Avoidant Attachment Style Explored: The Impacts of Avoidant Attachment on Self-Regulation, Relationships, and Intimacy
Do you ever feel like relationships and intimacy are so difficult that you tend to stay on the sidelines and not participate? Have you learned that you can meet your needs better yourself, and so you learned to dismiss others and live in an isolated bubble? This is what can happen if we’ve developed an Avoidant Attachment Style.
Avoidant Attachment presents itself when there is unavailability, hostility, or a lack of nurturance, guidance, and protection from childhood parents or caregivers. This can result in a feeling that relationships and intimacy are too difficult, so one tends to linger on the sidelines, minimally participating. In such situations, children may adapt by being overly independent, always being good, figuring out how to meet their own needs; or through hard work, performing, and achieving they can gain favor with their parents. These adaptive coping strategies may have helped them survive the stress, neglect, abuse, and other adversities by dismissing other people and living in their own silo. Under such circumstances in childhood, this disconnection from close relationships can become a source of comfort and safety, and in some people, it creates a lifelong pattern of avoidance.
Attachment Styles develop in early childhood.
These behaviors begin with our earliest relationships, and for most of us, that’s our parents. For others, it might be grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or legal guardians. Many of us had caregivers who were tuned out, absent, neglectful, and sometimes outright rejecting or blatantly abusive. This could have been due to many different factors. It may have been their own unresolved issues that got projected onto us. Work commitments and the necessity of earning a living often keep people focused on money and other necessities of living, which leaves less time to nurture and spend quality time with their children and families. There doesn’t have to be malintent behind attachment ruptures.
“Other factors that could have contributed to this dynamic include physical illness, mental illness, cultural or family challenges, a natural or man-made disaster, or some other tragedy.”
Intentional or not, whatever the reason for an absent or neglectful caregiver, the child was left to their own devices too much of the time. When a child’s need for connection is unmet, the child learns to meet their needs and “self-regulate” without the help of an adult. However, when left to their own devices, children don’t naturally find healthy ways to self-regulate. They’ll turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, distorted self-soothing behaviors, and self-protective or defensive mechanisms as a way to “self-regulate.” These unhealthy behaviors are what get carried into adulthood, causing problems much later in life.
What happens when these attachment wounds follow us into adulthood?
In adults, an Avoidant Attachment style is often referred to as dismissive. Adults with this attachment adaptation are often overly independent, and they might find it difficult to ask for help or support. Admitting that they need help can feel incredibly risky since they learned in childhood that their needs are probably going to go unmet, anyway. Those with an Avoidant Attachment style tend to isolate and feel more relaxed and comfortable alone. It can feel stressful and take time to move toward connection. Individuals with this style may shut down, and they might find it incredibly difficult to talk about or even feel their emotions. If they can’t feel their emotions, they might look to something else as a way to create a sense of connection. For many people with an Avoidant Attachment style, sex becomes a false connection because they have trouble accessing that deeper emotional state in their body. Sex and love become one and the same, and this can make relationships and co-regulation with another person difficult and risky.
Just because they find it difficult to form a deep connection doesn’t mean that a person with an Avoidant Attachment style doesn’t want to connect or doesn’t love their friends, family, or partner. They adapted in such a way that maintaining distance in a relationship was their way to remain safe.
“Those with an Avoidant Attachment style will need to reestablish
a sense of safety in relationship and intimacy, which is
something a therapist can help facilitate.”
Attachment ruptures happen in relationship and they are likewise healed in relationship. This is not something that we can heal on our own because of the type of injury that it is, which is an injury to the social engagement function of our nervous system. Learning to co-regulate with another person is a necessary skill to learn to heal this type of attachment wound.
This overview should give you a little bit of information on the Avoidant Attachment style. Those who have an Avoidant Attachment style have a nervous system that predominantly goes toward the flight response. If you notice in yourself that you tend to be a runner, give others ‘the silent treatment,’ go for a drive, spend the night at a hotel following an argument, or are otherwise conflict and commitment avoidant, you just might have an Avoidant Attachment style.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Happy Self Discovery!
I’m Jennifer Whitacre, trauma specialist, empowerment strategist and shadow guide, and I help people strengthen their internal relationships through a process of SELF discovery. I guide and support my clients through the transformative process of developing SELF presence so they can shift from rigidity, reactiveness, and chaos into more flexibility, responsiveness, and connectedness.
People who are able to make this internal shift find they have more agency, decisions aren’t as difficult, they have more emotional stamina to deal with life’s ups and downs; and they have much higher levels of empathy and understanding for themselves and others.
The process is similar and unique for each client. Healing the invisible wounds inflicted from past trauma requires that we become familiar with non-verbal communication. That’s because the subconscious mind communicates non-verbally and unconsciously, the opposite kind of communication valued by the conscious mind. By understanding our own subconscious minds, the two minds become coherent and our lives naturally become more integrated.
Learn more at: jenniferwhitacre.com
This blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat or diagnose. Reading this blog does not create a practitioner/client relationship with Jennifer Whitacre or with Jennifer Whitacre LLC. If you find this information to be relevant to you, you are encouraged to connect with a licensed mental health care professional. If you are interested in becoming a client of Jennifer Whitacre LLC, please connect by visiting: jenniferwhitacre.com