The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

In the Attachment phase, I was a Detached Child and I grew up to become an Avoider...


Other caretakers are consistently emotionally cold and inconsistently available physically. For them it is not that the child’s needs are a burden, but the child himself is felt to be one. Such caretakers give rise to the detached child. Unlike the clinging child, the detached child fears the attachment he so desperately needs, because all attempts to attach result in emotional pain. Unlike his clinging counterpart, for whom not having contact is frightening, it is contact itself that is painful. Therefore, his defense is to “not approach” his mother, because if she is present at all, she is routinely depressed, disinterested, and emotionally distant. Terrified of the responsibility of a child, somehow caught up in her own problems and personal priorities, she is emotionally rejecting. Because contact results not in the pleasure of acceptance or satisfaction of needs but in emotional pain, the infant makes a fateful decision: avoid contact at all costs. “I am bad, the object (the caretaker) is bad, my needs are bad,” he reasons, thus etching on the template of his Imago the impression of the caretaker as bad, and on the other side, where the image of the self is recorded, an impression of the-self-having-needs as bad. This reasoning leads to a primitive but effective defense: “I don’t have needs.” His caretaker has rejected him, so he rejects the caretaker, and finally he rejects his life force. He doesn’t cry; he seems content to be fed whenever food arrives; he doesn’t seem to care one way or another whether he is held or talked to. But while the needs are banished from consciousness, the old brain remains in a constant state of alarm, because the denied needs are essential for survival. To muffle the alarm, the detached child numbs his body and voids his feelings, vastly constricting – minimizing – his life energy. To contain it totally, he constructs a false self, which looks independent, but is actually counterdependent. The world admires his independence, but he lives virtually alone in his fortress, determined to avoid the pain of being vulnerable to rejection.


As with the compulsively dependent child, if these patterns are not corrected in later childhood or adolescence (as they are unlikely to be, since the caretakers have usually not evolved), they will show up in adult intimate relationships. He becomes what I call an Avoider. Will, engaged to Clinger Alma, described above, is a good example. As I mentioned, Avoiders tend to hook up with Clingers, for predictable reasons. It is not that Avoiders have no needs; rather, they gave up on gettng their needs met long ago and lost contact with their desires. Large chunks of themselves are buried, especially their sensitive, feeling side and their capacity for emotional joy and body pleasure. Their hidden needs for contact influence their selection of partners with excessive contact needs, which provides Avoiders with the contact they consciously deny they want. Consequently, they never have to approach their partners, because the partners’ intense needs to be in contact fulfills the Avoiders’ denied needs to be in contact. But contact is still painful. As is apparent in Will’s case, Alma’s needs for closeness both attracted him and made him feel desperate to escape.