DETACHMENT: “I LOVE YOU, I HATE YOU” – THE PROTECTIVE SWINGING PENDULUM OF RELATING
Most of us have encountered pain and rejection in relationships and rather than allowing ourselves to be hurt again, we develop elaborate systems of relating that keep people far enough away not to affect us emotionally, but close enough not to abandon us (a tough tightrope to walk).
TWO LEGITIMATE NEEDS
Underneath this complex maze of relating lie two God-given needs. One of the primary needs we have is for relationship and attachment. God is a relational being and since we are created in His image, from our very core, we deeply desire basic human connection through love, affirmation, attention and touch. The other legitimate need we have is for boundaries and individual space. While we are created for relationship, we each have very different temperaments. Some of us are extroverted and are always looking for the next party or gathering. Others of us are introverted and need more alone time to refresh and reenergize. Whether it’s a lot or a little, we all need to separate ourselves from the herd for a bit and have time for ourselves.
GOOD THINGS GONE WRONG – THE PROBLEM
At first glance these two basic needs of attachment and space can seem mutually exclusive. In a perfect world we would easily glide back and forth, always knowing when we need to be with people and when we need to be alone. But unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where something is wrong with everything. As we grow up, people who are important to us hurt us and we begin building huge protective walls around our hearts so that we won’t be hurt again. But as we stand guard on those thick walls around our hearts so that nothing negative can get in, nothing positive can enter either. Meanwhile, all that legitimate need for connection and attachment still remains and continues to build and grow like an emotional black hole of need ready to suck up the universe.
THE END RESULT – PROTECTIVE RELATING STYLES
The continued practice of relating in these defensive ways will transform these two basic legitimate needs, often with very messy results. The need for boundaries and individual space becomes a detached self-protective way of relating. People operating in this mode can be cool, indifferent and aloof. Their love is usually conditional and they can come off as being contemptuous or hostile in certain situations. When pursued, they can even appear polite and inviting, but when pressed will most likely end up being continually unavailable. The mounting flood of legitimate desire for relationship and connection behind these protective barriers when let loose, will often result in emotional dependency. The small reasonable amount of need has increased to such an extent that no one person could ever fulfill it. Men and women operating in this mode will suddenly become like the panicked drowning swimmer when rescued by the lifeguard: a desperate, grasping, flailing death grip relationship that threatens to take both parties down. One of these relating styles will usually be adopted as the primary way a person operates in relationship, but it’s not unusual to swing back and forth on this pendulum of extremes.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, there is help available to you. Seek out a support group, a trusted pastor or a trained counselor that can help you work through these issues.