Abandonment Wound?


Is anyone familiar with Pete Walker's concept of emotional neglect and the abandonment wound related to PTSD? He calls it central to cPTSD, I identify with the concept and description and examples strongly of how a person ends up (or at least it describes me), and the fear, but relate more to what he calls classical PTSD symptoms, avoidance, hypervigilance etc. I haven't read his latest book but found his 13 tips for emotional flashbacks useful in the past.

Any thoughts on abandonment? Especially when we say adults can't be abandoned but he is calling this the core that is driving depression, self-harm, maladaptive coping choices, and making progress with (c?)-PTSD not likely.

I have put in these 3 videos because they were quite easy to understand and useful and had homework, but not necessary to watch.

Thanks to anyone who has any thoughts on this.



some of this rang true and some of it seemed adapted to fit, as in "if I hadn't beleived I wouldn't have seen it." I think dr. Frey and the betrayal trauma theories are a better fit for me, similar but different, inner critic as self etc.
Again, we are all on the bus, all for different reasons, all getting off at our stops. nothing wrong here, hopefully it works to help someone


Is this how you have experienced abandonment, in adulthood?
No @joeylittle , I'm not sure if I even understand the concept of abandonment, except for say, for example, leaving a child in the road and leaving. Far as adulthood goes, I can relate to abandoning myself (giving up on myself), or saying abandoning a career or relationship or dream, etc, as in walking away, and I respect other people's autonomy. I did however relate to virtually all of what she (as per Pete Walker's book) said. I know I have a crossed wire in that I cannot tolerate easily 'not' being abandoned, so to speak (the reverse of what many people say). My analogy (though not a great one) is that I can give gifts, but it's difficult to receive. It doesn't bother me if people leave, as much as the fear if I stay. I have a lot of respect for Pete Walker, although Idk if it's just because he speaks with authority, but his recommendations seem useful for managing. I try not to go down the rabbit hole of childhood trauma or neglect since I think it's pretty common for most people. Tbh I can't remember most of my childhood, and the neglect part was unintentional to a great degree (designated care giver not there/ some abuse, also different day and age and the context). However, if it's a key to improvement it seems important even if I do minimize it. The only thing I can think, re: abandonment and adults, is that I imagine more people than not have a sense, begun from childhood of safety with a partner or advocate or in numbers, so without it maybe it triggers a sense of loss or abandonment. Much like grief even as an adult has a period of time where everything feels difficult when unassisted and alone, even when you're very independent. Hope that makes sense. It's like what she says makes total sense, but I don't understand what that has to do with later or adult years or subsequent trauma except for not speaking up, freezing, not asking for help and/or making bad choices. So maybe I just said it, maybe it primed the stage for what came later.

@enough thank you also. I don't know that name but will look it up. Got a giggle at the bus comment, wish we had an airplane for that!

ETA Tbh I think I'll just go back to trying to manage in the present. Seems the most useful thing they said is learn some self-compassion, forgive (including yourself), and drop the IC. And recognize being triggered, express it if possible, and nip it in the bud.
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I’ve been abandoned -to die- as an adult (which is a different, yet subtle, thing… than the realization that no one is coming for you, and you’re completely on your own), and I’ve abandoned others -to die, which they did, and I have to live with that- as an adult.

Which makes my abandonment issues the opposite of what one reads on the forum for the most part. Although, in real life, it was the commonly understood thing. As, for a time in my life, everyone I knew had lost people. By leaving them behind. To die.

“No man left behind” is complete and utter bullshit. Or something to sing down from the heavens as being able to achieve. Not what really happens. In real life, you leave people behind, and they die. Often terribly. In exchange for YOUR life.

Which equals out to I have to HARD LINE normal life. In “normal life”? You can only abandon kids and pets. Everyone else? Can take care of themselves. They may not want to, but they can. They may not do it as well as of I stayed, but they CAN. Because we’re not talking life and death. I’m not abandoning someone to die. I’m leaving them to live their own f*cking life. To the best of their ability. Which is their privilege.

It also means I’ve got all but zero tolerance for people acting out childhood dramas in the present. As they’re NOT a child, nor a pet, and I’ve left a helluva lot BETTER people than them to actually die. People who fought to live, and who gave their lives for others. People acting out learned helplessness, and manipulation games, meanwhile? It’s the only time I don’t feel one iota guilty for someone I know committing suicide, self harm, etc. Because THAT bullshit? Ain’t about me. At all. It’s entirely a love letter to whomever abused them. Shrug. Which I DO get. I’ve mixed up the past and present more times than I could even begin to count. It’s just one of those polar magnetism events. I have to work hard to NOT feel like I’m abandoning others to their deaths. Someone attempting to emotionally blackmail me? Pfft. That’s not about me, or my actions. That’s all them, and their past, and I mean nothing to them. In “normal” life? You can only abandon kids and pets. Everyone else is responsible for their own damn self.


like @Friday says my percepten of abandonment is likely different to most people on this forum.

i have been left to die. i was a kid. i had my own kid. it sucked. and i didn't truly understand what was happening. as i'd been raised in total iselation for 14 years prior. it had been only dumb luck which i surveved. i knew nothing. i had only one marketable skill. it was a shitty, sucky time.

i do believe that as adults we do have a responsebility to preserve life. in this society. in a situatien like friday describes it is different. that is a different set of rules. sometimes you have to leave people. sometimes you just do. they can't be saved and by trying you're just putting more people at risk.

different rules. but in this society where most of us are; if you can help, you should. not to the extent that you emotionelly berden your self beyond reasonability. everybody's emotion and stuff? belongs to them. dbt 101. your shit, your responsibility.

never the less i understsand what these people are feeling the dramas and acting out-shit, i've done that more than i can count. and people were nice to me and i survived. i do what i can to make sure people are safe. if some one harms them self in front of me i will do my best to make sure they are safe and treated.

if some one i know kills them selfs (this happened in my company, i had known the individieul.) i unfortunetely end up feeling responseble. even though that was not my job to prevent that. i've been abandoned many times. both as a child an adult. i was left on the streets to wither. i've seen others wither.

and i nearly did. with a child in tow. i fought tooth and nail to get to a point where both of us where conistently safe. i was to fend my self in a new country. i had to take care of my self and make sure i didn't: die, infect anyone, get sick, get my kid sick, get the food, water, school-and on and on.

people abandon people. it happens and we have to just take it. and make the best of it.

becauese it is never not going to happen. everybody has their own shit. and at the end of the day it is not appropreate for them to take responsebilty for your emotions. that's on you. sometimes you will meet people who are nice. who will try. who will talk with you. sit with you. hold your hand.

i'm one of those people. and i do it to an extent. there are bounderies. but i know what it is like to be there. so its hard to resist an attempt at soothing away pain. it's what i was trained for. and what i've always done. now i just do it like a normal person.

and not a feral animal who only knows how to get f*cked. and yell obsceneties. and beg people for food and blankets. that stuff is over for me. but i remember being there clear as day. and i wish i had some one to give me a blanket. and hold my hand. and tell me every thing was going to be okay.

and i didn't get that. not as a child and - yes, as an adult, i did get it. i did. i am now safe. someone does care about me. and supports me when i need it in a healthy way. but i remember so clearly the years i spent by my self. trying to sort every thing out. in tears because i didn't understand the paper work. or what ever.

so i try. i will try. even if it's not my stuff. that's okay. i know it's not. and i'm not going to attach so hevely that they make me responseble for them. they are an adult. they are responeble for their own life and their own feelings.

but i can hold your hand. and pet you. and sing to you. and remind you that you are not alone. 🐙


I relate to and find v helpful Pete Walker's stuff on abandonment depression. Lots of situations can set off those childhood feelings which are so painful and his description of this gave me a way to understand something that was baffling and shameful.

Before I came across his description I couldn't help but think current situations were causing the feelings because I simply did not know any better.


We do a lot of abandonment work in therapy. For example, I’m fine about my relationship with my T…. living life. Solving ptsd crap. Then, she’ll tell me that she’s going to be gone for a week or two and it sets off an internal panic. This is followed by disrupted therapy as we work through this and it’s even worse when she comes back. Nothing is right for awhile. Haven’t figured out the key to this yet. It hurts every single time. @Friday is probably annoyed as hell by me…🤪. I get it, it’s f*cked up. I think I even chatted with Friday once in a dissociated state missing my military dad who was gone for a year when I was 6. But.. like my T told me when I told her how irrational my feelings are, “but isn’t that why we are here?” Logical or not, we feel abandoned by our childhood experiences and current day behaviors and experiences tend to trigger those long ago feelings. Therapy is there to help us recognize those connections so that we can now be the “adult,” it just takes some of us awhile to figure it all out and being present is a huge part of that.


Thank you everyone. I am so sorry, I can't this moment address these important topics- I feel disgusted with myself @Friday to not pay it more of a proper honor; I cannot imagine the grief and pain and strength within yourself you needed to reveal that. Or surviving it. Though I can understand a wee bit of survivor's guilt.

Just to be clear, though I've felt I've abandoned others, I do not feel that about others to myself. I totally also know it's only my responsibility to own my own feelings, I have never wanted it another way. I too don't believe in (or want to) re-enact child stuff, that I can't even remember!

I grew up with most adults not being able to be around; I can remember finding solutions more than anything else. The absolutely best memory as a child in my life I was on my own for months. But I understand too @Skywatcher as grew up in a semi-military family, far as the grief/ missing my dad went, or more so the rollercoaster- away- back-count the days- happy-sad-count the days, etc.

I think @Teasel hit it spot on, as to what my question is, or how (she) has done that. That is what I meant. Thank you @Teasel and all.


For what it is worth I think if you are an adult that has at least one child part (I have a few that I know of) I would argue that you can definitely be abandoned as an adult. Emotionally or physically. I do not have the horrific story that others on this thread do but I have had many older adults “take sides” against me and my story, with my covertly abusive narcissistic parents who portray a perfect image to the world, and sever ties with me after telling me that they’re always there for me. This feels a lot like abandonment when it happens because I feel like to stay safe I have to stay away from those people from them on and have lost almost everyone who was in my life prior to 2018. Maybe not abandonment per se but it’s a lot of loss/betrayal in recent years. That said I will watch these videos later when I have time and may change my response.


I just looked up the legal definition of abandonment. It falls in line with what Friday was saying. It seems as though in the psychological community they have the concept of emotional abandonment as well. I’m now feeling even more confused about myself because I question if my abandonment feelings are more related to the physical absence of my father or the emotional absence of my mother when she was overwhelmed. I was well cared for and I feel like there is something wrong with me for even having such strong feelings of abandonment.


@Skywatcher Don't feel wrong for having your feelings, you aren't taking them out on anyone. And I should think most every child has abandonment feelings at some point in their lives. Even the healthiest child.

I feel abandonment feelings very regularly. Not because I'm being unreasonable, but because any time something happens that's even vaguely related to how I felt as a kid, the feelings I felt as a kid get brought to the surface to join whatever tiny snippet set the whole thing off.
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