Sunday, April 27, 2014

Not Looking

“Not Looking”


Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.

It seems, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, there are plenty of resources available to anyone who needs support on looking for a committed relationship.  For example, there are many self help books that can help to navigate the road to a healthy relationship as well as countless web sites which help people find dates that can lead to one. I am glad such resources exist because creating a healthy and loving relationship can enrich one’s life. Of course, a committed relationship is not the only path toward a life of contentment. Many individuals with a rich interior life who are living purposefully might choose not to be in a committed relationship and that does not make them any less. I am also not discussing individuals who are not looking for a relationship because they are closeted gays, oppressed by internalized homophobia, or anyone who has given up due to being burned out by the dating scene. In this short article, I am discussing certain individuals who are not looking due to their wounded attachment system; therefore, they avoid a close connection or bonding with others.

                As human beings, we are designed to have needs for connection and healthy dependency on others. People who are wounded in this area avoid needing or depending on others as much as possible.  Often, they are unaware of how dismissive they can be toward anyone who shows romantic interest in them. They can experience other people’s interest in bonding with them as burden, and, if they do get involved in a relationship, they feel little distress when it ends. They typically have difficulty sharing their feelings with others and don’t ask for help. It needs to be noted that people who fall in love with dismissive individuals and struggle to win them over, might have complex issues of their own which is beyond the scope of this article. I will address that in my future articles.

Why some people are unable to make an intimate and meaningful connection with others? My inspiration to go deeper into this question is due to my training and research on Attachment Theory and my psychotherapy work with brave individuals who were willing to work on their attachment related issues. Often people with wounded attachment system who seek therapy are unaware of their dismissive attitude toward intimate relationship, and seek therapy to address other issues. I have a great deal of empathy for people who have difficulty understanding how much their lack of real connection with others can make their journey in life lonely. The saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” does not apply here. Even though on some conscious level the person might not feel as bothered by his or her lack of close connection with others, on a deeper level there is a lonely inner child crying to be held. He or she has repressed that inner child’s need for closeness and dependency due to earlier inconsistent and faulty parenting. Parents who do not provide a consistent loving and secure holding environment for their children often contribute to their children’s difficulty in embracing a loving connection. Children learn most things about relationships by their parent’s style of relating to them. Repeated exposure to a parent’s lack of sufficient interest in his or her child can result in that child giving up the need for close connection with anyone. It takes deep psychological work to heal attachment related issues.

I learn about my clients’ style of attachment by reading between the lines as they share their life stories and their attitude toward therapy. When the issue comes to my attention, I invite my clients to go on a journey of exploration and reflection to gain insight about their challenges in the area of close connection and healthy dependency on others. Insight is the light that is needed for understanding why some people can’t connect. Transformation can involve an eclectic therapeutic approach that needs to be tailored to each client’s need.

Healing from difficulty in forming a loving relationship with others is not hopeless. Fortunately, proven science of interpersonal neurobiology tells us we all can grow and change despite our difficult past experiences. In particular, our past experiences with love and dependency gets registered on the part of the brain that governs such matters. Since the brain can change and grow in relation to experience (neuroplasticity), we can help our brain by seeking and creating positive life experiences with others. Psychotherapy with an empathic therapist who is trained in dealing with attachment related issues is one of those positive life experiences that a brain might need to change and grow.

© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Psychotherapist), in private practice in West Hollywood, California.

He is the author of Fruit Basket: A Gay Man’s Journey. In his book, Dr. Payam Ghassemlou writes about the psycho-spiritual journey of a gay man named Javid, in which he struggles with homophobia and having a life purpose. Available on Amazon