Transcending attachment issues: inner healing and resilience

Transcending attachment issues: inner healing and resilience

This is basically a 'part 2' expanding the previous article entitled: 'Attachment and reflective feedback: how others treat you and why'. The reason I have provided this is due to the comments I received about the article, where people were still saying 'okay I get all that, but how do I FIX my problems now?!'  So I thought that the solution to attachment problems was probably not made clear enough in the previous article and what follows is clarification succinctly dedicated to the solution.

What follows is based on a response I wrote to a comment on the previous article 'Attachment and reflective feedback'.

What do you do when you 'understand the theory' behind attachment and insecurity issues that cause you emotional suffering and potential relationship problems, but you are still suffering? You might have even talked all about it in therapy, and read lots of books about the subject. You might even have a great relationship now, and be a 'high flyer' in many other aspects of your life....but, you are still timid and insecure, really, within. The answer (in a nutshell) is to cultivate a more disciplined mind, face the suffering within you, stop repeating the avoidance patterned responses that you always have done heretofore, and develop real skills of SELF-SOOTHING by PRACTICING THEM. Then put your relationships into a proper context where reassurance from others becomes complimentary rather than necessary for your emotional survival. Also, learn to accept that you aren't perfect, and from time to time, no mater how much effort you put into your own healing and skill development, sometimes you'll be caught off guard and get upset. But - the amount that you'll get upset will be far less often and far less severe as you will practice self-soothing when you're caught off guard as well, and it will pass soon, in time just like every feeling state in your experience has ALWAYS passed before.

Let's get into this in a bit more detail. Here is the scenario and the solution.

So even though go you get the theory about attachment and internal insecurity and emotions,  you still have this sort of ‘inner demon’ pop up from time to time, like an inner core hurt that surfaces when a particular trigger occurs. For you this 'trigger – hurt – behaviour complex' starts with feeling needy, going to your partner (or someone) for support, then not having that need met or that fear soothed, and then you feel abandoned. Then you withdraw and become obstinate, or in some cases even start to think and act in a self-harming way.

So what we have here is an external trigger which is your partner (or someone) being distracted or simply not having the time, energy or capacity to help you with that need, which is soothing, in some way, shape or form. Then you have this internal trigger as a ricochet from that, and this is the feeling of abandonment which is a global generalization outside of your adult, rational awareness. This has all the hallmarks of childhood as it is not rational. I’m sure there is an adult awareness within you which tells you that your partner does not have the capacity, this is not his/her fault right now or even if he/she is being unhelpful in some purposefully rude way, then taking it personally is not going to help you. Of course, the feeling of abandonment goes beyond rational because it is from the inner child that has the unresolved abandonment within you. In this way, start to think about personal development in a 'holarchical' way (using the terminology of 'holons' from Ken Wilber). We often assume development, otherwise, is a hierarchical and linear progression. However, when we think about it and study it closely from time to time a person can relapse to an earlier state, like 'falling off the wagon' for an ex-addict, or having an infantile regression for someone emotionally compromised. Therefore when we grow beyond things, we transcend and include that thing within us, much like a tree having growth rings within it, all those earlier states are still there and make up the whole being. Our locus of being and perception can then relapse, or visit, these earlier states when so triggered (and we can also have 'peak experiences' where our locus of being and perception can visit higher potentials of our selves that we haven't even experience before).

Okay – so what do we do now?
The solution is for you to internalize the sense of self control and self soothing in response to the internal trigger of abandonment. So you have an internal solution to an internal trigger/ core hurt emotion. In summary you learn to self-sooth rather than needing to rely on external soothing. External soothing will always be a tad unpredictable and unreliable, because it involved the behaviour of other people. So instead of this we practice self-soothing. This is called developing an internal locus of control.

Phase 1:

To achieve this you need to start meditating regularly. This is much easier than people think; it just takes a commitment to do it, then doing it 10 minutes a day (to start with). Start by taking a few breaths and track these breaths with your attention for a sustained period of time. When you become distracted keep coming back to the breath. Over time your concentration will develop and this will give you the ‘presence of mind’ and inner discipline to do more of the inner work that you need to do to resolve the core hurt complex and grow beyond it. This 'inner work' leads to 'inner growth'. It's as simple as that. Then you can practice these skills in the 'real world' when you get triggered from time to time. Then you become wiser through lived experiential knowledge and you develop a greater more comprehensive tacit awareness (or 'know how') so that then you can show others how to do this by both explicit teaching, and also implicitly of leading by example. This is how practice-experience-knowledge-wisdom-teaching works.

When you meditate for a while, say 10min of settling and relaxing and focusing, then we go to phase 2.

Phase 2: Here you expose yourself to the triggers that are bothering you, with mindful awareness. In principio, exposure leads to healing over time. Healing and experience leads to resilience in time. So think about a time that you have felt rejected lately; choose something easier and recent to start with. Allow yourself to recreate the scene in your mind. Then allow yourself to feel the internal trigger of abandonment.
Tell yourself you feel abandoned and feel it.
Then project this sense of feeling into the child that you were. Imagine the child in front of you feeling all of these hurt feelings. Allow your ‘inner adult/ parent/ nurturer and friend’ to come out and sooth him/her. Imagine yourself soothing him/her. (The language used here is for a female, so guys just substitute her for him). Tell her she is going to be okay; that this will pass and it’s not her fault. Tell her to be strong. Tell her you love her. Embrace her (imagine yourself hugging her). Then (literally) hug yourself as you allow the soothed child ‘back in’ to your inner self again. Tell yourself ‘you’re going to be okay’ ‘I’m going to be okay’. Tell yourself ‘I love you’; ‘this too is passing’. Tell yourself: ‘Well done for facing up to this inner demon with courage!’

How does this work? Simply by doing it. You have to do this, regularly and repeatedly for it to work. How much and how often? Well how much do you want to get out of it? It is based on experiential exposure and then changing the response to that trigger as you are exposed to it. Then after this ‘internal training regimen’ you can start to practice it opportunistically when the trigger emerges for real (in vivo exposure). If your partner does not give you the reassurance you need, give it to yourself. That is, you are changing the mechanism, where the trigger of abandonment would previously make you become obstinate, and avoidant of the inner feeling (and even conflicted, angry and reactive/aggressive), now you are sitting with the feeling, going to the source of that feeling and reassuring the inner child that is feeling it still. So the new response is self-nurturing rather than self abandonment which is what being obstinate and avoidant really is. By giving yourself the intentional love you are thereby resolving the unresolved issue. In time your unconscious will work with you and the deeper healing will take place on multiple levels of yourself.

Additionally, on the social level, being self assured and resilient will make you more attractive to other people and they will be more able to give you the compliments and reassurance you are looking for. And that is what relationships and love from others is really about: it is complementary to your own self love rather than filling a hole due to a lack of inner love. Basically it becomes: easy come, easy go. You’re not overly attached to reassurance and affection from others (even though you may prefer and want the affection and reassurance, you aren't desperately needing it like oxygen anymore) so you aren’t suffocating it anymore, or making it such an issue. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief!

Then once the inner hurt is dealt with, you may want to speak more assertively and in an adult way to your partner about what your needs are and how he/she could help you to meet these needs. You could even ask him/her what he/she would like to be different.

So give this ago, and see where it takes you. See, also, how suffering leads to growth and happiness. We can't have one without the other, can we.

Ben Bruce


5 Responses

  1. Mary Ellen Adams
    I have read both parts of this and I thank you for it. Very timely for me.You write with great depth and understanding and I know if I practice this I will be better for the effort. Thank You
  2. Ben
    Thankyou mary, I appreciate your feedback. best regards ben bruce
  3. Moe
    Great articles - thank you! I believe I am past this point. However, there remains an extreme difficulty with expression to others, which would take place after the healing effects of this article. Do you have any tips on that?
  4. Ben
    Hi there Sorry, not quite sure what you are asking. Can you be more specific please? Generally speaking, expressing yourself to others is about communication skills, self awareness and 'other awareness' or empathy. Emotional awareness and the use of language is crucial to adequate interpersonal expression. You need to be aware of your own emotions, what is happening to you in your heart and mind and gut - and be able to put words to this. You need to practice emotional vocabulary. You may also be shy, in which case you need to challenge yourself, one step at a time to be more open and talkative. With practice you will learn to tolerate being more open. You can also use relaxation techniques to deal with the anxiety. There are support groups for this where you can make a start, talking with people who understand things like social anxiety, if present. BB.
  5. Neil
    Ben, I want to thank you for sharing your understanding about insecure attachment, as well as your recommended method to begin healing. Without understanding why, I had put into practice the meditation and visualization years ago, to help me learn to manage my anxious thoughts. It was only afterwards that I learned through therapy, that I also was challenged by feeling insecurely attached. And while I had started to return to this healing method, reading what you wrote not only has strengthened my understanding that it is the right way to proceed, but it has given me even a bit more courage to proceed. Again, thank you so much for your writing. I found it very valuable and I will refer to yoru post whenever I need a reminder or a boost. Cheers, Neil

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