Attachment Avoidance: Addiction to Alone Time

paralleloscope

The Living Force
Timothy Wilson's mention in 'Strangers to ourselves' of attachment models, especially the avoidant type, piqued a forgotten search for ideas on this dynamic. I find the below quoted paper by Stan Tatkin Psy.D., to explain well; a dissociative replacement of the parent (+ others) and reveals the missing or hard to achieve interpersonal dynamic held with this disorder.

ADDICTION TO "ALONE TIME" ‐‐ AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT,
NARCISSISM, AND A ONE‐PERSON PSYCHOLOGY WITHIN A TWOPERSON
PSYCHOLOGICAL SYSTEM

Comparisons have been made between severe avoidant attachment and disorders of the self such as
antisocial personality, schizoid personality, and narcissistic personality. Each of these disorders, including
avoidant attachment, can be grouped together as one‐person psychological organizations. Individuals
with these disorders operate outside of a truly interactive dyadic system and primarily rely upon
themselves for stimulation and calming via autoregulation. The chronic need for “alone time” can take
many surprising forms throughout the lifespan which directly impact romantic relationships.
Clinicians may well be aware of connections that have been made between attachment theory
and personality theory.
...
Although there is much to say about the clinging group, this paper will focus on the group of
individuals that distance. This group is acutely sensitive to significant others who are physically or
emotionally advancing on them. The advance is automatically viewed as intrusive. This strong reaction to
approach triggers a host of seen and unseen distancing defenses, all of which are psychobiologically
reflexive and non‐conscious by design. In other words, this exquisite reaction to being advanced upon is
embedded in the nervous and musculoskeletal system and has its psychobiological roots in the earliest
attachment relationship.
Perhaps we can state that the lack of attachment between parent and child entrains the attachment avoidant to live within the sympathetic domain. Rarely having access to the higher level social system, developing prosody of voice, mirror-neurons and empathic connection. Severity of nonconscious imprints depending on when in the nurturing process the parent looses interest in child connection and regresses, many attachment deficient or narcissisticly derogating mothers may well provide nescessary mirroring while being physically connected during breastfeeding.

One of the common characteristics of the distancing group is a natural gravitation toward
"things" and a reflexive aversion toward a primary attachment figure, such as a spouse. The gravitation
toward things – as viewed in the distancing group ‐‐ is an outcome of early parental neglect and dismissal
of attachment values and behaviors. The avoidant’s need to withdraw from primary attachment objects is
euphemistically referred to as the need for "alone time." Alone time takes many different forms but
almost always reflects a return to autoregulation. The metaphoric use of addiction may be appropriate as
the avoidantly attached individual’s adherence to autoregulation is ego‐syntonic. The awareness of this as
a disability is kept away through an aggrandized belief in his or her own autonomy. In actual fact, real
autonomy never developed due to the considerable neglect that almost always pervades the history of
this personality/attachment profile. He or she will not depend on a primary attachment figure for
stimulation and soothing. Their credo is “no one can give me anything that I can’t give myself, and better”
or “I’d rather do it myself.” Individuals in the distancing group primarily reside in a one‐person
psychological system that is, by definition, masturbatory.

...

I am suggesting a connection between avoidantly attached individuals and the dissociative nature of
autoregulation. In the absence of attachment behaviors initiated and maintained by the parent or
parents, children will rely on an autoregulatory modality instead of an interactive one. In order to
maintain autoregulation, the internal over‐focusing on self‐stimulation and self‐soothing itself becomes a
dissociative process. The state shift necessary to go into interactive mode requires the broadening of
sensory processing and motor output. The autoregulatory state is more conserving of energy in this
regard. It is also a state that suspends time and space which is why it is so comforting to neglected and
abused children.

The Avoidant child is offspring to the dismissive/derogating parent who is unconcerned with
attachment behaviors and values (Slade, 2000; Sroufe, 1985). This gives rise to a deconditioning of
proximity seeking and contact maintaining behaviors within the child. The child turns away from
interactive regulation and toward autoregulation, which is a strategy for self‐soothing and selfstimulation.
Margaret Mahler (1975) discovered that a normal child in the practicing subphase can
tolerate physical distance from Mother by maintaining a fantasy of her omnipresence. This provides the
child with a necessary, albeit false sense of security for extended play within the outside world. The adult
Avoidant is able to maintain a dissociative but stable autoregulatory strategy that depends on a fantasy of
a partner’s omnipresence. This pseudosecure tactic can metaphorically envisioned with the phrase, "I
want you in the house but not in my room unless I invite you." (Tatkin, 2009) This sentiment expresses the
Avoidant’s need for continual but implicit proximity to the primary attachment figure minus the problem
of explicit proximity which is experienced as intrusive and disruptive to the autoregulatory strategy.
For the Avoidant, external disruptions of the autoregulatory state are experienced ‐‐ to a greater
or lesser degree – as a shock to the nervous system. First there is the sensory intrusion aurally, visually, or
tactically by an approaching person which may be experienced as startling, followed by a social demand
to state shift from an autoregulatory‐timeless (dissociative) mode to an interactive‐realtime mode. One is
more energy‐conserving and the other more energy‐expending. For the distancing group, both are
experientially non‐reciprocal, meaning neither state involves expected rewards from another person. In
autoregulation, no other person is required or wanted. However, during the initial shift to interactive realtime
mode the other person is viewed as demanding with no expected reward or reciprocity.

...

While state‐shifting comes easy to a securely attached child, it is significantly more difficult for
children on either side of the attachment spectrum. For the ambivalent child (aka angry/resistant), the
shift out of interactive‐realtime mode is more difficult and may take more time to achieve. For the
avoidant child, the shift out of autoregulatory‐timeless mode is more difficult and takes longer to achieve.

CHILDHOOD EXAMPLE:
A little girl is playing in her room with toys. She is in a timeless and spaceless state of mind. This is a very
enjoyable play state but one that is autoregulatory and one‐person oriented. She is self stimulating via her
imagination and interaction with her internal and external objects. Suddenly mother calls her to dinner.
The call is a shock to her system as it is experienced as interference to her dissociative process. It requires
a state shift whereby she must move out of a low‐demand autoregulatory mode and into a high‐demand
interactive mode with others.
The child, once engaged interactively, may adjust and even enjoy the interactive process.
However because autoregulation is the default position, she will soon move out of interaction and back
into a dissociative autoregulatory mode once interaction is withdrawn. The shift back into interaction
becomes a problem once again.

ADULT EXAMPLE:
Henry and Clare are on a drive for long vacation. Henry, who is driving the car, stares silently ahead while
Clare becomes increasingly discomforted by the lack of interaction. Her bids for interaction fail. She
begins to wonder why Henry isn't engaged with her. She is hard pressed to understand how he can
manage to be so quiet for such a long drive while she struggles with the silence. Henry, on the other hand,
is without discomfort because he is operating within a one‐person psychological system wherein he
autoregulates (dissociates). In other words, he is playing alone in his room with his toys and things and he
is unaware that he is with another person. Claire on the other hand is painfully aware she is with another
person and as such is feeling quite alone and quite possibly persecuted by the disengagement of her
partner.

...

It is important at this point to make a distinction between what is commonly thought of as
disengagement and to what I am referring here. Ordinarily within the intersubjective field of a two‐person
psychological system, there exists a mutual, psychobiological “expectation” of moment‐to‐moment
interaction. This interaction is primarily nonverbal. When nonverbal cues are missing, participants may
mistakenly identify the problem as a lack of verbal interaction. This is especially so for more verbally
oriented individuals. Research on the still face demonstrates a critical time period of nonresponsiveness
by one member of the dyad and the negative effects of the nonresponsiveness on the other participant.
The rhythmic beats of the exquisite interaction are dropped, so to speak, which creates a disturbance in
the field such as a breach in the attachment system. Typically this breach is corrected and repaired quickly
enough and often enough as to maintain a stable sense of attuned reciprocity.

...

Attachment and personality organization involves biological substrates that alter
neurophysiologic organization both on a structural and functional level. The predilection for
autoregulation is not merely a preference, although it can be. Primarily it is hardwired into the nervous
system.

For the avoidantly attached individual the ball naturally rolls in the direction of autoregulation. This
default position of autoregulation is mystifying to the more interactive partner. He or she cannot
understand how the avoidant counterpart can forget him or her so quickly or suddenly seem so
disconnected: engaged one minute and disengaged the next. The partner may feel as if they have been
forgotten ‐‐ and in truth they have. The individual who has an avoidant history is in some ways better off
than the more secure partner. The avoidant partner maintains a pseudosecure relationship that is
internally based on a fantasy of his or her partner's omnipresence. The dissociative aspect of
autoregulation screens out minor intrusions, such as bids for connection and interaction. In this sense the
avoidant can maintain an unawareness of breaches in the attachment system. However, when partners
approach them physically they inadvertently trigger a threat response within the avoidant partner that
results in attempts to withdraw or attack. Once again, the avoidant has a very difficult time shifting states
particularly from autoregulation to interaction.

7 Copyright ©2006 – Stan Tatkin, Psy.D.
For references and the whole paper:
http://www.ahealthymind.org/library/addiction%20to%20alone%20time.pdf
 

eternusphoenix

Padawan Learner
Parrallel, I thank you for positing this fascinating article that hits close to home. It's interesting to think about how this may connect with or run parallel with narcissistic wounding.

From my own perspective, it's a horrible place to be in. The duality of wanting interact with people (have great relationships, friendships, general interactions) & at the same time wanting to be alone.

It's the wounded inner child who wants to play with others so long as there is no risk of getting hurt. As soon as the risk of getting hurt comes up, the inner child wants alone time to "take care of oneself."
 

Prodigal Son

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eternusphoenix said:
Parrallel, I thank you for positing this fascinating article that hits close to home. It's interesting to think about how this may connect with or run parallel with narcissistic wounding.

From my own perspective, it's a horrible place to be in. The duality of wanting interact with people (have great relationships, friendships, general interactions) & at the same time wanting to be alone.
...
Make that another thanks. :) I can relate to this too, and it builds on the effects trauma, too, which are similar - a potent combination when put together, as known from personal experience.
 

lux12

Jedi
Quote from: eternusphoenix on Today at 12:12:54 AM
Parrallel, I thank you for positing this fascinating article that hits close to home. It's interesting to think about how this may connect with or run parallel with narcissistic wounding.

From my own perspective, it's a horrible place to be in. The duality of wanting interact with people (have great relationships, friendships, general interactions) & at the same time wanting to be alone.
...
Same here! :)
 

Aiming

The Living Force
Prodigal Son said:
eternusphoenix said:
Parrallel, I thank you for positing this fascinating article that hits close to home. It's interesting to think about how this may connect with or run parallel with narcissistic wounding.

From my own perspective, it's a horrible place to be in. The duality of wanting interact with people (have great relationships, friendships, general interactions) & at the same time wanting to be alone.
...
Make that another thanks. :) I can relate to this too, and it builds on the effects trauma, too, which are similar - a potent combination when put together, as known from personal experience.
And same here. Thanks a lot for posting this, parallel, as it gives names and context to things I've been seeing in myself, which made no sense to me before in terms of categorizing them correctly. And tying this into narcissistic wounding and coping strategies hasn't occured to me before. Ah, the mirth of pieces coming together. :)
 

Jeremy F Kreuz

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
thanks for this revealing article Parallel. As other have mentions this hits home in my case. I do recognize myself quite accurately in this.


Attachment and personality organization involves biological substrates that alter
neurophysiologic organization both on a structural and functional level. The predilection for
autoregulation is not merely a preference, although it can be. Primarily it is hardwired into the nervous
system.
the fact that is seems to be hardwired into the nervous system, my questions would be: what can be done about it?
 

Psalehesost

The Living Force
Make that another - except in my case, along with this, there is very little in the way of conscious need or want for interaction; there is plenty of alone time and at most a hard-to-place unease (and thoughts and behaviors nonconsciously driven) that relate to a need for affiliation - the real meaning of these has been inferred in observing myself.

The idea of the imaginary "partner" or "other" is interesting - I can see in looking back that there is a lot of truth to it; this will have to be examined.

Thanks for the info!
 

SeekinTruth

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Jeremy F Kreuz said:
thanks for this revealing article Parallel. As other have mentions this hits home in my case. I do recognize myself quite accurately in this.


Attachment and personality organization involves biological substrates that alter
neurophysiologic organization both on a structural and functional level. The predilection for
autoregulation is not merely a preference, although it can be. Primarily it is hardwired into the nervous
system.
the fact that is seems to be hardwired into the nervous system, my questions would be: what can be done about it?
Well, I guess that depends on whether it is imprinting that set that wiring or something else? It can also be people who are born that way, but that would be a whole other animal than what the article seems to be talking about, I think? It's hard to know the exact definition from the excerpt -- maybe there's a difference between "hardwiring" and "wiring?" In the case of imprinting I think it would be extremely difficult, but not impossible, to do something about it, but I'm not sure.

Having said that, isn't all of our Work extremely difficult? I think there's a certain amount of "wiring" that sets in with our mechanical programs. So in a sense we're always "rewiring" when we overcome programming. I remember reading some material relating to imprinting and that it's not completely impossible to overcome, depending on the age the imprinting took hold, etc., if I remember correctly. Maybe if I read the full PDF file (when I get the time), it will become clearer how he defines "hardwired."
 

Laura

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Funny thing is: I get very agitated if I have to be out in public for very long, like around people with what I would call discordant vibes. But I'm perfectly happy to spend almost endless amounts of time with "my own kind." I do require a certain amount of "down time" alone, but mostly it is spent reading.

I do spend a lot more time with other people NOW than I was able to tolerate in the distant past mainly because they aren't loaded with all the lies and obfuscations and weird vibes that just make me want to jump out of my skin.

So maybe that has a lot to do with it?
 

paralleloscope

The Living Force
It's been a pleasure to share and find this, well also painful as this dug into the old shame that comes with this condition. I especially found the notice on the difficulty of state-shifting helpful, as I've received multiple signs regarding this (gears on bikes/cars malfunctioning possibly from reckless shifts). There must be preparation and calmness to shift from the safe bubble of mind to interaction and notice with the other.

eternusphoenix said:
It's interesting to think about how this may connect with or run parallel with narcissistic wounding.
Yes it connects or meshes directly into that it seems. I've been wanting to change my name: parallel, which was partly chosen because of co-linear allusion but later found out that mathematically it is a line that never intersects with what it mirrors. This seemed to be a hint from subconscious to my attachment avoidance.

Enaid said:
Ah, the mirth of pieces coming together. :)
Mirth indeed :)

Jeremy F Kreuz said:
the fact that is seems to be hardwired into the nervous system, my questions would be: what can be done about it?
I refuse to believe that it is unalterable, but can recognize the patterns extreme durability. I liked that he used the metaphoric term addicted, which indicates a learned behaviour that can be changed. Like SeekinTruth I agree it's a matter of work in overcoming the programming, but as with the epigenetic hardwiring through generations of carb abuse it may take longer time to get 'reset'. It seems a job for conscious suffering, as the associate programs do make it a physical/psychical painful experience to interact when ones program just wants to retreat.

Psalehesost said:
there is very little in the way of conscious need or want for interaction
What if interaction carried the key, in a felt sense, to the prison?

Laura said:
Funny thing is: I get very agitated if I have to be out in public for very long, like around people with what I would call discordant vibes. But I'm perfectly happy to spend almost endless amounts of time with "my own kind." I do require a certain amount of "down time" alone, but mostly it is spent reading.

I do spend a lot more time with other people NOW than I was able to tolerate in the distant past mainly because they aren't loaded with all the lies and obfuscations and weird vibes that just make me want to jump out of my skin.

So maybe that has a lot to do with it?
Being with similar minded people would make a big difference definitely, at least after one has become aware of ones programs driving avoidance.
 

Jeremy F Kreuz

Dagobah Resident
FOTCM Member
The author Stan Tatkin has also two popular books available on Amazon.

Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship

Love and War in Intimate Relationships: Connection, Disconnection, and Mutual Regulation in Couple Therapy (Interpersonal Neurobiology)

Has anybody here on the forum read any of those, and if yes, what is the feedback on it?

quote from parallel

It seems a job for conscious suffering, as the associate programs do make it a physical/psychical painful experience to interact when ones program just wants to retreat.
that has been my experience. I could not place it very well. After reading the article, it became clearer what happens. Like you also mention, the shift between interactive and autoregulatory is a phenomena that I can see now very often happening with me - my wife calls it ´retreating into the bubble´. This shift seems to be a very observable action, one once one is aware of it, can become consious about and work with.
 

SeekinTruth

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I would have to agree that being with similar minded people would make a big difference. And also that it might take quite a long time to get "reset." But even with taking all that into consideration (and using intentional suffering, as well), it seems that there may be different reasons why different people can have the "Attachment Avoidance" and why they became "addicted to 'Alone Time?'" I'm not sure, but I think there may be different "causation" for similar or same "symptoms," it seems.
 

Jones

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FOTCM Member
Yes, I can identify with this. It was actually quite a shock to read it and I asked my partner about it and read it out to her and she chuckled and nodded her head.

I feel utterly drained if I don't get alone time. If I go out, I can get agitated after a certain amount of time depending on where I go to. If I go out to the bush or desert I'm fine. If I'm in town I reach a certain point and just have to go back home.

In my alone time I can either be reading or pottering with tasks in the house or garden. I have problems with lots of noise and prefer the quiet.

Laura said:
I do spend a lot more time with other people NOW than I was able to tolerate in the distant past mainly because they aren't loaded with all the lies and obfuscations and weird vibes that just make me want to jump out of my skin.

So maybe that has a lot to do with it?
I struggle with vibes coming from people, but I don't know if my perceptions about that are accurate.

I spend a lot more time around people also because my partner is a lot more social than I am. This for me is definitely doing something that the predator doesn't want me to do! Does it still count as Work if you're dragged into it kicking and screaming rather than making a conscious decision to do it though? Lol! I don't think so! I don't mind people coming to visit so much, but I'd prefer to have the option of saying 'no, now's not a good time' rather than just have them turn up. If I don't get the time to plan for it or adjust to it, it seems to send me into a spin.

parallel said:
There must be preparation and calmness to shift from the safe bubble of mind to interaction and notice with the other.
Perhaps this says what I'm trying to say more succinctly.

But there's another aspect also. It's kind of like there is such an intense focus on reading others, every single gesture, eye movement, and subtle change in expression or inflection of voice that the level of focus itself is exhausting. Possibly another effect of narcissistic wounding.

The dissociative aspect of autoregulation screens out minor intrusions, such as bids for connection and interaction.
I don't think this part applies to me though....I don't seem to be able to screen out minor intrusions. I actually prefer to have the whole house to myself for alone time or to be awake when everyone else is sleeping. My parents had me on sleeping tablets at 7yo for this reason.
 

mb

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parallel said:
...
... In other words, this exquisite reaction to being advanced upon is
embedded in the nervous and musculoskeletal system and has its psychobiological roots in the earliest attachment relationship.
...
While this observation may well be true, I think it's best not to draw too many conclusions from it, especially when we still know so little about how we are "wired." It has already been found that our nervous system rewires itself to some degree as part of its normal operation, altering connections between neurons (and I really wish I had a reference at hand, but I don't.)

I have been dealing all my life with issues described in this topic as well as with other less common ones, and I have made progress. My experience suggests that we do have capacity to rewire, to turn on capacities that did not turn on earlier in life, and to patch around damage that cannot be repaired.

The main thing is to keep going and not give up. Notice where you are successful, and to build on that. And learn to deal with your mind and the things it tells you, true and false.
 

Oxajil

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Megan said:
parallel said:
...
... In other words, this exquisite reaction to being advanced upon is
embedded in the nervous and musculoskeletal system and has its psychobiological roots in the earliest attachment relationship.
...
While this observation may well be true, I think it's best not to draw too many conclusions from it, especially when we still know so little about how we are "wired." It has already been found that our nervous system rewires itself to some degree as part of its normal operation, altering connections between neurons (and I really wish I had a reference at hand, but I don't.)

I have been dealing all my life with issues described in this topic as well as with other less common ones, and I have made progress. My experience suggests that we do have capacity to rewire, to turn on capacities that did not turn on earlier in life, and to patch around damage that cannot be repaired.

The main thing is to keep going and not give up. Notice where you are successful, and to build on that. And learn to deal with your mind and the things it tells you, true and false.
Yea, and just as the right diet can reverse some damage, help in DNA repair and turn beneficial genes on, the psychological Work we perform may do the same in its own ways.
 
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