I heard a programme on radio today that really got me thinking. Its a great weekly segment in the show Life Matters that airs on Radio National in Austrailia, called Three Men and A Feeling in it two therapists discuss a feeling with the presenter Michael McKenzie and provide insights into its ramifications. Today indifference was discussed most particularly from the point of view of how often it manifests in insecurely attached inviduals or those who have known hurt or pain as a ‘giving up’ defence and reaction to those hurts and pains.
I would love to be able to quote some of what was said, because it really spoke to me about the emotionally disengaged state I ended up in a few years into sobriety when my marriage fell apart. The interviewees were saying that often when we are not securely attached we dont know how to show interest in anything outside of ourselves and we can become very self obsessed while at the same time being competely incapable of showing ourself self care. To me this would equate with what I have read about consequences of emotional neglect. Early or consistent disappointments with caregivers or other significant relationships can also land us in this place where the cost of caring and connecting just seems too great. We may have learned the cost of caring is an emptiness that comes when nothing comes back to us. When lack of connection, nuture and emotional unavailibity is what we find when reaching out we also learn to treat ourselves in similar ways. We may learn the price of interest and caring is a brick wall and so we give up.
This is shown in the early attachment experiments which show a child left alone to cry who finally gives up and resorts to a depressed state. That child has no way of knowing what he or she went through if all of this occurs before the age in which language for feelings is gained, and it leaves us with a devestating emotional cost.
In my own life I learned to turn to substances and possessions to find my connection. Lately I am really feeling the emptiness and sadness of this kind of coping. After my father died Mum often gave me big sums of money and I so I would go shopping, After my father died and I was sent overseas all alone I learned to entertain myself by going to the movies, going to galleries and going to the big department stores. God knows what I would have done had I not had those avenues, detached as they were. I look back and wish I could have got into a 12 step group then as I may not have had to endure all the years of disconnection that I did,
And of course up until the age of 31 I also fell into addictions. Sadly the end of my marrige which occured when I was 11 years sober saw me fall back into complete isolation. I made an attempt to go overseas and find work but I got triggered and fear voices dissuading me from actively engaging put all that to death and then I had my second accident and a major head injury. I am still finding my way back from that. After it I came home and retreated to the coast fobbing off attempts to get me back into life and relationship.
The path of recovery has led me into therapy where I can engage with a therapist in order to explore and heal those early attachment wounds in me as well as the guilt and pain I struggle with due to the coping strategies I used which cost me a lot. I am managing to shop less on the lonely days and spend time in my own company listening to my own heart and feelings, as well as trying to reach out to others more. Writing my blog definately also helps me feel more engaged and interested and connected.
Today Jasper, my dog, didnt want to go walking so I went to the shopping centre, not to shop but to have a coffee and go to the library but also because my mobile phone which is bottom of the line has been breaking down and I genuinely needed a new one. The part of me that is no fan of technology was beating myself up after I settled on a mid range phone and paid for it. Its a bit of a process as I had to get a new sim card sent in order to set up the new phone. I managed to do this after all the inner critic attacks against buying the new phone subsided. I got the car with my phone and then Mum called on the old phone I got very emotional the moment we started talking and by the time I got home was still drying my tears. Something deep was being triggered. All weeekend long I was hard at work in the garden trying to clear up some of the jungle of vines that has overtaken the backyard over the last few months as I was not well. I was going to have a moment of self pity about how alone I had been with it all, but the sadness was very real and very deep and I probably wont even try to reach for explanations here.
Maybe I was having a kind of wake up call as to the reality of how far away my own insecure/ambivalent attachment style has taken me over years from active engaged connection with life and relationship, but at the same time I do respect that my genuine ability to shed those tears today shows my inner connection to real me is growing. I have to beware of beating up the part of me that in the past tried ways to cope with wounds that only ended up leaving me more disengaged and drowning in ‘stuff’. It takes time to grown in awareness of our patterns and defences and we are not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ for using certain ways of coping with our emptiness that we do. For me self compassion is the solution and was what the therapists in the progamme spoke a lot about, that and reaching out to get good help and therapy. I am doing both so I dont need to beat myself up today. I can feel genuine sadness for a past I didn’t wholey choose while realising that life is not over yet and I have been blessed even while struggling. Looking on it all with eyes of love, rather than with eyes of judgement or rejection is a better solution for me in the long run.