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Fear of Abandonment at Night

July 25, 2023 Karen Mae Vister

I've got this oddly specific fear of abandonment at night. It's bizarre, but when my partner dozes off before me, I feel like a lost child, abandoned at the mall. I'm aware it's not rational; my partner is right there, snug beside me, and I'm a grown adult who's tackled the mall solo countless times. But that lingering fear of desertion from my past creeps in as if it were determined to sabotage the present.

Where My Abandonment at Night Fear Came From

For me, living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) feels like being trapped in an emotional vortex, and it's as if my emotional flashbacks exist just to pull me right back in. An emotional flashback is a poignant revisiting of past traumas.1 It's a visceral encounter with my history that feels like an unwelcome spirit seeping into seemingly innocent moments to throw off my peace. 

I can't even pinpoint where the baggage of abandonment at night fear comes from. Throughout my childhood, this sense of emotional neglect lurked every day, camouflaged by its familiarity. Trying to unravel the roots is like chasing smoke. There's no single event I can slap my finger on, no dramatic moment that screams, "This is it!" It's an interpersonal motif that's threaded its way throughout my upbringing. Labeling it as trauma almost seems insufficient. Instead, I'd describe it as a sneaky, quiet ache painting my experiences with shades of longing and abandonment. 

Overcoming 'Eternity Thinking' to Get Over My Abandonment at Night Fears

While the roots of my trauma remain a mystery, I have discovered the immense power of self-care in processing emotional flashbacks. Renowned therapist, Pete Walker, has a technique for emotional flashbacks that involves recognizing and acknowledging the flashback when it occurs.2 This means being aware of the emotional turmoil and distress that arises from past traumas. This means rather than fearing and shunning the emotional remnants of the past, I must cradle them tenderly, acknowledging their presence and validity.

The second part of the technique involves dispelling what Walker calls "eternity thinking." This refers to the feeling that the emotional flashbacks will last forever, trapping you in the past with no escape. To counter this, Walker emphasizes the importance of reminding yourself that you are now an adult with resources, skills, and allies that were not available to you during your childhood.2  

As I continue healing, I'll keep reminding myself that I'm stronger than the ghosts of my past. Walker's technique serves as a guiding light. Self-care and self-compassion are my beacons, illuminating the way through the dark corners of my past. The idea of abandonment at night might still trigger those fears, but with each step, I'm learning to reclaim my sense of peace and belonging in the present. 

Sources

  1. Emotional flashbacks in complex PTSD | HealthyPlace. (2018, October 18). https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2018/10/emotional-flashbacks-in-complex-ptsd
  2. Walker, P. (2013). ComplexPTSD : from Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.

APA Reference
Mae, K. (2023, July 25). Fear of Abandonment at Night, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2023/7/fear-of-abandonment-at-night



Author: Karen Mae Vister

Karen Mae Vister, author of her blog, Over the Borderline, dedicates her work to providing valuable content and support for individuals on the path to recovery from borderline personality disorder. Find Karen Mae on Instagram and her blog.

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