the urge to be physically connected with another. When Jenn met Cameron, and he asked her on a date, she said yes. Because she %100 believed that it would be solely to fill this urge for physical intimacy, which leads us into the next stage.
Stage 2. Casual dating
Jenn and Cameron go on a few dates.
They’re going on casual dates, hiking, dinner, happy hour.
They’re learning about each other and see if they are physically or emotionally attracted to each other.
Jenn’s starting to ask questions like, “Should I let him in, should I not let him in?”
She’s not super afraid because she’s driven by the urge, nervousness, excitement, curiosity. This phase is all about convenience, as nobody is really bonded to each other yet.
She doesn’t feel bonded to Cameron yet, and there’s no commitment. So, she still feels safe to go and adventure.
Swiping “Yes” to Cameron, they began to explore their physical connection, which turns out to be good. So good that they keep coming back for more.
Now, I want you to pay close attention here because this is the part where people get pulled into the honeymoon phase unknowingly.
Stage 3. – The honeymoon phase
The honeymoon phase is led by high physical attraction + focused time and attention + flirtation.
So even though Jenn said she didn’t want a relationship, her actions are speaking otherwise. As she is diving in deep with Cameron physically and frequently, therefore they are spending more time together and focused attention on each other. At the end of the day, time dictates the relationship. Meaning, even though you may not have a title, if you spend many nights with a person flirting, having deep talks, and engaging with each other physically, your heart may do this thing where it doesn’t listen to your mind anymore and say, “yes I’m in a relationship now.”
Jenn is like, “I don’t know how I go here, but I like it because it’s fun and carefree.”
An emotional attachment has been created. You feel like you are on a natural high because you are on a natural high. You are high off dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. You’ve pretty much taken a hit of the happiest hormones that exist.
So in the honeymoon phase, you will experience:
Obsessive lust and infatuation
You will light up around each other.
And spend highly focused attention on each other.
The honeymoon phase typically takes a break or comes to a complete end depending on the relationship start around 3-6 months. Every relationship is different. Suppose you have a relationship with the possibility of longevity. In that case, It can come in and out of relationships depending on if the couple is working on the relationship or in a more light-hearted and playful time.
In whirlwind relationships, the honeymoon phase has a very distinct end, as I’ve witnessed once happy hormone-crazed lovers turn quickly into enemies.
Stage 4. – Reality check
In this stage, real-life with a new partner start settling in. As the happy hormone fog begins to fade, you get to see who it is you are actually in a relationship with. What was once titillating and exciting is now more routine and stable. Stability for most can feel like a beautiful thing, but for those who were brought up in chaos and drama, this can be a little unsettling. In this stage, the relationship begins to take effort to maintain. You may begin to question. If you want to do the work, it takes to maintain a healthy relationship? Work through your trauma, have the tough conversations, and support your partner's journey? Or do you just want to enjoy the fun parts like the passion and romance? This is where the real hard work comes into play and where many whirlwind relationships fail, as it’s not just about the fun stuff anymore. Real-world conflicts begin to arise like work, family, friends, money conflicts. It’s like the honeymoon bubble popped, external forces begin to interact with your relationship, and you both are slowly getting introduced to each other’s normalcy. In this stage, you’ll also start to notice each other’s imperfections. For example, maybe Jennifer leaves her stuff around Cameron’s house and doesn’t clean up after herself and leaves the straightener on. Maybe Cameron snores a lot, and it’s hard for Jennifer to sleep and get rest. Whatever the imperfections may be, they become more apparent and noticeable and make you question whether you are compatible with each other and if you can compromise.
Arguments occur in this stage because you’re taking two independent humans and attempting to merge their lives together. The happy hormone high helps to buffer, and so does lovemaking, but this is a challenging process.
A reality check is where the tension begins to build. What was once focused attention starts to get more spread out.
Jennifer can no longer ignore her sister's request to spend more time helping their mother. Or…
Cameron’s friends are missing him and wanting attention. They plan a weekend getaway for boys only. Instead of the attention being solely on Jennifer, like in the honeymoon phase, it will now be more spread out. This can come as a shock for some who were super used to getting all their lovers focused attention.
At this stage, the emotional bond has already been created. All those deep talks, great sex, and dreams of the future have bonded the two of you together, so there is no going back unless you’d like to face a great deal of discomfort. All of this creates pressure, and as we know, pressure is what creates diamonds. No great thing comes easy, and it’s always going to take work. This is the reality of building a deep and beautiful relationship.
Stage 5. The trigger
As I mentioned before, Cameron’s friends ask him to spend more time with them and go on a boy’s trip. Cameron feels he needs to pay attention to himself and people outside of the relationship as he has spent the last few months on the honeymoon with Jennifer land and would like to balance his energy.
Jennifer isn’t comfortable with Rob going on a boy’s trip. She doesn’t really know his friends. I’m sure you can imagine all the dark stories and situations Jennifer has thought up. Especially with her abandonment wound of her father being a cheater and leaving. Consciously or subconsciously, this is how she was taught that people in a relationship act.
Jennifer isn’t a good or bad person for her wound being retriggered. I think we’ve been taught to look at Fear and insecurity as these horrible monsters as if we should feel shame and guilt for having them. The truth is we all of them, and we would do best to stop judging ourselves for them because it is judgment and shame that keeps these shadows lurking and getting stronger.
A combination of Cameron agreeing to go on the boy’s trip and Jennifer’s learnings of how relationships, when she was a child, retriggers the Fear of abandonment shadow, and it comes knocking. Let’s see if Jennifer will open the door.
Stage 6. The reaction
Once you open the door to the abandonment shadow, it begins wreaking havoc on mind and body. Imagine a dark cloud entering through the temples of your mind and spreading, and therefore taking the driver seat of your life.
Your fight or flight instinct is triggered because you ultimately feel that you are in danger. It doesn’t matter if you are in physical danger or emotional danger. Your fight or flight instinct can still be activated. You are filled with distrust and question whether your partner really cares about you and wants to be with you.
Memories of the past are beginning to resurface as your inner child becomes scared and doesn’t want to be hurt again.
Jennifer is internalizing Cameron’s want to spend time with his friends alone as a sign that he doesn’t like her anymore or that he’s looking for attention from women. Now she is feeling unworthy.
Cameron begins to sense that a shift is happening in Jen as she starts acting differently.
The Prophecy – Time for dark manifesting
Jennifer is overthinking, overanalyzing, and using her dark imagination to create stories based solely on Fear. She can’t see what is happening because she is having an internal battle with the Fear of abandonment.
The Fear of abandonment is telling Jennifer that this relationship won’t work and not to trust Cameron. It is persistent and hard to ignore, and it becomes hard for Jennifer to focus on anything else truly.
The shadow finally wins the battle, and Jennifer internalizes that Cameron is going to cheat on her on the boy’s trip. She has made up her mind that it is going to happen, and so she begins acting as if it has already happened.
If you fear your partner will do something and begin acting like your partner is doing it, your partner may actually do it.
Our minds are powerful and can bring thoughts into reality.
Stage 8. Sabotage
The Sabotage stage is a sad one because this is where that instinctive knee-jerk getaway from me impulse happens and can ruin even the best of relationships.
The level of sabotage depends on each person’s individual trauma + impulse control.
You can get something mild like a passive-aggressive, “fine, I’m not going to text him then,” or extreme one like “fine, I’m going to cheat on him first.
This is a good chance to ask you what your sabotage style? We all talk about our love language, but what about what we do when we are acting out of Fear? How do you consciously or subconsciously push others away?
You may not be intentionally trying to ruin the relationship, but your Fear of abandonment shadow is pulling all the strings, whispering you need to ruin this relationship because this person is going to leave you.
The Fear of abandonment shadow is a trickster and should not be trusted.
Once Cameron was on the trip, Jennifer could smother, be clingy, or controlling. Demand that Cameron text and call her all the time instead of allowing him space to enjoy his friends.
Jennifer could act petty. She could go to the bars, take cute pics, and make him jealous, get back at him that way.
She could act passive-aggressive, show her aggression by doing small things without saying that she’s annoyed because that always works well.
She could cause drama and say, “Hey, you know that thing you did two months ago. I didn’t like when you did that and start a fight to pull in Cam’s attention and ruin Cam’s time away.
Jennifer could cheat. She could find a guy at the bar and go with him that would easily ruin a relationship.
She could emotionally manipulate, guilt-trip Cameron by saying, “if you loved me, you would have taken me with you.”
She could try to change Cam’s mind and character by asking him not to go, and Cam could not go and submit to her request, which would ultimately cause resentment in the relationship in the end.
Or she could just break up with him, which leads us into the final stage.
Stage 9. The Burn
Jennifer decides to go to the bar, flirt, and take cute pics with boys in the background, then gets too drunk and picks a fight with Cameron.
Cameron is angry because he spent all his time text fighting with Jenn and didn’t get to enjoy his vacation, and his friends intensely dislike Jennifer now.
They begin questioning why he’s in a relationship with someone that is immature and selfish.
They encourage him to “abort mission,” which places major doubts in his mind about Jennifer.
Cameron comes home and then pulls away from Jennifer, which makes her Fear of abandonment shadow grow even larger, which sets off more sabotaging techniques within Jenn.
Cameron then decides that the relationship is too much for him to deal with and ends it, which in return makes Jennifer trust in the lesson that she learned as a child. She trusts the phenomenon that anyone she lets in will leave because it’s the cycle that she’s seen play out over and over again.
The Fear of abandonment shadow is triumphant once again and has been fed; therefore, it grows bigger. Still, Jennifer is unaware of this shadow, and instead of looking deeper into herself and her patterns and taking ownership, she blames Cameron and puts herself in a victim position. “This is Cameron’s fault, he’s a liar. If he loved me, he wouldn’t push me away like he did.”
To help your relationships, no matter what trauma you have, you’ll have to lay your ego down and take a good hard look at it. We all have relationship patterns that can be improved, and once we can just say that aloud, healing becomes that much easier.
Unfortunately, Jennifer does not stop to look deep within. She goes to Palm Springs with her friends and meets another very handsome guy with a cute smile. The urge comes knocking, and she starts the abandonment cycle all over again.
So how can you stop the Fear of abandonment cycle? I have the answer to your question in video number 3 of the Fear of abandonment series. But first, watch video two as we follow Kylie and Ryan through the abandonment cycle. This video highlights a detailed and real-life story of how the abandonment cycle plays out and impacts relationships.