Conquering the Divide
All humans begin their lives connected to another. Healthy symbiosis between parent(s) and infant continues this link after the umbilical cord is cut. When contact with caretakers is absent or too painful, people must find ways to avoid their need for nurture:
Five or more items marked in any category below suggests that the self has cut its tether and has been set adrift from humankind.
ORIGIN OF PROBLEMS
Avoidant people may have had good early nurturing, possibly reinforced by a reactive temperament that elicited caretaking. Later, they were humiliated in matters of being proper (“Who would want you?”) and ridiculed by siblings and peers. Thus, they have a taste of bonding but seek it only if acceptance is assured. Isolated individuals may have been underreactive, “easy” babies that required or were offered little from withdrawn, formal caretakers. The message is “What do you want?” The experience of eccentrics is even more extreme. The greater the underreaction to environmental stimuli, the more mental activity is needed to fill the void. Abusive, controlling caretakers (“I know what you’re up to!”) may foster distorted thinking styles that defend against intrusions.
THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE
Decreasing avoidance, withdrawal, fantasy, intellectualizing, magical thinking, and rituals can seem like punching holes in a coat of armor. Even if your isolated existence feels comfortable, it leaves you trapped on the inside and unable to access life support at times when hurt cannot be pushed away. Awareness of distancing patterns is the first step. Use any difficult moments to identify what the situation means about you. If you often feel numb and empty, search your past for times when you were alive enough to feel pain.
Directions: Mark any of the thoughts you get in your worst moments. Then, identify beliefs you would like to have and affirm these new ideas regularly.
Turn Defeating Thoughts into
Beliefs That Promote Change
I’m different, deficient, or unlikable, and
I (can learn to) belong, fit in, make contact.
I’ll be rejected, criticized, or embarrassed.
Disapproval does not equal rejection.
It’s foolish to risk devastating rejection.
I can (learn to) handle rejection or criticism.
I’m basically alone (and prefer it that way).
I can (learn to) enjoy contact with others.
I don’t want the burden of a relationship.
I can find freedom in relationships.
People are needy and controlling.
People have good, appealing attributes.
I know what others think (about me)
I must ask questions to understand others.
I am the cause of bad things that happen.
I’m responsible only for my part (if at all).
If I cause my bad luck, I can control it.
I can (learn to) handle what I can’t control.
Discomfort is caused by outside forces.
Discomfort is usually caused by my thoughts.
It will be easier to identify your defeating thoughts by intentionally creating situations that bring them to the surface. Pick any of the following exercises that sound hard or distasteful and, if possible, find a family member or friend to be your coach.