We have all abandoned ourselves at one point or another. This is just the body’s way of trying to protect you from pain and overwhelm.
We can numb out, disassociate, bypass our emotions, deny our own needs, people-please, and self-sacrifice to name a few ways. But most of them can be boiled down to our nervous system’s responses called the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Can you identify any of these tactics in your own patterns of behavior while you are under stress?
I know that my body goes into the freeze response when I’m experiencing distress, anxiety, rejection, or attack.
Our bodies are not separate from the mind. They are one. And this is why it’s so important to learn about what is happening in the body, to really get into our bodies and out of the mind.
When we are only in our head we come out of the body and the present moment and, therefore, we don’t have complete awareness. That means we aren’t able to make fully conscious choices. We may be stuck in our preprogrammed responses. Pure autopilot. Controlled by our conditioning.
I would love to learn more about this and would like to explore a few questions to help me understand this further and I hope it helps you as well.
Why do we find it difficult to be there for ourselves?
It may be because we have learned to abandon ourselves as a survival mechanism when we were younger. Maybe it was either “abandon yourself and your emotions or your mom will abandon you and then you’ll die and never feel loved.”
This isn’t hyperbole.
Yes, it was that scary when we were little.
Our lives depended completely on our guardians for survival. Babies can’t live on their own. So any rejection or feeling of abandonment meant life or death.
Many of us got messages like this. The only safe option was to abandon ourselves and our needs in favor of preserving the connection to the parent.
Your only lifeline.
So we may not have developed the skill to accept ourselves or our own emotions.
We haven’t learned how to really be there for ourselves because we weren’t emotionally held when we were young.
So, we have learned instead to become master people-pleasers in order to get our own needs met in an indirect way. We take care of others in order for them to take care of us.
There isn’t anything wrong with taking care of others. We are a social species and all of earth’s creatures are interdependent. But it isn’t healthy to take care of others at the neglect and expense of your own Self.
This is a coping mechanism. When we let this go on too long our nervous system becomes fried and we begin to experience chronic physical illness as well as mental and emotional stress and this puts a strain on our relationships and interactions with others.
This has now turned into a huge problem because we can’t deal with life situations or how we feel about them without distracting ourselves or pushing our feelings aside in hopes that they will just go away.
This may help numb out in the short term, offering some temporary relief, only for the emotions to come back even stronger whenever someone or something touches our soft spots and triggers.
Our untended wounds are controlling the whole show from the background.
In order to heal these soft spots, we have to learn to be there for ourselves.
What should we do when we try to stay grounded and centered in the present moment, but find that it’s very painful?
Give yourself permission to feel.
And feel it with complete honesty and acceptance. This is self-love and self-compassion. When you become more aware of what you’re feeling without denying yourself the right to feel it, these unpleasant emotions will dissipate much easier.
Give yourself some space around them. Observe them. Thank them for showing you the truth. You feel this way for a reason. There is no need to place blame on yourself or others. The emotions are there to show you your boundaries, your unmet needs, your true desires, unhealthy patterns, and so on.
Emotions are information.
Once you fully receive the message they will move on. But not without actually fully feeling them, accepting them, and understanding them.
There isn’t a way around this. We are human and this is the process. We are not able to “get rid of emotions” and the world would be a scary place without them. So need to learn how to work with them.
Unfortunately, most of us were never taught how to do this and didn’t receive the best role models. We also may never have learned to self-regulate because our parents failed to co-regulate with us when we were young and experiencing scary emotions.
Instead, we were punished for them or rejected. And that’s when we learned that we should abandon ourselves or reject our emotions in order to survive or to be loved and accepted.
Because this is so deeply ingrained within us, it will take a lot of practice, patience, and self-compassion to begin healing these abandonment wounds and to start trusting your emotions. Feeling our feelings may bring up a lot of resistance, but it doesn’t have to be scary. When you start feeling something unpleasant focus on feeling the ground under you giving you support and breathing in and out. Tell yourself, “I’m here for you. Whatever you’re feeling I accept you.”
Feel the waves of sensation in your body.
Where is it coming from?
Give the pain your full attention.
Allow it to take up space and ask what it needs.
Of course, if you need help, reach out to someone. Tell them you’re in pain or having a hard time and need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.
But let this become a self-reflective practice to start learning yourself, your triggers, your patterns, and your wounds.
These are what block you from reaching your dreams and full potential.
This is barely scratching the surface of a very broad and deep topic. If you are interested in learning more about getting into the body and releasing trauma, retraining your nervous system, and learning to self-regulate, there are many experts in somatic practices I recommend:
Working on this is a lifelong journey. Don’t worry if you think you’re not making progress. Paths are not linear and sometimes this will be easier than others.
Just keep coming back to your Self.
Stay curious. Things will unfold in their own time as you build a solid relationship with yourself. Your inner child may need time to trust again because they are on guard and have grown accustomed to being abandoned.
Commit to yourself. Practice self-awareness.
Through this commitment and practice, more and more will be revealed to you. You’ll be able to notice when you’re falling into toxic patterns, how and why you’re being triggered, the way you talk to yourself, the stories you repeat and recreate, and before you know it…
You’ll be able to choose a different way.
Choice and Free Will are only available when we are self-aware and awake in the present. Otherwise, we are on auto-pilot. The choice has been made for us.
But no need to beat ourselves up when we get off track.
Just try again.