Self-abandonment creates anxiety

Self abandonment and Anxiety

Abandonment has many forms.  In theaters, we cheer as onscreen passengers jump off a sinking vessel and land in the safety of a snug life boat.

As humans, we have a long history of abandoning things that no longer offer us value: possessions, habits, beliefs, and sometimes even people.  But what happens when we begin to abandon ourselves?

Too often we  are unaware of how self-abandonment started, and how it fuels anxiety in our daily lives. Yet the problem began as we navigated the uncertain seas of childhood…

How Self-abandonment Occurs and Anxiety is Born

At birth, we would all agree that children deserve to feel  loved, accepted, valued, adequate, and secure.  So a child’s existence theoretically validates their authentic selfhood.  But the child’s lived experience will either practically validate or practically refute their authentic selfhood.

If a child is born into a home that invalidates her worth, she likely learns to feel unlovable, insecure, and inadequate. Therefore, she must look outward for meaning and evidence of her internal worth, and anxiety will thrive and grow in the uncertainty of that search.

What Self-Abandonment Looks Like

Let’s define self-abandonment as ignoring, rejecting, or suppressing parts  of your real or authentic self.  It’s when you routinely choose not to meet your own needs and often decide not to follow your own dreams or desires.

Pleasing others erases all concern for your own needs and desires:

  • “I feel disconnected from myself”, says an anxious husband who prioritizes everyone else in his family, fearing to ask for what he needs.
  • A Cash-strapped Man can’t say “no” to the friend who asks for money to buy concert tickets.
  • An Exhausted Mother can’t allow herself to relax because she is doing everyone else’s chores.
  • To define their value, one student studies excessively, while another works out compulsively.

How Self-abandonment Lands Humans in a Sea of Anxiety:

  • For the Disconnected Husband, anxiety coils within his state of uncertainty and fear, living at the mercy of the family system.
  • If the Cash-strapped Man is already stressed out about his finances, his anxiety will increase after he gives money to his friend.
  • The Exhausted Mother will be anxious about not meeting her to-do list and failing her family’s expectations.
  • The Students will live with perpetual anxiety, knowing that they are only as good as the latest grade earned or the heaviest weight lifted.

Most of us reached adulthood without exploring our innate value and authentic self.  Along the way, we became conditioned to devalue our bodies, our preferences, dismiss our self-awareness, and feel less than lovable.  In a word, we became what Life conditioned us to become. As we wandered around tumultuous adult seas, we learned that we were not enough.  Yet we desire change…

What to Do About Self-abandonment:

1. Rewrite the story of our intrinsic value.

Once upon a time, as newborns, we were all we needed to be.  As Life conditioned us, we learned things about ourselves that were intrinsically false but felt true. And today we practice a new internal message:

We are loved and accepted and valued, and we are adequate and secure.

2. Practice behaving as if we matter.

By changing our internal story, we begin to change our behavior in real life situations.

  • Disconnected Husband can be honest about what he needs and wants, and he can learn to communicate his needs to the family.
  • Cash-strapped Man can practice disappointing friends and prioritizing his own wellbeing.
  • Exhausted Mother can learn to do less and to assign appropriate chores to family members.
  • Students can learn to find internal value, instead of chasing external validations.

Self-abandonment lands us in a Sea of Anxiety.  We doubt ourselves and our abilities, and we ignore our own value and capabilities. While no human enters life this way, lived experiences condition all humans.  Yet we can change.

Sometimes working with a therapist can help.  If I seem to speak your language, and you believe I can help, please each out.

Click here for more information on Anxiety Treatment.