How your childhood is affecting your depersonalization.
It all started in your childhood….
As children we develop a bond with our parents/caregivers. That bond is called “attachment style theory”. It essentially is the way in which we learn to connect and depend on other human beings for our emotional and physical needs. If the bond is weak or toxic, the attachment style becomes damaged. The most important part of attachment theory is that the infant can safely develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver in order to learn emotional and social skills, and in particular how to regulate their feelings in interpersonal relationships.
What influences attachment style theory?
- feeling loved
- physical touch (hugging, kissing, holding)
- caregiver responded to pain and crying
- being heard and listened to
- being fed, clothes and washed as a child
- spending quality time with parent/caregiver
- feeling safe
There are four main attachment styles:
1) Secure Attachment- This child was cared for by caregiver, listened to and attended to when needed. Child grew up feeling safe and loved . Child grew up understanding his/her own feelings and learned how to regulate himself/herself during times of stress.
2) Anxious Attachment– This child was raised by emotionally unavailable parents, who often times showed anger and displease in the child’s actions. The child grew up feeling confused and insecure, not knowing what type of treatment they would get from their parents. As adults they often feel suspicious and distrustful of their partners and at the same time they act clingy and insecure. These adult-children have an ambivalent/anxious attachment style due to their unpredictable parents behaviour.
3) Avoidant Dismissive Attachment– This child was raised in an emotionally unavailable home. They were neglected by the caregivers. From a young age children raised in avoidant attachment style homes learned to hide their feelings and ignore their pain. These children were often told to “suck it up” and “be strong”. Children of this style of attachment have a hard time opening up to people and usually sabotage relationships as they don’t know how to connect on a meaningful level.
4) Disorganized Attachment– This child you grew up in a chaotic home, by unavailable parents who usually struggled with their own ability to self regulate. Maybe of these children were raised in homes of alcoholics, abusive parents or borderline personality caregivers. The child could never tell wether they would be safe or neglected because there was no stability in the home. These children are also usually victims of physical, and sexual abuse. Children who grew up in a “disorganized attachment style homes usually feared their parents and did not share their feelings for the fear of rejection.
What does this have to do with depersonalization ?
The answer is: everything- Adults with insecure, avoidant, and disorganized attachment styles tend to not know how to self regulate and self-soothe their own stress. Without this important life skill, children with these attachment styles learn to turn off their painful feelings and deal with stressful situations by disassociating.
Inability to cope with stress
Now that you know about childhood attachment styles, it makes it easier for you to understand why some people can handle stressful situation and others can’t. Depending on the type of childhood environment you grew up in and the relationship you had with your caregiver will determine your ability to cope with stress as an adult.
Learning to block emotions as a child.
From birth you either learned how to express your emotions or how to block them. Again, going back to childhood attachment theory. If you were encouraged to express yourself by your caregivers and they responded to your needs, you grew up feeling comfortable with being emotionally vulnerable. If your feelings were ignored as a child, as your caregiver didn’t respond to your emotional needs, you grew up blocking your emotions as way to cope, this of course leads to depersonalization and disassociation.
What is childhood trauma?
Childhood trauma is emotional and physical adversity experienced in childhood, usually from conception to age 7, which is the most critical developmental period in human life. (This is when your subconscious mind is formed)
Types of Childhood Trauma
- Lack of food and shelter.
- Alcoholism or drugs abuse in the family.
- Molestation and inappropriate sexual conduct.
- Physical abuse.
- name calling and emotional abuse.
- Accidents: car accident, freak accident.
- Chaos or dysfunction in the house (such as domestic violence, parent with a mental illness, substance abuse or incarcerated)
- Death of a loved one.
- Emotional abuse or neglect.
- Physical abuse or neglect.
- Separation from a parent or caregiver.
- Abandonment by mother or father.
- Moving to a new country
“Most commonly in children; the trauma experienced is a form of abuse or neglect in the home, either as a witness or victim”
Fear of Getting In Trouble
Do you suffer from the fear of getting in trouble or doing something wrong? As an adult it can be debilitating and can leave you feeling like a small child again. That fear has been a part of your life since you were young. It comes from fearing your parents whenever they perceived you to do something “wrong” or something that they didn’t approve of. Children who are punished for doing something wrong start to fear the idea of getting in trouble, this can last a lifetime if not addressed professionally. Usually the fear of getting in trouble is accompanied by guilt that you did or said the “wrong” thing. Families who have “authoritative” styles of parenting usually instil the fear of getting in trouble as a means of controlling their kids. If you grew up in this type of environment you may find yourself second guessing yourself on basic decisions in life, lack confidence, and seek approval from from others a validation.
1) Do what you think is right for you, not what you think is right for someone else.
2) Be your authentic self, even if that offends or displeases others, this includes your parents.
3) Love yourself unconditionally.
4) Understand that there is no such things as acting wrongly, only perceptions of what “wrong”is.
5) Establish healthy boundaries.
6) Practice being an independent person, responsible for your own decisions and feelings without the influence of what others think is “right” for you.
7) Mistakes are for learning.
Fear of Abandonment
The fear of abandonment stems from childhood trauma. Depending on your childhood attachment style (secure, anxious, avoiding, or disorganized) your fear of abandonment can come from a loss of a parent either through death, divorce or emotional & physical abandonment.
If a child has experienced some sort of abandonment by their caregiver they will most likely have a fear of abandonment as an adult. This can result in insecure and codependent behaviour known as “abandonment anxiety”which is the fear of being abandoned in a relationship. People with abandonment anxiety usually have either anxious attachment or avoidance attachment styles. Attachment anxiety as an adult can present itself as having to receive constant reassurance, and attention from your partner. When a caregiver fails to show affection to their child, that child will grow one of two ways: either by continuing to seek the affection and bonding in an adult relationship that they missed during childhood or they will become extremely self-reliant, independent, distrusting of others and become fearful of committing to a relationship.
Fear of abandonment can result in co-dependant relationships, which is the extreme fear that their partner will leave them sooner or later. Co-dependant people become deeply attached to the other person and will be excessively worried about their relationship ending. What they are actually afraid of is losing the love they never received in childhood to begin with.
Codependency is a learned behaviour from childhood. It is a type of one sided dysfunctional relationship where one person is preoccupied with the other’s behaviour, mood, and choices. Codependency is rooted in lack of control and the fear of abandonment. Children who were mistreated, ignored, abused and neglected grow up with an insecure attachment style, this usually leads to codependency.
- Codependents don’t ask for what they need.
- Codependents are very sensitive to criticism.
- Codependents have a unhealthy focus on other people’s problems, wants and needs.
- Codependency is a response to childhood trauma.
Common thought patterns and beliefs of codependents:
- I don’t know who I am
- I don’t know what I want
- I am scared to be alone
- I feel that I am not good enough
- I need someone else’s approval
- I need to control others
- I have deep shame
- I feel out of control
- I cannot manage my emotions
Codependency and Depersonalization / Disassociation:
Trauma in childhood can teach children who later become adults unhealthy ways of coping with stress, one of them is the learned behaviour of codependency. The four main stress responses during stressful times are fight, flight, freeze or fawn.
Fight: a fight response is triggered when a person suddenly responds aggressively to someone/thing is perceived a threat.
Flight: a flight response is triggered when a person responds to a perceived threat with a intense urge to flee, or run away.
Freeze: a freeze response is triggered when a person suddenly numbs out into dissociation, escaping anxiety via daydreaming, oversleeping, getting lost in TV or some other form of “spacing out”.
Fawn: a fawn response is when a person denies their own feelings in return for being liked. To fawn means to give exaggerated flattery or affection, typically in order to gain favor or advantage of another person. This is commonly experienced in codependent relationships which leads to disassociation / depersonalization. To deny your own feeling in order to be liked by someone else, either a mother, father, abusive partner will result in depersonalization.