The Avoidant Relational Style

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Ahhh..the avoidant relational style. This is the opposite extreme of the Anxious.  The Anxious style needs to be close and needs to be in relationship.  The Avoidant is, well, opposite.  The avoidant pushes away, looks away.  This relational style is relatively easy to identify simply because Avoidant’s don’t do emotions and feelings very well, their own or another’s.

Attachment theory suggests toddlers/children who show no preference for who provides nurturing are avoidant relational style. When the parents left the room, the child did not become distressed, instead, the child simply noticed his parents weren’t there and went back to what he was doing. Furthermore, the child had no preference and was able to be consoled by ‘anyone.’

There are two rules of thought of what may contribute to the Avoidant relational style.  Some children may enjoy playing alone and some children adapt to playing alone.  For a child to find themselves playing often alone, makes me wonder.  I wonder does the child have anyone else to play with, and I wonder how engaged are the parents? Are the parents reading and spending time with their child or are they making their child take care of his/her own emotional/play needs?  Were ‘I Love you’s,’  hugs, physical comforting expressed consistently and freely, or were they sparse?  A consistent lack in these areas can contribute to a child’s avoidant style.

Because adult Avoidant’s don’t do well with emotions, as a child, he may have had to suppress his emotions or have had to be responsible at a young age. For example, a child that has been beaten and abused may not have had the protection and comforting of another family member. So, how did the child take care of his emotions?  Who did she go to for comfort if there was no-one to go to? How does a child survive and adapt to such a situation? He finds solace within his own company and stuff’s/shut’s off his emotions.  To adapt further, he performs. Performs by doing anything and everything that would prevent him from being beaten again, such as becoming the perfect child. Another example would be the child has taken on responsibility at a young age, becoming her parent’s confidant or surrogate spouse.  Maybe she has had to protect her dad from her mother’s verbal abuse and console her dad, becoming a surrogate spouse to her father, filling the emotional void vacated by her father’s wife (her mother).  This experience is a lot of responsibility for a child.

How does the above translate to adult Avoidant relational style?  Avoidant’s push away, look away in relationship, they enjoy their time alone, control or controlling behavior may be an issue, they may take more time alone or withdraw when feeling overwhelmed, preferring to take care of themselves rather than reach out, so trust and trusting others is also an issue.  They may often prefer time alone, rather than be with other people, which can include family.  What is interesting about this relational style, is Avoidant’s often don’t present as avoidant in the early stages of relationship. Avoidant’s can start out strong in the beginning of a relationship because of the newness and excitement. He/she will want to be with you, call you, make all the time for you.  The avoidant may present and appear as Anxious style, wanting to spend a lot of time with you, courting you, while you’re thinking, “This is great! She’s open, present, and emotionally available.”  However, once the newness and masks fall off, the avoidant is left with the realness of their partner and the beginnings of intimacy which equal to ‘your demands and the demands of the relationship.’   This is uncomfortable because connection (relationship) requires the Avoidant to be present, open and engaged with her partner.

Avoidants often become uncomfortable with emotions, so if you’re dealing with a situation that is emotional (positive or negative) for you, such as a loss of family member, loss/change of job, birth of a child etc, he will most likely have difficulty offering emotional support because he doesn’t know how to deal with his own emotions.   Some avoidants just don’t know what to do and other avoidants don’t have much empathy. As such, emotional situations can be a catalyst for the avoidant to check out of the relationship.

The avoidant will subtly create some distance between himself and his partner.  Distance often looks like using work, alcohol, drugs, spending more time with friends, having multiple partners (affairs), getting lost in tv/phone/games- anything that will take him away from the relationship. Intimacy becomes a threat to the avoidant.  The avoidant would be perfectly happy living under the same roof with his partner, yet living separately, that way he still feels secure WITHOUT having to be present emotionally or providing emotional support for his partner.  Needless to say, his partner will often feel lonely within the relationship unless he’s paired up with another avoidant.  That could be bliss, a meeting of the minds and practicality.

The homework for the avoidant: To engage, or re-engage in relationship on a consistent basis without becoming overwhelmed. Meaning, you re-engage to the point right before you feel overwhelmed (you want to push away) then you take a break (disengage) but come back into the relationship.    This can be done through communication (with eye contact) or physical touch such as hand holding, cuddling, or hugs.

 

FYI: If you think just because someone habitually posts stuff on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter doesn’t make them not Avoidant, think again.  Many individuals find solace in displaying their lives on social media, yet struggle with connecting in real life.

As always, I hope this helps.

Is doing the right thing, the right thing to do?

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Is doing the right thing always the right thing to do? I don’t know.   Looking for images on google tells me that the only way is, to do the right thing and any other way is wrong.  You’re either blessed or compensated for doing the right thing or you’re demonized for doing the wrong thing.  Hence the image above.  But, is not doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing?  Clearly, I’ve been thinking about this lately as well as some of my clients.  Maybe I’ve been thinking about this now that I’m in my 40’s taking a panoramic view of my life, because apparently my view wasn’t wide enough a few years ago.  You’re right, I’m not too happy about this.

I’m sure you’ve come across someone who has done all the right things, yet has had ‘bad things’ happen to them, and someone who didn’t do the right thing, has had something great happen.  For example, someone who has done the right thing by taking great care of themselves such as eating organic, exercising, taking their vitamins, and meditating still ends up getting some type of cancer.  Meanwhile, the couch-potato that eats all kinds of fast food chasing it with a diet coke and a cigarette ends up cancer (and diabetes) free.  The person who did the right thing was left wondering, ‘how,’ and ‘why me?’ feeling somewhat betrayed, regretful and resentful. But at whom?  Betrayed by their body and the Universe. Regretful that they spent so much time doing what they did to be healthy. Resentful toward their body, society, the Universe and themselves for drinking the kool-aid.?

Does adhering to the rules or doing the right thing contribute to restrictive thinking?  Thinking that there is only ‘this way.’  Does always doing the right thing keep you from seeing the panoramic view?  Is there fear around not doing the right thing, that something bad will happen or a feeling of having failed at something. What if doing the right thing has no bearing on your payoff or what you will get out of it. Will you get satisfaction knowing you do the right thing? Will you have peace? Or, will you have regret?

Ex. 1  What about leaving your marriage partner for someone else you fell in love with. Right/not right? What if the panoramic view was that the partner who left the marriage was happily remarried in a long-term ’til death-do-us-part relationship.

Ex. 2  What if you wanted children for many years but the circumstance(s) didn’t present itself and you’ve written the possibility off.  You had an affair or one night stand with someone and became pregnant and had the baby (out-of-wedlock).  Right thing to do or not the right thing?  What if the panoramic view was: the child, regardless of how she was conceived was deeply loved, fulfilling a long-term wish of her mother, as well the child grows up to invent a cure for a deadly disease.  Is it still not the right thing to have done?

Ex. 3  What if you’re financially holding on by your fingernails and instead of paying your bills, you file for bankruptcy or foreclosure?  Right thing/Not right?  What if the panoramic view was to let go to make room to make much more money than you could conceive, doing what you enjoy.   Holding on kept you seeing what is and prevented you from seeing what can be.

This is life and walking the spiritual path isn’t so cut and dry regardless of what guidelines and rules that each philosophy suggests to follow whether it’s the 10 commandments, New Age thought or the Right Action of Buddhism.  It’s very easy, especially from afar to look at a situation and say what is right or what is wrong.  But, does not doing the right thing make it wrong?  It can make it painful (all examples have pain for all involved) but does it make it not the right thing to do?

 

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I’m not quite sure about this……

 

Do you do the right thing but end up at a crossroads in your life wondering why? Have you ever felt that your life was restricted because you were following the straight and narrow path?   Do you follow or not follow your heart because you think it’s the right thing to do?  What if you don’t get the payoff for doing the right thing? What if you do get the payoff you wanted by not doing the right thing?  Like life, the answer is convoluted and messy. In the end, it really depends on you and what is right for you, in any situation, regardless of what others, your culture or society says. I know this is easier said than done. In some cultures, you may not have a say, and in other cultures, where you have a say, it may be equally difficult to follow a different path.

I don’t know what the answer is. For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes Not doing the right thing, is doing the right thing. The right thing for you, may not be the right thing for me.  Only you can answer what is the right thing for you to do for your life, no one else can answer that for you.

I can tell you one thing for sure, I’m kinda over needing to upgrade my panoramic view.

Questions for you:

Is doing the right thing synonymous with integrity and congruence?  Do you think it is possible to live 100% in integrity 100% of the time?  If so, how does Life happen for you?  Who are you doing the right thing for? You? Your family? Society? Your image? Your pride?  Do you ever feel doing the right thing just isn’t sitting too well with you, so there’s incongruence within you, internal strife?  If you do the right thing, even though it’s not working or it doesn’t feel right, do you continue to do the right thing?

Have a great Weekend!

 

Trump as Trigger

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I have wondered for a few months how many people, specifically women are triggered by Trump and his behavior.  Come to find out, quite a few people.  Colleagues, other counselors, myself,  have utilized our own therapy sessions to discuss his behavior, as well a number of my female clients have utilized their sessions in such a way.  A waste of time?  No.  Because Trump is a trigger and a stand-in for the men that have sexually assaulted, manipulated, lied to (consistently), and marginalized women (and men).  Trump can represent husbands, boyfriends, dates, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and even family members.  To me, Trump is the narcissist that I’ve dated and I literally thank God for not signing up to that in any long-term committed way, but for my clients he is a resemblance of their abuser (verbal, emotional, sexual).

Trump and his behavior which are on full display 24/7 are stand-in’s for the way women (not all) have been mistreated and abused.  Women watching Trump for months felt something familiar yet uncomfortable. He seemed harmless in the beginning because we knew he was an entertainer, entertaining.  Over time, you can literally see textbook narcissism unfold.  Then came the multiple sexual assault allegations and boundary violations towards Trump.  It was this that really capped feelings of fear, anger, and disgust for my clients.   Yes, he’s Trump but he’s also a stand-in to the women (and men) that have experienced some form of abuse, assault or master manipulation.   What they’ve been witnessing is a similar timeline to their own experience.  It was either out right abuse of power (molestation) or it crept up on you first through the courtship of charm, the management of the image, the promises, which gave way to self-aggrandizement, manipulations, name-calling, lies, lack of accountability, inability to say “I’m sorry,” tantrums and intimidation tactics.

Umm..Did you see the second debate?  I was waiting for Trump to take out a knife from his coat jacket and stab Hillary in the back.  A man lurking behind, pacing back and forth.  Intimidation tactic.   I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I was uncomfortable, even knowing he wouldn’t do any physical harm. Being a woman, we automatically go there, ‘Am I safe?’  We think about those things, our safety in the most innocuous places.  Trump reminds us big time that we still have to.

Women are reminded by his words that we are objects, there for the pleasure and taking of men.  Again, we’ve heard the blaming, name calling, tantrums, manipulations, lies, lack of remorse or apology, and lack of accountability when called out.  This is all for his benefit. We’ve also seen and heard the self-aggrandized entitlement.  Entitlement so big and entrenched, that he knew, felt and stated that whatever his behavior, he was untouchable and definitely not the problem.   Imagine this behavior in a one on one relationship.  Would you want to be in this relationship? What would you call this relationship? Healthy?  Abusive? Loving? Normal?  Selfish?

I was going to wait to discuss this when sharing about disorganized relational (attachment) style and narcissism, but with so many people affected in my personal and professional circles, I am writing about this first.  I have seen the pain, anger, disgust and all around stress that is taking their toll on our well-being.  Some have withdrawn for self-protection not knowing what to say or who to trust, because sharing the impact has brought the dismissive responses from friends and family (‘don’t waste your time on that,’ or ‘don’t let it affect you,’ ‘don’t take it so personally,’) or it becomes a political monologue excusing his behavior and marginalizing one’s experience.  All the things that were done to women before.

Not talking about this, about the stress this election induces because we don’t want to offend any of our family or friends because of varied political views is the new dirty little secret.  In the spirit of Joan Rivers, ‘Can We Talk?’ about this now that it’s been confirmed recently how much stress this election cycle is placing upon each other?

The good thing about this national stand-in, is that women (people in general) can heal if they’ve been triggered by Trump as well as we become well-versed in the Art of the Con.  Because of Trump, people will be able to identify what being taken advantage of, manipulated, objectified, and eschewed looks and sounds like. There is also a great opportunity to address the misogyny and double standards that women face, if only we crossed political affiliations and had an open conversation where we really listened to each other, as people.

Something tells me that if a woman achieves POTUS status, then we will ample opportunity to address the latter.

 

Be well.