Why is Attachment So Hard?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been in therapy for about 4 years total. My first therapist in adulthood was an extremely arrogant woman that should have retired years ago, or should have dropped dead. Some people just waste good oxygen. My current therapist is a very competent, empathetic, and insightful woman that I have been with for almost 2 years. She specializes in working with adults that have survived childhood sexual abuse. I have an extremely difficult time talking about anything that highlights my weaker moments, so it is difficult for me to open up. I sit in her office, week after week, hating myself for wanting to share, and hating myself even more when I do share something. My voice sounds whiny and petulant when I complain about so and so having sex with me. The voices in my head telling me to shut up are very loud and eventually it seems as though all things slow way down. I am in a dream again. It is hard to talk, it is hard to think, and I feel as though my head is on the end of a balloon string. People often comment on my weirdness. I am on guard 24-7 and refuse to lose control of the weaker parts of myself. I understand that I am babbling on and on, but I can never talk to anyone face to face. My question is, who hears voices in their heads? What kind of a person can not form an attachment to anyone? I do not expect a diagnosis. I understand one can not be given through one email. I suppose what I am asking is if this is common in people? I have to say I feel very uncommon. Why is getting attached so hard??? Thank you for taking the time to read this.

A. It’s a major accomplishment that you are attending therapy. I say this because it seems that even the act of attending therapy is difficult for you. As you stated you are on guard “24/7” and you’re afraid to let the “weaker” parts of you be exposed. The way you are behaving is not uncommon among individuals who have been sexually abused. Being sexually abused meant that someone overpowered you. It’s a very helpless feeling. An individual violated by sexual abuse fights against being put in situations where helplessness and powerlessness might occur. Therapy is one place in which you’re vulnerabilities might be exposed and you fight against this. Logically it makes sense that you’d behave in such a manner.

Attachment might be difficult because it requires you to trust another person. An individual who was sexually abused was violated and thus their ability to trust may be damaged. Often sexually abused individuals were harmed by a trusted family member or friend. If this was your experience it might explain why you find it difficult to bond with another person. In your mind you may have come to believe that no one is trustworthy. Thus you’re”on guard” and emotionally unavailable. You are protecting yourself from further abuse and harm. You’re inability to attach or bond to another person is not abnormal among sexual abuse survivors. It’s very common and it is correctable.

You mentioned that you hear voices. You probably are not hearing voices in the same manner that a person with a psychotic disorder does. The voice you are hearing referring is likely your “inner voice.” It’s basically a part of your conscious mind. Most people describe having an “inner voice” and it’s actually quite normal. The problem with your “inner voice” is that it’s very self-critical. I get the impression that you may be engaging in self-blame. You describe part of yourself as being “weak” as though you are disgusted with yourself. You say “what kind of person could not form an attachment” as if to say “what sort of horrible human being am I?”

The fact is that the person who sexually abused you is the demented and sick person and not you. You are unfortunately left to deal with the aftermath of what was done to you and it’s not fair. All of what you described feeling is a normal reaction to being sexually abused. If you keep working in therapy you can likely overcome all of these feelings. The trick is to continue therapy for as many years as it takes, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. It’s not easy process but it’s worth it.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Why is Attachment So Hard?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/02/09/why-is-attachment-so-hard/

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