When Culture Reinforces Attachment Injuries
I’ve been noticing something lately about American culture. America has come a long way in a hundred years, in a lot of ways. Some good, some awful. But one thing that’s really glaringly obvious even in the last ten or twenty is how increasingly disconnected we are from each other. With the rise of social media and the accessibility of smartphones, there are very few times we couldn’t reach out, and very few people we couldn’t reach out to, with the push of a button. We’ve all heard the commentators’ laments about how even though we have all the technology to be the most connected generations that ever lived, we are exactly the opposite. We are the most disconnected. Certainly this isn’t news.
I’ve had a hard time lately with some re-surfacing of attachment injuries, mostly because I’m in what I believe to be one of the very last phases of deep healing for my system. No one is ever truly “done” healing in this lifetime; there are always new things to learn and more ways to grow and mature. But as far as resolving the deep and hideous traumas, I believe I’m in one of the last stages. But like all stages, it comes with its own demons. Some of my deepest and darkest dungeons have not been found in the abuse itself, but in the attachment wounds inflicted by bad – or absent – parenting. Whether the attachment wounds made the trauma worse, or the trauma made the attachment injuries more powerful is impossible to say (and a moot point, at any rate).
What attachment injuries tend to look and feel like for me is the constant never-ending ache of loneliness, the craving of the presence of an attachment figure, the lack of inner insecurity that tells me “You’re okay in and of yourself,” the compulsion to reach out – and reach out – and reach out – and reach out. But even if someone answers, the comfort only lasts for a little while.
My problem is, 80% of the time, there is no answer.
And attachment injuries are often built on a repeating pattern; namely, a baby crying out and either receiving pain for reaching out, or receiving nothing at all…silence. Neglect. Abandonment. Being ignored.
I have experienced both of those things, but I am either healed enough (by the presence of a few good people) of the fear of being smacked for crying out, or I am hurting enough when I do reach out, to take the risk. I think, honestly, I prefer being smacked to just being flat-out ignored.
Enter American culture, 2016. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. I’m really not sure what it is that we all do all day, every day, but I know that we do it with a vengeance. Nobody has time for anything. Nobody shows up for each other anymore. Nobody seems to notice this, except me. I guess I’m the only one who’s still dumb enough to feel like I need people in my life, and I don’t mean just for convenience.
One of my friends observed that she feels like it’s the competent people that are seen as self-contained; when you’re a get-er-done kind of person others may fail to realize that you actually do get weak and scared and tired sometimes. They may see you as emotionally self-sufficient, with no need of other people…or maybe just with no needs, period. Or maybe they think that the competent people, those who are commonly admired by others, already have so many friends around them that surely they never lack choices of who to hang with and when. Maybe I’m in that weird category where nobody wants to hang with me because everybody thinks that somebody already is. All. The. Time. But it just isn’t true. Sometimes I envy the people who are still seen as ill or struggling in some way, because it seems like they have more people who are more willing to tend to them because they have a measurable way of expressing their need of tending. But I’m not ill. And I don’t want people responding to me because they see me as ill and in need of care; I want them to respond to me because they like me and want me around. Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t initiate contact with people, how long we would go without communicating.
I had a similar problem in high school, but in a slightly different way. I had trouble finding a date to anything (e.g. prom, homecoming, whatever) – on the rare occasion that I actually wanted to go to something to begin with – and it baffled me. Not because I’m so conceited that I assume everyone would be interested, but because I had sought out honest feedback and people agreed that I was both attractive and pleasant to be with, and we had confirmed that there were single guys available. I finally managed to find out from a girl in my homeroom that nobody ever asked me out because they assumed, based on what little they knew and saw of me, that I surely must already have a boyfriend. Maybe the same thing is happening now. I don’t really know.
I’m not sure if I’m making as much sense writing as it made in my head, but the culture is moving away from connectedness and it worries me. I don’t have a solution for it. I know that when I reach out to people and they don’t answer, it drives the attachment injuries in even deeper. I don’t mean that I take it personally; I get it. People are “busy,” and that’s just how it is. I also get that I actually know plenty of people who don’t eat, sleep, and breathe with their phone attached to their hand, and that’s probably a good thing. I don’t (usually) take the lack of answer as a personal thing toward me. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still hurt and cause a reaction in me that it might not cause in a securely attached person. I have wrestled with the concept. I can’t and don’t put an expectation on people to answer me every time; neither immediately or even at all. But at the same time, I don’t know how to stop myself from hurting if they don’t. It’s a conundrum.
Anyway… Just as a FYI for everyone who is still reading, I’ve been in a transition period where I started a new job recently and am moving to a new apartment in one week. So I haven’t been able to be online regularly (not even in the DI on Facebook), but that should settle down in a few weeks. When I move, I will finally – for the first time in about 2 years – have wifi at my home! Hooray!!! So then I’ll be able to get back to writing more regularly (even though it will have to be after work) and checking up on the Facebook group. Hang in there with me.