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September 27, 2017 at 6:59 am #170527BenParticipant
Everyone in this thread is describing something called “avoidant attachment”.
Here’s why it’s happening. When we are babies (and children) our relationship to our parents is a matter of survival. If our parents are well attuned to our needs we grow up to have security and confidence with intimacy in our adult relationships. Once we attach to someone, we stay attached. This is called having a “secure attachment style”.
However, if our parents don’t meet our needs, are distant, or abusive, or in some other way not attuned, then since attaching to them is about pure, raw, animal survival to us… not getting our needs met literally TRAUMATIZES us. Our amygdala, which is the primitive fight or flight part of the brain, thinks we are going to die, and the memory of that feeling is stored there forever to prevent any future such catastrophes. This is called an “insecure attachment style”, of which there are two categories: Anxious (the fight response) and avoidant (the flight response).
So how does insecure attachment play out in adulthood? Well, as grownups when we attach to a romantic partner things will at first seem good. This is because oxytocin in the brain (the trust and empathy hormone) is silencing our amygdala. However, once this honeymoon period wears off the amygdala comes back online, and the fact that we are attaching triggers its defense mechanisms. If you are anxiously attached this will cause you to assertively or even desperately pursue your partner to maintain the connection, for fear that they will abandon or hurt you. If, on the other hand, you are avoidantly attached, which all of you seem to be, the amygdala will attempt to sever your connection to your partner so as to make an escape. The sense of disconnect, loss of attraction and maybe even strong irritation you are suddenly feeling for your partner is a survival mechanism. Your amygdala thinks attaching to a person is dangerous to your very life, and it is telling you to RUN. In order to do so it will pull every trick in the book. If you listen to it you’ll find yourself rationalising the fact that you’re leaving a wonderful partner who is good for you. It will be hard to resist. After all, part of your brain literally thinks your life is at risk because you have become close to someone. It’s going to do everything it can to save your life.
The bad news is… this will keep happening with every person you attach to, because your attachment style is your attachment style for life. You got traumatized as a child and it has impacted upon your brain. But there is hope. If you work hard at it, attachment styles can change, but you have to take action. If the relationship is good, and it almost certainly is from what you’re all saying, stay in it. Let your partner soothe your fears if they can. Be honest and brave and vulnerable with them about your problem and what is causing it. You need them to be accepting of who you truly are, and in a sense that’s at the very root of the problem: if you’re insecurely attached then chances are you feel like who you really are is not truly worthy of being loved (trauma when we’re little does that to us).
In the meantime, get therapy with someone who’s an expert in attachment disorders. This is serious and it will have a major affect on your relationships FOR LIFE. It is well worth speaking to a professional. It’s a process. It takes time. But you can achieve, with time and effort and acceptance from your partner and a therapist, what is referred to as “earned secure attachment”. What you didn’t get when you were young you can still get later. The brain has neuroplasticity, but you have to realize there’s a problem and make a concerted effort to solve it. See a therapist and talk about your childhood. Work on addressing the underlying trauma, and work on strategies that will help you become more secure. Don’t delay.