Heal Old Hurts, Ignite New Intimacy: Transforming early attachment wounds into healthy relationships

I had an experience with a lover who “inexplicably” distanced himself from me during a time when I really wanted to feel connection and support. What I wanted from him seemed reasonable and clear to both of us – a little more consistent checking in , making plenty of time to cuddle so I could physically feel held and soothed amidst a stressful time – yet something in him went on high alert and retreated.

It took time for some deep reflection and honest conversation before we got to the root that it was his inner child reacting to a perceived threat that lingered from his childhood. He had a helicopter mom who leaned into him way too much, and just the thought of being needed by me, even if it felt totally reasonable to his adult brain and aligned with what his adult heart wanted to do, created this dynamic of distance between us.

Sometime very early on in each of our stories, all of us humans develop strategies to stay in connection to the ones responsible for caring for us. As infants and young children we are entirely dependent on our parents or other caregivers for our survival so we will do absolutely anything to allow our most basic instinct to play itself out: stay connected because that is how we stay alive.

So if you had loving and attentive care consistently given to you and grew up in a safe and supportive environment, you may continue to rest into a sense of security in your adult relationships. But if you had inconsistent or insufficient care, if your needs were not well attuned to and love was either withheld from you or heaped upon you without regard for your unique limits and particular needs, chances are you find yourself struggling with uncomfortable dynamics in your adult relationships.

Welcome to a [very simplified] adult attachment theory discussion!

In the world of attachment, there are those who are securely attached and those who are insecurely attached, whether the shows itself in the form of anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment. And while this terminology sadly reinforces a sense that there is a “good” way to be and a “bad” way to be, the reality is that our attachment styles are responses to our upbringings and are neither good nor bad in an objective sense. How self aware we are and the choices we make in our relationships, however, dictates just how good or bad our experiences are likely to be.

So many of us are walking through the world in adult bodies, attempting to navigate very adult terrain, yet we haven’t updated our strategies beyond those we learned to employ [incredibly and intelligently] as young ones, and that tends to create a lot of difficulty in our lives.

It’s news to many of us that we can actually update to a mature, integrated, well-resourced system of relational skills! You probably update your cell phone’s operating system with far more regularity than you do your internal system, yet it doesn’t have to be that way. It is entirely possible to have fulfilling experiences of abundant intimacy in your relationships and still respect and tend to your unique needs that grew out of your earliest imprints.

The honest truth is there are not quick fixes to the pain and impact of our relational and developmental trauma, which is often what our insecure attachment style is rooted in, but there are simple steps we can all take in order to experience greater ease, security and intimacy in our adult relationships. Here are a few to begin:

  • Self Reflection and Deep Inquiry: Taking time, ideally with the support of a coach, mentor, therapist or other skilled and supportive ally, to get to understand the nuances of your earliest imprints is an essential first step. Knowing what your tendencies are and the experiences they are rooted in can move you beyond the freeze affect that shame often brings (keeping us stuck in our ways, at a distance when we want to be close, etc) and instead allow for forward motion into an empowered space where taking corrective action not only feels possible but perhaps even exciting
  • Body Wisdom and Boundaries: Tapping into the deep well of inherent wisdom within your body, learning the rhythms of your nervous system, the signals for when dysregulation is imminent and your authentic yes/no/maybe to any given scenario are other critical steps along the path. These are learned skills that become second nature over time with devoted practice and a qualified somatic coach or therapist will stay with you as a secure attachment figure supporting you to learn your way. Understanding what gets your off center is as important as the next step, which is learning how to return to center. There are so many practices and resources for this, including nature connection, breath, dialogues and touch to name a few.
  • Touch as an Ally: As a whole our culture tends to be quite touch-starved and attuned touch that respects boundaries is seldom taught outside of certain professional healing circles. Bringing this into your personal relating can have a tremendous impact. The ability to ask for, give and receive the specific quality of touch you need in a given moment can transform your relationship, and be a huge gift to your intimate life! You don’t have to be an expert healer to tap the power of your healing hands. You simply need to learn more of the nuance behind touch so you can be intentional and effective in your relating.

Whether I am working with individuals or couples, no matter their sexual orientation, gender or relationship status, attending to these developmental wounds and their resulting strategies is an integral part of the journey to Erotic Wholeness.  Whether you came in the door with concerns about a lack of libido or painful sex or you are on a mission to access more pleasure, inevitably we will examine this material because it is at the core of your erotic expression and intimate connection.

And time and again, I have the incredible honor of witnessing what happens when someone really gets to the root of their pain, and rather than collapsing into it, intentionally transforms it. We all deserve to feel secure, fully expressed and cared for, in and of ourselves and in our relationships. Here’s to us all getting to heal the olds hurts our inner children carry and have the thriving relationships our adult selves desire!

*Photo by Aerozakaz of Love, a beautiful sculpture by Alexander Milov installed at Burning Man

About

Erotic Wholeness Guide

I believe that each of us tending to our personal erotic liberation is an essential contribution to our collective liberation.

My journey began as a precocious child who loved to dance, move, touch and speak her mind boldly. I once thought I’d become a lawyer and spent more than a decade building a successful corporate career early in my adult life only to find my heart calling for something radically different. That call led me to blaze a path across the terrain of sexuality, somatics, social justice and soul.

Inspiration and guidance have come to me from many sources, including the potent voices of the Black intersectional feminist movement, the pancultural wisdom of many earth-based traditions and powerful modalities such as Somatic Experiencing and Sexological Bodywork.

I’m deeply honored to serve and inspire in the ways I do.

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