Emotional Withdrawal

I have just read a wonderful post on how the Narcissist often goes missing in a relationship.

https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/11927856/885057090.

They pull back just at the point where closeness is being established and the reason for this I feel is that the prospect of connection brings up all the buried pain and sadness of having sought connection from a parent who may have been not only emotionally absent, but emotionally hostile as well. All of this is deeply unconscious within them, for to feel it would really hurt and often the narcissist can remain angry and defensive but to fully experience the underlying pain and grief will not happen until they are willing to move beyond the narcissistic defence of rage.

I was in just such a relationship for four years following the end of my marriage.  I know I carried my own narcissistic wounds and the extra strong longing to connect which hid a lot of pain inside it from critical times of being abandoned before by those who found it hard to make a commitment to me.  But my new partner (at that time) carried even deeper scars I now know.  He would often go missing at critical times, most especially after a night of closeness.  His retreat was to work and surfing.  When he would surf he may be gone for over 3 hours with no contact or explanation often first thing in the morning.   Early in the relationship he told me that surfing would always have priority over me, I don’t know why I thought this was acceptable.  By all means I can accept a partner has separate interests and hobbies but to be told they were to be put first hurt me deeply and was a mirror of the pain of my childhood.

His long absences at critical times were extremely triggering for me. Being left alone for hours in the morning, not being able to just do a simple thing like have breakfast together, being kept constantly destabilised by not knowing when or if he would return again, being kept waiting before we were to go away on trips with my bags all packed, used to enrage me.  Reading this post helped me to understand why this had occurred.

But it also made me question for as an introvert I too need a lot of time alone.  Before a relationship’s safety is assured it is more than likely that I will withdraw and keep my guard up, I can easily be triggered when I am kept waiting or someone is late.  I feel this time alone has been a necessary self protection I have had to develop after years of being unconscious of so much within me and seeking to grown in awareness of patterns, patterns of attracting partners that were not healthy for me, relationships in which I was discarded or ignored or my emotions were devalued.

In the last relationship I just took what was dished out.  Lately I have been reading about the four F responses to trauma outlined in Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD : From Surviving to Thriving, often the narcissist (who responds with fight to the humiliation and emotional abandonment or abuse of his childhood) attracts someone caught up in the Fawn response to trauma, the person conditioned to listen endlessly and sacrifice their own needs in a quest to win love and attachment.  In many aspects too when I met my ex partner I was also caught up in freeze, another response to trauma which includes emotional distance and isolation in an attempt to escape from past pain.  A huge battle would ensue when my ex would try to pull me out of this, with explosions of anger and self righteousness about how his needs were not being met.

The point is we had both been victims of abandonment.  It was why we chose each other in the first place.  I was, at that stage, trying to work through my pain but had also stalled to a degree, the ending of the relationship freed me to be able to do the necessary grieving work which was I was actively abused for by my last partner.

Yesterday I found myself grieving deeply as I returned to my usual therapist who had been away for a month’s break.   During the time she was gone I had been passed over to another therapist, who I have actually found to be warmer and capable of a much deeper recognition and empathy than my usual therapist.  Yesterday as I sat in my therapists room which reminds me a lot of the house I grew up in I was missing the cosy warmth of the other therapist’s room and I was crying deeply.

It was hard to find words for all the deep feelings.  Deep inside I could feel the cry of my own child which I could not voice saying “how could you go away and leave me at such a critical time of year”  (this past month is the anniversary of my oldest sister’s birth and my father’s death, both huge milestones for me) and then the longing for the engagement and warmth of my fill in therapist as my therapist sat there with eyes closed and looking at the floor beside her chair.  I felt like I was back with the mother who was never really reachable and missing the love of my older sister who had been so full of warmth, creativity and love but went overseas when I was three.

Eventually part of this tumbled out.  My therapist listened while I shared my feelings about her detachment and about things that have not sat well with me over the past year.  “Perhaps Katina will be the better therapist for you, Deborah”, she said.  “This is really about your intuition”.  As I thought about it, about having to make such a big change part of me felt “I don’t want to hurt her”, but thinking about it this morning it seems to me that often I put other people’s feelings or my false need to protect them above my own and in her heart Rae wants what is best for me.  I need to be selfish, but I also know there would be deep grief in leaving Rae as she has accompanied me through much of my inner journey.

And at heart this is about learning what I need for me.  I need engagement and warmth.  I need a therapist who is more comfortable with feelings, that really gets me, gets my feelings and meets my needs.  I am not at all used to this being got.  Its a strange and new experience but one I need so deeply.  I know it is one that I am internalising,  I know the major lesson is in learning to me there for me, but I also know how essential to healing the wounds of broken or non existent bonds and trauma a therapeutic healing relationships is.

It seems to me that on some level something deep is trying to work its way out at the moment.  I am looking for a  place where I can unfold who I am, unravel from the tight bound up feeling of having to hold so much inside, pretend I can cope with less when really I am longing for more.  For so long I have had to survive on scraps.  I don’t want this any more.  I don’t know that I will ever fly totally free of my past suffering and of the need to emotionally withdraw at times, but I also know that what I have longed for most is connection, a place to be seen and known and accepted and a place and attitude from which I can see, know, love and accept others even in all their wounded vulnerability.

I feel at the moment the closest I have ever felt to this place, even at the same time as I am aware of the deep loneliness that has been essential to get me to here.  When I write, when I touch base with me, with what warms me, with what really touches and opens my heart I am home.  Within this place I can even feel compassion and empathy  for the one’s who broke my heart in not seeing and getting me, too caught up in their own struggle.  When I can grieve it fully, forgiveness comes and a much deeper acceptance of how complex life and people can be.  The recognition that so much of what others do to us is not personal but just an outgrowth of circumstances initially way beyond their control and consciousness.  And of the power of choice which comes once we commit to the journey to discover that within us with drives and motivates us from deep within.

5 thoughts on “Emotional Withdrawal

  1. I quite enjoyed this.

    “I feel at the moment the closest I have ever felt to this place, even at the same time as I am aware of the deep loneliness that has been essential to get me to here.”

    That truly resonates with me.

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