I struggle to ask for what I want.
It can be as simple as asking for a hamburger to be prepared without a bun (in lieu of other gluten-free options) or free of sauce. Simple, easy requests often feel inexplicably difficult for me to communicate. So my communication comes across as too aggressive, as if I might be attacked for expressing my opinion so I need to be pro-actively confrontational.
It’s almost like I anticipate pushback and mentally brace myself in advance for a battle every time I communicate a need like I have been trained to expect that my needs will not be met.
I can actually feel my fight or flight sympathetic nervous system kick into high gear and brace for a fight when I begin to think about advocating for myself or my needs, almost like anticipatory stress kicks in at the thought of self-advocation. To avoid that uncomfortable feeling, I often just avoid asking for what I need but later feel resentful that my needs have not been met. Crazy, right?
I recently discovered that this is a symptom of self-abandonment, a condition where you diminish, reject, suppress, or ignore your own needs, often prioritizing the needs of others, and therefore struggle to voice them.
What is Self Abandonment?
Self-abandonment can be understood as the rejection of your own thoughts, feelings, and needs – in essence, ignoring how you think and feel.
You abandon yourself when you don’t value yourself or act in your own best interest when you diminish or discount your feelings because you think they don’t really matter or when you hide parts of your feelings, beliefs, and ideas in order to fit in or please others.
Self-abandonment is often learned in childhood through emotional neglect, invalidation, or abuse that impedes your ability to learn about your emotions and how to care for yourself in times of discomfort.
If your parents didn’t meet your emotional and/or physical needs in childhood – i.e. emotionally or physically “abandoned you”— causing you to feel unworthy and unlovable. If you grew up expecting your wants and needs to be ignored, you may have learned to ignore yourself. Being emotionally abandoned in childhood prevents you from feeling like you have access to the skills needed to self-advocate, face discomfort, and calm yourself down.
This learned ability to ignore your own feelings and needs allows you to avoid grief over your parent’s inability to meet your needs. In essence, it’s a coping mechanism or adaptation to a dysfunctional childhood environment that you might carry with you into adulthood. As a child, you depend on adults to meet your emotional and physical needs. But if you live in an unpredictable, chaotic, or abusive family, you learn to hide your true self. You act like a chameleon, morphing into whatever role will keep the peace and help you avoid anger, criticism, unwanted attention, or physical and emotional pain. You learn to suppress your feelings and needs, that your worth depends on what you accomplish (which is often never good enough), and that your needs, interests, goals don’t matter, and that you don’t deserve love and compassion.
As an adult, you may repeat this unhealthy pattern – not knowing how to show up for yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Symptoms of Self-Abandonment
Some indications that you might be abandoning yourself include:
- Ignoring your feelings, gut instincts, or needs – second-guessing yourself, overthinking and ruminating, letting others make decisions for you, and assuming they know more than you do.
- Expecting Others to Anticipate Your Needs – expecting your partner or loved one to anticipate and fulfill your unspoken wishes or demands or assume the responsibility for your feelings or needs. When you lack the skills to self-soothe, you may outsource the management of your emotions to avoid the responsibility of your feelings.
- People-pleasing – Believing that other people’s needs and wants matter more than your own or seeking validation from others, suppressing your needs and interests in order to please others.
- Hiding parts of yourself – giving up your interests and goals, not sharing your feelings.
- Perfectionism – having unrealistically high expectations for yourself, never feeling worthy regardless of how much you do or what you accomplish.
- Inner Critic – either being highly self-critical and judgmental or accepting disrespect, invalidation, shame, guilt, or blame from others because you do not feel worthy of anything better.
- Saying Yes When You Want to Say No – fearing that you will upset others if you say no and feeling like you always have to accommodate, even when you don’t want to.
- Avoid expressing how you truly think and feel – Either because you do not feel that your thoughts or needs or valid or because you fear that expressing them might upset others.
- Not honoring your needs – discounting your needs or not recognizing that your needs are valid, failing to practice self-care, feeling unworthy of self-care.
- Suppressing your feelings – pushing away uncomfortable feelings through overwork and busyness or denial and avoidance.
- Not acting according to your values – doing things to please others even if they go against your beliefs and values.
- Codependent relationships – focusing on someone else’s needs, wants, and problems and neglecting yourself.
- Not speaking up for yourself – not asking for what you need, not setting and enforcing boundaries, letting people
- Neglecting personal boundaries – to accommodate others or make someone else happy. You may be afraid that you will be abandoned if you advocate for yourself, so you abandon yourself and let others walk all over you.
Distraction and Disassociation
Self-abandonment is a form of not wanting to feel or experience your thoughts, feelings, or emotions. You may start to develop coping mechanisms that allow you to ignore or avoid your feelings, like either keeping yourself busy with internal or external distractions (like prioritizing another person’s needs) or dissociation and numbing yourself to your own feelings and needs.
For example, self-abandonment can lead to addictive behavior like over-using substances, or patterns of distraction like spending hours “zoning out” on social media. You may also begin to disassociate so that you don’t need to actually feel any unwanted feelings. The continuous process of detachment, or efforts to ignore, repress, or condemn your personal needs may lead you to either forget or lose the ability to identify your own needs.
More specifically, if you feel an uncomfortable emotion and you don’t have the resources to manage it, you might grab for something to separate you from the pain. Over time, you become estranged from your own emotions (you abandon yourself), and you are absorbed more and more into the addiction or distraction behaviors.
Essential Oils for Self-Acceptance (to Reverse Self Abandonment)
Your sense of smell is directly associated with mental health and emotions and can be activated by inhaling essential oils to help you connect to your body and your emotions, especially when you are in a disassociated state where you may feel disconnected from your physical body and from your mental or emotional reality.
You see, your sense of smell has direct access to the emotional center of your brain – known as your limbic system – which is physically located near the olfactory bulb. Your other four senses, including sound, sight, taste, and touch must travel to other regions of the brain first, before reaching your limbic system.
When you smell an essential oil, it stimulates your brain to release hormones that trigger a rapid emotional response, directly impacting how you feel and how you function.
Research has found that odors that trigger positive memories and associations may be beneficial for health and well-being. Odors evoking positive personal memories “have the potential to increase positive emotions, decrease negative mood states, disrupt cravings, and reduce physiological indices of stress, including systemic markers of inflammation,” according to recent research.
Your brain’s rapid response to smell-based stimuli like essential oils is best explained by research which estimates your sense of smell to be 10,000 times more acute than your other senses. Once registered, scent stimuli travel more quickly to the brain than do either sight or sound.
This rapid response to smell can be super helpful for shifting you out of a state of dissociation and self-abuse and into a space where you can feel safe and access more possibilities and options.
READ THIS NEXT: How Smell Stimulates Your Brain
3 Essential Oils for Self-Acceptance
Essential oils can help support feelings of safety, clear and healthy boundaries, and compassion which may allow you to stay present with your difficult feelings, rather than abandon yourself when you feel yourself struggling with a need that you would like to address. This begins by creating a safe space for you to feel your feelings.
Parasympathetic™ calms your nervous system and helps you be present to the moment, to both your own body and to your mental, emotional, and physical needs.
Your sympathetic “fight or flight” state turns on when survival and safety are threatened. When you are stuck in a cycle of sympathetic dominance – and not activating your parasympathetic nervous system – your body’s alert mechanism for survival remains on high and you can become trapped in a perception that you are not safe, which lays the groundwork for self-abuse.
The parasympathetic system restores a sense of safety and balance which calms the brain and the body by activating your parasympathetic nervous system to help you identify and support your own needs. In fact, research found that – when stimulated, your vagus nerve releases anti-anxiety chemicals that contribute to faster recovery time from emotional trauma and self-abuse.
When you do not feel safe expressing your needs, you might activate what is known as a freeze response of your nervous system – also known as disassociation so that you don’t feel pain. This often includes a disconnection to your sense of smell. Smelling essential oils, like Parasympathetic™, can help thaw the freeze response and restore your ability to sense your environment and feel safe in it. This sense of embodiment and safety may help allow you to better ask for what you need and allow yourself to have those needs acknowledged and supported. Apply Parasympathetic™ over the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) to activate the vagus nerve. This helps discharge energy and shift out of the frozen state into the healing parasympathetic.
READ THIS NEXT: Essential Oils to Support Receiving Praise
Essential oils, like Small Intestine Support™, can help you identify and support healthy mental, physical, and emotional boundaries for yourself and others.
On the physical level, the small intestine plays a critical role in the digestion process, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients while preventing harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the body.
On an emotional level, the small intestine plays a similarly discerning role with emotions, helping to understand experiences and determine healthy and appropriate relationships and boundaries.
It is also an area where we can hold deep childhood scars of rejection, abandonment, or abuse; negative thoughts fueled by feelings of lack of self-worth, low self‐esteem, loneliness, neglect, and anxieties about survival and success with can interfere with our ability to identify and support healthy boundaries.
Small Intestine Support™ blend supports the healthy functioning of the small intestine as it sorts and transforms food, feelings, and ideas into useful ingredients for the body/mind. It also helps correct imbalances where you are overly in tune with other’s criticism, feelings, or opinions at the expense of your own.
Small Intestine Support™ can be smelled or applied around the ears. You can start on the bottom of the ear at the earlobes and gently massage upward along the exterior of the ear, hitting many of the major reflexology points. This article and chart show specific points on the ears for specific issues.
Heart™ balances the heart to enhance compassion and support, integrate and reset all the systems of the body, including supporting feelings of receptivity to love and praise.
Your heart integrates and balances your physical, emotional, and mental bodies, providing blood to every cell and every organ. It also serves as a complex information processing center, influencing brain function, the nervous system, the hormonal system, and most of the body’s major organs. When any part of your body isn’t functioning at an optimal level, your heart has to work harder. For example, when your body is in a state of stress, it needs more oxygen which increases your heart rate. Your heart is your body’s reset button, but a state of constant stress can fatigue the heart and compromise our ability to reset, leading to inflammation, infections, toxicity, and heart disease.
By returning your heart to balance, you support the cardiovascular and circulatory system; regenerate the structure of your heart, and help reset the homeostatic mechanism for your entire body. Heart™ is formulated with powerful calming oils, including Jasmine, an oil found to be as calming as the anti-anxiety drug valium, according to a 2010 study. Jasmine also has a mildly sedative and calming effect allowing it to alleviate anxious thoughts, relieve stress, and ease depression. Jasmine oil actually stimulates the brain, helping to uplift the mood, and promoting feelings of self-confidence and optimism.
Apply Heart™ over your heart (left side of the chest) to balance the heart and support, integrate, and reset all the systems of the body, including mental clarity, physical health, and emotional balance. Heart™ blend also supports feelings of open-heartedness, expansiveness, and receptivity while mitigating loneliness, sadness, and grief.
As you take a deep breath and breathe in Heart™, try to breathe in the deep sense of worthiness and allow yourself to receive love and praise. As you slowly exhale, allow your breath to carry out any patterns of low self-worth or self-limiting beliefs.
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