Thursday, September 20, 2012

Growth: Step one, Research.

Since my last post when I divulged my lack of emotional availability I've been doing some research. I honestly had no idea how to go about getting over my cold personality.

What I've found rings all too true. I think I have something called an "attachment avoidance pattern". The article I read, (Full article here) listed some words and phrases that collectively capture, on the surface at least, the various dimensions of "characterological coldness":
  • aloof, apart, stand-offish
  • impersonal, disengaged, un-involved; closed, shut-down
  • detached, distant, remote
  • haughty, or projecting superiority (though, if these narcissistic features are present, they could reflect the individual's outward demeanor, or self-deception, far more than how--deep down--they actually see themselves)
  • self-absorbed; insulated, passively withdrawn
  • emotionally unavailable, inaccessible, unresponsive, indifferent, un-invested
  • unfeeling, unemotional, affection-less; unsmiling--straight-faced (or stone-faced)
  • cold-hearted--as in "cold fish" or (even worse) an "iceberg" or "ice queen"
  • lacking in empathy and compassion
  • untrusting, wary, guarded;
  • angry, hostile; critical
  • excessively independent and self-reliant
These describe me surprisingly well. When I post something on Facebook like this: "It's not that I don't care, I'm just fresh out of fucks. I don't have a single fuck to spare." The comments I get are generally "Classic Hero right there." or "This is not surprising." My friends and family have just accepted that this is the way that I am. I don't accept it though, so I kept reading.

"These traits are not to be confused with introversion." I don't think I'm worried about that.

The article goes on to explain that developmental psychology has explained this behavior as stemming from my childhood. They say it is caused by a lack of emotional bond between the primary care giver, ie. the mother, and the infant. Given my relationship with my mother this also holds true. 

The defense mechanism instilled into the child from the emotional detachment from the mother is to protect themselves from the painful sting of rejection. Basically I can't get hurt if I don't but myself out there, this is apparently learnt in infancy. I have a distinct memory of wanting to cuddle with my mother as a child and having her push me away. I saw the same behavior from my mother with my brother who is 18 years younger than I am. The article says this on the subject, "For to insistently "bother" her for love and have their efforts repeatedly dismissed only functions to contribute to the fear that they may be unlovable--and so expendable. It's only reasonable that children regularly rebuffed in their attempts to establish a stable, secure attachment with their mother would actively strive to reduce to a minimum their expectations for succor and support." The child becomes "preciously pragmatic (another word commonly used to describe me)" and learns to walk the fine line between proximity to the mother and yet virtually evading any risk-fraught chances of intimacy. 

This whole rejection of intimacy as a child becomes an ingrained personal trait, a learned coping mechanism eventually turning off the "activation of the attachment circuitry." 

To summarize a bit the article says "So in the case of the avoidantly attached child, inborn intimacy-seeking behavior is replaced by behavior stressing separateness and independence--qualities that the child recognizes as strongly preferred by her." the mother.

Once an adult I, apparently, took this learned behavior with dealing with a lack of intimacy with my mother and figured, subconciously, that it should apply to everyone. Some of the consequences in adulthood again ring so true. "Disconnected from many of their own feelings, such individuals frequently struggle to pick up on the nonverbal cues of others, to sense what they're feeling. Fundamental social awareness and sensitivity is lacking in them (if you're a long time reader you'll know this is so true), for never having been properly attuned to maternally, their feeling (vs. thinking) side has never adequately developed." as well as "Given that the amount of shared emotion between them and their caregiver was seriously wanting, and also that they frequently felt compelled to shut down any spontaneous expression of feeling they feared might be received negatively, the very capacity for avoidantly attached adults to experience positive emotional states--such as enthusiasm, excitement, pleasure, and delight--may be dwarfed."

I remember one Christmas when I was a teenager, my mother complained that I lacked enthusiasm and excitement. She even went so far as to accuse me of knowing what she had gotten me. Which, in my family, if it had been the case the gift would have been returned. I started that day to "fake it till you make it." I have since learned how to actually feel excitement and enthusiasm, or at least feel the possibly numbed version of it. 

The article says that it isn't surprising that I find close relationships unexplainably uncomfortable, as well as dependancy on others and to go so far as to trust them would be terrifying. I mean how could I when my original relationship had betrayed me from the very beginning. Therefore, "being so emotionally sealed off from others virtually guarantees that they won't be sufficiently "available" to be vulnerable to such a threat."

I started to think here though that if this was such and ingrained trait why do I feel like I'm missing something in my life. Couldn't I just be happy with the little emotional contact I've been getting. Then I kept reading, "Yet, it must be added, this chronic self-insulation also forever denies them their heart's deepest desire--the loving connection that so painfully eluded them originally." Ah, OK, that makes sense. 

Hey, remember when I said, "I've carried that metaphor as far as a I can without making myself gag." Yea, well here is another quote from the article that hits home and by home I mean right in the testicles. "In fact, as the "dismissive adults" they've become, they're even likely to think and speak pejoratively of anything so touchy-feely as, say, sharing, love, or togetherness." 

Apparently this behavior is passed down from parent to child generation after generation. Could this explain why I don't want children. Maybe, I'm male so I don't have the wiring of maternal instinct and desire that women have. I would be willing to bet though that my sisters, who don't want children either, have the same issue. 

The article has a disclaimer that these behaviors can turn into narcissistic personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder. I read the description of these I can say without a doubt that I don't have the schizoid one, and I can say that I lean towards the narcissist side but I haven't actually crossed over to the full disorder. 

I'm far from fixing this problem, but I think I may be on the right track to get there. I may need to go get the book they recommend in the article. I'll do some more digging but keep you posted. 

Later Days,


  1. Step one is a big one and it looks like you're definitely going in the right direction.

    Something to try as you're discovering new information and understanding: when you read something you connect with... write it down, write down the thoughts that are inspired from this new knowledge, but also take a few seconds to take stock of how you feel. Write that down too. Don't judge the feelings,don't try to give them justification, just note them. This might actually be difficult to express at first when you're so guarded against feeling and more vulnerable emotion. But if you do it consistently it will help you recognize and stay more attached and in tune with your own feelings... and eventually help you in recognizing and connecting to the feelings in others.

  2. looks like I have some reading to do!


My frail ego requires validation.