I’m sure this has happened to everyone here at one point or another….you write a post and it’s a long one you’re super proud of…and it disappears into the ether.
Ugh and double ugh.
Luckily the WordPress gods got half of the post and I only have to get through the second half. I’m bummed because I think it was one of more well-written posts and I had jokes. Ha.
Yesterday I intended to write about the 3 huge words that can mean different things to different people under multiple circumstances.
I’m confident in my evaluation (of myself) in regards to being desperate (I’m not, even if it seems that way sometimes) and having anxious attachment syndrome (I do, working on that).
The last part of the post was probably another 1k words addressing that last big word: communication. Maybe WordPress saw fit to give your eyes and head a rest from my babbling for a couple hours!
I’ve really been thinking hard about communication since the John match some 5/6 weeks back. I am always open to feedback on my communication style since it’s probably the single biggest challenge I have had in my entire life.
Clearly, I don’t lack the ability to communicate well. I’ve always been intelligent, articulate and well-spoken since I’ve been able to speak. My issue is always in delivery. Pace, body language, facial expressions and in particular, tone. My character is not well represented by my tone of voice and I often, including in writing, leave a bad taste in people’s mouths or they misunderstand the message I am trying to communicate because I don’t deliver in a way they can understand.
How you communicate is almost more important at times than what you communicate. You need to know your audience.
After a lot of heartfelt soul searching and, believe it or not, I looked backwards for my answers. They were pretty clear.
I grew up in a time that the word “hyperactive” wasn’t a word applied to a child’s behaviors. I was a very busy and over active child needing a whole lot of attention. A mother who was too gentle beyond words, a disinterested father and an era where the only label that could be applied to me was “bad” did not provide the healthy outlets I needed for all my energy.
Why was I so overactive? Why couldn’t I sit still and keep my mouth shut like other children? I must have learned very quickly that they preferred to ignore me and I began yelling and screaming for attention I wasn’t getting. I probably didn’t know how to explain as a small child what I needed or wanted. So, I acted out. That netted my mother taking me to doctor and doctor to “fix” me and calm me down. Ultimately, since there was no solution for my “badness” they put me on a drug that my mother told me was reserved for the criminally insane: Ritalin. Since then, based on the research I’ve done, I think my mother made that shit up to tell a better story, or make me feel bad, who knows. The drug was prescribed as an ADHD drug for “maladjusted children” long before the ADHD was mainstreamed.
My mother quickly took me off the drug. I went from a vivacious, active, verbal child to non-verbal and staring at walls. She would rather have hyperactive. Her hippie cousin (this is the 70s remember) suggested a “natural” type of doctor who might help and my mother was desperate at this point. Today we would call that doctor a nutritionist! He told my mother to stop feeding me so much sugar and for rewarding good behavior with candy. He also suggested my mother put me in activities to burn out my energy rather than expecting me to comply to the “children who are seen and not heard are good children” belief.
My mother found relief. I was active, involved and out of the house most of the time doing my activities. She would drive me to Timbuktu if it meant she got an hour of peace. We still couldn’t see eye to eye because I became independent quite quickly – she wasn’t expecting that and definitely didn’t like it.
If it sounds like I understood any of this as a child, I didn’t. This was how she told me the story for as long as I can recall.
I learned to communicate by screaming, yelling and making a fuss because I didn’t get the attention I needed from my parents.
Doesn’t that sound like Trixie has been around for a hella long time? Yup. I thought the same.
I didn’t improve my communication techniques for a long, long time. It took many, many negative outcomes and scoldings before I really understood how to behave, and how my parents expected me to behave. When I didn’t behave, I was beaten. Spoon, belt, hand, basically whatever was closest. This physical abuse didn’t stop until I was 16 and I recall the day quite clearly. It was the last day my father laid a hand on me. I don’t recall when my mother stopped cracking spoons over my head.
Years later, when I recounted these stories my parents reply was “If your father ever really hit you, you would be in a hospital. Those were nothing more than love taps.” Eventually they denied it ever happened and said I made it all up. Perhaps the first time I knew I was being gas-lighted (before gas-lighted was a word).
I didn’t begin to understand I could control my tone until I started to work. Again, it took a lot of mistakes before I began to understand the difference between assertive and aggressive tones, how not to be bossy but authoritative. But, learn I did, and very well. I learned how to take what I perceived as my biggest failure as a child, my worst possible trait, and make it an asset and my ultimate strength. This is how I became successful, I now had the communication style to communicate my ideas in a way that moved me forward instead of hindering me. I became a valued employee and a really good leader. I gained some pride.
Of course, there was still the personal component. My parents style didn’t change and I married a man who was both my mother and my father combined into one. Looking back, I married for familiarity and because I had anxiously attached. Even then, my life was sort of pre-planned in my head and the x checked my boxes. I didn’t understand that I never really saw him for who he was until we were already together for over 18 years.
When I look back, I believe the only romantic relationship I ever had that wasn’t from an anxious attachment was my first long term boyfriend, Randy, when I was 15. Every relationship after Randy was formed in anxious attachment.
When children came along, the tension between the x and I as well as my inability to always control my tone, led to my children often calling me mean. Of course this is quite upsetting to a mother, but I am sure it is true. Nowadays I try and explain what they hear isn’t always mean. They have taken their fathers approach of zero confrontation whenever possible (which is probably common among teens). They are just beginning to understand that when they ask for what they want/need, with confidence, they may be able to change the outcome. They still don’t like my tone most days, and certainly don’t like when I go up like a bottle of pop and yell at them for one mess or another they have made. I’m still learning how to be a better parent and communicate in a language I don’t really comprehend (teenage boy).
I view my inability to communicate appropriately as a young child and through to adulthood within my personal life as the outcome of anxious attachment. That’s where it all started.
So here I am, at 51 years old, basically in the same situation. I am crying out for attention and I am not communicating appropriately in order to eliminate, or at least avoid, my anxious attachments. I feel like I have never had a solid foundational relationship in my life that wasn’t founded on anxious attachment and that may be the reason I feel such a deep emotional hunger that I have to make my needs known loud and clear in order to get what I need emotionally. I am most likely perceived as clingy because I am seeking a sense of safety from someone who isn’t able to ready to give it to me.
And then there was this in one of my google searches:
“While it may seem that an anxiously attached person would seek out someone who was nurturing and available, oftentimes they wind up being drawn to a person with an avoidant attachment style who has trouble meeting their emotional needs. While this sounds paradoxical, their intense emotions complement the missing, actually suppressed emotions of the person with avoidant attachment.
They reinforce each other’s adaptations in the painful dance of their interactions.
Although it is painful to re-experience this insecurity, people often feel compelled to recreate the emotional climate of their childhood.”
So how do I manage my communication and behavior in order to get where I need to be? How do I learn how to have Secure Attachment when I don’t recall ever feeling that way in my entire life?
This ain’t gonna be easy.