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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Therapy Can Help You to Overcome Fear of Abandonment - Part 1

Fear of Abandonment is Not as Unusual as You Might Think
Fear of abandonment as an adult is more common than most people would think. As a psychotherapist in NYC, I've worked with many adult clients who come to therapy to overcome this problem. It's not unusual for clients to seek help for this fear after it has become a serious problem in their personal relationships.

Overcoming Fear of Abandonment in Therapy

Fear of Abandonment Shows in Relationships
Often, the fear of being abandoned manifests as an irrational fear that his or her partner (or spouse) will leave the relationship. Usually, the client knows, deep down when he's not in the grips of the fear, that there's no objective reason for this anxiety.

The relationship is often stable and longstanding, and the partner usually is very reassuring that s/he has no intention of leaving. But, for the person who is overcome by a fear of being abandoned, the objective facts and all of the partner's reassurances have little to no effect on his fear.

Overcoming Fear of Abandonment in Therapy

On the face of it, it might not make sense--especially to the person who is struggling with this fear. When he is calm and not in the grips of the fear, he can tell his partner, spouse, therapist as well as himself that his relationship is secure and there's no objective reason for this fear.

And yet, when he has an episode where he is overcome by the fear of being abandoned, the feeling is very real. It's not unusual for his fearful emotions and his more rational thoughts to be diametrically opposed to each other. In effect, his inner thoughts might be saying,"You're fine. You know she won't leave you" while his anxiety continues to escalate with this fear. All of this can be very unsettling and, in some cases, the person might feel that he's losing his mind.

How to Understand Fear of Abandonment
So, how are we to understand this fear of abandonment in an otherwise sane and rational adult? In most cases, the answer lies in one or more seminal events that occurred at a young age.

If, in fact, this person was abandoned, whether it happened literally or in an emotional sense, the trauma of that event (or events) can be triggered in intimate relationships as an adult--even when this person's spouse or partner has given absolutely no indication of abandoning the relationship.

So the fear of being abandoned in these cases is actually of fear for what already happened--not a fear for anything that is going on now.

But because the fear feels so real in the here and now, it can be an emotionally paralyzing experience.

And if it goes on for a while, this person's partner can become annoyed and frustrated that all of his or her reassurances do nothing to mitigate this fear. So, in some cases, it brings about the abandonment that the person fears because it has such a detrimental effect on the relationship.

Getting Help
Over the years, I've worked with many clients to help them overcome the fear of being abandoned. In a future blog post, I'll discuss how the fear of being abandoned can be overcome in psychotherapy.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides a diverse range of services to adult clients, including talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing.


To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist


To set up an appointment for a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

See my article:  Psychotherapy: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment - Part 2

photo credit: Rowena Waack via photopin cc