Understanding Emotional Abandonment

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 8, Number 10

With this October E-Letter, we celebrate the eighth anniversary of providing educational and interesting information to our patients, friends, and the community at large. We have enjoyed the increasingly positive feedback and take pleasure in knowing that we have truly made a difference in the lives of many people. We are planning to include some of these stories in an upcoming E-Letter and invite you to send your stories of how your life has been changed by our E-Letters. All names of course will remain confidential.

In this month’s E-letter, we provide information about the traumatic effects of Emotional Abandonment, our Ask the Doc question is about choosing the wrong partner over and over, and our email of the month is about the loss of Common Sense. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and comments are welcomed.

Practice News

We are pleased to announce that Denise Champagne, M.S. is now fully licensed to practice as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida. Denise completed her Master’s Degree in 2011, and since that time has been working to complete the required clinical hours for post-graduate work. As a member of our practice, Denise will work with children, adolescents and adults. She has experience in helping clients with anxiety disorders, school performance issues, depression, and life adjustments such as divorce, loss of a loved one, work stress, and relationship management.

Denise is very passionate about the effects of parenting on both the lives of children and their parents and enjoys working with families to improve all of their relationships. She specializes in helping divorced parents manage the raising of their children by learning to effectively co-parent in separate households. Denise also continues to work as our Training Facilitator, teaching classes related to parenting, anger management and domestic violence.

While awaiting credentialing with insurance companies, Denise will also continue to provide counseling at reasonable rates for self-pay patients. Please contact our Administrative Assistant, Jillian Baer, at 954 755-2885 to schedule an appointment with Denise.

Research Study. We are continuing to participate in a four month research study with Life Extension Institute assessing the effects of cognitive therapy, nutritional supplements, and medications on weight management in overweight individuals. Dr. Kimmel and Denise Champagne have been conducting cognitive therapy groups for a sample of 40 subjects who will be followed by three physicians. Informal results continue to show success for those subjects who are in the study. For more information about the study, contact Jillian, at the above number.

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel who would be happy to answer them.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Our practice is one of the few offices certified to provide the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, it is required by the State of Florida for all parents divorcing or separating even if not legally married. We have provided this course many times and have designed it as a 4-hour, one-session presentation that focuses on ensuring that parents protect their children from the effects of divorce or separation by setting aside their differences and focusing on the children’s need for both parents in their lives. The course also provides information about divorce as loss, gives an overview of the Florida laws and statutes related to divorce and custody issues, and offers information on how children react to divorce based on their ages.  The course is offered live on a flexible schedule, based on the availability of those attending the course.  Please contact our Administrative Assistant, Jillian, at 954 755-2885 for additional information.

Qualified Supervisor. Dr. Joel Kimmel has been certified by the State of Florida to supervise mental health counselors seeking supervision to meet the licensing requirements. If you or anyone you know needs a qualified supervisor to meet these requirements, contact Dr. Kimmel for further information.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on emotional abandonment, that is, the rejection or denial of a person by another. Often the cause of many traumas, we see patients in our practice who have some history of abandonment by family, friends, or others. Abandonment occurs when one person in the relationship terminates it or removes themselves completely without the other person wanting it to end. Sometimes, this can take the form of being physically present but emotionally unavailable. The abandoned person often feels that they are responsible or that something is wrong with them. The hurt runs quite deep and can last a lifetime. Often it begins in childhood. Children may find their parents too busy in their own conflicts to pay attention to them. This can often lead to acting out behaviors for attention, withdrawal leading to distrust of others, and insecurity about themselves. Lasting into adulthood, they can grow up with a sense of shame and consequently an inability to trust others. They fear that they will always be left alone to deal with the hardships of life.

Sometimes abandonment takes the form of the loss of a loved one whether it be through death or divorce. The adult who experienced such abandonment when a child believes that every important adult might also leave them since this is what they learned. They can become fearful and the fear of abandonment can be quite intense and interfere with the formation of healthy relationships. Individuals with emotional abandonment often choose partners who are unavailable or cannot sustain a relationship because they may be married or may be cold and indifferent. By choosing such a partner, the individual avoids true emotional intimacy and thus the feelings of rejection and hurt. How can you be hurt if you are never engaged in the relationship?

People with emotional abandonment feel worthless and unwanted. They often feel guilty of doing something wrong to make their partner leave them. They tend to be insecure and often cling to others becoming very dependent. They may withdraw as they feel inferior to others. They may become promiscuous and tolerate domestic violence in order not to be alone. They may require excessive reassurance and suffer from low self-esteem. Common emotions include anxiety, depression, guilt, worry, distrust, and resentment.

Overcoming emotional abandonment involves changing one’s thoughts about these painful emotional memories. Forming a relationship with a trusting and supportive therapist can help to change these irrational thoughts and also allow one to experience a healthy and trusting relationship. A primary way of letting go of the hurt of abandonment is to practice forgiveness. This allows you to accept the abandonment for what it was, let go of it, and move past the hurt and anger to a sense of personal freedom. Another step involves realizing that you are not the blame for being abandoned, that you have self-worth, and are capable of being loved. Practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can help you relax and and also feel empowered. Finally, focusing on the present allows you to not live in the past.

We offer the following information on Understanding Emotional Abandonment:

“Father of mine, Tell me where have you been
You know I just closed my eyes, My whole world disappeared…
Daddy gave me a name, Then he walked away
My dad gave me a name, Then he walked away”— Everclear

What to Know!

  • Emotional abandonment (EA) occurs when a person is rejected or denied by another person or a relationship is ended without their wanting it to end
  • EA can also occur when a loved one or a close person is absent or even dies leaving great feelings of loss and loneliness
  • EA can be very traumatic when the abandoned person depends on the other for emotional, financial, medical, or physical support
  • According to Claudia Black, abandonment of children when they are developing their self-worth is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy; this is the central cause of feelings of shame which becomes a driving force in their adult lives
  • Feelings of EA can be triggered by perceived intentional or unintentional slights, being defriended, and not having texts or emails returned, as well as actual rejections
  • The fear of EA can create high levels of anxiety and lead people to stay in unhealthy and dependent relationships just so that they are not rejected
  • People with EA worry excessively about being left alone and develop dysfunctional behaviors, such as being too needy, which eventually alienates others even more
  • People with a fear of EA are often attracted to unavailable partners with whom they cannot form a relationship; thus playing it safe and avoiding being hurt
  • Fear of abandonment can lead to anxiety, anger, depression, guilt, distrust, dependency, low self-esteem, resentment and avoidance of intimacy
  • Symptoms also include feelings of worthlessness, withdrawal from social activities, clinginess, insecurity, sleep and eating disorders, and overall fatigue
  • EA is associated with an inability to make a commitment, promiscuity, compulsive dating, attention seeking, substance abuse, and other pathological behaviors
  • Fear of EA affects men and women equally and it is very prevalent in children whose parents are physically present but emotionally unavailable
  • People who fear EA stay in relationships longer than they should, constantly worry about their partner leaving them, and end relationships before they can get rejected
  • Psychotherapy can be quite helpful in treating people with EA as a supportive trusting therapist can help change emotions linked to abandonment memories

What to Do!

  • Practice yoga and meditation to help relax your body and mind
  • Practice forgiveness and let go of resentment in order to form healthy relationships
  • Recognize that you are not responsible for the abandonment and view yourself as worthy of love and healthy relationships
  • Focus on the present and do not live in the past
  • Replace negative untrusting thoughts with ones that are beneficial for you
  • Seek professional help to develop a trusting and supportive relationship to change your beliefs and feelings about your sense of worthiness

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

Karen asks: I am on my third divorce. What is wrong with me that I keep picking the wrong man…immature and emotionally stunted?

Dr. Jim Kaikobad replies: When it comes to choosing partners, most of us are not aware of the single biggest secret of a successful relationship. We don’t think logically about who we choose. We make choices based on our needs, our fears, our impatience, and our desperation.

Some of us have a fear of loneliness, others a fear of being independent and self-sufficient. Some people fear being on their own and never being wanted by others. Others have financial fears and will choose anybody who seems to be able to provide financial security. All of these have the capacity to distort reality and blind one to the real personality and character of your partner.

Here is the secret that is most important.


Use your head in making your choices, not your needs or your emotions. Do not be driven by escaping from a difficult life situation. Choosing well is not going on thrilling dates, or expensive dinners, or even having sex quickly. While this may be fun, choosing well takes time.

It takes seeing your partner in good times and bad. Observe how you handle conflict and disagreement as this is an indicator of the health of your relationship. In a sense, take your partner for several “test drives” to see how well they do and how well they perform in reality. Do not ignore the “red flags” because of your needs. Once you become convinced that you have a well integrated, well functioning person in your life, you will break your cycle and never have to ask this question again.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Bob S. for the following email::

An Obituary for Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

  • Knowing when to come in out of the rain
  • Why the early bird gets the worm
  • Life isn’t always fair
  • and maybe it was my fault

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.

Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;

  • I Know My Rights
  • I Want It Now
  • Someone Else Is To Blame
  • I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

If you remember him, pass this on.

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till November…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.