If you agree with 5 or more of the following statements, the chances are you have this schema.
- 1I tend to cling to people if I think they are pulling away from me.
- 2I get really anxious if I don't know where my partner is or what they are doing.
- 3I tend to become quite obsessive in relationships.
- 4I am always looking for signs that my partner's feelings are changing.
- 5I get so anxious in relationships I tend to sabotage them early on or avoid them all together.
- 6I often find myself in relationships with people who can't be there for me in a committed way.
- 7The adults in my childhood were unpredictable - nice one minute, then abusive, cold or distant the next.
- 8I tend to keep my feelings and needs to myself - I worry that if I show my partner who I really am, they will leave me.
- 9I feel like it's only a matter of time before relationships end - people usually leave me.
- 10I find it difficult to focus on my own life when I am in a relationship.
The Abandonment Schema is the primary reason why we get anxiety in relationships.
It develops at a very young age primarily when our care-givers are unpredictable in their love and attention. This might be because of mental health issues, addictions, emotional instability or because they are stressed and overworked.
It can also develop if we were actually abandoned or were separated from our caregivers for a prolonged period of time because of hospitalisation or other reasons. When this happens we start to develop the beliefs that people will not be there for us consistently and that at anytime they could leave us or abandon us. We never really develop an innate sense of safety around relationships.
Because of the unpredictability or abandonment by the care-givers in our lives, our brain's threat/fear radar -the amygdala - becomes hyper-sensitive at a very young age and gets activated when we are in relationships - especially with people who are similar in traits to our primary caregivers.
The amygdala basically 'recognises' the characteristics of unpredictability or emotional unavailability in a partner and sets off the fight or flight response - which we experience as anxiety and insecurity.
The abandonment schema, like all schemas is SELF-PERPETUATING. The very things we do to try to try and hold on to the relationship can bring about its end, strengthening the core beliefs that we will always be left or abandoned.
Typical behaviours of this schema are
- clinging to significant others
- becoming possessive and controlling
- constantly asking for reassurance
- becoming hyper-focused on significant others to the exclusion of other people
- hyper-vigilance - always looking for signs that the end of the relationship is near.
Some people will avoid relationships completely or sabotage them early on because the anxiety that relationships generate is too much to handle.
Aside from anxiety, there's also a lot of sadness and depression when there is an actual or perceived end to a relationship and sometimes anger at the people who have left us.
However we act with regards to this schema, we rarely experience a fulfilling satisfying relationship. We either end it ourselves or we push people away. So our very fears of abandonment come true - strengthening the core schema belief that people always leave us.
The abandonment schema is often linked to other schemas. When it's linked with subjugation, we believe that if we don't do what other people want they will leave us.
When it's linked with the dependency schema, we're terrified that we won't be able to survive on our own.
If it's linked to defectiveness and shame, we worry that people will leave us when they find out how defective we are.
Like all schemas, because of the difficult emotions we frequently experience, we are prone to addictions as it's the only way we can get some relief from the constant anxiety.
We might use alcohol to quell the anxiety or food to fill the void created by the unmet need for connection.