No, Don't Leave Me The insecurities that destroy closeness BY: Troy Murphy | February 2014
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We desire relationships. We are emotionally driven for connection. Lonesomeness is a feeling of lack, demanding security from attachments. From the moment of birth (most likely even before) to the grave, we find comfort in others. Healthy childhood connections lay the foundation for future secure and healthy attachments. Conversely, chaotic childhood relations, fraught with inconsistencies and fear, damage the soul, creating disorganized and destructive emotions that interfere with attachment needs. The child with erratic emotional memories will often struggle to bonds throughout his life. Many ignorantly advise, “Don’t be insecure, it ruins relationships.” By addressing symptoms rather than underlying causes, we further alienate the sufferer, demanding they change internal mechanisms learned during childhood. The conditioned reactions appropriately created a protective chemical reaction to defend against the abnormal external conditions, imprinting emotional patterns that continue to flow into adulthood.
We wrongly treat insecurity as a choice that sufferers can flip on and off like a switch. We can’t force security; it must be learned in a safe environment. Security is not a matter of self-discipline, where the strong force a feeling that isn’t there. We can, however, work on building stability and creating trust through a more predictable life. Overtime, acknowledging the fears and mindfully challenging unreasonable clinging, we can give fragile birth to a new security. Relationships do not need to be painful forever.
Those with insecure attachments vigilantly seek signs of impending abandonment, trying to intervene before the loss; the surprises we valiantly look for still knock us flat. The young child tempers disappointments by predicting emotional states of his caregiver. When dad fumbles his keys at the door, stumbling into the foyer, watch out. Accurate predictions create security. Rollo May discovered through his studies of teenage pregnancy that the children who were openly treated bad, verbally abused without any qualms suffered less anxiety than the children receiving mixed messages of love and abuse.
Children with chaotic backgrounds survive through adaptation. Biologically the brain trims and creates connection appropriate for the environment. The child’s environment forms her brain, creating the foundation for felt experience in all future relationships. The child’s brain, awash in chemicals, motivates fear of a volatile caregiver; attached to the caregiver for survival, but simultaneously fearful of another damaging blow. The conflict complicates attachments without predictable guidelines.
A child in a volatile environment must constantly watch for changes in demeanor—not accurately assessing may be costly. For these children, hyper-situational awareness is a natural adaptation. Yet as an adult, this vigilance interferes with healthy trust. The constant vigilance frustrates the loving partner. The onslaught of accusations undermines his needs for appreciation. Partnerships develop with trust—a character trait often undeveloped in volatile homes. Instead of inner strength, these adults now need constant reassurance.
The jealousies spurred by insecurity interrupts developing new attachments, creating drama instead of quiet moments of bonding. The partner’s voiced commitment is constantly scrutinized for sincerity. The challenging eventually damages communication; the partner doubts her own value, gaslighted into accepting the tainted views. Even in these relationships there is hope that trust can be forged. Outside professional help may be required; but with patience and love, two dedicated partners can work through the demons and experience the joys of intimacy.
"Biologically the brain trims and creates connection appropriate for the environment. The child’s environment forms her brain, creating the foundation for felt experience in all future relationships."
Patterns imprinted on our young minds outwardly express themselves in adulthood. Our learned attachment style attracts or repels potential partners. The more salient the associated behaviors, the more limiting our partner selection becomes. Some insecurity, cloaked in secrecy, remain hidden until bonds of connection begin to form. While some fear screams loudly and is evident during the early first stages of connection. The twelve missed phone calls while you were in the shower is a hint. The subtle cues or desperate clinging invite givers and abusers into our shaky lives.
Givers are attracted to needy partners. In the dawning moments, the giver finds pleasure in giving, hoping to cure the illness. The givers desire to heal—giving provides them purpose. The patient giving may provide exactly what is needed. But sometimes the black hole of need sucks the life out of the giver; the giving is insufficient, the hurt refuses to heal and the needs begin to overwhelm. Both the insecure partner and the giver feel dissatisfied and the relationship begins to unravel. Neither partner is inherently evil, but both feel victimized. The relationship failed to provide the attachment needs for both.
Often the insecure stumble on relationships much more harmful. Maybe stupid luck or possibly attraction, insecurity invites manipulators willing to exploit. The manipulator feasts on the insecurities, skillfully using them, escalating the trauma by extracting life out of the present. The manipulators are sick too; but the smugness of their brutality seldom solicits compassion. The manipulators’ hurtful behaviors evolve from something.
A young child doesn’t simply decide to be isolated and mean. But for a host of biological and social reasons he becomes a tyrant willing to hurt. The painful collision happens too often; the insecure finds the narcissist. Domestic Violence often accompanies these volatile relationships. Those most in need of stability stumble into the most volatile relationships. Their need to continue with childhood programming to assess moods for danger is solidified in adulthood. The adaptive behavior continues, providing measured rewards of safety while living in danger. Trust serves no purpose here.
New relationships deceive, temporarily blinding lovers with powerful feelings—childhood fears subside; often providing the momentary paradise of a loving relationship. But patterned responses stubbornly remain, patiently waiting for vulnerability before their triumphant return. When fear resurfaces, the momentarily security that was enjoyed magnifies the panic of pending doom. It may be lost! Fear and love are not traveling companions. Fear drives manipulations; love invites kindness. The closeness enhances beauty or unleashes the demons from the past fearing unpredictable connections.
Even with chaotic beginnings, intimacy is possible. Understanding our propensity for fear—making the unconscious conscious—loosens the grip of these emotions. With recognition on the bubbling emotions, we can confront them. Feelings of insecurity often persist for years; perhaps a lifetime. But by recognizing the fear, compassionately holding it, we free ourselves from unconscious influences; by sharing these fears with openness, we can enlist a giving partner’s help in managing them. By facing our fear, no longer manipulating a partner’s succor, but gently summoning help; together with a loving partner, we can sooth the resurfacing emotions. As we do so, we build the foundation of trust necessary to enjoy intimacy and feel security (at last).