Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Hi.  My name is Brian, and I have abandonment issues.

It's much harder to admit than it would seem.  It doesn't fit the image of the strong male, provider, husband, and father that every guy worth his salt wants to live up to.  It has no part in who I want to be, but is unbelievably hard to shake.  

Empirically, I know that I don't experience relationship failure or any of the other experiences that constitute abandonment any more than anyone else does.  The real issue isn't even the failure of the friendship.  It's the expectation of abandonment as an eventual outcome that is so insidious.  

Boiling it down to its elemental parts yields a nasty mix of paranoia and self-doubt.  It stems from two beliefs.  The first of these is the deeply held belief that at some point I will screw this up.  Something in my behavior will be too unpalatable, and the person will "move along".  The second, and by far worst of the pair is the belief that at some point, the person will find me unworthy of their time, attention, company, loyalty, etc.  This one tells me that those things I value in myself will be insufficient to outweigh my flaws.  I will have, again, earned the absence of someone I hold dear.

Potentially worse than the actual abandonment itself is the expectation of impending abandonment.  Cicero wrote of Damocles, a courtesan to Dionysious II.  Damocles lusted after the wealth and power of the king, and made it obvious with his obsequious praise.  Wise Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles and allowed him to sit on the throne.  Once Damocles was seated, Dionysius ordered a sword suspended above the throne by a single horse's hair.  Damocles then begged the king to restore him to his previous station and take back his throne.

Living with abandonment issues is to be Damocles.  It is to either live poor and wish for the treasure of rewarding friendships, or to have them and live in constant fear of their doom.  

Every distance injected into relationships becomes fuel for the fear, regardless of reason.  Every cooling friendship feels deserved.  Others are held blameless.  Their "moving on" is reasonable.  Who'd want to stay given my mysterious failure du jour.

Those of us who are working through this particular issue often find us torn, just like poor Damocles.  We know not when the sword will fall, but the paltry support of our offerings will give way, and fall it will.  There we sit, unable to enjoy the riches of the position we so strongly coveted, fighting the urge to beg restoration to our previous, impoverished station. 

I confess.  I'm still working on this one.

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