Red flags don't feel like red flags when they remind you of home. Somewhere along the
way you may have learned that chaos, self-abandonment, harm, and pain meant love.
Probably this was picked up in your earliest relationships with your caregivers, whether
this was subtle or acute, we developed an anxious-avoidant attachment style. This
means that once you start feeling close to someone you may feel triggered, either that
you will lose the other person or lose yourself. Fight or flight kicks in alongside intimacy
and maladaptive protective measures follow suit. It causes an individual to connect part
or whole of their self-worth in their partner and engage in behaviors such as obsessing,
avoiding, ditching, and fighting. Moving towards safety in partnership takes a lot of work.
You won’t get there in a day. In therapy, you, alongside your therapist, can identify old
patterns that get you stuck, develop healthy coping mechanisms and find new ways of
communicating your needs and boundaries. You will come to recognize you are worthy
of love and worthy of being fully seen, not only by our partners but by yourself as well.
Attachment styles start to form in the very first year of life. This is when we begin to
learn: am I loved? Is someone there when I need them? Do people hear my cries? Am I
worthy of attention and care, do I matter? The information we receive as infants may
impact our relationships for the rest of our lives. Of course, as we grow so do our beliefs
about self and our understanding of how the world responds to me, and what does that
say about me. Every fight or argument may affirm, I am bad or I am too much. And we
may be left with that all too familiar feeling of being hopelessly, excruciatingly,
Children are appropriately very egocentric. Unlike adults, children aren’t able to look at
the bigger picture of a situation. So instead of understanding, mom is busy working and
doesn’t have time for me, children think, mom isn’t paying attention to me, I must not be
worthy of her attention. Additionally, children will do anything to preserve the
relationship with their caregivers including making wild excuses for abuse and neglect.
This is an adaptive feature of the mind that just goes to show how vital attachment is in
childhood. In fact, that fear of abandonment stems back to a primal part of our brain. In
adulthood that fear of abandonment can feel like excruciating death and that’s because
at one point it did mean death. When we are small, being abandoned by our caregivers
does mean we could die. We are helpless and completely depend on adults to survive.
That intense fear of being abandoned is stored in our bodies and can get activated as
Attachment wounds or relational trauma? Can we recognize that not having what you
need in early childhood is a complex trauma? Living every day not knowing how you will
get your needs met does wreckage to the body especially during development.
Insecurity takes a toll on the nervous system. Overactive fight or flight kicks in and you
begin to develop on survival mode. Excessive and constant flow of cortisol through the
body in childhood has been linked to several medical issues in adult hood such as
autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, IBS, asthma and more.
All of this is to say, this matters. We live in a culture that dismisses people as being
needy, over-emotional, dramatic etc. And I am here to say the big reactions are
warranted and that I see you. In fact, can we thank these big reactions for telling us
where to look, for being our clue that something deeper is going on? Can we start in the
place where it all went awry? By seeing ourselves for the very first time by saying, “you
are not broken, thank you for telling me”. When we say this we open worlds and close
loops.It’s time to put an end to the narrative that something is wrong within yourself and
you just need to get over it – you were never meant to bear the burden of the world’s
limitations, you were never meant to shrink yourself and self-abandon in order to
receive love and care. Yes we have a responsibility for our healing today but no you
didn’t get here by yourself. The first step in untangling all of this attachment work is just
in seeing and acknowledging ourselves. Your little one thanks you.
Taproot Therapy, LCSW, PLLC
285 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016