Exploring Our Respective Attachment Disorders

So much is going on in Pat’s and my lives that I simply cannot keep up with my blog. While I was attending a March 21-24 weekend in the Pathwork Graduate Program (Module III) Pat was attending a workshop on attachment disorders here in Cincinnati (DARe). Together these programs led to hours of reflection, sharing and growth. This combined with rich sessions with Sage and Anthony and Ed. Today (Thursday April 4) a session with Moira – and in the midst of it all a lot of work with Mid-Atlantic Pathwork getting ready for the next fiscal year beginning in July and dealing with the day-to-day operational issues the organization faces. Most significantly was coming to learn that Pat has to have surgery on April 23 to resection her colon and will be in the hospital 3-5 days. All I know to do in this blog entry is to share some of Pat’s and my Coffee Time conversation from, say, Saturday, March 30, the day before Easter.

Let me begin with what arose in my meditation time…

My mind was so busy over nothing, or at least over nothing of ultimate consequence. But I noticed my fear to slow my mind. My speedy mind was serving as a defense against something. But against what? By seeing myself so well described in the material describing Attachment Avoidance Disorder, I could see that my existential fear of bonding with another could come out of this disorder.  The words in the writing of Stan Tatkin in his 2009 article in The Therapist titled Addiction to “Alone Time” – Avoidant Attachment, Narcissism, and a One-Person Psychology Within a Two-Person Psychological System summarizes this personality succinctly with, “One of the common characteristics of the distancing group (the attachment avoidance group that I seem to fall into) is a natural gravitation toward ‘things’ (including not only material things but also hobbies, ideas, concepts, theories, etc.) and a reflexive aversion toward a primary attachment figure, such as a spouse.” I just sat with this sentence and looked at my life. Yes, there I am.

I recalled when my parents were killed in an auto accident when I was nearing 30. I had been married for six years but remember to this day the shock at their deaths in realizing back then that my marriage bond had not reached the level of connection that I had experienced with Mom and Dad. At their sudden deaths at age 56 in 1972 I, age 30, was left alone in the world. At the time of their deaths I had thought my family life was idyllic on many levels, but during the forty years since then I have come to realize that in Mom’s and Dad’s presence I had been defined and identified by my performance rather than by who I am. The true “I” had not bonded to them apart from obedience and performance and, unconsciously, the result was that I had never come to see the value in bonding with them per se. I had not come to feel secure in their presence as me but rather found my security with them as conditional, depending upon what I did and how I obeyed and performed. As Tatkin says, I had come to find my security in my self rather than in my relationship with another.

And I could extend this list of bonding connections beyond Mom and Dad and my young wife. I was not bonded to peers in any way – no truly close peer friends, people my age with whom I could relax and be myself, sharing my feelings, ideas, and being. It just never occurred to me to value friendship per se with my peers. I had become a loner and was most comfortable and secure being alone. Nor did I bond with pastors, teachers, or others in authority. I was always on guard, never really letting people know my true self. My self became split – being one way on the inside where I could revel in my own world and then being a different person with others – protecting my precious inner being from their judgment or rejection. I could not expect others to really relate to what was important to me and I did not know how to relate to what was important to them if it was different from what was important to me. And few seemed at all interested in what I cherished in life.

I noticed too that I could get the idea of God or Jesus Christ as a concept or idea, but, because I was not familiar with the experience of bonding, or true loving, never having come to understand let alone value bonding and attachment, I could never experience an emotional attachment to an abstract God or Jesus Christ. It did not occur to me to be bothered by this lack of attachment because I had found security within. A “mental” religion seemed to be what religion was supposed to be. Yet when my turtle self stuck his head out of his shell he was scared and insecure. He would immediately don a masked version of himself from where “he” could relate “safely,” but this pseudo-relating, pseudo because it was not the real “Gary,” would never become a source of security to him.

Where did I find my security and happiness apart from bonding with people? During this meditation the answers were amazingly easy and revelatory. I would say that I have had a “love affair” with life itself, but in my own world – my love, for example, of wildflower photography, books on spirituality, theology, philosophy, and psychology, nice cameras, nice cars, nice computers, nice house, and also my world with the Pathwork Lectures and before that the Bible! I notice tons of energy here! And I noticed that in some way I have felt “held” and “supported” by the Mystery of Life as described in the Bible and, more powerfully, in the Pathwork Lectures, and in my love of Nature, and “nice” things. But while I value all of this, I have not come to value bonding to another human being. The few exceptions have been powerful emotional relationships with a few women in my life, including early days with Pat. But these connections with special women in my life held many distortions and were not reciprocated in a way that brought me to truly feel supported and held. No, my support and holding, to the degree it came at all, came from within.

As my meditation time came to a close I realized that moving forward into a healthy love relationship with Pat was not something I was going to achieve by the willpower of my ego. It would be like a man born blind willing himself to see. Impossible. Here in the task of building my capacity to attach healthily in a mutual love relationship my ego had met his match. I ended my meditation by reviewing the notes I had take in my Friday meditation on paragraphs 5-8 of Pathwork Lecture 213 The Spiritual and Practical Meaning of “Let Go, Let God.” Yes, the purification and transformation I needed and longed for was going to require that my ego let go of its striving and forcing current – striving for a “love” it did not even experientially Know – and allow the Divine Influx to arise from within, the Divine Influx of “Light, Truth, Love, Abundance, and all imaginable Fulfillment.” Only in such allowing, only in surrendering and jumping into the abyss of that great unknown – the scary world of healthy human attachment and love – would I experience the Mystery of Love. I would have to leave behind my “toys,” all that which I have experienced as my source of Security, Joy and Happiness in my Attachment Avoidance stance. Is such a radical change possible at 70? What are my choices? It seems I have no choice but to stay the course of my purification and transformation, stay the course of my unfolding spiritual path, trusting that at some point this experience of true love will manifest from within, emerging as Divine Influx of Love – and Light, Truth, Abundance, and Fulfillment.

At this point Pat joined me for what turned into a 2-hour coffee time…

Pat: I notice that I really do not like myself in my attachment disorder type: Anxious Ambivalent, or what Tadkin calls Angry Resistant. How about you, do you hate yourself or consider yourself defective, because of your type: Attachment Avoidant? Gary: Not at all, in fact this has been an “Aha” moment for me, something that gives me great insight into who I am. I would say I am curious about what a healthy bonding and love connection would feel like in me. That I do not have familiarity with secure attachment with others does, of course, bring up sadness in me. To realize that I do not Know in my body the security of a healthy bonding attachment with another is both sad and scary. (I then reviewed the preceding arisings from my meditation time with Pat and read the Pathwork Lecture 213 paragraphs that had so supported me earlier this morning.)

(Pat was into another article by Stan Tatkin, Allergic to hope: Angry resistant attachment and a one-person psychology within a two-person psychological system, and quoted from this helpful article. By the way we were referred to these Tadkin articles by another Pathwork couple who last month followed us into working with Sage and Anthony. It is wonderful to know others on a similar couplehood journey! And I also purchased from Amazon over $100 worth of books on attachment which this other Pathwork couple, others, and the leader of Pat’s DARe course suggested – these titles included: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin, Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, and The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy by Sue Johnson. Our energy is very alive on this topic as you can see! We could hardly wait for our next session with Sage and Anthony, which occurred yesterday (April 3) and did not disappoint!)

Pat: Just listen to these descriptions by Tadkin, “Attachment Avoidance types (like you) are allergic to dependency, they learned to turn to self for stimulation and soothing. On the other hand, Angry Resistant (i.e., Anxious Ambivalent) types (like me) focus away from the self in favor of external regulation by and for another person.”  Or again, “The anticipation of relationship failure is as psycho-biologically wired for the angry resistant individual as auto-regulation and indifference are for the avoidant. The angry resistant individuals are driven by hope that will be instantly dashed.” So in their bodies, the angry resistant individuals are allergic to hope while, again in their bodies, the attachment avoidance individuals are allergic to dependence.

Pat (continuing): Gary, you hit the nail on the head when you said that the self-will of the puny ego is incapable of transforming issues of this magnitude etched into the cells of our body. We both must surrender. Gary: Yes, I must be open to a healthy interdependence rather than getting my security from a strong independence. This is a challenge for me. I see that! This is jumping into the abyss of the unknown. And the challenge is exacerbated by the fact that these are body-memory issues. How do we work with body memories to repair our patterning? I assume the DARe program you took over the weekend and my psychosomatic work with Ed Gutfreund move us in this direction. Pat: Yes, Diane Poole-Heller (founder of DARe) is very practical. And both Diane Pooe-Heller and Patty Elledge (my teacher over the weekend) are very inclusive of Spirit, making their path a spiritual path. Gary: Yes, I noticed in the first DVD of their work, which we watched last night, how Diane spoke about the fact that being born into a body is shocking to the incarnating Spirit, and much more painful than the physical body dying and returning to Spirit – this description by Diane could have been out of a Pathwork lecture, the Guide makes the same statements. Pat: This engenders within us compassion for all of us incarnated beings. Patty Elledge had quotes from Teilhard de Chardin in her PowerPoint presentation! Yes, this attachment work is all part of spiritual development.

Pat: With our respective attachment disorders it is anathema to be “connected” for both of us, but there is something that I intuit in you that I know I can bank on. This trusting you from a deep place allows reparative ways to happen. We’re going to have to bring to bear the same kindness and gentleness toward our own being just like we do to the other’s being. The kindness and gentleness toward ourselves unblocks the arising of love – recalling Tadkin’s book that says we’re Hardwired for Love.    Gary: Yes, our Divine Essence is a channel through our incarnated bodies for the Divine Influx of Light, Truth, Love, Abundance, and Fulfillment to manifest. Perhaps my Attachment Avoidance, being more self-reliant and narcissistic , does not make it as hard to look at my stuff – after all, my life is “all about me,” so bring it on. It is harder for me to look at your stuff. Pat: But your self-acceptance calls out your heart capacity, not just your mind’s orientation to “define and compare.” In both of us a change of heart, a change of mind calls forth a heart capacity to arrive and to hook up. This work is like spelunking – we go down into the dark cave and end up in this marvelous “crystal room” – huge, gorgeous, full of crystals of all types – and we did not even know this room was there!

Pat: Scrolling back in my life – to my back surgery in 1994, to my devastation at my son Curt’s death in 1999 – I see that my survival mode back then was to be very independent, to pull in. I was not able to receive. Yes, there was some interconnection with family during these times. But inwardly I was independent, and my “close-in-one” was never doubted. The same with my back surgery. Whatever would come up in my life I would take care of myself and not connect with others. To overcome this independence is a mountain for me to climb. I’m not deterred, however. Finally I have clarity about what the work is that I am called to do, this is why I am here in this life on planet earth. Gary: Yes, and I feel more compassionate and curious about what “feelings of love” would be in me – curious about the experience of love – giving love and receiving love. I have blocked these experiences out in my life. Is dropping into this love space scary? Absolutely, but I am not feeling shame or guilt or sense of defectiveness over my lack of this experience of love. It’s just where I am. This is my work, to come to experience love!

Pat: That’s so helpful – to hear that you do not feel shame or guilt due to this lack of love experience. Accepting what is here right now. Gary: Only in accepting what is in me can I allow the arising of something new. And, as you have often reminded me, it is an allowing. If I strive for what I think I want or defend against what I think I don’t want, that is, if I stay in dualistic consciousness, what wants to freely arise from my Divine Essence will not arise – too much Lower Self and Mask self ego in the way.

Pat: Let’s talk about my surgery coming up in three weeks – re-sectioning of my ascending colon. That was a shock when we learned of that last week. We were totally unprepared for what the surgeon discussed. And of course I, in my patterned response, in my mind, can go to dire places, especially having been a hospital nurse – all that could go wrong in the hospital, what else they might find, the possibility of a massive stroke and having to be on life support, or finding cancer throughout the whole of my abdomen. I am not wanting intense chemo or other drastic measures.

Please advocate for me. I trust your capacity to slow down the decision process and take the time to advocate for me. Please “Let her go” if there is a massive stroke, or if intense chemo, that poison, is suggested that might stretch two months of remaining life into six months, please let me die in two months without that poison in me.

Timelessness is very repairing. I’d want to have my wits about me, opportunities to see each other and be together. In the hospital, if I am writhing in pain, you can hold my hand. That’s the default mode. And yet I know that what they say will happen will likely happen and all will go smoothly. But a part of me looks at the worst case – and I have compassion on that part of me that looks at the worst-case scenario. I am reminded of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If this could be lifted from I would want that, but nevertheless if my pain is what is needed for the evolution of consciousness, then let that be done.” In this soup it can all be here. Thanks for being here. …  Gary:  It’s good to be here.  … Pat: I couldn’t do it without you. Gary: So perhaps it is our faithfulness to growing in Life Mastery that is what we have in common. Pat: And lovemaking arising out of this simple naked eye-gazing, arising from Source. All new experience. What are the choices we make to support the organic arising of our mutual destinies? Our destinies, yours and mine, are so interconnected. Gary: I feel so full. … Pat: And now we’re off to the grocery to get apples for applesauce and fruit, both for Easter Sunday tomorrow with family.  …

Shared in love, Gary