I was reading something about attachment and it was describing the behavior of toddlers with disorganized attachment. It said something about the toddler cries when the parent is in the doorway, because the child’s attachment system is activated. Then when the parent enters the room, the child flees, because then her fight or flight system has been activated. That made a lot of sense to me.
I thought of the times when I really feel that tug and that longing, the feeling that I want to scream. Those are all times when connection is standing in the doorway. I suppose it’s the sense of wanting to invite that connection in or to go out of the room towards it. I have felt that way buying presents for C or when it’s a time when she might normally call online. In those moments, the thing that comes to mind is sometimes to intensify that effort to communicate my desire, as though I believe life would make the connection happen for me—she would think to come online, I’d locate the perfect colour for her, the phone would be on and not out of battery—if I just screamed loud enough.
Well, that’s how we start out. We start out communicating our needs to someone else and then let them meet our needs, because we are helpless. When you do that as an adult, it communicates helplessness to other people, and it’s really annoying. I suppose that’s why the instruction is always to meet your own needs, take care of yourself.
The hard part is I don’t always know what it is. What’s the connection I want? Who is the parent in the doorway right now? What do I do to bring that parent in? I don’t know. But it’s nice to have some way of talking about that feeling of longing to myself, a metaphor to describe it that resonates.
It made some of C’s behavior make sense to me in a felt way too. I remember towards the end of my time in Y-town, when I brought her to my house on a Sunday and had to work the next day. She wanted to go to her grandmother’s quickly. Now it might be she began to miss her. I think it was more sitting alone in my house for too long. The loneliness set in. When it got too intense, she began to feel like running away. I remember before mid-term that year, when I first began to visit her and before we had a regular schedule worked out, I would tell her I was coming to see her, and she would get headaches, cry and then tell me not to come because of it. But she had the headache because she wanted me to come so badly. She wanted me to come and she was also afraid.
To me, it explains her anger. I had, in a sense, come in, and her fight or flight system was activated. She didn’t feel overpowered, and so instead of running away, she prepared herself to fight back against an attack.
It helps to have an explanation that seems to fit. I didn’t really have one before. I know it happens, but that doesn’t make it make sense.
It also made me think how intense the loneliness is. If you need to keep everyone out of yourself at some kind of safe perimeter, you are robbed of connection. Yet, if you invite them in, you feel afraid or angry. It’s terrible.
I was reminded of the times I came home from the hostel and went to bed that night or woke up in the middle of the night just shaking with fear—all that fear suppressed while I was with C, hitting me afterward.
The loneliness is very real.