Disorganized Attachment (Part Two)

“The closer I want to be, the more I fear you and want to run away”

Navigating adult relationships with a disorganized attachment style can feel like an emotional combat zone. These adults typically have a  history of childhood trauma (See: Authentic Connection Series: Disorganized Attachment, Part One). Those with a disorganized style, like most humans,  have a strong desire to trust, feel safe and intimately connected to a partner. This is, however, met by the all too familiar pain, rejection and deep rooted fear associated with closeness. The more intimate a relationship becomes, the more intense the need to protect themselves arises.  This self-preservation mechanism developed as a child, quickly turns into self-sabotaging behavior in adulthood.  

Someone with a disorganized attachment style can become extra vigilant (as if their survival depends on it) towards comments or behaviours indicating the slightest perceived rejection causing them to lash out or even abandon the relationship altogether.  This can be interpreted as “beating them to the punch”, hurting themselves before anyone else can. This gives the illusion of control to those with a disorganized attachment style. These adults typically make false predictions (based on crippling negative self-talk, self-criticism, shame and fear of rejection) and react from this place when confronting others.  When others respond to them shocked, unfavourably or defensively this only “proves’ ‘ that they are unlovable and the other person is dangerous and they need to get away. Experiencing this disorganization of emotions, needs and desires can become deeply disorienting for all parties involved. 

Just as a poor relationship with a primary caregiver manifested a disorganized attachment style, it is only through the development of new relationships that a secure attachment style can be worked towards.   A strong, supportive connection has been proven to help the brain rewire from past trauma. What can be helpful is to focus on building safe and authentic connections by slowly allowing trust to build over time with consistency and incrementally: sharing, being vulnerable and personally disclosing. Not only with  romantic partners, but with such people as: a friend, family member, mentor, spiritual advisor or therapist. It is important to remember that working on building trusting relationships is part of working on or processing your trauma, so much healing can take place when we feel unjudged, safe and accepted. 

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