Relationship Styles and the Psychological Effects of Abandonment by Mothers
Part 2 of a 2-Part Men’s Issues – Abandonment by Mothers SeriesFor a boy, abandonment by his mother has psychological effects that only become apparent when he is a man. In my previous article, I discussed the beginnings of abandonment and explained why it is so formative for an infant, toddler, or young boy. In this second article, I discuss what you one may notice when that boy becomes a man. There may be some relational styles that seem overdone or inappropriate. These may seem very unfair, and yet the man remains oblivious to them, even when they are pointed out to him.
In his book Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw lists some categories of relational styles that may not sense until you see them in the light of the shame that happened to the little boy.
Relational Styles that Cover Over One’s Shame
There are many ways that a child learns to deal with the shame that comes from abandonment. Some of these may only be noticeable to the trained eye of a therapist. Nevertheless, Bradshaw lists styles of relating that you may notice in a grown man. If you do, ask yourself whether they are actually attempts to “put on a face” of shamelessness for that inner hurt little boy who was abandoned and left to conclude that he is are shame worthy.
One learns perfectionism when one is valued only for one’s performance. And a perfectionist doesn’t know how good is good enough.
Judgmentalism and Moralizing
These are “…ways to win a victory over the spiritual competition. Condemning others as bad or sinful is a way to feel righteous or one up. Such a feeling is a powerful mood alteration and can become highly addictive.”
“The self of the other is completely rejected.” The authoritativeness of his caretaker has led him to condemn himself. And, in this internal economy, others are condemned according to the same standards.
By supporting or protecting someone who does not invite it, you ensure that your help makes you one-up on them.
Care-Taking and Helping
This is often seen in families, and in reality, they are not really taking care of each other but are rather catering to their own feelings. This provides them with a way of feeling good about themselves and distracts them from their own sense of inadequacy.
People Pleasing and Being Nice
If people are so nice to you that you have no vote, then you cannot possibly reject them. This is stifling, does not allow the other person to grow, and disallows any honest feedback. In fact, the other person does not participate in the relationship and may as well be a cardboard cut-out.
Bradshaw notes that “the expressions of envy can range from out-and-out disparagement to subtle innuendo … [this] makes envy so mysterious … [it] takes forms that are impossible to recognize.” Envy stems from the belief that I can only be accepted on the basis of something outside of myself because my “self” is shamed and not OK.
Christian Counseling for Men with Abandonment Issues
Many people have one or more of these traits to some degree. However, if they seem extreme it would be wise to enlist the aid of a Christian counselor who can help you to understand the roots of the style that you are seeing. If a man has abandonment issues, then having someone guide him as he traces the feelings that prompt his behavior, and takes on new beliefs about his worth, can open up avenues for changing his style of relating to others. It is especially helpful to have someone who can see how the Scriptures apply to your situation, and who can assure you of a future and a hope that is based on reality.
Concepts taken from Healing the Shame that Binds You, by John Bradshaw
“A Man’s Sorrow,” courtesy of Catface27, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “A Young Man’s Anxiety,” courtesy of Caitlin Regan, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0);
“Walk,” courtesy of Antonio Foncubierta, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)