I recently heard the Joni Mitchell song, Both Sides Now, in the film Flora and Son. I haven't heard it for a while, as it's number of years since I played it on repeat on cassette tape in my bedroom. The lines 'It's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all' stood out for me as it reminded me of how much I have had to learn about myself and unravel who I thought I was to find out who I think I might be. I think one of the joys of getting older is realising how little you actually know.
If you were to ask me 15 years ago about the kind of person I was, I would probably tell you how other people described me. There'd be references to being organised and motivated and confident. All things other people have said of me over the years but I would also have an unsettling feeling as I said it as I knew that that wasn't how I really felt. What I know now is that one of my avoidant attachment trauma responses was an inability to know myself and a fear of seeing my flaws. I tried to be who I thought others wanted me to be whilst all the time secretly, and unbeknownst to myself, trying to get my attachment needs met in the process.
In 2023 I spent are large part of my year working on my own somatic awareness and embracing the parts of myself that in the past I tried to conceal, usually unsuccessfully. My knowledge of the Johari Window tells me that there are many parts of ourselves that others can see that we are oblivious to in ourselves. The Johari Window is a visual representation of what you know about yourself, and what others know about you, to help develop self-awareness and trust. My journey in to somatic parts-work helped me to be more comfortable with the less likeable aspects of myself and more specifically to be honest that what I often believed was a desire to help others was regularly driven by a need within myself, that until recently, had been avoided. I'm sure you are curious by now as to what I mean by that, so here are some examples.
I have recently acknowledged that in personal relationships I over-give. Many people with insecure attachment don't recognise this, I believe, because its not always something we see as part of our attachment needs. Over-giving is when we go that extra mile for others. It can be the extra gifts you buy at Christmas or the attempts to make everything perfect for a trip away, for example. It can be giving several things when someone only asked for one. It can be going above and beyond to help someone because you feel special or important when you are helping others. The problem with over-giving is it can be a source of shame for the recipient. It can make them feel like they never do enough for you, or that what they do is never good enough. It is ironic to think that being a bit crap sometimes is actually a good thing.
Another personal insight I have had is the awareness that I would rather say nothing and suck up my own discomfort that tell someone that I am angry or frustrated with them. This is Avoidant Attachment 101, but for me, I always thought I was honest with others about how I felt until I discovered that what I was doing was a version of honesty but not the truth. My version of honesty was devoid of emotion. It was a logical and coherent explanation of how I was feeling but one that glossed over the feelings I really had, for fear that I would be rejected or seen as incapable of managing my emotions. Some of you may think this no biggie but if you want to have securely attached relationships with others you have learn to be emotionally available and you can't have a hierarchy of which emotions are good and which are bad, the all must be equal.
So here I am at the start of 2024, finally after more decades that I'm willing to acknowledge finally getting to know the truth behind what drives me and my behaviour. The attachment need of significance is a big one for me, as is sameness and being known. Understanding this has helped me in times of difficulty to ask myself, and my parts, what need am I trying to have met. This has allowed me to breath a little more deeply, to step back a little further and ask myself the one question that needs to be asked in every situation when you have attachment wounds or attachment trauma. 'Is this relevant in this moment or is this my past showing up in the present?' Implicit memories pull the rug from under you more that you might care to admit but when you see who you currently are through the lens of who you were and what you needed but didn't get, your self-awareness moves to a whole other level. Willing to do the work with me? Then get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.