Do you struggle with a fear of abandonment? You may be profoundly aware of it or you may have a nagging feeling that it’s impacting your relationships and your life. Let’s look at some of the ways that fear of abandonment can create a barrier to lasting and loving relationships. …
Do you feel like you have to be perfect or you will be rejected? Do you tolerate criticism or other emotional abuse to avoid being alone? Do you hide your true self because you feel that you will be found not good enough? Do you panic when you don’t receive an immediate response to a text, email, or voicemail? Do you become clingy or demanding when you feel someone pulling away? Or do you leave before you can be left? Do you try to avoid your profound fear of abandonment by focusing on work or numbing out with food, alcohol, or drugs? Do others’ explained or unexplained absences send you into a tailspin? Do you stay in unhealthy relationships because it’s better than being alone? Or do you avoid relationships because you fear the ultimate outcome—you will be left?
These thoughts and fears can trigger powerful and painful emotions—shame, sadness, loneliness, longing, anger, and anxiety. These emotions can feel intolerable, and the desire to get rid of them or minimize them can cause you to behave in ways that may have worked in the past. Now, as you assess the relationships in your life, you may have the realization that your behaviors aren’t working anymore. You know this because you don’t have the relationship that you want. At the same time, the goal of having a healthy, lasting, and loving relationship may feel out of reach to you, or you may feel that it’s going to require too much work and you don’t have the time or energy. I understand. It’s normal to feel that it’s easier to lower expectations and hope rather than increase drive and determination, especially in matters of the heart where we have a constant fear of being hurt or disappointed. You may be asking yourself if it’s worth it to risk making yourself vulnerable to the possibility of more emotional pain when you feel like you’ve experienced enough for a lifetime. We all know the pain of being in a relationship that leaves us feeling sad, lonely, misunderstood, unlovable, unsafe, and longing for more (but not necessarily believing that we deserve more). Many of us don’t know what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship that makes us feel loved, worthy, understood, valued, respected, and appreciated for who we are—flaws and all.
What if you could put your fears—and your beliefs about yourself, others, and your relationships—in a new context that would get you distance from your past and allow you to build lasting and loving relationships? What if you could learn new ways to deal with painful emotions and negative thoughts? What if you could make behavioral choices that would get you closer to having that healthy relationship that you long for (but fear you might never have)?
About This Book
This book is designed to help you understand and accept that you are not to blame. Your fears and your beliefs about yourself, others, and your world are the result of your childhood and adolescent experiences. They are all part of your story, including painful messages and experiences. You may be feeling anxious or scared when you think about focusing on your past painful experiences. While our past is always with us in some form—whether it’s lurking in the shadows or out in the sunlight—it’s important that we put it in the proper perspective. One of the goals of this book is to help you create a new relationship with these events, your story, and everything that accompanies it: your thoughts, emotions, and behavioral reactions. Consciously or unconsciously, your relationship with your story is getting in the way of the connection that you long for with another person.
The ultimate goal of this book is to get you to a place where you can be present in a relationship without being controlled by your fears. Let me explain how this journey will get you to that place. In chapter 1 we’ll take a close look at fear of abandonment. You probably know that you have it, but this chapter will bring all of the aspects of this hardwired, biologically driven fear to awareness. I will also introduce and explain four additional deeply held beliefs (referred to as core beliefs) that are often closely linked to the fear of abandonment: mistrust and abuse, emotional deprivation, defectiveness, and failure. These core beliefs are brought to life through stories in this chapter and throughout the book.
In chapter 2 you will take five short assessments to identify and look more closely at the common beliefs that are associated with each of the five core beliefs. In chapter 3 you will be led through an explanation and examination of common traps (mind, behavioral, and relationship) that are likely creating additional pain for you. The first three chapters will bring awareness to your story, including your beliefs and behavioral reactions to situations that trigger your core beliefs.
In chapters 4 through 8 you will be introduced to concepts and led through exercises that will help you develop skills necessary to distance yourself from your story. This includes mindfulness; letting go of what you can’t change; identifying and committing to the values that will enrich your life; and gaining a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors including developing new ways to view and interact with them. Chapter 9 introduces communication skills that are essential components for developing and maintaining healthy and lasting relationships. The final chapter is designed to help you navigate the challenging aspects of dating, including warning signs to look for in a potential partner.
I have carefully and thoughtfully designed this journey to be compassionate, loving, and challenging. I understand your pain. Many of my experiences are woven into the stories of this book. I have been on this journey, and I can assure you that the emotional discomfort and challenging exercises that you may periodically experience is worth the payoff: healthy, lasting and loving relationships. We all experience pain—unfortunately it is part of the human condition. I want to help you eliminate your suffering—the pain that we knowingly or unknowingly create when we struggle to manage the pain that we can’t avoid. The process involves awareness and change. My hope is that this journey will enable you to develop a loving relationship with yourself and shed the cloak of shame that can keep you stuck in a past that is controlling your present.
This journey requires work. At times it will feel challenging, especially when you are asked to examine unhealthy thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The exercises contained in this book are designed to help you get closer to the healthy relationships that you desire. You will need to keep a journal to complete the exercises and track your progress. There are three options available to you: (1) purchase a journal or notebook, (2) access the online journal on my website (http://www.michelleskeen.com) or an online journal from another site, or (3) download the PDFs that are provided for each of the exercises (found at http://www.lovemedontleaveme.com) and keep them in a notebook or binder. The act of writing helps you stay focused, and having the information in one place allows you the opportunity to notice behavioral patterns, reflect on your values and experiences, and chart your progress. You may go through periods when you feel stuck or challenged; these are the times when it’s helpful to have a record of your journey so you can look back at what you’ve written and celebrate the progress that you’ve made.
I wear a bracelet that reads, “It matters not what road you take but what you become on the journey.” Let’s begin the journey. …