Pre-Occupied: verb. A matter or subject dominate or engross the mind of someone to the exclusion of other thoughts. – google dictionary.
Attachment: theory. A deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space – simplypsychology.org
It was a Wednesday like any other Wednesday. I was sitting in another attachment training, reviewing what I had already learned in the last two years of these monthly trainings. As the newer staff were catching up on what attachment really looked like in our clients, I was reflecting on what my attachment looked like with my parents.
Two weeks prior to this meeting, I made a very important step towards self-disclosure about my sexual abuse to my parents. I disclosed smaller but important concerns that had lead to anger/resentment. These events had left me feeling uncared for, as my emotional needs had not been met in these circumstances. Needless to say, it went poorly, with minimal validation or closure and most of my fears of my parents’ inabilities were confirmed.
However, here I was at work, in a more emotional place than usual. I listened to what I had heard many times before, but something interesting happened. I had an overwhelming emotional response. In my mind, all I could see were memories, flashes and the feeling that everything was clicking and making sense. Click Click Click …. crap crap crap!
I just discovered another layer of trauma that I did not really accept I had. Wonderful! Time to find the immense energy it will take to work through this layer, when I am already feeling emotionally tapped out, trying to keep it together every day, trying not to break down crying on the subway, trying to be there for my boyfriend in his time of need, and trying to continue to be the best therapist I can be as I listen to those who have it much much worse than I ever did.
After a sobbing session (or three) in the work bathroom, I feel a wave of relief. Through my overwhelming sense of grief and pain, I feel a sense of acceptance, peace and understanding seeping through. I begin to feel calmer. I remember other times I had these moments of difficult realizations of why I was the way I was or why my life was the way it was. I remembered, the best therapists are the ones who went through trauma. Working through this, really understanding how much attachment affects all your relationships, how even with good intentions you could screw over all your relationships – how that feels, how it is experienced, how helpless one feels knowing this, then how to finally change it and over come it – can only be another beautiful gift I can give to others.
For now what I have learned is that accepting that I have a preoccupied attachment and maybe even an avoidant attachment is very difficult. But for years my friends have said to me, sweety, you need to think less, you think too much. Meaning, I am very worried, obsessively worried when I don’t need to be. For years, I have felt helpless, overwhelmed by my own thoughts, felt stuck in anger and resentment. I have had a very hard time forgiving then maintaining forgiveness. I have had a very hard time not talking about, thinking about, writing about my trauma, my childhood. I have had a great internal longing to work through all this so I can finally heal and stop being captive to my past, my trauma, my thoughts. I always thought this preoccupation meant I wasn’t healed yet from my abuse. What I did not realize is that this preoccupation began before I was abused.
Parents pass on their attachment styles to their children. My parents are pre-occupied and avoidant people. I am both pre-occupied and avoidant. I have developed secure attachments and have learned to be less pre-occupied and almost non-avoidant with friends. But the closer the relationship, the greater the attachment to that person, the more this learned attachment pattern is triggered. Why? Because the greater the internal connection to another person, the greater the fear of rejection/fear of not getting your emotional needs becomes – and the fear begins to feel overwhelming, suffocating, debilitating. Without lots of work, any person feeling this way will then revert back to what they subconsciously learned from their parents, because when stress levels are that high, humans cannot think clearly. As a result, in various ways, people with an insecure attachment (i.e. pre-occupied, avoidant, disorganized) will create the rejection they fear. Either I avoid and push away, or I become so pre-occupied with the relationship that I appear needy/clingy, or I become so pre-occupied with my past that I miss things in my present. I miss important signs, signals, I forget important conversations, I begin to appear selfish, self-involved, uncaring, ungrateful. None of these help relationships, and the ones we love the most are most at risk of having to deal with this.
I am learning, trying to learn, to accept that this is what is happening for me and has been happening for me. I see a pattern of how this played out with friendships that did not workout and ex-boyfriends. I am learning to accept this is NOT my fault. I learned this from my parents. They learned it from their parents. Unfortunately, very few people in the world, much less in India where invalidation is a normal occurrence, have a secure attachment 100%. But, now hear I am. Beginning a new chapter of my journey, to now uncover this layer of maladaptive attachment behaviours that I keep repeating even though, I never ever wanted to be like my parents. Subconsciously, I am already like them, and now I have to undue what I learned while still finding a way to not resent them for the damage they did to me because they were damaged as well.
Thanks for your support and visits,