There are reasons why you act the way you do and say the things you say. Many of your actions as an adult come from emotional abandonment as a child.
Childhood physical or mental abuse is bad, but consider another form of torture: childhood emotional abandonment. No one wants to experience violence or screaming, but sometimes silence can be even worse, especially if the people you love pretend like your feelings don’t matter.
Good parenting or emotional abandonment?
If you were born in the 70s or even the 80s, you may have found yourself in a totally different situation than what children experience today. I’m not saying that either traditional or modern parenting was the perfect form of raising children. I’m just saying there were definitely differences, both good and bad.
Let’s just examine traditional forms of parenting that have proven to be unhealthy. It’s true, maybe what your parents thought was good upbringing was actually neglect. After all, some symptoms show dysfunctional roots. Take a look at some ways you could have experienced emotional abandonment.
Have you heard the old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard”? I bet most everyone has heard this before and it makes them cringe, or at least, it should. In older generations this statement was normal. To parents, even those in my time (the 70s), this statement was designed to keep children quiet while adults talked about important things. The problem with not listening to children can be seen in two problematic areas.
First of all, children who aren’t allowed to speak up will fester with the feelings that they hold inside. Anyone with half a brain can understand that holding in feelings is extremely dangerous. Children who have grown up from this type of upbringing can experience anxiety or depression due to the fact that they weren’t able to be heard during childhood. Also, adults who experienced this type of upbringing will have issues speaking up for themselves and even project this same attitude toward their own children, thus causing a pattern to form.
Although parents from decades past did not want to listen to their children, they still expected them to perform at top level. Parents had such high expectations and would often neglect to help their child reach these goals. This form of parenting was alienating the child and causing those who struggled to feel worthless. Emotional abandonment of this type was certain to cause problems later in life for these children.
High expectations in childhood can result in the same level of expectations in adulthood or even worse. Because the parents of these children left them alone to struggle, these children, now grown, are the types of people who refuse to ask for help. They consider every issue in life to be something they have to conquer on their own, adding to anxiety and depression.
The Laissez-Faire attitude
Sometimes emotional abandonment can come from true abandon. There have been many parents who let their children do whatever they wanted and failed to monitor their behavior or whereabouts. This sounds almost amazing to some kids. Think of the results of such actions! Not caring about where your children are or what they are doing can be detrimental in many ways.
Adults who were allowed total freedom at an early age tend to know nothing of boundaries. They expect everything to go their way and to have uninhibited freedom. Of course, you can imagine all the problems this creates. For example, they will be late for jobs, inconsiderate in relationships and also pass down this laissez-fair attitude to their own children.
The disappearing act
Sometimes neglect comes from events that cannot be controlled. For instance, sometimes children lose parents to death. In rare cases, both parents may be taken from the lives of their children in this manner. This is a sudden and traumatic displacement which immediately causes anxiety, stress, and depression in young children who don’t know how to deal with these emotional changes. In other circumstances, children lose parents to imprisonment, substance abuse, and even true abandonment, where one or both parents just leave them and never return.
As adults, children who have experienced these things can act out in a variety of ways. I’ve known several people who were abandoned in this way as children, with one of them having severe abandonment issues, such as fear of losing the one you love, emotional outbursts and even withdrawal.
Here we are again with this characteristic that causes so much damage in people’s lives. Yes, we are all a little narcissistic to some degree, but some just take the cake. Parents who display this sort of trait with their children are usually those who want the spotlight to remain on them. If the child is stealing the spotlight, the child must be pushed to the side and quieted. It’s not about not listening to their children that really causes the abandonment issues here, it’s more about displaying a shameful attitude toward their children and downplaying the child’s achievements.
In adulthood, children who have been pushed aside by narcissistic parents and ridiculed for no reason can experience a drastic hit to their self-esteem, even falling victim to other narcissists in which they are used to. This low self-esteem can affect their job, their relationship with others and even their relationship with themselves. It’s truly damaging.
Emotional abandonment can be healed over time
Like any other aspect of life and its problems, emotional abandonment can be addressed and healed. However, this is one situation that will take some time to understand before the healing process can start. First of all, you have to recognize the symptoms and connect them with the past experience, hence, getting to the root of the problem, you see.
When that part is discovered, a process of self-love must begin. Like most other abusive situations, love is something that seems to be lacking within the person who is suffering. By learning how to love properly, the abused can differentiate between what was wrong and what was right about their own childhood.
Then, they can stop the pattern and enjoy the rest of their lives as healthy productive people. This is the power of hope.
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- How It Feels to Be the Black Sheep of the Family & How to Cope - April 4, 2021
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