When you grow up in an environment that’s full of authentic love, often called “emotional attunement” in the world of psychology, it sets you on a path of lifetime of real, intimate connection to yourself and others.
If, thanks to a supportive childhood, you internalized an attuned emotional connection to yourself, you will be able to create more authentic relationships, achieve in your career, and express your creativity. This authentic connection to all that you are and all that you do sets you up to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life, able to face the inevitable challenges that come your way.
In previous blog posts, “Healing Attachment Wounds With Psychotherapy For A More Fulfilling Life” and “What Are Anxious Attachment Wounds and Could They Be Holding You Back?” we explored some of the long term imprints of childhood relational experiences on your life as an adult.
Here, we will continue this conversation about what happens when people who were supposed to be your source of safety, comfort, and love are actually sources of disconnection and pain.
Avoidant Attachment Begins In Childhood
Unfortunately, many people did not grow up with a “good enough” environment.
Authentic connection may have been rare for you, or nearly non-existent. Perhaps your early childhood caregivers constantly dismissed your feelings, invalidated your needs, and criticized you. They might have considered you to be “weak” when you needed comfort or support. Maybe they pushed you to accomplish something at the expense of your feelings. Or, they constantly attacked you for having your human imperfections.
For whatever reasons, the people who were supposed to make you feel safe and loved actually controlled, dominated, and intruded upon your growth. They dismissed your feelings, thoughts, and decisions. They did not give you the space and encouragement so you could be you.
You never got the chance to develop the most important connection: – the authentic connection to your true self.
The Legacy of Avoidant Attachment Continues through Adulthood
In childhood, you felt safer alone and you figured out how to take care of yourself on your own. You had no other choice but to become self reliant.
Now, as an adult, you feel you can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. You’re very independent and dependency on others feels scary. Intimacy feels uncomfortable, so you keep people emotionally distant – people can get close, but not close. You tiptoe around the edges of emotional intimacy, but never allow yourself to be there fully – to relax and step into the emotional space where true connection happens.
You may feel that maintaining your distance from people is how you can preserve your independence – intimacy is an impingement on your freedom. You can’t imagine you could be intimately connected and emotionally free at the same time.
For you, that emotional space of connection between you and another is filled with danger. In that space of intimate connection, where you’re supposed to bring your authentic and vulnerable self, it doesn’t feel safe. When you step into an intimate and vulnerable space, your unconscious mind expects to experience intrusion, dominance, and control. You feel you can’t bring your emotions or your real self into your relationships because you fear you’ll be dismissed, minimized, shamed, or abandoned.
Further compounding the pain and confusion you feel while in a relationship, you tend to dismiss and control your own feelings. Instead of being in touch and authentically connected to yourself, you function from a place of misattunement with your own emotional needs.
Early Avoidant Attachment Wounds Influence Your Creativity and Professional Success, As Well As Your Relationships
These emotional disconnections from your own sense of self affects not only your romantic relationships and friendships, but also interferes with your creativity.
To truly access your imagination and express your creativity, you must be able to step into emotionally raw and vulnerable places. You need to be in touch with your big, colorful, and rich feelings. This is where you can hold the complexity of your humanity and your multilayered emotional experiences. If you are creative, the inability to access these feelings will make your art feel inauthentic. Or, the disconnection from your emotions may not allow you to connect to your audience.
Signs that Your Avoidant Attachment Style is Holding You Back as an Adult
When you experienced emotionally missatuned and controlling relationships as a child, it’s challenging to connect authentically to your true self as an adult. You unconsciously suppress your needs for authentic connection by:
- Being overly self-reliant
- Keeping people at arm length
- Not allowing yourself to feel your needs
- Minimizing and dismissing your feelings
- Maintaining an escape route while in a relationships
- Thinking you’re just fine, the other is the problem
- Searching for the “perfect” one but never find anything to feel “perfect” for you
- Falling in love with people or opportunities that are not available for you
- Not tolerating imperfections in yourself or others
- Having hard time feeling and expressing your feelings
- Checking out from personal/professional relationships just about when things go well
- Getting into relationships that don’t have a future
- Checking out mentally when someone expresses feelings
- Keeping secrets, have double lives, or leave things unclear or ambiguous
Underneath all these issues hides the fear of losing your emotional freedom and the need to keep a safe emotional distance.
How Can You Heal Past Emotional Wounds and Transform Your Avoidant Attachment Style?
It’s challenging to connect authentically if you have a history of childhood wounding that has led to an avoidant attachment style, but there is hope. You can heal and be intimately connected and emotionally free at the same time.
First, it’s important to recognize that, in order to effectively heal early relational trauma, you need to actually show up and do the work. Your tendency is to deny that you need help. You may also think that others need to change rather than see that you need to do so. Asking for help or trusting others’ capacities to offer help is difficult for you.
So, I want to encourage you to actually pursue therapy and healing. You will have to push yourself to show up in that vulnerable place where unconsciously you get triggered and you feel like you want to run away.
Interview several therapists before you decide who is the best person to help you on your healing journey. You need a therapist who knows how to create a therapeutic environment for you. You need someone who will offer you consistency, work at your pace, and make you feel safe to bring the parts of you that need healing.
When you have an avoidant attachment style you tend to avoid going into emotionally raw places. A skilled psychotherapist knows how to create an attuned space for you, where step by step, you can heal from inside out.
In my Beverly Hills, California based psychotherapy practice, I create this emotionally attuned environment for people like you who need to heal the wounds of the past. The work weaves together a psychodynamic approach along with the neurobiology of relationships and a form of Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing therapy called Attachment-EMDR.
With time and commitment to your own healing process, you will be able to reconnect with your inner-world and recreate your life, work, and relationships.
Contact me to set up a free 15-20 minute consultation to see if psychotherapy can help you further your career and your personal life.
I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives face and shift emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.