14 12, 2017

Feelings are always right

December 14th, 2017|emotions, Intimacy, non-monogamy, relationships|0 Comments

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Feelings are are the foundation of human experiences.  No matter how ‘logical’ you think you are, when you make a choice, it’s because something about it feels good or bad.   Neuroscientists know that feelings are a requirement for choice – when you block feelings, you are actually unable to make choices.1)One patient, Eliott, after removing part of his frontal lobe, kept all of his intelligence but was unable to feel emotions in making decisions – and as a result, he was incapable of making decisions. Source: The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind by Jonah Lehrer (2009) But in this rushed world, who actually has time to completely feel emotions?  Most of the time we ignore them until they’re screaming at us, affecting our lives until we wonder why we made that stupid decision or got in an abusive relationship.  But feelings can become good friends – no matter what they are.  It’s vitality important that they do.

And in the aftermath of #metoo, with the public acknowledgement of decades of hurt and resentment laying there for many, it is vitally important we find ways to actually work with the quagmire of built up feelings. This means going beyond venting and online shaming – many groups perhaps have a deep need for their own version of Truth and Reconciliation. This by necessity means working with what’s going on, deep in our brains and bodies, in a way that promotes actual transformation.

Fuck the “Fuck Your Feelings” motto.

Mark Manson wrote “Fuck your feelings”, saying that feelings shouldn’t be what you live your life by, that it’s up to you to control the meaning of them and your actions.  And there’s some truth to that – living an impulsive, unexamined life can be a path to addiction and misery.  Buddha’s Four Noble Truths say that those impulses of craving and aversion are the source of suffering in our lives.

But unlike Mark Manson2)I’m not totally against Mark Manson’s philosophy, so long as it’s used to achieve short term goals. It’s more that fucking your feelings for a long time can get your life fucked, Buddha taught that the path to a life without suffering about completely welcoming what’s there, especially feelings.  Learning to feel completely, without imposing meaning or judgement.  Removing the dams blocking our internal rivers of thoughts and emotions and letting them flow naturally in the lush landscape of our bodies and community.

When this happens, feelings of connection and well being seem to come naturally.  But all too often this doesn’t happen, with tragic results.

When feelings aren’t welcomed

I knew a woman, Claire3)not her real name with many details changed, who threw herself into mountain climbing and found a home with the local community, which was small enough that everyone knew each other.  She then went on a date with a guy in the community, things happened, she said no… and she was raped.  Claire was devastated: full of hurt, distrust and rage at being violated.

Hurt, distrust, and rage are uncomfortable emotions.  But they’re also right.  They are important to feel.  They’re also important to feel with someone – in the presence of someone trusted, who can be attuned, who can feel with you.  That’s what support – and compassion – is.

She, of course was in shock.  Rape victims usually are.  At first, she likely didn’t even know all she was feeling or what she needed and the jumble was visible.  But when she tried to tell others what happened and what she was experiencing, people got uncomfortable – women and men alike.  I don’t think they didn’t believe her.  They just didn’t want to feel those painful feelings – including their own about the effect on the small community.  So her friends just tried to change the subject, to avoid the emotions, which added to the quagmire in her gut, feeling dismissed, invalidated, and alone.  Claire was covertly (but unintentionally) ostracised and the guy continued to be a part of the community.  I think many wanted to support her. They just didn’t have the capacity to feel those intense, painful emotions along with her, and accept the upheaval this would cause amongst them, and so pushed the topic (and her) away.

That’s what happens when we create years of habits of pushing feelings away.  It doesn’t just hurt them.  It hurts our ability to respond appropriately to friends, to give support.4)Of course I’m simplifying the situation  – trauma and rape is a large topic.

When I saw her years later, she was still affected by these events.  Her eyes showed distrust of men, and a good deal of resentment at life.  Resentment is the natural emotion when you have to disown strong emotions.

I can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like had she had at least one person to weather the storm with, who didn’t just believe her intellectually from afar, but welcomed her even more because of what she was going through.  Because that kind of support makes both people alive.

A deep look at feelings

Ok, let’s get down to semantics for clarity.

Feelings, by definition, are the bare physiological experience in a moment.  This is not an emotion, which is a reaction to something, which in turn we label for communication and understanding.  For instance, if we’re suddenly filled with adrenaline, our body tenses for action, the brain orients outward looking for threat, we might use the word “fear” to label the experience.  But what’s important is the bare experience, and allowing our body to do what’s natural – likely to run away.

Conversely, if we perceive something we know we can handle, the brain might re-orientate, puff up the body and call the experience “anger”.  Both of those words are not the experience themselves.

The problem is when we label an emotion and then stop feeling in the moment.  We lose track of the actual sensations, the present-moment aliveness.  Then the label sticks and it’s part of our identity – we say  “I’m frightened”.  Then it’s a problem to solve, because “I” don’t want to be frightened.  We try to do stuff to make ourselves better, which is usually oriented towards stopping the bare sensations.  And we get caught in the trap of suffering Buddha spoke so profoundly about.

There’s not a problem with intense reactions if they are aren’t “problems” in that way. Once I was rollerblading at high speed through a paved forest path and came across a bear and her cubs smack on the path.  Fuck I was scared.  But I managed to stop a few feet away from the cubs and the momma bear didn’t bat an eye.  My experience wasn’t conceptualised – I was terrified, reacted, and then the feeling moved on.  Nothing stuck.  I learned what Thich Naht Hahn called having “no aftertaste” of an event. I didn’t blame the bear for being there, blame forest management, or let it lessen my desire to glide through a forest in the future. It just flowed and became part of my experience.

Why is this important with others?  Because it’s at this level we form connections with others where mutual support is a natural thing that occurs without effort.  The spiritual teacher Adyashanti once pointed out that if you communicate raw experiences, conflict can never happen, because your experience is always your own.  No one can argue with you.  Conflict happens over interpretations and reasons.  Someone may disagree with why you are frightened, especially if it implies fault, but being simply visible about living in fear is more likely to evoke empathy and compassion.  We come together and even form deeper bonds when we simply share experiences, as they are.

So more about what feelings are, and are not:

Feelings are not stories

All too often when we try to communicate to someone what we’re feeling, we tell a story.  That person did this to me and I reacted, and then this happened and man they hurt me.  The events of the story are usually a mix of fact and implied causation and fault5)Non-Violent Communication emphases learning to stick to undebatable facts and feelings to avoid conflict. Some feelings may be conveyed, but are often more in the space in between your words, the non-verbal signals, or the metaphors.  If you deliver the story in a dry, detached way, others have little idea of your bare experience in the present moment. It may even sound like you’re over it already.

A story can be an entry point into feelings. When first speaking about a painful experience, as in #metoo, we may want to hesitantly test the waters. Is my audience going to judge me or shame me based on the facts alone? Is it safe to be vulnerable with you? Once you’ve heard my story, are you open to seeing my feelings and how I’m affected now?

But simply telling your story doesn’t mean you’re necessarily feeling the feelings associated with it.

Feelings are not words

When you say “I feel angry”, you know what you mean.  But feelings are like a painting.  They’re colored by life experiences, your family’s use of the word, and all the techniques of breathing (and not breathing) you’ve learned so far.  When ask 10 people to feel anger, they are going to have 10 different experiences.  Thinking you’ve communicated feeling by a word is like thinking you’ve conveyed the beauty of the Mona Lisa with a 1000 word essay.  It can’t be done.

Some feelings don’t have words – yet

When we’re still processing an intense experience, all too often we don’t even know what we’re feeling.  It’s a raw experience, still unprocessed.  The linear brain is great at making up labels and explanations (which are almost always wrong or incomplete) but not at feeling things out, letting your body speak.  It’s unfortunately that socially there can be so much pressure to find words instead of just being where you are.

Last week, I indulged some addictive tendencies (video games) in retrospect because there was something I didn’t know how to feel.  I tried, but it all felt so uncomfortable and nothing flowed, so I went back to the game as a temporary pleasure – though like any addiction, it made me feel worse in the long run.  My partner was there, so I asked “can we sit together and breathe?”  And we did, with full attention on each other.  And given that attention, support and compassion, more awareness of my body came, I let myself move and show things on my face.  Eventually tears came – and last of all, I could put words to it.  Words often come last.

It is so important to give space and time for those wordless states.  Our body doesn’t want to be interrupted in its processing.  And attention, without trying to find words, is often the best thing.

Which brings me to the next point.

Feeling is a collaborative act

You’ve probably experienced being with a person in a group where you know in your body some uncomfortable emotion (e.g., anger) will not be accepted – so you don’t feel it.  It is pushed out of  your conscious awareness, because we are incredibly social and interdependent creatures.

On the other hand, there are times I’ve come in the presence of a friend, settled down, and then found emotions I hadn’t been feeling for the whole day.

There are some emotions that are impossible for a person to feel alone.  Sometimes it’s too much to bear, a literal weight in our gut.  It’s at those times we need support to feel with us.  Someone to give space, to breathe with, who is able to give attunement while not getting overwhelmed themselves.  Compassion.

I hope Claire finds that.

In the age of #MeToo

I’ve honestly been trying to back away from the outrage across social media, but one thing is clear from it: there is an incredible amount of hurt out there.  There are the victims of rape and sexual assault, but on the other hand there are all the men who are victims of childhoods where their tender emotions were dismissed and mocked, who have been compensating their whole lives6)of course, childhood past is in no way an excuse for abusive behavior – in either sex.  There are intense feelings on all sides.  And so many people want to be heard and validated.

This is when it’s important to act from a place that feelings are always right.  Feeling incredibly hurt and distrustful is right.  Feeling suspicious and afraid is right – and remember there are men living lives like that too.  What we need are to feel and get support being exactly where we are.

Let’s be clear: the call out culture makes sure no one feels safe enough to be that vulnerable, to be visible with what’s there in the present moment – or even be in a state to offer real support.  We also need to let go of any idea that healing involves state justice – the courtroom process is incredibly traumatic for victims.  As Judith Levine writes, “The more we entrust the state to mete out justice for sexual infractions, including harassment, the more we collude in the manner in which it administers “justice.”  We know how violent that is.  It affects us all.  Every online spectacle in some way acts in a little voice that you too could be next.

I’m not here to condemn anyone for online violence such as shaming.  That in its own way would be perpetuating violence.  What I want is to encourage healing, reconciliation, the ability for everyone to feel safe being where they are, feeling what’s going on.  That’s getting to the truth of what’s going on in a moment and finding connections from there.  I want to encourage these mini “Truth and Reconciliation” meetings around the world, starting from where are are.

Going Full Circle

Reconciliation and building trust requires the basic understanding that feelings are always right.  Sometimes that’s distrust and rage.  Sometime’s it’s a congealed mix of sensations, a maelstrom of contradictory signals. Sometimes it’s a strange joy at being heard, unexplained and mystical, like getting out of a cave and seeing starlight after being underground for hours.  These are raw experiences, part of being beautifully human.

It’s funny how so many of us really want to know that fundamentally, deep down, we’re good.  And that can only come in each moment.  Knowing that whatever is going on now is good.  It’s right – wherever we are.

To give a personal example, in the last year, there were some breaks of trust with my partner because the polyamory situation that developed was not what she desired.  There was covert violence (e.g., emotional violence in NVC terms) on both sides – not intentionally, but as human reactions to stress (the rest of her life was chaotic too) and feeling pushed.  We might have broken up – distrust was heavy. However, after some time and communication, both of us were able to just be in that state of distrust with each other, without blame.  It was a raw experience with many subtleties I can’t describe in words.  Once that started, other states came to the surface – and those moments of simply being ourselves with all that shit were, in retrospect, moments of love.  When we relaxed into the sense that our feelings were right, the other’s feeling was right, then there was the sense that we were right – and good.  And we still loved each other.  A different kind of trust started to grow.

It’s funny how so many of us really want to know that fundamentally, deep down, we’re good.  And that can only come in each moment.  Knowing that whatever is going on now is good.  Our experience is right – wherever we are.  And when we communicate in our words, in our tone, in our body language, and in our eyes to another person that we see their experience and it is right, that is the beginning of a true reconciliation.

I hope it’s clear this kind of experience can’t happen on the internet7)but hey, this can be shared on the internet, so please  do that! – or even in crowded, rushed circumstances.  It takes creating a safe container – physically, emotionally and mentally.  A place to be.  Those containers are important, and I hope you take time to create and maintain your own, whatever it looks like.

And I hope you send messages to those you care about: your feelings are always right.  For you.


References   [ + ]

1. One patient, Eliott, after removing part of his frontal lobe, kept all of his intelligence but was unable to feel emotions in making decisions – and as a result, he was incapable of making decisions. Source: The Decisive Moment: How the Brain Makes Up Its Mind by Jonah Lehrer (2009
2. I’m not totally against Mark Manson’s philosophy, so long as it’s used to achieve short term goals. It’s more that fucking your feelings for a long time can get your life fucked
3. not her real name with many details changed
4. Of course I’m simplifying the situation  – trauma and rape is a large topic.
5. Non-Violent Communication emphases learning to stick to undebatable facts and feelings to avoid conflict
6. of course, childhood past is in no way an excuse for abusive behavior – in either sex
7. but hey, this can be shared on the internet, so please  do that!
19 05, 2016

Detaching from attachment styles

May 19th, 2016|non-monogamy, relationships|2 Comments

Reading Time: 10 minutes

In one of my last posts about bonding, I briefly mentioned Attachment Theory, which is one way of looking at patterns in how people form deep and lasting connections.  I’ve heard growing talk about it from non-psychologist friends, often wondering why their relationships don’t last.  Like it or not, the attachment styles established in childhood deeply affect how we connect now in every type of relationships, from friendships to romance.   If there, how can we work through deep insecurity to find intimacy and lasting bonds?

Attachment Disorder Background

Since the 60’s, psychologists have observed in both children and adults different means of forming attachments: one healthy (secure) and three unhealthy (avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized).  There are  slightly different dynamics and names for child attachment and attachment in adults.  From past surveys, approximately 50% of people have a secure attachment style.   This means that close to half of the people you’ve encountered will have huge bumps along the road to forming a true bond.   It isn’t impossible – but it does mean there are challenges, anxieties and hurts that will come up along the way.

Essentially, non-secure attachment styles arise because there was no reliable connection with a primary caregiver, which is necessary for learning bonding and emotional regulation.  This makes a strong connection itself create anxiety.   I’ve paraphrased and simplified the 3 different adult insecure types as:

  1. The Clinger (anxious-preoccupied): These people have strong experiential memories of there never having unconditional support in connections, so will constantly be asking for reassurance and closeness out of anxiety instead of a relaxed desire for deeper connection. Insecurity! Go away! 
  2. The Distancer (dismissive-avoidant):  These people had parents who were there but were not attuned or responsive, and so do not know what intimate support is.  Real intimacy can bring up out of control feelings.  They can avoid closeness in order to manage their own arousal level and emotions.  They nevertheless can appear to have high esteem.
  3. The Mixed Signaler (fearful-avoidant).  Associated with abusive childhoods, this person likely came from a home where closeness and support was associated with hurt and fear, where the only support were the abusers.  Without self-awareness, they will at times give signals that they want both closeness and want to run screaming, sometimes simultaneously. They need attachment and fear it at the same time.  This can be very confusing to those close to them.

First, let me point out that these are rough generalities, not labels set in stone.   Even those with secure tendencies have no guarantee of having loving, safe, lasting connections, especially if someone has led an unquestioned life.  We are living in a society which has poor models of what makes a relationship ‘work’, and unrealistic expectations abound, from work to intimate relationships.  As I’ve written, real bonding is not the same as commitment, especially in our overstressed world.

These are often drawn in this graph, with two axis of avoidance (as a coping mechanism) and of anxiety (out of not trusting bonding):


I like this illustration because it makes it clear there is a range within each label.   Far too often psychological labels, especially those in the DSM, are used to put someone in a box.  The axes also give clues to how to work with the behaviors.

Even those with secure tendencies shouldn’t rest on their laurels.  If you’re in the secure quadrant, that means you mostly feel that close connections are dependable and supporting.   It’s a base.  However, families have their own taboos.  For instance, one partner I had grew up in a secure, loving family, but like many Canadian homes, no one was comfortable with anger being expressed.  This created an atmosphere where any spontaneous eruption of anger created waves of anxiety which in turn led to distancing. Thus, when honest anger showed its face she could display strong avoidant tendencies just for that issue – “I’m leaving.  Let me know when you’re calm”.  Similarly, there can be ranges of attachment behavior one person has for different sexes and kinds of connections.

Back to the insecure styles, each of these tendencies arises because a childhood need wasn’t met and adaptive strategies were created to cover up hurts and buried emotions.  They can therefore be looked at as a fairly common kind of childhood trauma.  Remember that neglect can be just as much of a cause of trauma as abuse!  I don’t mean to imply this means there’s anything wrong with anyone – just that heavy emotions are to be expected, so caution is warranted.

Most posts about this topic usually end here, because they’re written by a therapist who is in part trying to gain business.   But deep attachments aren’t just about how a relationship looks like, they’re about the deep interdependency that comes with mutual support.  How emotions are processed is fundamentally intertwined.

Emotional Regulation

Growing up, one of the absolute necessities of life is caring attunement. When overwhelmed, we needed someone to calm and soothe us. When we were under-stimulated, we need someone safe to play with or to coax us to explore and learn.  We needed someone to validate our emotions and to provide a connection that was solid through the full range of human experience, including all of anger, sadness, pain and joy.  These experiences train our brains with habits that help us do all of this to ourselves as adults, and to provide the esteem to connect with others without covering up our inner experiences  This is all called emotional regulation.  We largely don’t think about it because it happens unconsciously, but it affects us all profoundly.  It governs how we react after a long stressful day: do we grab a drink, talk to a friend, or isolate in front of the TV?

Emotions play a huge role in decision making.  The renowned neuroscientist  Antonio Damasio observed patients with brain damage in the part of the brain related to processing emotions and found them incapable of making even the most minor decision.  Small wonder they affect all the subtle actions in forming a connection.

This is important this because it’s impossible to separate attachment and intimacy with how we govern emotions. Let’s face it, intimacy is scary. Ideally in a close relationship we can let go of protections, masks and controls without giving away our own autonomy or self of self.   We are then touched, moved and even transformed like a chemical reaction. We never know how that will turn out; when protections are dropped, we might feel mystically alive and loved, but on the other hand, something may trigger hurt and overwhelm in a moment’s notice. You can’t control it – if you could, it wouldn’t be real intimacy.  And letting emotions be just what they are is a major part of intimacy.

I like to say feeling emotions is a collaborative act. Have you ever noticed that around reserved, unemotional people it’s much harder to let emotions simply flow without restraint?  A deep attachment is one where you feel safe feeling absolutely everything with your partner.

Attachments cannot be separated from emotional regulation. They are the essence of support – a part of which is feeling together.  We let some of another’s emotions inside us and vice versa.  Support helps us process stress, make sense of our emotions and gives a sense of purpose in our lives.

If you don’t have a secure attachment style, chances are you don’t have much experiential trust that this kind of support is available. So how to build that trust when you don’t know how it works?

Working with what’s there

I’ll make a confession to you – if there’s one phrase that I loathe being told, it’s “fake it till you make it”. 1)The other phrase I loathe is “maybe you should see someone”.  In other words – you have a problem and now get out of my face.  I’d rather someone say the latter directly.  Far too many people try to live their lives by this.  We’re regularly told ‘good’ characteristics, such as the habits of successful people and then we think we should imitate them.  This usually means suppressing emotions that lead to ‘bad’ behaviors, which in turn actually reinforces our maladaptive ways of dealing with emotions.

The primary building block of deep, long lasting, supportive bonds is intimacy.  There’s no faking that.  Intimacy requires the ability to connect with whatever is there in the moment. It includes intimacy with one’s own self.  Even with an insecure attachment style, there can still be intimacy – it just may not look ‘normal’.  

I myself come from a fearful avoidant attachment style – the most ‘fucked up’ of them all.   My mother was borderline personality with a counselling degree and never noticed or respected boundaries of any kind – physical, sexual, emotional.  I grew up both desperately lonely and experiencing closeness as painful.   Yet I am over three years into a wonderful and fulfilling relationship that is the most secure and fulfilling that either of us have ever known.  Relationship patterns don’t define the future.  What does create a loving future is regular connection just as we are – intimacy.

What Makes Intimacy

Intimacy is something hard to define, because what each person considers intimacy varies greatly.  From my experience, there is a strong correlation with attachment style.

I remember listening to a friend (call her Mary) about her on again/off again relationship with a shy, uncomfortable but well meaning guy (Doug).  It was clearly a chaser/distancer dynamic, where Mary would go through cycles of insecurity in the relationship, pressure him to talk about it and his emotions, which Doug might try for a bit before feeling overwhelmed and then withdrawing.  At times, she would pursue more firmly which usually led to him completely cutting off.  Then he would miss her and rekindle the connection.  This cycle repeated for months and months.

It’s easy to pick sides here or to give advice (even DTMFA), but first let’s look at what was going on under the surface.  I could hear Mary’s distress in having to ask him to have one of those ‘talks’.  She was feeling tremendously insecure and wanting that to change.  One common behavior inside an anxious-preoccupied dynamic is to reach out compulsively (or show distress) and imply it’s your partner’s responsibility to make it better – making them emotionally responsible for you.  This came from being overwhelmed with the emotion and not knowing how to process it herself. 

For those of you familiar with Non Violent Communication, one of the hallmarks of it is the removal of pressure, including all reward and punishment implications.  In other words, the desire for truth and honesty is clearly stated.

On her partner’s side (who I never met, but I can project from my own past experiences) he likely felt the emotional pressure, did not have the trust or experience in finding words that were honest about what he was feeling at that moment (a part of being avoidant, having less practice), and so did what he thought she wanted for a while before the emotions built up, the dam burst and he did the only thing he knew to regulate his own emotions – run.  She didn’t know what he was feeling throughout the exchange.

This is a prime example on why closeness is not the same as intimacy.  You can force someone to be close to you (which can be a form of violence!) but you can never force intimacy.  Intimacy can grow at its own pace, but you can only plant the seeds.

While Mary in her own mind was trying to get intimacy, and even using that word with him, she was pushing for it on completely her own terms.  She was defining what intimacy was – sitting down for one of those Relationship Talks.  She didn’t listen to what he wanted, or what intimacy looked and felt like to him.  

Admittedly, someone with an anxious-avoidant style doesn’t often overtly ask for intimacy, but when it happens it’s because of a conscious choice.  There will always be the desire to run, but intimacy in one particular moment can look like “the door is open, I can go at any time – but I’m choosing to connect, at least for now”.  It can be through email, rather than in person, where the ability to connect words with emotions is perhaps a little stronger.  It always comes from a place of agency and choice.  Cornering the avoidant type backfires all the time.

How would that look like between both of them?  As always, it’s a dance of the moment.  Real intimacy doesn’t come from making rules, but is about letting go of control of what it looks like.  Creativity and flexibility are extremely helpful – it’s all about going with the flow of what’s here now.

Differing Relationship Styles

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in an alternative style (non-monogamous) relationship.  We’ve been seeing each other for over 3 years now and love each other dearly.  We don’t live together.  Yet there is intimacy, commitment and bonding.

I wrote a little about my journey connecting with her in a past post, which in retrospect is very connected to navigating intimacy with my fearful avoidant style.  In summary, it worked because I tried to be honest and visible with everything that was going on, including all the distrust and fear that was present in my system while being clear I was ok with that being there.  I was self-aware enough to not demand of her the management of my emotions, saying that I simply wanted her seeing them and being connected through it all.  It helped that we lived apart and I could always escape if too much was exploding inside.  Rather than being disturbed by my state, she was actually more curious and grateful that I was courageous enough to reveal my depths without the usual drama associated with such emotions.  She calls me the healthiest really fucked up person she’s ever known. She had to let go of many expectations of what a relationship should look like, but has consistently said how much I’ve expanded her worldview, appreciation and compassion for others.  She was married for a decade which was stable but stagnated over time.  As she says, with me it’s never boring.  And I’m continually amazed how appreciative she is when I am very visible with my non-secure emotions.  It’s the trust that we can both be completely visible with every emotion that being human entails that has turned insecure emotions into security.  In other words, it’s about the connection, not what it looks like on the outside.

This is why I always believe the structure of a relationship should adapt itself to the people involved, not the other way around.  I find it wonderful that there’s much more open discussion about relationship forms now.  Suppression is an enemy of intimacy, and one major source of suppression is the attempt to conform to relationship roles.  These can be based on gender, but also ideas on what love and romance is, what fidelity is, or even what it is to be a ‘good person’ when close to someone.  In intimacy, we need to know we are good, and it should never be dependent on what emotions or desires are present.  In everyone there are emotions that culturally aren’t considered ‘loving’.  And yet people love each other wonderfully with them there.

For some, this can look like Solo Polyamory – an emphasis on autonomy without predefined rules, but with listening and respect.  For others, it can mean a more traditional structure with regular time for expressing crazy emotions in a safe way.  Some people don’t want as much raw intimacy as I like – and this is fine, but make sure expectations are set clearly without pressure.

So instead of faking it, be real and honest.  Focus on the connection rather than what it looks like.  How can you be more you?  If you’re avoidant, how can you include the desire to flee in the connection?  How can you include shyness in closeness?   If you’re preoccupied, how can you be visible with any raw insecurity without pressuring?  We all have insecurities.  If you’re in the secure style, use that as a base rather than a prison.  We all grow closer by testing the limits of our vulnerabilities, as that is what builds trust.

While there is a correlation between long lasting connections and a secure attachment style, it is far from a definite thing.  Those with secure pasts have relationships blow up and those with an insecure style can discover a long term sense of family they didn’t know could exist.  In fact, in this world where there are very few portrayals of realistic healthy relationships in the media, sometimes it’s an advantage to be forced to question everything.  You come out with a greater sense of self – and therefore more depth for others to connect to.  There’s a style out there for every attachment!

References   [ + ]

1. The other phrase I loathe is “maybe you should see someone”.  In other words – you have a problem and now get out of my face.  I’d rather someone say the latter directly.