Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about connection disorder. It obviously hit a nerve for some and resonated with others, because the responses were the most I had had in quite some time to one of my blogs. If you would like to read the first blog, you can do so by clicking here.
I started that blog as I will again here, with the definition of connection disorder.
What is a connection disorder? It has been defined as “an emotional dysfunction that prevents the forming of caring or intimate bonds with another person.” I have always referred to it as “Love Avoidant, Attachment Resistant, and Commitment Sidestepping.”
It is a condition that leaves that person with a trail of devastation, and floods of tears … which the connection-disordered person is blinded to.
If I had to oversimplify what connection disorder in adults is all about, it would simply be this: “not getting needs met adequately as a child.” That could be a result of neglect, abuse, divorce, death, or being raised by connection-disordered parents.
As I said in my last blog, these are not bad people. They are awesome people trapped inside a prison, desperately needing safety and security. They survived early on by learning to live inside this prison, and life’s hurts and ups-and-downs only sealed their fate.
Because it is a horrible thing to live in, and a heartbreaking thing to attempt to love those who experience it, I thought it might be helpful to answer some of the questions that I received the last two weeks. It really does take great courage to try to step out of connection disorder; and it takes great determination and persistence to love the connection-disordered. Believe me when I say that deep down they are worth it!
Question: Can you give more of the symptoms to help me determine if it is a diagnosis that fits me? Or my loved one?
One of the challenges in addressing connection disorder is that there are so many symptoms, and many of the symptoms mimic other things. Here are some additional things that may help you with your checklist:
- The number one tool (with themselves and others) is that they use the “weapon of mass confusion.” They confuse themselves, and they confuse those around them.
- They struggle with taking responsibility. They avoid conflict, but when they engage in it, it is to push responsibility elsewhere, and to require others to take full responsibility, whether or not the other’s role was small or large.
- They are often impulsive. They are over-careful about some things but make impulsive decisions about others. For example, they may buy a boat or 4 -wheel drive monster truck that they do not need. They may regret the purchase when they come to the realization that the item is losing its value, but they will often hang onto it while the value continues to drop.
- They are difficult candidates in therapy. They resist guidance and advice. They are, however, well known for giving guidance and advice, and are often offended when others do not follow their guidance.
- They have difficulty in both giving and receiving love. They withhold love because love is a great threat to their safety and security. But they are also difficult to love, because they rarely allow love to creep in, even though they demand it. They are often lonely, but they create a story to themselves that they simply enjoy their solitude. Deep inside they crave love, but they have an even greater need for safety. They are like a broken bowl in a relationship with a china cabinet… with their partners, with their children, with friends, and in the workplace.
- They possess an overall feeling of helplessness. It comes through in complaints that others want too much, when actually others are simply trying to help them. It comes through in their inability to make decisions and their perfectionistic practice of analysis paralysis. It comes through in their inability and unwillingness to make commitments. If they make a commitment to a relationship or to improve something or to complete a task, and they are confronted with their failure to fulfill their commitment, their answer is to stop making commitments. All of this is a part of their helplessness mentality.
- They are often outwardly agitated, while inwardly depressed. They would rarely call themselves depressed, because they do their best to hide all feelings. But their agitation is unavoidable and can be blatantly cruel at times. That’s the trail of tears I mentioned above. They are often unmoved by the hurt they cause, rarely take responsibility for it, and justify it as earned by the recipient.
- When socially necessary, they are often charming. They love telling long stories, engaging in logistical discussions, and speaking of other people, places, or things. But those around them learn that they rarely have meaningful conversations.
- They often struggle with addiction. The addiction can be chemical (drugs, alcohol, food, sugar, etc.) or process addictions (gambling, sex addiction, binge watching, etc.). If they do not have an active chemical or process addiction, they often practice perfectionism …an addiction to being perfect. This addiction is usually noted by its symptoms of a lack of progress, a lack of production, and unrealistically high expectations of others.
- They live in a world characterized by a lack of trust. They have difficulty trusting that someone at Home Depot is pointing them to the correct aisle; they have trouble trusting whether or not they’re getting a good deal when they are buying a vehicle or a home; they have severe struggles with the concept of faith and often call themselves “doubting Thomases.” Interestingly, they trust themselves. They quickly decide how others think and feel, as well as what their intentions are. And they trust their instincts as the absolute gospel.
Question: Does connection disorder occur more often in men or in women?
A majority of researchers have found the
occurrence to be about 55% male and 45% female.
A number of researchers believe that it is fairly equal, but that women
have a better ability to cover it through the use of emotions.
Question: Why is it that two children can grow up in the same home, and one becomes connection-disordered and the other does not?
What we find in research is that those who emerged connection-disordered either had more trauma or had a situation where a parent over-identified with that child and therefore treated them differently. (The differences in outcomes of children with the same parents indicates a genetic component is unlikely.)
Question: If they prefer to be alone, why is it that they always suck people into relationships?
They don’t really prefer to be alone; they prefer to be safe. So they engage in relationships to relieve the loneliness, but do not have the ability to nurture a relationship and sustain it. All the research shows that though the great majority of intimate relationships of the connection-disordered don’t last, they are usually not the ones to end it. They typically say they are perfectly happy in the relationship. They spend their time and energy shaming the partner, who just wants to be loved, and attempting to convince the partner that they should just learn to be satisfied with what they get. (Of course, there is something to be said for learning to be content. However, being starved for love does not produce contentment or fulfillment.)
Question: How do you convince someone that they are connection-disordered and need help?
If I had the answer to that, I would be the world’s greatest gazillionaire! Honestly, they want help. But they don’t want to admit it, and they do not want to be told they need it. I tell clients two things about this:
1. Do your research to find a counselor or a coach with expertise in this disorder. Then ask the other person if they would be willing to go to coaching or counseling to make the relationship even better. Leave the convincing or treating to a professional. (It is easier now that we have Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.)
2. Say a prayer and ask God for help!
Question: Is this me? How do I know if I am connection-disordered?
Of course, without knowing you or your history, I can’t answer this question for you. But I would suggest that you read my first article, and this one, and go through the checklist provided. If 30% or more of listed items apply to you, work through a healing process. You can come out of that prison! I know it’s lonely in there! I know you are awesome, and I know you are lovable. Take courage; step up; be bold! You deserve this! Those you love need you!
Question: Can you tell me a little bit more about the healing process?
Questions similar to this where are the most-often asked following my blog two weeks ago. I have decided to offer a free download of the guide that I have used with connection-disordered clients. You can download it by clicking on the turquoise button below.
I’d like to remind you once again that connection-disordered people are wonderful and amazing. Although you may see a steely, resolved person from the outside, they are in their fortress and are truly lonely on the inside. Because I had a connection disordered Dad, I have spent my whole life attracting connection-disordered people into my life. Why? Because it’s “familiar.” Isn’t it funny how we all do that at times? Attract the very thing that has broken our hearts? So if you find yourself in a similar place, take heart. Do some self-healing for your early wounds, and you will automatically become a healing presence to those around you.
Can connection disorder be healed? Absolutely! Can hearts that have been broken by a connection-disordered person be healed? Absolutely!
Whether you are the connection-disordered person, or the partner of someone who is connection-disordered, let the healing begin today. And let it begin with you! I hope this guide will be helpful, and I wish you extraordinary connections!