Fear of abandonment makes it difficult to properly separate from what is familiar

The quality of the poem (quoted in the last blog), art or piece of writing is irrelevant. What is important is how you can see your shame, reject it, and find some element of control over it. There is nothing more effective in stifling your creativity and willingness to learn and experiment than the inner critical, shaming, voice being reinforced in real life. Like the servant in the scripture, you will bury your talent. This is what happened to 35 year old Jason, a highly intelligent individual. But, intelligence does not counteract fear. His behaviours are typical of those who suffer from this fear. He was acutely conscious of the severity of his fear of being away from home and the loneliness that it fostered. Home was, in short, the only place where he felt comfortable, just like a child with an insecure attachment on his first week in school. The insecure inner child did not feel safe anywhere else.

“Separation from home has always been an issue for me. I never felt comfortable living anywhere but home. I longed to head home when in college and would get the last bus to college on a Monday night and the first home on a Friday. I was so lonely that one night, my father brought me to the bus stop and even though I didn’t really talk to him, I told him that I really didn’t want to go back. I couldn’t face it. He sensed my fear and took me home to my mother and said that the bus didn’t turn up. After a sleepless night, I went the following day. I would lie to my mother about my timetable and tell her I had nothing on a Monday, so I could stay at home. As a result of all this, I was missing most of my hours in college. But, thankfully, one of my friends gave me the lecture notes. The fact that I passed my exams masked how I felt about college, and I put on the impression that I loved it. I think my mother could see through me, but like a lot of things she didn’t like to push me on it. It is strange that I longed to get out of the house, but have always found it very difficult to live away from home. Even when living away from home in later life I always felt a pull to go back. This is the main reason why I never travelled. My friends and brothers and sisters all headed on J1 visas, but I never did. I always made up excuses of not having enough money, but deep down I was too afraid. I just couldn’t see myself working on a building site away in another part of the world. “

Unless properly treated, fear of abandonment will be with you all your life. If Jason thought that becoming qualified and finding a job would end this fear, he was greatly mistaken. Initially this did not seem to be the case when he moved to live with some friends, who represented home and for him normality.
“The only time I enjoyed living away from home was when I got my first job after college and I was living with 3 guys I knew really well. I suppose they provided the familiarity I needed – an extension of my family home, maybe. Still, I would come home every weekend. My home was my safe place, it could protect me from my fears and anxieties. At home I could briefly forgot my insecurities. I thought I had cured the anxiety of living away from home, when I lived with my friends after college. I was comfortable in the house and was finally beginning to enjoy living away from home. That changed when I moved jobs to Dublin, when fear and loneliness returned with a vengeance.”

Since Jason needed familiarity to cope, he managed to come up with a solution that allowed him to work in Dublin and live at home. He took the train to work every morning, a long journey from the south of Ireland to the city, which left him exhausted and aroused the ire of a bullying manager.

“Taking the train would mean moving home and a 2 hour commute each morning and back again in the evening. The lads thought I was crazy travelling this distance. I said I was waiting for the room to come up in Paul’s house. Outwardly I told them that this was an awful inconvenience for me, but deep down I was delighted to have moved home. I was comfortable and safe there and I didn’t have to hide in my room. The effects the travel had on me and my work were not so good. I was up each morning at 6.10 and the earliest I would be home would be after 7. It put huge stress on my mind and body, but I didn’t care. The alternative was moving back to Dublin, which I didn’t see as an alternative. My whole life seemed to be a constant rush. Rushing for the train, rushing to work, rushing to the Luas in the evening, rushing to the train again, rushing to training once I came home. I was literally just getting up, going to work and most evening crashing on the couch, when I got home. My energy levels were low and I was often in bad form. It put huge strain on my relationships at work too. I had an awkward assistant manager always looking for confrontation. He thought I should be staying on later each day. I maintained that I had worked hard during the day and got my work done so I was entitled to leave on time. I also put it to him that if I didn’t go on time I would miss my train, which would mean me getting home between 8 and 9 o clock. The assistant manager would often arrive at my desk just as I was about to leave and ask me to do some ridiculous task. He would say that it would only take 10 mins. This really pissed me off. He knew I’d miss my train, but to me it was like he was doing this on purpose. Sometimes I would do the task and head off to the train steaming, but other times I would leave. He found this provocative and our relationship was deteriorating fast. The root of this problem was my fear of living with strangers in Dublin. “

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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