By Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT
In Dr. Helen Fisher’s research on broken hearts, she found that once a partner recognizes that they are “never ever getting back together” they will enter the “abandonment rage stage”.
This is when love and yearning turns to hate and anger.
This rage comes from feelings of helplessness. It’s a horrible feeling of being abandoned and similar to the fear and anger a child might feel should their parent leave them behind.
The rage and anger are an attempt to protect you from the incredible vulnerability that exists when someone you’re attached to is leaving you.
These feelings are fueled by adrenaline. They flood you. They take away the ability for rational thought. You become fight or flight and if you’re very enraged it’s mostly fight.
For some, this rage might come out in angry journaling, complaining to friends, sending an angry message or two. For those with a history of unhealed abandonment, childhood trauma, or other major losses, this abandonment rage will seem much more intense – non stop texting, calling, threats, or destroying property. In the most severe cases, it results in physically or emotionally abusing another person, or, very sadly, can result in death.
Abandonment rage often causes what it’s trying to prevent. If you’re on the receiving end of angry messages or threats, you’re not likely to feel a rekindling of romantic desire.
If you feel enraged when you’ve lost someone you love, you must find compassion for yourself. Of course you are angry. Of course you are doing anything you can to fight abandonment. You probably have reasons for protecting yourself from loss. It all makes sense. The frontal parts of your brain are being sent to a fight response. However, if you are acting out in ways that are dangerous or abusive, you must find ways to heal yourself and take accountability.
Do not abandon yourself. Heal. Explore. Self soothe. Find ways to honor yourself when exiting a relationship. Find friends, family, a therapist. Your partner can never be responsible for your emotions. A mature relationship requires you to be responsible for them. And, so does healing.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a licensed marriage therapist in Philadelphia. Elizabeth supports individuals and couples improve the relationship they have with themselves and others through better communication, self soothing, and a clear understanding of what a successful marriage looks like. She believes that any committed couples who is willing to do the work can walk away from therapy with more clarity and connection in their relationship.