As a psychotherapist to adults and young people, isolation is a very common theme arising in the therapy room. Clients are often aware they find it difficult to trust others. For many of us, it is hard to feel vulnerable with others and to step into the intimate space of truly feeling connected. The consequences can be devastating as we dance a difficult line of seeking out intimacy but many of us fear the potential of rejection.
When offering therapy to clients, I like to understand how easy a client finds it to stay in connection and understand the challenges this poses.
This information tends to be informed by an individual’s attachment style. For many of us, this hoped for secure attachment is not offered as a child but what is commonly called by attachment theorists as insecure attachment. There are three types and in understanding this, this gives me insight into the coping tools adopted to manage. For some of us, trusting anyone just feels risky as the person they experienced as a care giver was also the person that at other times was emotionally absent, disengaged or in some situations emotionally or physically abused them.
Situations that can be life affecting to intimacy are:-
Holding a family secret eg alcoholism or keeping a family secret. Becoming the scapegoated child
As a therapist, my role is to support clients who have had this experience, to internalise a safe secure attachment figure. I look out for coping tools to date. This could be presenting as ambivalent to connection or having become overly self-reliant.
Using CBT tools, I will try to identify core beliefs around lovability. Clients may feel unlovable and then choose relationships that reinforces that belief. That could be finding oneself in an emotionally abusive relationship or getting caught up in the rescuer/victim/perpetrator cycle, (often called the Karpmann triangle) acting as the rescuer to others ultimately leaving that person not feeling great as they often shift position from rescuer to victim.
I will explore current coping strategies to cope and how they serve a client. For example keep feelings bottled up. This can feel devastating in the long term as individuals choose to isolate increasingly to feel safe and eventually the bottle tends to leak and a whole range of emotions may erupt thereby perpetuating the isolation felt.
Other common choices to cope include self-harming or choosing conflict to maintain the status quo of living in disconnect as this is the familiar however isolating space.
My role as a therapist is to support you and your child a safe experience to explore this area and offer you a pathway to feel greater connection.