Abandonment and Rejection – Insidious Self-Sabotage

It’s been a little while since my last post! I’ve been very busy doing other things, such as going on my one year anniversary trip with my partner and also thinking about what I’d like to do during my long summer vacation.

Part of the things that I want to do more of is write, but it was put on pause while I focused on other goals. But today, I’m back at it and am focusing on a topic that is both important to me and something I have dealt with, and that is the anxiety of abandonment and rejection.

What is Abandonment and Rejection?

Let’s establish our terms here. Abandonment is the feeling of impending loss of someone valuable in your life, likely because of trauma from the past that had integrated the idea that eventually, everyone will leave you. Rejection is similar, in that you’ve been conditioned to assume that you and everything that comes with you – such as your desires, goals, etc – will be rejected by default.

Both of these states are extremely destructive towards an individual’s self-esteem and ultimately, their life. They are also very subtle and difficult to resolve, particularly in cases where someone has gone through a very significant amount of trauma.

Self-Sabotage as Self-Preservation

Let’s consider how these emotional states can affect you.

When people think of these states separate to someone experiencing them, they can consciously admit to them being highly negative and destructive. It’s also quite clearly an irrational way of thinking of oneself, too. However, trauma that integrates these ideas into ones psycho-epistemology that one is unlovable and unworthy are often very subtle and hard to pick up on, even when the individual is aware that they have an issue.

Consider what the subconscious is doing when one is rationalizing that their relationships or their ability to succeed in a job is a dead end. Because of the fact that they, by default, consider themselves unlovable and unworthy, much of what their subconscious spews out for them are things that supposedly lead to their survival. In the past, they bore witness to some kind of emotional trauma which led them to believe they are unworthy – that moment or various moments were catastrophically painful events. Because of the pain that was inflicted upon the individual, the idea that getting close to other people or even things such as getting a job become very dangerous endeavors to them, and alarm bells start to go off for no apparent reason. From here, their psycho-epistemology is screaming at them to keep away, because then pain can be avoided. And that’s when the subtle rationalizations begin, which I’ll elaborate more on with my own experiences.

Personal Experience

Something that I have fought against in my life is the issue of abandonment/rejection. It’s something that was instilled in me from a young age with bullying and some other awful experiences in my youth. While my youth was full of a lot of joy and my mother was an excellent mother, I still had trouble in the sense that I developed a defense mechanism in my psychology – and that was distancing myself from people; self-sabotage in order to avoid the pain of loss/rejection. There is also the aspect of having an absent father, with a vivid memory of him leaving and never coming back.

I would guilt myself over my feelings, too. If I had a passing emotion or feeling that I didn’t particularly like, I would guilt myself over it heavily, and I would also use it as a means to get out of friendships or simply remain distant. This issue continued on into my adult life, too – with relationship issues that only existed in my head and massive rationalizations as to why I can’t do particular things or succeed in anything.

I became very good at picking apart events and putting together otherwise disconnected parts to come up with a reason as to why a relationship, friendship or goal is a dead end. I thought I was really just doing myself a favor by throwing out things that “would just end up holding me down”. I vividly remember doing this with many things, without realizing that I implicitly believed I didn’t deserve those things or I wasn’t good enough for them.

But see, this is why it’s such an insidious psychological state. It’s very hard to make explicit what you’re actually doing – at least, not with the wrong philosophies guiding you, but we’ll get to that. Suffice to say though, for the longest time I always felt quite unhappy and saw the world in a malevolent sense. I went through different phases, including the hedonistic phase, as I deduced that because commitments of all types eventually end, best live it up with the physical pleasures. Nonsensical in hindsight, but that’s also why I’m writing about it!

Egoism and Self-Acceptance

The turning point for me though was when I had become a rational egoist, or more specifically – an Objectivist. I started to recognize faults in my own thinking, such as the fact that for relationships and jobs I had always asked “Am I worth their time?” rather than what I always ask now, which is “Is this worthy my time?”.

But more importantly, it taught me to trust my senses, my mind and not to doubt my ability to succeed. While this did not directly address my personal psychological issues, it gave me the correct stepping stone to fixing it, which was to put myself first in all areas of life and recognize that I deserve happiness. I won’t go into the total sum of the philosophy on this blog post (you can look that up or watch some videos), but suffice to say it changed me completely.

Ultimately though, it led me to Nathaniel Branden’s work on Self-Esteem, and while it is much more complicated than my brief blog post on it, there was a particular section in “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” that made explicit exactly what I was doing to myself, and that was “self-acceptance”, and my lack of it.

Historically, I did not ever accept who I was and always looked for ways to “fix” myself. This does not seem like a bad thing on a superficial level, but let’s consider its implications. By telling myself that I needed “fixing”, I was implicitly telling myself that I was no good as I was. It created a terrible cycle of pushing myself but never feeling like it was enough.

In other words, I did not consider myself worthy of the happiness I wanted. The contradiction in my thinking was laid bare for me to see, and it was from there that I had begun to accept and see myself for who I really was..and what a pleasant surprise that is!

The Renaissance Man

A few weeks ago, a comment from someone stuck with me and had me thinking. People were impressed with how many things I was able to do skillfully (and in this case, it was my ability to paint). Appreciating the compliments, someone had called me a “real Renaissance Man“, and I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I looked it up.

It was like finding a perfectly fitting shoe and had me beaming, firstly because it’s such an enormous compliment, but secondly because it truly made me recognize my own qualities and my sense of life – which is the desire to constantly create, learn and succeed in whatever it is that I decide to pursue.

When I look back on my own life now, I recognize how much I am actually capable of. This kind of self-esteem was completely alien to me in the past, precisely because I had considered myself unworthy of love, admiration and happiness. The contrast between my psychology then and now is enormous. It’s a testament to how powerful the right kind of philosophy can be and how much it can change you. It most certainly takes time to change however and I do not at all try to say that things such as abandonment are easy things to overcome – quite the contrary, it took a lot of serious introspection and conscious work to get to where I am now; and I still deal with some problems here and there.

But that struggle and facing my own demons is exactly what transformed me – and I could not have done it with a different philosophy.

Be excellent. Thanks for reading!

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