Day 90, thoughts on human attachment

Day 90. Life is still good. And it’s spring!

I don’t know how I got much done before, wrecking my own brain several evenings a week and waking up parched and pissed at myself. Now, even when I feel the tension rise in my body, it’s obvious that the answer isn’t to douse it with alcohol. I often don’t know what the answer is, but I’m getting better at hanging in there with the uncertainty and just riding it out.

The tension is always either ephemeral (and so easily wait-out-able, if I can give it five or ten minutes) or real and requiring a real response, not numbing.

I’m reading a book called Hold Me Tight, which is about creating a happy marriage/partnership out of a situation full of or occasionally marred by recurring, looping, painful fights. (The book is freaking brilliant.) I’m reading it, not too surprisingly, because my partner and I have ours and it makes us crazy. We’re really happy 98.1% of the time, and then there are the buttons that we seem so well suited to push.

The book applies “attachment theory” to adults. Attachment theory describes the kinds of bonding that babies and children need to be healthy human beings. The book’s brilliance is that it leaves adults in that category, and it sees clashes with our partners through that lens — we clash when one, then both, of us feels the connection (the attachment) threatened.

I’m also actually finding it insightful for me as a person quitting alcohol. I think that perhaps attachment theory applies to our interaction with everyone we encounter in a day, whether the Starbucks employee handing us our double espresso, our roommate, brother, workmate. Not that every person out there has our back the way a partner is expected to, but we want to feel safe in their presence.

I’ve vaguely noticed over the past several weeks that my connections to people seem stronger. I’m almost imperceptibly more relaxed around them. I think I’m trusting them more. “Trust” is a funny word here because it’s not like I had any distinct feeling of mistrust before. But there’s been a … distance … between me and everybody else, sometimes linked to my feeling competitive, sometimes my judgmental side. I’m not at all sure where the connection is to using or quitting alcohol, but perhaps it has to do with my increasing presence with and patience with myself. Perhaps that’s extending out to the people around me.

Perhaps when alcohol was an option, my attention was always partly tilted toward my escape, even when I wasn’t aware of it. I had half a foot out the door, emotionally, ready to trot over to the corner where I could pull back from the world and disengage, and be with my poison. Now, there’s no escape from myself, and my ability to be with my own awkwardities has made me calmer around everyone else’s.

Hold Me Tight describes a path through the triggered fights, and it’s a path in which the two people learn to express their issue/complaint in terms of their experience of the attachment in that moment. Often, the problem isn’t actually how your partner always leaves you waiting or is critical of your parenting skills; it’s that when they do those things, you feel your bond threatened and the kid in you reacts.

It’s so helpful for me to see my struggles through the lens of deep human needs that aren’t getting met, and my well-intentioned but fumbled attempts to meet them. Trying to unfumble things.

And like my lovely writing coach said to me a few weeks ago (she’s the only person I’ve told about my drinking and about this blog), when we heal ourselves, we’re not just healing ourselves. We heal little bits of the world around us, too.

3 thoughts on “Day 90, thoughts on human attachment

  1. I truly believe that. That healing ourselves heals the world.
    That connection is there.

    And I completely agree with your perception shift. Everything used to be so self focused for me. What was I doing, how did I look, what do they think of me.

    I’m now able to actually see the people around me.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

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