Nobody deals well with rejection and abandonment. If you’ve suffered from childhood trauma and CPTSD, there’s additional hurdles to conquer. I’ve recently discovered another facet of my ADHD that’s not much talked about: rejection sensitive dysphoria. With all this going on, how can we best handle the feelings of being abandoned from our loved ones?
Trauma expresses itself in emotional flashbacks, be it conscious or unconscious. Feeling sadness can trigger associations of being unlovable and unworthy. Quickly, we run to our internalised fight, flight, freeze or fawn response. This whole process often goes on while we disassociate, and it becomes all the harder to break the cycle and reparent ourselves.
Our inner critic is our greatest enemy because we cannot escape from them. I’ve spoken before about how nobody abused me more than I did myself by unconsciously repeating the pattern. This is why awareness is the most important key to self-growth, but it takes patience.
Here’s how Pete Walker, the father of CPTSD, explains the 4 F responses to abandonment:
- Fight (narcissistic tendencies) – we lash out, become irritable and controlling
- Flight (obsessive-compulsive) – we become catastrophic, negative and perfectionistic
- Freeze (dissociative) – watching TV or napping frequently, we become spaced out
- Fawn (codependent) – we focus on other’s problems and put ourselves down
It’s possible to be multiple types at once and to swift in between them.
Shame and fear only aggravate the cycle of self-hate.
“The only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid unavoidable pain” – R.D. Laing
By facing rejection and abandonment and simultaneously staying aware of our internal state, we can reprogram our reactions. If we don’t, we self-abandon chronically and become depressed.
We will have to be the parent to ourselves that we never had: it’s not normal to react with anger or disgust when your child is having negative emotions.
Self-care is a big word, but it’s important to comfort yourself. We have integrated a failure to thrive in these situations, and without the lack of a loving caretaker, never learned how to take care of ourselves. You do not need anybody to love you however to love yourselves.
It’s very common for CPTSD sufferers to seek external validation and acceptance. But without healing our negative tendencies such as communication, it’s easy to feel like a lost cause.
Here are some somatic experiencing exercises that will help with staying connected with the moment. Expect to struggle still at the beginning as this work takes time. It’s completely natural to feel down and lonely, but you are not broken, and you are not alone in this.