When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: "You are not important. You are not of value." This is the pain from which people need to heal.
For some children abandonment is primarily physical. Physical abandonment occurs when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment. When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care.
Emotional abandonment occurs when parents do not provide the emotional conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development. I like to define emotional abandonment as "occurring when a child has to hide a part of who he or she is in order to be accepted, or to not be rejected."
Having to hide a part of yourself means:
Other acts of abandonment occur when:
Many times abandonment issues are fused with distorted, confused, or undefined boundaries such as:
When parents do not view children as separate beings with distinct boundaries
When parents expect children to be extensions of themselves
When parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, but expect children to take responsibility for them
When parents' self-esteem is derived through their child's behavior
When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction
Abandonment plus distorted boundaries, at a time when children are developing their sense of worth, is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy and the central cause of their shame.
Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a child's innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult lives.
Excerpt from Changing Course