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Letter to Andy (summary of learnings and ask)

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Hey there-

I know i’ve been flooding you with texts as i process so I wanted to create a bit of a summary along with an ask for therapy.  I’m gonna skip the “what happened and how i reacted” bit because I think you’ve probably got a pretty solid understanding of that. i’ll try to do it in ADHD-friendly format so its nota  bunch of block paragraphs that are impossible to concentrate on because I’m nice like that.

MY LEARNINGS

DISORGANIZED (FEARFUL-AVOIDANT) ATTACHMENT STYLE.

I’ve done a deep dive into Attachment Styles and identified myself as a Fearful Avoidant type (aka Disorganized Attachment).  I have no idea if you’re up on that stuff so for the sake of super clarity: 

Disorganized Attachment comes from childhood when a child is looking for support and attachment from a parent or caregiver, but also the caregiver is dangerous and/or the reason for the need for support and attachment, making the child have to go it on their own without the tools or base level of support.

 This leads to a situation where Attaching/connecting with others feels dangerous, but also avoiding attachment leads to anxiety and loneliness and desperation for connection.

For this reason, I will vascillate between the two, never letting people get too close but also wanting to feel strong attachment to me in a way I can control/feel safe about.  I’ll link a few more in-depth descriptions below.  Interestingly, disorganized attachment/fearful-avoidant people tend to have a larger amount of sexual partners.

General Info: https://jessicalangtherapy.com/blog/disorganized-attachment/

General info : https://thrivefamilyservices.com/a-deep-dive-into-disorganized-attachment/

General Info (and a great site): https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/disorganized-attachment/

This resonated with me as similar to my experience in relationships (sometimes) – https://www.margeauxfeldman.com/being-in-the-mess/learning-to-trust-in-the-uncertainty-healing-my-disorganized-attachment

EXPECTATIONS OF ABANDONMENT.

Another fundamental belief of FA people that resonates  with me is a feeling of being fundamentally unworthy of love, and that people close to me will eventually abandon me and I should expect that will happen (that’s the avoidant side) along with a spectacular fear of abandonment (that’s the anxious side). I have historically probably sabotaged relationships in order to prove this true.  One of the ways this happens is through co-dependent behavior, which I now recognize a lot in my relationships including my relationship with Kate. I rely on her for a lot and probably more than is healthy in maintaining a solid interdependence .

This seems relevant to the abandonment stuff – https://myattached.com/2021/09/27/boundaries-self-advocacy-for-the-disorganized-or-fearful-avoidant-attachment-style/

UNDERSTANDING OF MY SPIRALING AND DYSREGULATION.

It totally makes sense to me, then, that Kate going on a date and having sex with someone would set me off into a spiral of emotional reactivity.

I felt abandoned and that a significant person in my life had proven me right. I felt unloveable and desperate for attachment, as well as wanting to push her away for having ‘hurt me’. 

This, I think explains why after she picked me up and said she was nervous about telling me, I told her to tell me everything and then spent a lot of energy soothing her and reassuring her that it was all okay and that I wasn’t upset.   I was upset but I was also trying to “earn back her love”.  I was also very fearful of sharing my upset and needs at that moment causing more distance and also ruining her time by leading her down a path of “Look what happened, I did a thing outside my comfort zone and now I’ve hurt Jeremy and ruined everything”.  I get that others feelings are not my responsibility. I think in this case it may have been slightly justified to be gentle about it.

I feel a lot of embarrassment and shame around my reactivity (even though I know it’s as a result of my programming and not my fault) just due to the vast chasm between my understanding of the reality of the situation and where my brain has been at. 

Kate has expressed that she’s trying not to think about it in terms of blaming herself for my trauma trigger, and I have assured her as best I can that basically “yes I was set off as a result of my attachment trauma being poked, but that doesn’t mean I am legitimately upset or bear any grievance for you going out on dates and having sex with someone” and like… trying to separate those things out for both of us.

LACK OF SOOTHING TOOLS

I don’t feel like I have any effective tools for self-soothing when emotionally activated.  In my life I seem to always have either asked for or manipulated others into providing me the soothing I needed (which is a short-term band-aid and not an actual fix).  I’ve been trying to do that a little with Kate this week which is definitely unfair to her since she has a lot of her own processing going on.  I was able to communicate where I’m at and make a reasonable ask, and she shared some of her fear as well (she’s scared that i’m looking for a nurturing parental figure which she can’t be for me, which is fair).

I was talking with Sue (my bff since high school and a friend who i’ve been closest to the longest) and she made the point that my manipulating people into soothing me would have been a necessary survival skill in my household growing up. If I was wounded by my dad, I would have had to manipulate my mom into redirecting the energy she was spending soothing and stroking his ego and direct it to me for a little bit.

But also, to quote her: “And it seems like having to put a ton of energy into developing that skill doesn’t leave a whole lot of capacity for developing other tools. But also your dad went out of his way to smack at any attempt you made to build healthy coping mechanisms, emotional support networks, or like joy. So yeah, hard to build a toolbox if someone is yanking out the tools and demanding that you return to manipulating them the way they’ve taught you to to get their attention and soothing (and to stroke their ridiculous ego needs) And hard to build a toolkit if getting what you need from your other parent is contingent on manipulating them to pull their attention from attending to the ego needs of the first.”

INNER CHILD WORK

One of the things in the ‘healing fearful avoidant attachment’ literature focuses on re-parenting and listening to the inner child and offering it what it asks for.   I tried a meditation about this (https://insighttimer.com/saqibrizvi/guided-meditations/abandonment-healing ) and i broke down crying. As I said, i really shouldn’t have been doing it out in public. But I guess thats good knowledge for me. 

I’ve also found a methodology that is called Ideal Parent Figure Protocol started by Dr Daniel P Brown (who i THINK Is also part of attachmentproject.com?) where this is externalized and the process is more like “imagine yourself as a child, and now imagine yourself in a situation where you needed support. Now picture an ideal parental figure or figures giving you excited love and unconditional support and seeing you” etc.  There’s a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2au4jtL0O4 which was also really emotional for me.  

It’s also demonstrated effectiveness in treating cPTSD which I definitely think is part of my experience.

A QUICK ASIDE: KATE’S ATTACHMENT STYLE

Kate has identified as an avoidant-attachment person which means that growing up she learned that she couldn’t trust her parents and caregivers for support so built walls and became self-reliant, and keeps people out.  She has a need for space in order to feel safe, but also has a deep need for connection which may be either suppressed or frustrated, and will shrink away from strong (anxious) attempts at connection, creating a pursue/retreat cycle which is toxic to relationships (this is what I feel about our sex life). 

After doing a lot of reading, however, I have a gut feeling that she may actually also be Fearful Avoidant? She has general anxiety disorder and a lot of worry and interpersonal strife and stuff.  Fearful Avoidant people can lean more toward the fearful or more toward the avoidant type. It would be really interesting if we were the same type and could be really helpful in untangling conflict and areas of disconnect.  I found a video on “how two fearful-avoidant people can thrive in a relationsip together” which seemed really relevent to both of us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLe7zQDv95M …

MY ASK FOR A PIVOT (KIND OF)

In a way I’m glad this all has happened (even though I still feel slightly dysregulated and i realize that hyperfocusing on it is not actually helping, which is why I’m trying to summarize and go do something else for a little bit) because it has yanked my attention toward something that clearly needs to be a priority for me.

  • I don’t want to remain in a place where stuff that is a thing that is maybe mentally uncomfortable but within my hypothetical tolerance threshold send me off the deep end.
  • I want to develop internal tools for processing and getting perspective and soothing rather than NEEDING to rely on external sources for soothing rather than support. I get that it is part of my programming and not my fault and that people can be happy to provide that (especially other anxious attachment folks) but i don’t want it to be my only option.
  • I want to do the reparenting work (even though it feels scary as hell) and learn how to give myself what I need.
  • I want to move from co-dependent behavior in relationships to co-regulating behavior https://www.instagram.com/p/Cck0WUgLO-V/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

So, slightly off topic but I think i’ve actually been doing a lot better in terms of setting boundaries for myself and asking for things from people (several people have commented on noticing a change).  Still suck at sharing my feelings (or even knowing what they are), but progress is progress.

Anyway I really appreciate your availability as i text flood at you, and I’m grateful for the hard work we have been doing. I think I’ve made more strides with you this year than I have with my last 4 or 5 therapists.

-Jeremy

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Jeremy Meyers
Small Businesses Website Refreshes and Redesigns (portfolio.jeremymeyers.com)
Lead Producer, Deeper Context (www.deepercontext.com | @deepercontext)
Twitter @JeremyMeyers | Blog (www.jeremymeyers.com) | chat clients & Skype: JeremyMeyersFTW
Phone: 646-594-6515


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Written by admin

July 21st, 2022 at 4:05 pm