Sir Godfrey Gregg

Feelings of abandonment are learned

Yes, it’s true. Bad relationship experiences can make us more guarded and fearful in future. After all, if my partner abandons me I’ll probably be more sensitive to this happening again.

However, not everyone responds the same way to being left by someone. Our response to this unfortunate event depends to a large degree on our early attachment experiences.

Remember: our first years is the time the brain is most vulnerable to imprinting. Infants are learning something very different from what we normally think of as “learning”. Yes, they are learning to walk and talk. But they are also learning how to relate to others.

This type of learning doesn’t lend itself to easy recall like remembering a historical fact. These relational behaviours and emotional responses are stored in the right-brain-based implicit memory system which is why it’s not so easy to identify patterns until they are “screaming” at you.

Abandonment issues can be resolved

Feelings of abandonment can be worked through in a loving relationship with a partner who understands. However, what’s critically important is that these fears be communicated and owned by you.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner must change his or her behaviour. But through his or her loving care and understanding you can begin to resolve these fears. You resolve them by experiencing something different.

In other words, your fears might come up but you aren’t left behind. Repeatedly over time, your brain will learn to trust your partner and you will experience less fear in the events and interactions of your relationship.

This process can take years however and because our fears in relationships can undermine a solid foundation, some folks proactively work them out in counselling. This is often the best option – working them out before they reach a crisis when therapeutic interventions are less effective.

And, because these patterned responses are ingrained implicitly, they don’t easily lend themselves to left-brain based talk therapies alone. This is why it’s so important to have right-brain-based strategies in your psychotherapy. Right brain-based interventions are experienced. And, it’s through experience that you change the brain.


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