“NOBODY LOVES ME,
everybody hates me, I’m going to eat worms & die!”
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REVIEW post: “Abandonment pain, Now”
• Most people think that loneliness is exclusively the result of some externally scarcity – only from not having friends or someone special in one’s life. Human beings definitely need others – “No man is an island” – for support, companionship, information, touching, mentoring, sex, love, fun, sharing creativity….
… BUT ACoA loneliness is not mainly about missing a physical presence. We know this to be true because we can be alone & not feel lonely. Also, when we’re with the ‘wrong’ person we can feel very alone & lonely – even when it’s someone we love – but who is always in their own inner world, which leaves little or no room for us. In that case the loneliness is even greater because there’s the illusion of companionship, but with no real connection. AND ACoAs tend to be around (& stay with) just such people most of the time.
REALITY: ACoA loneliness is primarily an internal lack, which comes from not having comfort & nurturing as kids – & which we carry inside as a big ‘hole in the soul’, & then act out in our external choices.
Health: While some children naturally need more time by themselves than others (Introverts), all children need guidance & companionship – when learning new info, doing chores, trying out new skills, playing, performing… and most of all need to not be alone with painful emotions! Trauma is not caused just by distressing events themselves but from having to cope with the resulting fear & pain alone! In difficult times – whether from a skinned knee, being bullied by peers or the loss of a parent – kids need 4 main things✶:
– physical / medical care, when appropriate
– words for what actually happened, & a way to understand it
– validation that the situation was legitimately distressing, without hysterics & over-dramatizing
– comfort for any emotions the child may be feeling!
✶ When children experiences these comforting (E) & informative (T) interactions from loving parents &/or other caretakers, self-comforting skills gradually become internalized, so that as adults they know how to take care of themselves & self-soothing becomes automatic. By carrying that ‘togetherness’ internally for the rest of life they are never truly alone. This minimizes the level of hurt & eliminates panic whenever facing difficulties & losses.
Damage: Our hole-in-the-soul is caused by the lack of internalized healthy loving parents. What we did take in was all of their S-H, depression, anxiety & loneliness – along with their behavior pattern & distorted thinking. So we carry a big emptiness in our gut (where human beings ‘feel’ emotions) – the lack of a safe, nurturing presence! Everyone goes thru periods of loneliness but when it’s long-term (our whole life) – it points to how greatly we were abandoned as kids – not just physically, but in every way.
• Our loneliness started at the very beginning of life – being in the ‘care’ of parents who were emotionally unavailable, psychologically abusive &/or physically absent or harsh. Children need to feel truly, deeply cared for & cared about, to be connected at a body & soul level, in order to feel safe. Kids internalize all their experiences, and in the case of most ACoAs, what we swallowed whole was a daily dose of ‘aloneness’ from our parents’ WIC, & their inability to provide a loving, healthy connection (rather than symbiosis!). Their lack became ours. This broke our heart!
EXP: As an adult Julie has always had trouble falling asleep – she’ll stay up reading or watching tv until her eyes hurt. Her family moved a lot – with a constant loss of home, friends & possessions. She was a victim of bullying at home & at school, religious strictness & outrageous expectations.
She understands now that she was never comforted AND constantly deprived of trying to comfort herself in a chaotic & unhappy life. Her mother happily told family & friends ‘funny’ stories about how hard she’d worked at stopping little Julie’s thumb-sucking as a baby – putting pepper on the thumb, covering her hands with mittens, tying her hands to the crib…. “& that rascal always managed to get that thumb back in her mouth!” Chuckle, groan. And then Grandma would say in disgust: “Yeah, she was born with that thumb in her mouth!” It was considered shameful & weak to need a pacifier of any kind. Better teach them early to be mature & not need anything!
She remembers sadly that a few years later her beloved stuffed cat was forcibly thrown away – because she was ‘too old’ to be needing something to go to sleep with. She was 6!
Some years into her therapy, Julie asked her narcissistic mother what she remembered about putting Julie to bed when she was little. Mom answered offhandedly, & with a fond smile: “You were such a good baby. Even when we visited friends, I could put you in the other room & you’d fall right to sleep”.
What Julie got from that was that her mom was pleased to have a child she didn’t have to pay much attention to – to be free to do her own thing. She never even considered helping her child transition✶ into ‘sleep time’ by rocking her, reading or singing to her, assuring her she was safe…. Little Julie was just left to fend for herself.
✶ Babies ( small kids) can ‘get going’ on their own – wake up & be ready to eat, play…. BUT they physically need help calming down after the many stimulations of waking time. Without that they find it hard to rest.
Julie also remembers her mother deliberately letting her little sister consistently cry herself to sleep – with no comfort, so she wouldn’t be ‘spoiled’. She even prevented visiting friends from going into the bedroom to comfort the crying baby!
NEXT: Loneliness in Childhood, Part 1