Attachment Theory: When Can & Can’t We Trust Our Feelings?

This morning I read the following post from a friend of mine, which inspired me to write a follow-on post on Attachment Theory and developing discernment when listening to your feelings.
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Re: Avoidant attachment discoveries

Feeling reality tilted on its side tonight.. Huge new territories of emotion to be felt and healed are coming to the surface due to my relationship, showing me that I honestly can’t always trust what I feel. It’s a wild experience to say the least.

Backstory:

We had been in a dance of me being avoidant and him being fearful/angry/reactive about me pulling away, but then after getting some support he figured out how to just be grounded in himself and let me freak out without it rocking his boat. (A big step!)

Tonight:

What has been so utterly bewildering has been my wildly fluctuating feelings towards him–this week for days at a time feeling absolutely CONVINCED that I felt nothing and needed to break up with him, so many signs pointing toward that inevitability.

Then tonight, simply by him staying calm and gently pointing the mirror back at me, it melted through the ice in my heart and I broke into tremendous sobs coming from somewhere inside that is truly terrified of this kind of intimacy.

All of a sudden, there’s my love for him again, mixed up with all this fear and old grief, I found myself back in my tender feminine (not the one who always pretends to be in control), surrounded by a pile of tissues, grateful and confused, and it all feels amazing and totally nuts at the same time.
Totally nuts.

Thankfully, I have another dear friend who is going through her own avoidance dance in her relationship, and we’ve been sharing notes. She feels just as crazy as I do, flip flopping all over the place, one moment feeling the love and then ready to end it all just like that.

We are slowly learning that we have to STOP trusting our own very real feelings and justifications that make us want to flee, finding out what’s underneath.. It’s like reading a novel where you find out the narrator actually has a mental illness or something and you can’t trust their version of reality. Except in this case it’s ME.

Good lord, I wasn’t prepared for this one.

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Thank you for this beautiful, vulnerable share.

I can’t recall another post by someone else with avoidant attachment who articulated the dynamic inside themselves so clearly and powerfully.

It’s a real gift, because it invites everyone who has been in the anxious/avoidant dynamic an exit route from the confusing drama to the higher perspective where healing and transformation can take place.

You’re pointing to some really important questions, especially in our sub-culture which exalts the primacy of feeling your feelings and following its truth.

“When can I trust myself?”
“When can’t I trust myself?”
“Who is the self I am trusting?”
“Do I have one self or many selves?”

The way I see it, we have many parts of ourselves. Put simply, without getting into Internal Family Systems Theory our Buddhist/Vedic Theory of Mind, we have higher selves that connect us to our higher truths, our purpose, soul and Spirit. And we have lower selves which often come from fear and lack, and hide in the shadows, attempting protect us from re-creating or re-experiencing unresolved trauma from the past.
Paraphrasing a fellow commenter, it’s important to see the rightness in our lower selves and have compassion for them. They are justifiably trying to protect us from getting hurt again in a way we were before.

So that brings us back to the critical question of “When can I trust myself?”. Because if we answer that question wrong, such as by simply concluding that we can’t trust ourselves, we could end up in a negative spiral of doubt, paralysis and giving our power and authority away to others.

A better approach to the question, “When can I trust myself?” is to first attempt to see the different parts of ourselves and trust that every part is pointing to something true, while recognizing whether a part of ourselves is higher or lower, more mature or less mature or has a larger or more limited perspective.

The parts perspective can enable us to see that one part of us can love someone deeply while another part wants to shut off the love in order to feel safe, because it is afraid of being hurt (usually again).

And because the lower parts of ourselves are wired deep into our nervous system whereas our higher parts are much subtler, and communicate with us primarily in quiet moments, almost like a whisper — when there’s a conflict between higher and lower parts, the lower parts almost always win. They are louder and can command much greater emotional intensity. Our bodies by default just want us to survive, we have to retrain them to thrive.

This is such an important subject because it points to all the ways our higher parts can be obscured. Insecure attachment is one way higher parts of ourselves are obscured but so many things obscure our higher parts in a way that renders us unable to essentially “trust ourselves”:

Depression, anxiety, addiction, poverty, trauma.

The journey to living as radically abundant love is the acknowledgement and integration of all our lower parts so the higher ones have a clear vessel to shine through.

Blessings to you for doing this work and inviting so many others on to the journey with you with your sharing.