“Self, Other, We.”
Part 2: The Avoider
“Can’t you see me struggling? I do all the work of going to Costco, the least you could do is help me get these heavy boxes through the door! Are you blind? You just sit there staring at your phone. Don’t just look at me, say something!”
Carrie sat there motionless… her mind spinning and searching for something to say. All she could think of was how to get off the hot seat. No words came. She just froze and stared.
Finally, she got up and went to the car, filled her arms with groceries and made the first of three round trips. After going back outside to close the car doors, Carrie decided to get busy and wash the car. “Maybe that will make him happy” she thought.
Sound familiar? Of course! We have all encountered emotionally avoidant individuals who seemingly cannot “see” others very well. How does the Avoider love style relate to the concepts of “Self, Other, We?”
Self: Having grown up in a home where they did not experience emotional and relational connection with an attuned parent, they were inadvertently trained to believe they were on their own. Just like the 1099 contractor who operates independently and rarely consults with others, the Avoider’s natural perception of “self” is that they are on their own to figure out life. Operating out of this self- sufficient base, they correspondingly assume others are similar and will eventually figure out how to go it alone just like they do.
Other: Because they were never trained to examine their own emotions, they lack self- awareness and self-reflection skills. As a result, they are unskilled in correlating the link between their indescribable emotional states and the reactions they produce. For when Carrie was emotionally distressed, all she knew to do was to busy herself with the task of washing the car. She had no awareness that emotional stress was animating her behavior. Most importantly, she did not know how to take her stress into relationships for relief. Because of her own deficiencies, her ability to detect distress in her husband was non-existent. Because she could not see into her own soul, she was unable to anticipate the emotional needs of others or have empathy for their struggle.
We: Lastly, the self-sufficient person doesn’t need others. So why would her husband need her help unload the groceries? She had learned from an early age that others were of little practical use, so she’d had grown used to not needing them. So why did her husband need her? “We” is complicated and messy, so “me” is all I need!
After washing the car, Carrie returned to the kitchen and asked, “So what’s for lunch?” It never crossed her mind to talk with her husband about the earlier altercation.
Growth Goals (for the emotionally avoidant individual): Should you decide that you’ve experienced the above scenario one too many times and that you are tired of the pain it creates here are some steps you can take every day for the rest of your life that will yield better relational outcomes.
- Remind yourself daily of your decision to not stay the way your family your shaped you. Back then you were not a voting member, but now you have a choice to transform your life toward a more secure connector which will open new relational vistas.
- Carry a feelings word list with you wherever you go. When you’re uncomfortable inside, find the word(s) on the list that best describe your emotional state. Write them down in a small pocket journal along with the date.
- Say the words aloud to yourself several times throughout the day.
- At the end of the day when you are reunited with loved ones, take a deep breath, and share your emotional words with your family (age appropriate).
- With the Soul Words list available for others to see, take another deep breath, and ask each family member what emotions they felt throughout the day. Get ready to have a meaningful conversation. Don’t fix anyone, just listen, repeat back what you heard and validate to them how difficult that may have been.
6. Group hug.
Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay