Most of us struggle with attachment and need an appropriate amount of time to develop an intimate, loving relationship with someone else. We don’t come into this world loving anyone, we grow to love someone and to cherish who they are. Once we understand who that person we love is, we develop normal attachments that help us communicate our needs, wants, and hopes. Healthy human relationships are reciprocal and we understand what keeps relationships healthy and moving forward. We don’t typically fear abandonment, rejection, or loss without reason.
But sadly, someone with an avoidant personality, finds it very difficult to develop healthy relationships with boundaries. Individuals also find it difficult to trust or express their deepest feelings for fear of abandonment, rejection, or loss. Avoidant personalities often draw near to people they love or care about, and later pull away out of fear. The avoidant personality almost has a very fragile ego, self-image, or understanding of how relationships are to operate. Some people refer to the avoidant personality as “shy” or “timid.” But the personality characteristics far exceed shyness. There is an underlying fear of becoming “transparent” in a relationship or fully experiencing the relationship.
Symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder include:
- Avoids activities that include contact with others because of fear of criticism, rejection, or feelings of inadequacy.
- Unwillingness to engage in interpersonal relationships unless they are certain of being approved of or liked.
- Preoccupation with rejection, loss, or ridicule.
- Becoming easily hurt when rejection or criticism is perceived, experienced, or assumed.
- Inhibited or fearful of engaging with others is something that occurs a great deal for avoidant personalities. The person may not raise their hand in class or step up to ask a question for fear of being made fun of or of not being accepted. As a result, many struggle with social skills and fitting in.
Fortunately, there are ways of helping to counter avoidant personality tendencies which can significantly improve a person’s emotional and interpersonal wellbeing. Some of these ways include:
- Therapeutic Steps to Countering Patterns of Avoidance
- It initially helps individuals to have some understanding as to how they might have developed avoidant patterns in the first place.
- Gaining an understanding of factors that may have contributed to the development of avoidant tendencies can be assisted by at least two sessions of assessment with a clinical psychologist experienced in assisting those with such personality difficulties.
- Specific Therapy Techniques
- It is important to learn about the potential role of particular attitudes, thought patterns, and habits that perpetuate avoidant behavior and contribute to psychological difficulties.
- It is most important that individuals with avoidant patterns adopt a persistent and long-term perspective on achieving change.
- Facing Feared Situations
- People need to develop a strong interest in facing situations or exposing themselves to situations that might be uncomfortable and provoke anxiety, but which nonetheless might be worthwhile for them as a result.
- It may help to aim to make more modest gains initially by tackling less threatening situations before choosing to tackle situations that are much more daunting or anxiety-provoking.
- Developing Relevant Skills
- Another area to address in therapy is the development of particular everyday living skills to manage uncomfortable situations and to begin the process of understanding to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable. “
- Countering Negative Thoughts
- To counter avoidant personality patterns, it is particularly important to recognize and counter negative attitudes which contribute to avoidance.
- Even though they wish to be closer with others, avoidant individuals may believe it is very likely that they would be rejected by others and might view such potential rejection as unbearable.
- Avoidant individuals also commonly have difficulty gauging others’ reactions to them and may adopt an overly negative perception of others’ opinions of them.
In summary, the key issue for countering avoidant patterns is to act and to keep taking action in the direction of facing challenging situations. Is this something you have noticed in someone close to you? Have you noticed your loved one show you kindness and love one day, only to later appear nonchalant about you and detached? Perhaps they have an avoidant personality and/or fear of being vulnerable in an intimate partner relationship
Resources: ”Understanding The Avoidant Personality: 6 Ways to Cope” by PyschCentral and “Addressing Avoidant Tendencies” by Chris Mackey