The Answer to the Question Most People Ask
I get a lot of emails, which I enjoy reading because I enjoy connecting with you guys.
I’m never sure how to feel, though, when people tell me they relate to so much of what I’ve written. I’m horribly sorry that there are people out there who have experienced the pain I’ve talked about on this blog. But if it’s helpful for them to know they’re not alone, then I’m grateful for that.
One question has come up a lot, so I thought I’d try to answer it here where hopefully more people will see it. I get emails from a lot of people who can relate to the attachment issues and attachment pain I’ve written about. The big question everyone asks is something along the lines of:
What do I do if I don’t have/can’t find an attachment figure to help relieve this pain/ loneliness/ disconnectedness?
This is important. It’s an important question, and the answer is an important answer.
The thing is, once you’ve left childhood with deep unmet attachment needs, the extent to which another human being can actually resolve those issues for you becomes limited. I do believe some healing is possible within a relationship with a safe and healthy person – but I don’t believe all healing stems from that. I don’t believe it can.
What I’ve found, and heard, and read, and experienced for myself (finally, after years) is the concept that you must develop attachment on the inside, in order to more fully relieve that pain of unmet attachment needs carried over from childhood. If you’re a multiple, it typically involves some reconciliation and reconnection between estranged insiders. If you don’t necessarily identify as a multiple, but are still familiar with this sort of attachment pain, it may look or sound more like a deeper level of self-acceptance or self-love.
You need connection on the inside.
I probably heard this for at least a few years, and blew it off. I didn’t know what it meant, for one thing. I was also absolutely convinced that if I could just find the right person – outside myself – that with enough love and attention and nurturing, they could heal me. I’m not saying safe relationships aren’t hugely healing. They can be. But I’m saying they won’t take you as far as you think or hope they will. The rest has to come from you. It’s a gift, from yourself, to yourself.
Last year sometime, when I was in a pretty hard place, I scribbled in my journal: If I’m going to have shitty friends, I suppose I’m just going to have to learn to be a better friend to myself.
*Disclaimer: I do not have shitty friends. But I was in a season where my own distress wasn’t obvious, and a lot of my friends were either experiencing their own crises (and feeling isolated and alone as well), or were ultra busy at the time, and neither wanted to be nor enjoyed being so.
Anyway, if you need a mother, the best and shortest route to healing that need is to become your own mother. There is a way in which you can fulfill this need in yourself that no external mother ever can or will. And the good news is, no one is stopping you. And you’re not waiting on anyone else to figure out how to love you. You can start right now, and give yourself exactly what you need. It’s actually a really cool thing. So there you go.