First, our hearts go out to those directly affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. We all have indirectly been affected by this act of terror–life is not as carefree as it was this past week-end.
Today’s blog is part two in a series of posts by Fae Rowen about the science of attachment styles and how we can use the research to help our characters fall in love and connect that emotion with our readers. Here’s the link to Part 1, if you missed the information about the secure attachment style.
Part 3 of the series, Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style, is due on Monday, April 29.
by Fae Rowen
Attachment Style 2: Avoidant Insecure
The Backstory: How does someone “acquire” one of the three insecure attachment styles? The same way a secure attachment style is formed: from the interaction between a child and the caregiver.
You didn’t do anything–bad or good–to acquire your style.
Your attachment style was determined by your parent’s and caregiver’s behaviors and attitudes. Most probably those folks loved you and did the best they could at the time, given their adult circumstances.
With the Avoidant Insecure Style, the caregivers often showed evidence of love and caring. But through their own fear, perhaps fear of doing something “wrong” in child-rearing, they were not available enough for “interactive co-regulation,” where the adult provides messages through actions and words, which lead to secure attachment.
Examples of caregiver behaviors and attitudes contributing to Avoidant Insecure Attachment:
- Distant or emotionally absent
- Neglectful, rejecting, or hostile
- Ineffective or insensitive to child’s needs
- Communication towards child not age appropriate
- Incoherent language and facial expression
- Leave a child alone too much
Here are characteristics your adult characters might display with this style. Choose what works for your story.
- Holds no clear memory of childhood because memory-making is impaired.
- Minimizes importance of relationships in life.
- Lives on his or her own.
- Believes in hard work and extreme independence.
- Send signals to partners that they don’t need them, even though this may be far from the truth.
- Partners may feel as if they don’t matter.
- Lives in an “emotional desert” lacking in emotional connection or affectionate touch.
- May dissociate rather than feel own needs, wants, feelings, or desires, including sensations in the body.
- When needs, wants and feelings arise there is an extreme level of vulnerability.
- May dislike partner’s emotional expression, due to their own unconscious repression of emotion.
- Feels superior in not needing anyone.
- May feel so isolated they cannot reach out to someone, even though they want connection.
- Trust is easily violated.
- They expect to be hurt or disappointed by others.
- They love their partners and children (and others), but find connection stressful.
- May be unaware of how deeply disconnected they are from others.
- Often feels stress when loved ones approach them uninvited–and relief when they leave.
- Seems initially rejecting when approached by partner because they experience stress.
- Needs time to shift from disconnection to reconnect.
- Needs to learn approach behaviors rather than follow automatic reflex to withdraw or avoid.
- May initially feel relief or separation elation at break-ups or separations, but then become very depressed when the loved one is no longer available or gone too long.
- Minimizes how much they really need their partner.
- Need to realize the level of neglect that seems normal from their childhood.
- Feeling the loss of of a deep relationship can bridge to a natural healthy longing to bond, which is the bridge back to secure attachment.
Avoidant style characters might minimize proximity seeking, reduce expectations or deny their needs. They’ll have a lack of richness or depth in autobiographical details. They never felt special to their parents.They’ll have difficulty with self-reflection, so having them deliver an internal monologue will not be authentic. And they use very few words, so make their dialogue count.
Even if your primary style is not avoidant, I’ll bet that you resonant with a few of these traits. And that you can recognize how it would be easy to fall in love with someone who helps you “repair” these behaviors to promote a secure attachment style.
What kind of “repair messages” help build a bridge to secure attachment for our avoidant style character?
Words or actions that say:
- You belong here
- I’m glad you’re alive
- What you need is important to me
- I’m glad you are you
- I celebrate your existence
- You can feel all of your feelings
- You can feel your body
- It is safe to be vulnerable and reach out
A soft gaze, or “kind eyes,” goes a long way with this style to convey many of the sayings above. Show this behavior across the dining table or at a coffee house. You can show how your character changes and feels after receiving these repair messages.
The repair message can be given through actions or “acts of love.” With these acts of love, you can show how the secure attachment bridge is formed between your characters. And, voila, they have fallen in love.
How can you use repair messages to show your characters falling in love? Do you have one that resonates for you? Do you recognize a repair message that a loved one has given you?
A Thank You to our readers:
This is our 400th post. Of course, when we started all this blogging business, we should have anticipated this moment, but we’re feeling rather grown-up today. Thanks for reading!