Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: attachment theory

Allowing Things to Get Uncomfortable

This is going to be an uncomfortable post, because it’s about me learning to be ok with being uncomfortable for a bit. It’s starts as a gross personal story, so if you’re extremely squeamish, I’d skip to the next post, or maybe just the next few paragraphs.

uncomfortable
Photo by Spencer Backman on Unsplash
I picked this because it’s exactly the look I have when people are making me uncomfortable.

Years ago, I found myself with an extremely painful lump in my arm pit. I’m susceptible to ingrown hairs and I usually can get them cleared up on my own, but no matter what I did, this one just got worse. I will do anything to stay away from a doctor’s office, so you know it was bad because after a week of suffering, I went to Urgent Care in town to see what they could do for me.

The doctor there was so nice. He gently checked it out and confirmed that’s what it was. He said he’d drain it (it’ll hurt a little) and give me an antibiotic to clear it up. No problem. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for some pain that would subside momentarily, but ultimately be the cure.

Once he went to work on it, he realized it wasn’t an ingrown hair, it was a small cyst near the surface of my skin. “This is going to hurt more than I thought, but since we’re already here we should just remove it.” He was already working on it, no time for pain relievers.

I closed my eyes and leaned into it, focusing on my breath, allowing him to work as quickly as he could.

It hurt, you guys. Badly.  My high pain tolerance is source of pride for me, so when he congratulated me on being so tough, I was beaming. The assisting nurse was also impressed. I laughed (through involuntary tears), “Meditation does work!”

Bandaged up and sent home with antibiotics, the infection cleared, and I’ve never had another problem.

Why am I telling you this god-awful story?

Because this morning, while I was reading The Anxious Hearts Guide, I came to the part on “Becoming Secure” and “Sitting with Discomfort” and the experience popped into my head when I read “…those panic feelings are real, yes, but they are feelings” and “lean into and accept discomfort.”

Some feelings are unacceptable to me. When I feel them, I panic and react instantly, but rarely does this reaction help my situation. Surprise! What can I do? I think this is finally starting to sink in and be useful to me.

When I started to feel pain while the doctor addressed my wound, I could have reacted, pulled away, or punched him in the nose. Why didn’t I? Because I knew that the pain would probably be short, I trusted the doctor was not trying to harm me, and I knew I would be better for it. I am not an animal, communication was used, and I can expect a brighter future, so I let it be. I accepted it and waited.

I realized, over this past weekend, that I can do the same thing with my emotions. When I feel uncomfortable feelings, instead of running from them in panic, I can remember those same things: emotions are short lived, trust that no one is trying to harm me, and know that I will probably be better for it if I take a moment to let the feeling work its way past. Let it be. Accept it.

Emotions are warnings that something is there. They aren’t fool proof. I’ve found them to be quite susceptible to imagination and fancy. They come and go like the weather.

This is the practice I’m focused on right now, allowing uncomfortable feelings to be there.

Looking For Love: Anxious Attachment

I’m back on track, ladies and gentlemen, and here to give you some of my thoughts on the book Attached by Levine and Heller. This will be a longer post, but I hope you’ll stick with me. There was so much I wanted to say, and I cut it down A LOT. Yes, it was that good! And these are just MY personal takeaways. The book is so much more.


Applause! Applause! I have conquered the day. That ugly, procrastination self-talk has lost the battle, but the war does still rage on. I’m feeling confident today, not because I’m a bad ass, but because my husband loved on me yesterday when I was feeling low. Get your mind out of the gutter and I’ll tell you the story.

Remember that focus issue I brought up (again) yesterday? Well, it got worse. My husband was working on a project out in the garage, and I thought, “It’s Thursday! I’ll take the trash down for him!” I got the recycle out, then thought, “Hold on. I’ll get this dinner started and THEN take the trash out because then I won’t have food scraps in the trash overnight.”

I started the potatoes, turned on the radio and then started washing the dishes, forgetting all about the trash. That’s when my husband came in the from the garage and started taking out the trash, thanking me for helping with the recycle.

And I started raving and crying because I realized at that moment that I had forgotten…again.

That’s when he did something amazing. He stopped, pulled me to him and held me while I cried. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Yes, I’m dramatic. Get used to it.

A minute later, I was safe again. I finished the dishes. He took the trash cans down to the road. We had dinner together. I had one of his delicious new beers. And we watched a new TV show, which I highly suggest you see, “Minx.” Yes, there’s nudity! There’s nothing wrong with naked people! Trust me. This is good stuff.

How does this relate to the book Attached? Well, this is what a secure person can do for an anxious one if they’re both interested in walking this path of life together. Through books like this, we’ve learned more effective communication skills that have saved our relationship more than once.

Let’s get into that book a bit, shall we?

“Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.”

“…we live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence.”

Like I said in my first post about this book, I discovered this paradox when my children were very small and fought with my culture while I raised them quite differently. This attachment is biological and starts from infancy. This book moves on to apply it to any intimate/close relationship. The principles have changed my parenting, family, and married life for the better.

“Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.”

“Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference.”

When I feel the threat of detachment, I feel physically ill. My head and hands ache as if they are filling with blood. My heart races, my breathing shallows. I feel like throwing up. But one text from my loved one, a quick note, a hug, or a squeeze of my hand, and my anxiety eases. Oxytocin win!

Humans have evolved depending on each other for safety, security, and happiness. Our survival has depended on it. Yes, we have a better chance at staying alive independently in modern times, but our biology does not know the difference. Besides, why do we want to get rid of a bonding/attachment system that can bring so much joy?

“…when our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.”

There you go. We can be the rock under each other’s feet, that secure base to jump from. It’s a mutual dependence that gives us the courage to be out in the world doing big (and small) things independently.

“Chapter 5: Living with a Sixth Sense for Danger: The Anxious Attachment Style”

This is where we will dwell…because it’s about me. I know it best.

“…you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened. Even a slight hint that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system, and once it’s activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she is truly there for you and that the relationship is safe.”

Do you have any idea how good it feels to hear “You have a super-power!” instead of “Here’s your problem!”? The best part of this book is that it shows you how to USE your super-power for good!

“The study showed that people with an anxious attachment style tend to jump to conclusions very quickly, and when they do, they tend to misinterpret people’s emotional state.”

“If you just wait a little longer before reacting and jumping to conclusions, you will have an uncanny ability to decipher the world around you and use it to your advantage.”

What study? One that asked people to push a button when they started to see a change in a facial expression on video. Anxious types (like me) saw it a fraction of a second earlier than others. We see it and then rush to identify the emotion, often incorrectly. When they changed the test so that we had to wait a moment longer before responding, we were able to identify the emotion more correctly.

Another hint to stay aware, learn to breathe and pause, before reacting to the world around you, my anxious friend. Not everything is a threat to your survival.

“…the brains of people with an anxious attachment style react more strongly to thoughts of loss and at the same time under-recruit regions normally used to down-regulate negative emotions.”

…sigh… Validation. Do you feel it?

I just need to be more aware of my style and adjust my communication skills. There’s nothing wrong with me. I have a superpower I need to learn to use correctly. Remember “Frozen?” Nothing made my heart smile more than when my son stopped the movie and said, “So…they found out she had a power and locked her away by herself instead of teaching her to use it? Oh, yeah, that will be great. Nothing bad can happen here.”

“Expressing your needs and expectations to your partner in a direct, nonaccusatory manner is an incredibly powerful tool.”

“Nooooo! It’s too hard! Too dangerous!” were my notes in the margin. First of all, you have to know what your needs ARE. Then you have to become vulnerable to express then. What if they say no and you have to leave the relationship? What if they accuse you of being silly, over-thinking, over-communicating, reading into a situation, etc.?

So what?!  Do we really want to stay in a relationship like that and not even try to repair it? Life alone isn’t that dangerous anymore, not so much that we need to wrap ourselves around anyone that will stick with us a while.

“Often, insecure people cannot get in touch with what is really bothering them. They get overwhelmed by emotions and lash out.”

One thing I have learned lately is to simply admit that I’m feeling yuck and I’m not sure why or where it’s coming from. Instead of scrambling to find any source of pain and eradicate it quickly (like the study I mentioned above), I sit in that feeling and allow it some space to move around. Buddhism and meditation, non-doing and trust, are helping in that pursuit.

I’m printing out these two lists and putting them on the fridge!

The Five Principles of Effective Communication

Wear You Heart on Your Sleeve
Focus on Your Needs
Be Specific
Don’t Blame
Be assertive and nonapologetic


Five Secure Principles for Resolving Conflict

Show basic concern for the other person’s well-being.
Maintain focus on the problem at hand.
Refrain from generalizing the conflict.
Be willing to engage.
Effectively communicate feelings and needs.

One more word: Oxytocin! “The next time you decide to skip the Sunday morning cuddle in bed for a chance to catch up on work – think again. This small act might be enough to immunize your relationship against conflict for the next few days.”

We (our culture) do not spend enough time in close physical contact with each other. Don’t say COVID, because it started LONG before that. Oxytocin (the love and bonding chemical) is created when we touch. Feeling low? Ask for a hug! In fact, I think I’ll start asking my friends and family if I can hug them more often!

And there you have it. Attached by Levine and Heller…in a nutshell!

What’s next? I was going to jump into an intriguing (but silly) novel but a friend is reading Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson and I cannot skip over the chance to do a read along!

Peace, War, and Education: Podcast Roundup

Today is Podcast Roundup Day! (insert fanfare music here) This week we dive into a little peace, some war news, and liberal education. Two hours of listening and five pages of notes. When I come in the door, sit down on the couch next to my husband, and open my notebook, he knows he’s in for some discussion and gets another beer.

Sidenote: I’m still devouring Attached by Levine and Heller and…holy moly… I feel like heart escaped and wrote a letter to my brain. This book is now required reading. You have an assignment and I expect an essay. More about THAT tomorrow…possibly. I may just need some time daydreaming about it, ruminating on how to use the information.

Another sidenote: I ordered Yung Pueblo’s new book Clarity & Connection the day before yesterday, and it was in my mailbox when I got home last night. You guys…get it. It’s freaking beautiful. It’s not going to be logged in my reading log. I’m just picking it up and reading a page when I have a second and soaking it in.

On with the roundup!

Secular Buddhism: #166 Welcoming the Unwanted

I chose an episode of Secular Buddhism to listen to first because I needed a reminder of peace, you know, while I got gas in my truck $$$$. I couldn’t have picked a better way to start the day.

Takeaways: There are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral emotions. We tend to label them good and bad and treat them differently which causes problems. Instead, try welcoming them all in without putting a green or red sticker on them as they come in the room.

Feeling angry? I tend to get angrier at myself for having a feeling at all. That’s not helpful. I had the chance later in the day to sit with unpleasant emotions a while and attempt to see what they were trying to tell me. It got ugly and then better. Progress.

I’ll probably listen to that one again soon and hope it sticks in my brain better.

The Intelligence: Defog of War: Your Questions Answered

and

The Quillette Podcast: Russia’s Surprising Military Blunders in Ukraine

These two podcasts were chosen so that I might better understand how a close friend is responding to the current battle between Russia and Ukraine. They were short, enlightening, and gave me a better picture of what’s going on.

What they did not help me with is why it’s happening. I’d like to know more about what led up to the escalation, more history. But that’s probably way above my head and more details than I really need right now.

I’d highly recommend listening to these two episodes, especially the first. They are an hour combined and give a good overview.

I’ve added the following podcast to my listening because it was suggested during the Quillette podcast. I haven’t heard an episode yet, so I can’t say if it’s good or not, but it does look promising.

New Podcast: The Lost Debate

              “To use today’s jargon, we’re a “multi-platform media company.” We believe the most important conversations in society happen in the dark corners of the Internet—on platforms dominated by political arsonists, nihilists, and extremists. Our mission is to infuse more empathy, nuance, and objectivity into those conversations.”

Cato Daily Podcast: Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education

I believe we have lost the concept of what a liberal arts education really is, and the differences between a university, college, and trade school education are expected to accomplish. I loved hearing Jonathan Marks’ positive outlook on higher education and Generation Z or iGen (a new term for those born after 1995 and raised with smartphones).

Yep…another book added to the TBR list. Will it ever end?! I hope not. I think once you stop learning, you die…like immediately.

Book: Let’s Be Reasonable by Jonathan Marks

“More than just a campus battlefield guide, Let’s Be Reasonable recovers what is truly liberal about liberal education―the ability to reason for oneself and with others―and shows why the liberally educated person considers reason to be more than just a tool for scoring political points.”

There it is, another Podcast Roundup. I’m excited because I added another show to my list. I’ve been looking for new input lately. I’m always open to ideas, so comment with your favorite podcasts if you have them!

You don’t listen to podcasts? Why? I honestly want to hear this. I’ve always been a talk show fan more than a music fan while I drive, so podcasts…they do it for me.

Attached: New Read

Ok, my dear reader, my thoughts and commentary on Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – And Keep Love by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A. are going to get a little personal.

I first heard about “attachment theory” shortly after my first child was born and it all made so much sense. Children, right from birth, seek attachment and safety. Once that is achieved, they can move on to independence and then interdependence. That’s my short-form explanation.

It changed the way we raised our kids from the moment I understood it. When they cry, we feed and soothe them. When they reach for us, we’re there. Humans will grow to be independent on their own. We don’t need to force them to “grow up.” I fought with my family about this, and I never could understand why they could not understand.

My sons are adults now and, I believe, are establishing healthy relationships with their own partners. Yes, I they still do reach out to their dad and I when they feel they need emotional support. And that is a good thing. We are all securely attached to each other in healthy ways. We are family.

So why read about attachment now when my children are all grown?

Because a few years ago, I discovered that attachment theory applies to adult/romantic relationships as well. Discovering that, and what my current “style” is, has helped me grow closer to my husband of 23 years, something I didn’t know was possible. I wish I had understood some of this as a young adult. It would have probably helped avoid a lot of heartache.

Where did I discover it? Instagram, another reason to love that platform. The self-help and relationship help that I’ve found there has been wonderful. Pages like The Love Therapist and Self Work Co have changed my outlook on life.

I’ve been looking forward to reading Attached. by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A. for several months but kept thinking I already had it on my shelf until I realized that I have Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend there and it has the same color scheme. That’s how my brain works…it can be annoying.

This will be another fun book to read, I’m sure. The opening pages describe some of my most bothersome (to me) behaviors through the lens of someone else’s relationship. I’ve always been told these are things I should fix about myself, and I’ve spent my life attempting to not need people and become more independent.

“…we live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence. We tend to accept this attitude as truth – to our detriment.”

Man, that feels good to read. Like suddenly I’m not alone.

“…attachment continues to play a major role throughout our entire lifespan. The difference is that adults are capable of a higher level of abstraction, so our need for the other person’s continuous physical presence can at times be temporarily replaced by the knowledge that the person is available to us psychologically and emotionally. But the bottom line is that the need for intimate connection and reassurance of our partner’s availability continues to play an important role throughout our lives.”

Here’s where the personal stories come in.

I have this strange habit of reaching out to the people I love and need attention from. I text if they aren’t there. I walk into the room and say random things. I reach for them as I pass by. They are what my husband calls “pings.”

“Ping, a computer network administrator software utility, is often used to check the reachability of a host. The reachability includes two aspects. One is the availability, while the other is the response time.”

That’s what I’m doing. I’m checking the reachability of a loved one. “Yep, they are still there. I’m ok.”

To some people it can be irritating, especially if I’m feeling overly vulnerable and you don’t answer fast enough. I have been known to go off the deep end far too often than I probably should.

But knowing that’s what I’m doing helps me react better and helps my loved ones understand and show support. It’s a need for me and I’m uncomfortable without it. Yes, I’m aware that I should be ok alone and I generally am, but, like that baby that needs to be fed or that toddler that needs reassurance, I need to know my loved ones are there for me.

This book is going to be another great help to me. Relationships take energy, work, and self-awareness to thrive. Hopefully, the information here will bring more insight and peace to my current relationships. I’ll be sharing what I find as I go, but it won’t be a summary of what’s inside by a long shot. Hopefully what I do share will help you decide if reading it yourself and gleaning your own insight will be worth your time!

Read my final thoughts on this book at “Looking For Love: Anxious Attachment”

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