Stopping Avoidant Attachment
I grew up feeling like an alien because I was so severely avoidant of people and, actually, of life. I did this because it seemed to make me safe from my mother’s hatred and threat of killing me. Well, yes, believing I could make myself safe from being killed was a very good reason to separate myself from my family members.
Then I grew up. She wasn’t about to hurt me now. She couldn’t. But I continued to hide by avoiding people. It had become habit. I couldn’t help it.
I went into therapy for a variety of reasons, but didn’t even realize that my attachment style was something to look at. It worked well. I became successful, even married and had a child. I looked like I fit in and belonged even though I didn’t feel like it.
I couldn’t get rid of the nagging sense of isolation and emptiness. I just couldn’t figure it out.
Then I read Becoming Attached. After that I read Attached. Light bulbs started going off like crazy. Here it was. The way I attached, or didn’t attach, to my mother, got projected onto everyone in my adult life. And the sexualized caring from my father got projected onto dates and husbands, too. I thought everyone would be just like those two who raised me.
So I set out to stop avoiding. That’s when I discovered how hard it was. But possible.
Then I found a meditation practice scientifically designed by Dr. Joe Dispenza that is perfect for avoiders. We take charge of our own healing. We don’t turn to an expert. Then we get to discover how we change from the inside out. Read this for more: Meditate your way out of avoidant attachment.
Learn to See Avoidance
When we are depressed or anxious it is pretty clear that we are experiencing something we want to change. But avoidant maneuvers aren’t unpleasant. They are the playing out our defense mechanisms. In other words, they are designed to prevent feeling bad feelings!
So why would you want to stop them?
Because they interfere with good feelings.
When invited to a neighbor’s house after a concert, and I didn’t want to go. These people would chat and gossip, and I didn’t want that. Better to go home alone, read or watch TV.
When I look back on that time I shake my head. The real reason I didn’t go was that I would have had an enjoyable time, met new people, and become more a member of the neighborhood. How does that make any sense?
If you are an Avoidant Attacher, you may understand. If you are in relationship with one, this may sound familiar.
People with a psychological bent might think I was shy, or inhibited, or introverted, or felt inferior. It would be explained as a symptom of some kind. It would be unlikely that they would see it as life style of isolation and separation designed to prevent trauma flashbacks. Of course it was! There would no trauma at the neighbor’s house.
I needed to know these choices were symptomatic instead of just the way life is. Once I could see, then it became possible to question. Upon questioning, I could see the emotions that were generated by the idea of stopping the old behaviors. Then they gradually changed.
Other people’s examples are: chatting endlessly in a stylized tone that prevents intimacy. Over concern for the needs of others as a way to create the facsimile of connection. Depending on addictions for feeling connected – they are always there, always available. Talking on and on when the listener isn’t interested and there is no real conversation. Judging others, needing to be right, starting fights to seem connected in a negative way.
The list is endless. Think about your own examples, or those of people you relate with. What will keep you or them from a warm, open real connection? How is connection made up, not really serving you? One client said he had many personal conversations with friends on the phone, but when hanging up, felt isolated. So the seeming intimacy did not have the effect of creating real closeness that would last beyond the phone call.
I approached healing mine in two ways. One was to just do it differently. I joined a spiritual organization. I smiled at people even when not feeling like it. I had the discomfort of changing, along with the discovery that I really was safe.
The second way was to examine my childhood dynamics in order to see why I had found Avoidant Attachment to be safer than revealing myself and seeking connection. I had examined my history in therapy, but didn’t know to look for this particular connection. This examination is familiar to all of you who have put attention on traumas and deprivations from childhood.
The results are good, as I have more close friends, more attachment to my work, and a more active life than ever. And those hard to understand experiences of occasional depression or anxiety stopped! Here was the proof that the avoidant style had deprived me of something humans need.
And there’s more!