couples therapyYesterday I was talking to a couple of clients about how self sufficient they are.

Some people find it hard to lean on other people. It feels too vulnerable or too weak or they simply don’t believe there’s anyone they can trust to have their back.

I often talk about “dismissive attachment” which is when people develop a pattern of being dismissive to their need for other people to take care of them when they feel threatened, sad, scared, or hurt. (Hint: if you HATE the thought of being needy you probably have a dismissive attachment style).

The funny thing is that dismissive attachment in a sense is really all about one׳s PARENTS being dismissive.

When our parents brush us aside when we try to get their love, or make us feel stupid for wanting their approval, or act like we’re a bother when we’re being too needy, we learn to put a self-protective wall up to keep ourselves from being hurt or disappointed.

Sometimes the people in charge, parents or teachers or other authority figures, are emotionally neglectful. They don’t see or validate our needs or concerns, they ignore our problems or upsets until the point when it’s truly a crisis or such an escalated situation that our need for help is too blatant to ignore.

And even worse is if you’ve been hurt by someone you thought was there to protect you.

It’s no wonder you can’t trust anyone to be there and you may even be hypervigilant (this means extra on-guard) about things that can go wrong because you’ve been taught that unless you stay alert at all times you may miss something important that others will be too neglectful to notice. (This can cause ANXIETY)

Someone asked me recently what’s wrong with just taking care of oneself. I mean, isn’t it better not to need other people and to be able to give your own self what you need emotionally?

Well if you’re someone with an anxious preoccupied attachment style then yes, you might need to learn to tone down a bit of your neediness and become a little more self sufficient. A preoccupied attachment style is the opposite if dismissive, it’s the other extreme where someone is very anxious and needy in relationships in a way that makes them sacrifice their independence and that leads to negative emotions instead of security.

But it’s usually the dismissively attached people who ask me why they shouldn’t just get better at comforting or soothing or validating themselves (or why it’s necessary to be vulnerable). And to them I break the news that to need others emotionally is a basic human need, and that while it’s fine to use a defense mechanism of self sufficiency if you choose, and this may be ok some of the time, you will absolutely pay a price for this if you’re never leaning on others for comfort, soothing, or support.

It will leave a void inside and you will have to block out a lot of emotions and needs, which is a lot of work! (A lot) And it can stop you from being intimate in relationships because the wall gets too close to coming down when you let yourself be close, and in this model that’s just such a threat.

Anyway if you’re attachment style is causing you anxiety or getting in the way of your relationships, we can definitely work that through in therapy (feel free to reach out) or you may want up just notice it for now and let your attachment defenses be a little less automatic!

Wishing you a wonderful day 🙂