25 April 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 16: Facing Abandonment Issues

“It is life’s job to bring up all the emotions possible for a human being to experience, and a human being’s job to feel them all without obstruction.” Steve Gilligan, Ph.D.

Once we can observe and relax mental suggestion and association, direct experience of emotion largely comes down to feeling body sensations and experiencing energy flows. Yet we may fear and try to escape these sensations, as if being present to them will actually annihilate us.

I used to be terrified of abandonment. I’m still not overly fond of feeling abandoned, but a whiff of the possibility doesn’t have power over me as once it did.

When we’re terrified of an emotion, we may not even know it. We may hide that emotion from ourselves to avoid the implied threat.

I knew I feared abandonment because I couldn’t behave naturally when I felt it. I’d get withdrawn, or busy, or angry about trifles, or scrutinize other people’s behavior for clues of impending abandonment. If I had valid reasons to think abandonment might occur, I would temporarily lose my ability to verbalize my feelings.

Note: When emotions cripple our ability to speak or think about the topic in words, an initial trauma probably occurred in early childhood, before P1080293we were able to talk.

Around twenty years ago a friend suggested that when my emotions became intense, I should SIT STILL, and ALLOW them to overtake me, with my attention on my solar plexus area (where ribs meet). I thought about doing this–on and off for months.

Considering this simple practice can bring up enormous resistance!

Eventually I got fed up with being pushed out of myself or dangling like a puppet on the strings of such a powerful emotion. I steeled myself to take my friend’s advice and just SIT in it.

The next time I was floored by my terror of abandonment I gathered and focussed my intention to face it no matter what. I was sick of crying about it, running from it, or eating myself into oblivion and decided to quit running. I swear I felt as if an actual hole would open up in the earth and swallow me!

The process of facing emotional terror is similar to turning around and facing the person chasing you in a dream, unmasking our underlying fear.

Waves of body sensation began to build up and intensify as I sat in my body and attended to my experience. I just felt and watched, determined–at the very least–to see just how much a person could really endure. My best tool was to get curious about whether I could take any more, and what would ACTUALLY happen if I could not.

At this point I said, “Okay, hit me with your best shot!” I sat, waiting to blink out of existence, or for my pain to become absolutely unendurable, asking myself, “Is it possible to take just a little more?” I was so sick of being run by these feelings that if I was going to die I could just get on with it.

As I gave my sensations full attention, the waves of pain began to subside. I was surprised to find that I was still there. After several more waves I became fascinated by the way the intensity backed off when I accepted my experience.

I suspect that when we are fully Present and alive, we step outside of time and retain a clear memory of our experience. This direct confrontation with abandonment terror was one of those moments of Presence that remains vivid over time. This single intervention made a permanent change. In the following years I have felt discomfort, uneasiness or fear, but never again has the prospect of experiencing my emotions held terror threatened to overwhelm.

Which emotion or experience holds the most intense charge for YOU?

Have you ever faced it down? If so, what happened?

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2 Responses to “Pearls from Pain, Part 16: Facing Abandonment Issues”

  1. Therese 25 April 2014 at 11:39 am #

    When I was 11, I had a dream I was being chased. If, whatever it was caught me, I was bound to die. This went on for a week. Like you, I got tired enough of waking up feeling sweaty, afraid, & exhausted, I decided, if it happened again, I was going to turn around & see what happened. The next night I found myself running but remembered my resolve. So, I turned around & there was nothing there.

    Thankfully, I learned this lesson early in life & it taught me: 1) fear will not kill me, 2) if I walk into fear, it will, likely, evaporate, & 3) I can control my dreams &, therefore, all of my thoughts. I still have fears. I have to remind myself they are only illusions. I, too, have abondonment issues & often wonder if anyone doesn’t. I’ve come to believe Life is to teach us about our power as individuals & as a collective. The sooner I learn the lessons, the sooner I live a life of Peace & Love. It starts with being peaceful & loving with me & will radiate out from there. I’m looking forward to finding only Peace & Love within me. I’m not there but I’m closer.

    • Teresa Dietze 25 April 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate that you look for this love and peace by delving honestly into what is actually there instead of by denying the same. Yes, we work through the rest and that is what is left.


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