Have you ever felt unable to connect? Maybe you feel like everyone but you has some secret ability to make conversation and build deep friendships. Was there a class you missed in school? Or some secret connection seminar people are hiding from you? Probably not, but there could be another cause behind your difficulty creating meaningful connections. You might suffer from one of several adult attachment disorders.Psychologists have studied the idea of attachment theory for decades. This theory suggests that the relationships in your earliest, most formative years can and will shape all of your relationships.
For those with stable homes, aware parents, and space to be a child, relationships will be easier to form. You will naturally be open, capable of trusting others, and willing to stand up for your own boundaries because these things were modeled for you in healthy childhood relationships.
For those with more turbulent childhood relationships, then connection will be more difficult. Due to a lack of security and care, developing relationships can be difficult because you never learned what it means to open up, trust others, and stand up for your own needs.
Adult attachment disorders can be significant obstacles to your relationships and overall happiness. They can even affect your relationship with God. They are serious but not insurmountable. You will need to determine if you are suffering from an adult attachment disorder and then take steps toward correcting your unhealthy forms of attachment to develop meaningful relationships.
Determining if you have an Adult Attachment Disorder
Two of the most common symptoms of adult attachment disorder are the inability to trust others and feeling like you live in a state of survival, unable to rest.
If as an infant and young child, your caregivers weren’t there for you in the ways you needed them to be, then it’s natural to develop trust issues. From your earliest years, you learned that people won’t always be there for you.
This will translate into your adult relationships. If you couldn’t trust the people who were most important to you in your youth, how will you be able to open up to friendships or romantic relationships? Your default mode is to keep your cards close to your chest and not let anyone in.
Not only will this defensiveness keep you from other people, but it can also keep you from God. While you may cognitively assent to God’s love and presence, those who have not experienced safety and security in their human relationships often struggle tremendously in their relationship with God. It’s hard enough to imagine other people being there for you, it’s even harder to imagine God being there for you.
While operating from a defensive place might feel natural or even like that’s just who you are, that’s not necessarily true. Part of confronting this disorder will mean learning to let your guard down and trust others.
It will also mean being willing to rest and not be in control. Since you couldn’t trust your caregiver, you learned to trust yourself. This means you like to be in control. However, this is not always possible or healthy in adult relationships.
Healthy adult relationships require trust and mutuality. You can’t control your friends or partners. If you try to, then you will push them away or dominate them, neither of which are conducive to a relationship.
The Risk of Adult Attachment Disorders
If you are suffering from an adult attachment disorder, then it needs to be addressed. Otherwise, you risk more serious problems developing because of your inability to develop healthy life-giving relationships. Some of the issues that can be caused by attachment issues are:
Alexithymia: This is a subclinical personality trait where the patient struggles to be aware of their own and other people’s emotions. These people often come across as unfeeling and emotionless because they are out of touch with this part of their life.
Depression and Anxiety: While depression and anxiety have a wide variety of causes, adult attachment orders can either exacerbate the condition or contribute to the feelings of depression or anxiety in your life.
Addiction: It’s been found that due to a lack of healthy attachments, many people seek ways to cope. These coping mechanisms often can turn into full-blown addictions.
In light of these potential complications, those struggling with adult attachment disorders need to seek treatment to prevent unnecessary pain and difficulty in their life.
Treating Adult Attachment Disorders
Since most of the research for attachment theory has been focused on children, psychologists are still developing advanced forms of treatment for adults with these issues. That being said, here are three helpful steps to grow into healthier forms of attachment as an adult.
1. Create a narrative
Part of the struggle of adult attachment disorders is that they are rooted in the past. The painful experiences you had in the earliest years of your life are what drive this disorder. To find healing, you will need to create a cohesive narrative in your life.
Up until this point, you’ve likely found ways to justify what happened to you. As a child, when your needs weren’t met, you created a framework or narrative to explain why this way. Or maybe this narrative was created for you by your parents. But this doesn’t leave space for your pain, it merely explains it away.
Creating your own narrative allows you to face the difficult things that happened to you. For example, you can acknowledge that your parents weren’t there for you when you needed them and that’s okay. You don’t have to hate them, but you have to acknowledge the truth of your upbringing. This will help you to process your experiences and move on.
Writing your own story will allow you to acknowledge where and how God has worked through your life. Sometimes it’s only by looking back on the larger story that you can see his guiding hand at work.
2. Find a partner with healthier forms of attachmentWhen it comes to relationships, it’s often tempting to find someone with whom you are comfortable. Part of this is good. A partner should make you feel safe and cared for. However, a partner should also not enable dysfunction.
If you grew up used to not having people there for you, then you may feel comfortable with an unreliable and dishonest partner. While that may feel comfortable for you, that kind of partner only perpetuates dysfunction.
In fact, you may find it difficult to open up to someone who is present, loyal, reliable, and honest with you. If you haven’t experienced any of these things in relationships before, they can be scary to navigate. However, finding a partner who can encourage you in your growth and your relationship with Christ is key to growing into healthier forms of attachment.
3. Finding Therapy
Finally, getting into therapy for your adult attachment disorder is one of the most effective ways to learn how to connect with other people.
A counselor will be able to help your process your childhood experiences and create a cohesive narrative in your life. They will be able to give you guidance about your current relationships and how you are pursuing or not pursuing connections. They can be powerful sounding boards for your life.
Christian counselors are effective because they can integrate powerful psychological principles and spiritual disciplines into your growth process. When you both start with the foundation of the Christian faith, you will face far fewer obstacles as you grow.
Adult attachment disorders are serious. They can keep you from where you want to be in life. You might just feel like you can’t connect with others, but there may be more to the story. A Christian counselor can help you process that story, teach you healthy ways to connect, and get you back on the road to a relationship with God and other important people in your life.
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