Activated Attachment System

It’s Tuesday. The day I’ve been wishing would hurry up and get here so that I can see T and speak about everything that has been driving me insane since Friday, but guess what? I am fighting against the fact that I don’t want to go.

This is so typical for me, this is what I do when she’s been on a therapy break and I’ve spent a week or two counting down the days until I can reconnect with her, only to arrive at that day and …. Nope, I don’t wanna go. I guess this is the push and pull of my anxious attachment. Come here – go away.. Jeez it is exhausting.

 

Attached

I read a book a couple of years ago Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love” by Rachel Heller and Amir Levine and I am re-reading it now, now that I am further into my therapy journey and now that I have more insight on myself and why I do things. I seriously recommend that anyone who struggles with attachment related injuries gives it a read, it is wonderfully validating and very helpful.

I keep trying to visualise tonight’s session. What will I say to T when she asks me how I am? Sometimes I start to play out a possible dialogue and other times I tell myself not to plan it, to just turn up and see what happens. I am nervous. So I’ve been doing what I usually do, reading as much as I can on the internet and in books to kinda diagnose myself. It’s like I want to be able to take the information to T almost so I can say “I did and felt this… but it’s okay, because I read in this book that it’s because……” which I know is completely ridiculous because she is a highly educated, talented, skilled therapist and she doesn’t need me to take her snippets from Google! Still, perhaps I have a fear that she will punish me and I am trying to protect myself by doing this.

On that note, I think I have figured out what sent me spiralling and as usual, it is all about my attachment style. Taking some quotes from the book, and a website, here is what I’ve learnt:

“The attachment system is the mechanism in our brain responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. If you have an anxious attachment style, you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened. Even a slight hit that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system and once it is activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she truly is there for you and that the relationship is safe”. 

“Once activated, they are often consumed with thoughts that have a single purpose: re-establish closeness with their partner. “activating strategies”.”

“Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that re-establishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.”

[Next section taken from: http://the-love-compass.com/2014/02/22/understanding-the-needs-of-the-anxiouspreoccupied-attachment-style/]

“Protest behaviour

A protest behaviour is any action that tries to reestablish connection with the partner and get their attention. If we can reassure our partner’s needs before they engage in protest behaviour, then they can be calmed very quickly. If things continue to escalate and needs continue to go unmet, protest behaviour ensues and can harm the relationship. Protest behaviour includes:

Excessive attempts to reestablish contact: Excessive texting, calling, messaging etc.

  • Withdrawing: Ignoring, not taking calls, etc.
  • Keeping score: Waiting to see how long it takes for them to call you back and waiting the same amount of time before returning their call, waiting for them to apologize, etc.
  • Acting hostile: Eye rolling, walking away, leaving room
  • Threatening to leave: Making comments that you can’t do this anymore and that your better off without the person in hopes that they will convince you to stay
  • Manipulations: Saying you have plans when you don’t, not answering calls, playing games
  • Making him/her feel jealous: Making plans with an ex, talking about your attractive coworker, texting friends of the opposite sex, etc.
  • Protest behaviour can manifest itself in anything that jolts the other person to notice and respond to you. It can cause harm to the relationship.

Longing for someone who is no longer available – biological and emotional make up is programmed to try and win them back. The process of attachment follows its own course and schedule. This means you will continue to think about the other person and will be unable to push them out of your mind for a very long time.”

 

Using this to help me 

So I think that I understand what happened for me:

  1. Something activated my attachment system. I think this was my reading into the comment that T made about how she had hoped I wouldn’t need to be in therapy for long. As previously explained, I had read into this that I was much harder work than my T ever anticipated and that basically, she probably wished she had never taken me on.
  2. I emailed T to re-establish contact… but unfortunately for some reason, her response wasn’t enough to settle me and so I then….
  3. Engaged in protest behaviour – however the chosen method was internet stalking. I guess this felt like the safest option because she didn’t have to “know” about it.
  4. Unfortunately said internet stalking resulted in me feeling even worse upon finding out she is married and has two daughters close to my age which just fuelled my insecurity.
  5. I then became fixated/obsessed with T due to “longing for someone who is no longer available” – this explains why I was unable to push her out of my mind.

I guess the purchasing of the book for T was all part of this longing – it was a way of establishing connection and closeness .

 

Tonight

I know I should probably relax a bit more and not spend so much time analysing the crap out of myself and my behaviour and thoughts, but it has actually benefited me figure this out. I feel much more able to take it to T tonight and discuss it with her now that I understand the bigger picture.

 

 

 

 

 

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