From a psychotherapeutic point of view, I explain how and why this develops and how to be less avoidant in our key relationships.


1. RELATIONAL DISCOMFORT

So much of life is about relationships – work, family, community – and those can feel like ongoing demands placed on us which we experience as exhausting and draining.

2. ISOLATED SENSE OF SELF

We prefer being on our own and have grown accustomed to doing life alone. Our early year experiences perhaps taught us not to look to others to get our needs met, so we distance ourselves from others. We learnt relationships are difficult and even dangerous. When we’re isolated we feel safe. A typical mind-set for us is “I don’t need anyone”.

We are autonomous, self-sufficient, and our identity isn’t part of any group.

3. DISSOCIATION

To cope with the demands placed on us when engaging with others we can dissociate. We zone out into phones, TV’s or activities, or use drugs, alcohol, porn etc.

In its simplest form, we avoid too much social closeness and connection. It isn’t that we don’t want relationships, families and sex, it’s just those things can feel very stressful for us.

We all have an internal attachment system and if we have avoidant tendency, our attachment system is probably under-active. We do not pursue or seek out attachment; we are self-contained. This is protective and again speaks of our need for safety.

4. DIFFICULTY WITH EYE CONTACT

This is a human way of connecting and we can prefer not to look directly at others and can often be looking away or staring into the distance.

5. TROUBLE RECOGNISING PERSONAL NEEDS

We can be ‘needless and wantless’. Often we don’t know what our needs are and don’t think needs are important. And we can be scathing and dismissive of our partners and their needs, judging them harshly. We don’t ask a lot from other people and wish they would do the same. However, the truth of the matter is we can be dissociated from our needs and are somewhat numbed out, so we lack insight into ourselves.

This is also why we are so sensitive to ‘being controlled’, criticism, being blamed, micromanaged or crowded. This reinforces our belief that other people are problematic and letting someone get close is foolish.

6. LEFT BRAIN ORIENTATION

We are deeply rational, pragmatic, logical and whilst these are incredibly useful, we neglect our Right Brain orientation which is in charge of empathy and bonding. We need that Right Brain part of us in intimate relationships, when raising children, and in workplaces more and more. We can be rational to the point of rigidity, negating our own and others’ emotional experiences. Often we can get anxious or depressed but do not know why as we are so emotionally shutdown.

7. BIAS TOWARDS ACTION

Not so much sharing, feeling, talking, we are more interested in ‘doing’ stuff. It’s how we express ourselves and ‘do’ life. We like activities, watching activities and being active, these are times when we feel comfortable connecting with others.

8. GESTURE INHIBITION

Being warm, tender and affectionate can be hard for us. Our non-verbal communication might be “leave me alone”, “I’m busy” or “stay away”. Touch, gestures and body language might be inhibited, and we are not totally relaxed to engage with others naturally.

HOW TO BE LESS AVOIDANTLY ATTACHED:

• We need to increase our tolerance for human connection and intimacy.
• We can become aware of a cold or aloof energy coming from us and try to be more approachable and receptive.
• We can ask for help for small things, challenge ourselves to tell a story about ourselves, invite someone to do an activity with us.
• With our loved ones, especially good with children, work on having a little more eye contact.
• We can stretch ourselves in small ways that helps activate our attachment system.
• We can notice our negative, critical voice that keeps people at arms’ length; instead choosing to acknowledge the good and give people the benefit of the doubt.

We will not want to do any of these things, we are comfortable the way we are, however to have happier relationships and to feel genuinely loved it would serve us well to figure out how to let people in more and feel comfortable being close.

How To Be Less Avoidantly Attached

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