The Schema of Abandonment


When the schema of Abandonment is activated in our system, we are left sitting in an emotional space that’s filled with fear. It’s often a constant sense of anxiety about the instability of our intimate connections with the people who hold the most meaning in our lives. Whether this fear is real, and therefore justified, or if it’s a completely subjective point of view that has been heightened as a result of the psychological filters attached to this particular schema is completely irrelevant. It leaves us with the rigid belief that people who are important in our lives will no longer continue to be there for you because they are either, emotionally unpredictable, they are only present erratically, they will die, or they will leave us for someone better.

This schema is usually derived from a perception of instability in the early childhood environment, that leads to a number of different unmet childhood needs. These emotionally activating situations happen often enough to create the belief that people won’t be there for you when you need them the most. However, at the same time, it’s worth pointing out that this schema may also arise as a result of growing up in a proverbial “bubble of protection,” where things are constantly done for us. This leaves us dependent on others to get things done and leads to the development of a significant amount of fear for what will happen if the protection is no longer there.

My relationships were always impaired by my anxious fearful attachment as a result of my constant fear of abandonment.”


~Steven Morris RP.

The schema of abandonment for me, was one that revolved around a fundamental belief that I will lose anyone I get close to, and therefore, be left emotionally isolated forever. When this story was active in my system it felt like I had a constant sense of despair around relationships that were important to me. While it was prominent in my intimate partnerships, it was also something that I experienced in group activities, at work, and in what were perceived as casual relationships too.

As I previously mentioned, there are generally 2 distinct types of story that are associated with a schema of Abandonment. They usually manifest as a result of 2 different types of childhood experiences. The first type comes from an environment that is emotionally unstable and unpredictable for the developing child trying to make sense of their place in the world. If this was the environment you grew up in, it can leave you with thoughts and feelings that people aren’t there for you with any degree of consistency.


"When this story was active in my system it felt like I had a constant sense of despair around relationships that were important to me."

~Steven Morris RP.

The second type, which often gets overlooked, comes from an environment that is experienced as being too secure and overprotected. Everything is done to make sure we don’t suffer or struggle in any way and there is always someone there to pick up the pieces from our mistakes. If this was the environment you grew up in as a child, your current adult behaviour patterns will be connected to a combination of the schemas of Abandonment and Dependency.

For me, it was a light bulb moment to realize why my story was the way that it was. It allowed me to develop my awareness for the reasons why I had so much anxiety around developing relationships that were close, emotionally intimate, and connected at a deeper level. Working with this story, or combination of stories, is really effective way to improve our attachment style. and it is incredibly beneficial in developing our ability to Live the Life we Want to Live.

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Schema of Abandonment Worksheet

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