Half the work of healing attachment wounds is having the courage to see our own internal dilemma, the dilemma of “I want your love/I think you’re going to hurt me so fuck off.”
Especially for people whose parents were triggered by their own abandonment wounds (perhaps by having kids, because of depression or whatever), the loving presence was so on-again-off-again that in current relationships, loving contact can actually be very disregulating because it triggers the expectation of chronic disappointment.
Extreme anxious attachment can present as anger – “When you enter the room (or even just my consciousness) I lose myself in you, but I want YOU to give me back to me and you’re not doing it (because you’re deficient) so I’m irritated with you.”
Less extreme forms of anxious attachment can present as chronic disappointment – “You’re not loving me right (because you’re deficient)” or “Yes, I see you’ve tried but…Yeah I know you did that but…Thank you but…That was great but…I love it when you do that, but/and I would also like…”
The thing is, people working through a lens of anxious attachment really don’t know they are negating.
They’re simply operating out of a very familiar lived experience of getting too small a dose of the good stuff followed by disappointment which has rewired their brain to actually become stressed at receiving a dose of the good stuff.
For all attachment styles, any longing felt is actually the signal of the secure attachment system surfacing: the desire to bond is so natural that we can’t help seeking connection. The will to survive periods of drought is an equally strong and necessary function.
When we’re in a dynamic of attachment anxiety, the hard part is uncoupling the two urges (to bond and to survive) and work through each separately.
We need to recognize that both are needed but that the trigger-to-response ratio may not be appropriate, or that we may not be perceiving the threat accurately, or that we may never have developed a capacity to hold on to feelings of being loved in the absence of our object of affection, or that we may really struggle to receive loving presence because the anticipation of loss has hijacked our nervous system.
It’s hard and it’s sad. It requires a lot of compassion with self and others. It requires patience.
Who among us finds it easy to recognize the way we deny ourselves the very things we crave?
This article is based on the teachings of Diane Poole Heller.