Why do so many of my clients feel afraid of ending up alone?

From a Cognitive Behavioural approach to coaching, I work with thoughts and work through the imagined consequences of what would happen if a certain thought were to become reality. The individual downward spirals and, very often, ends up in a worst case scenario in which they are left abandoned, alone and without friends, family or a roof over their heads.

For example:

Coach: 'what would happen if you speak up about your beliefs?'

Client: 'if I say something they won't understand, (and then what?) that will mean our communication will be bad,(and then what?) that will mean we won't have common ground, (and then what?)that will mean our relationship will break down, (and then what?)that will mean we will split up, (and then what?)my children won't want to see me........I'll end up alone and in the streets.

I've been wondering where that ultimate abandonment comes from and why it is so common.

Then I was reminded about how babies develop. From birth until about 7-8 months, human babies do not understand object permanence. In other words, when someone or something is out of sight, they do not yet realise that the person or thing still exists, you just can't see it. This is why that game of peekaboo is so effective at the end of this stage.

What does this have to do with adult fears?

In our most formative days, months and years, we learn things in a visceral, sensory way and these memories are stored away to help us to cope with life. They can be the cause of many barriers we face in later life. So, experiencing this feeling of abandonment as a baby would logically have an impact in adult life for most people (I wonder if cultures where the baby is carried around by an adult more continuously would experience the same fears as adults).

As with many of my clients' unhelpful beliefs, this abandonment may seem extreme but is very common and I wonder how much this can be traced back to these days of babyhood and that first, pre-conscious experience of abandonment.

Like many beliefs we hold on to as adults, this fear is probably no longer useful for our preservation and yet, unless we take time to look at the logic and validity of it now, can be a deep-seated fear.