Today we are going to talk about the avoidant attachment and how to heal it.
The avoidant attachment was created as a life threat response, as all insecure attachment styles are – the child was so emotionally neglected by their caregivers, that it had to learn to deny and reject his own needs. Moreover, they learned to not display any needs at all. They repressed them until they seemed gone.
Whenever feeling too vulnerable towards someone, the avoidant will retreat by shutting down emotions or avoid getting too close, in an attempt to avoid vulnerability. This is the reason why this attachment style is also known as “the turtle” or “the island”.
Avoidant attachment in relationships
Since their own caregivers denied their needs, rejecting any attempt of neediness the child must have displayed, the avoidant partner will be very disturbed if they see their partner showing any sign of “neediness” and “dependency”.
For them, it sounds almost like “I have been trying so hard all my life to not show any needs and here you come, doing all the things I’ve work so hard to suppress? No way I am going to tolerate that!” Actually, I am going to make you feel guilty for having needs like my caregivers did to me. I am going to tell you you are wrong for having needs.
Of course, this is an unconscious act of projecting a side of their personality that has been deeply suppressed. They are not aware of them doing it.
As they say, hurt people hurt people.
They feel overwhelmed by someone else’s emotions just like their caregivers were with their emotions.
I remember just the simple intention of trying to discuss a problem would irritate my avoidant partner. If I displayed any needs, he would go angry and then retreat. He just wanted me to drop it, and I thought I am the wrong one to want to solve things and have needs.
Suffering from anxious attachment, I thought he was right. So I tip-toed. I tried to become like him and not have any needs at all. But this is a cycle that never ends unless one decides to break it.
Now in a relationship with the same partner, only that we are both more securely attached, I am amazed that I am allowed to have needs with the exact same person. That it was never the fact that “that’s how they are”. No – that’s what they were taught. Once they heal, they can tolerate someone else’s discomfort. They are not overwhelmed by someone else’s needs. They can and want to solve problems and feel emotionally connected to their partner. Actually, my partner now initiates conversations about what he wants and needs. He even learned to voice his needs. I support him in doing that. Because healing attachment styles take two.
Healing avoidant attachment
So is healing possible?
Of course it is.
Like any other trauma, attachment trauma can be healed.
Let’s see how healing the avoidant attachment can be approached.
First – if your partner is avoidant, don’t push them. They will just retreat even more. Give them space to see for themselves that their pain is their own. If you are going to push them to heal, that will just be their confirmation that you are the cause of their suffering.
If you are the one having an avoidant attachment – the way you can heal is by tolerating the discomfort that is going to show up when you get close to someone else.
In my clinical experience, people with anxious attachment tendency are usually faster to reach help. Why? Because they are the one wanting something and the partner is not responding. They feel immediate pain of not receiving the love they crave. People with avoidant attachment are more likely to find flaws in their potential partners and just think the reason why they could not have a healthy relationship just yet is the fact that they just did not find the right partner. It can take a few failed relationship until they start to see that the common denominator was..them.
I am just telling you this hoping that if you have avoidant tendencies, you can see whether you can relate or not.
And if you have decided to heal, here are a few steps to begin with:
• Understand and come to terms with the fact that the lack of care you received was unfair. But what you do from here is within your power
• Know there is no perfect partner that is going to be exactly what you need. Everyone will have flaws. You just need to differentiate between flaws and red flags. We all love someone who has flaws, and that is okay. We all have our dark side.
• Know that you are going to feel like wanting to run away when you will get close to someone. Your tendency will be to find flaws in them – that will be your weapon to feel at peace with the fact that you want and may run away
• Look at all the reasons why this attachment style is no longer serving you – we all need deep connection and this attachment style may push people away that actually might have been that special someone for you.
You have been hurt. I see you. I feel your pain. That was not right and a child should never have to go through that. You were just a child and you needed to be allowed to have needs.
My heart is with you and I pray you find the strength to be vulnerable once again.
And then one more time
Always one more time.
With all the love