Finding Self-Worth Against A Paralyzed Will

When “Other’s Seeing” is Believing

Attachment loss is when one is dealing with a sense that they are unlovable, unworthy of another’s time and attention; in short one believes that their life doesn’t count for much and they might even question the reason for their existence.

A foundational time for building healthy attachment is between the ages of birth and five years old. Healthy attachment (knowing, sensing at your core that you are loved, worthy, accepted, approved of, etc) can affect a person’s future self-esteem and self-worth, friendships, parent and sibling relationships, work relationships, and even romantic relationships later on in life.

Attachment revolves around what we “believe about ourselves at our core”. One can tell himself in his head that he is worthy and loveable, but if it is not a core belief then one will remain stuck. When this occurs a person is dealing with Attachment loss, or they are “Detached”.

For those who find themselves dealing with attachment loss, and may never step foot in a counselors office, there are a few practical and necessary suggestions I can give here – the first being that you need to begin to build safe and trusted community. This can be a very scary step for many because if one is already feeling unlovable and unworthy, attempting to let others into your life risks rejection. In fact, a person with attachment loss expects to be rejected! And so, they reject others before they themselves can be rejected, remaining in their detached state and isolated.

Second, be very aware of the “story you are telling yourself” before and after you make an attempt to reach out to others at your place of worship, work, your neighborhood, wherever. Often a detached person will tell themselves a “false story” before their attempt, which often leads to them backing out of taking the risk. (e.g. They won’t want to talk to me, etc.) Risk anyway and when you do, pay attention to how the message may change. If you risk and are received well by others, then the “before message” is indeed false. What is the new and more accurate story you tell yourself after the fact? If received well and a good exchange was had, then the story might become “I have value”, or “I can hold my own in a conversation with others”. The trick is to not stop after the first risk, but to continue risking. Like body building, the more you work the muscle the stronger you become.

One final thought: working on attachment can take time. Often I will hear stories of those who have built up their safe community, and they are taking great risks to be known, and making great strides in their personal life journeys. However, they then find themselves hitting what I call an “attachment plateau” which is when a person still has a hard time believing and receiving love and acceptance from their community – and so I share an age old story to make a point and offer some hope.

From the Book of Mark Chapter 2: 1-12

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven… He said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

One dealing with attachment loss is like a paralyzed man; helpless and relying on the love and assistance of one’s friends and loved ones – community. In this particular story, the man was completely reliant upon the love of his friends. It was they who carried him to the rooftop. It was these men that dug through the roof, and carefully lowered him into the room. And it was “their faith” that was counted by Jesus. It was their faith that was credited in bringing the hands of healing.

In your community, until your friends give you a reason to not trust them, you need to make a choice and trust them. And when they love on you, and affirm you, and need your love and affirmation as well – even though your core beliefs may be screaming on the inside “I’m not worth it” – it is time to let the faith of your friends heal you. Trust them when they tell you “you are worth their love, time, attention, respect, affection, etc.”. Turn away from the voice of unworthiness inside, and listen to their voices instead. Let them carry you and be healed.

Risk. Trust. Let others be the miracle that you’ve been looking for that you might begin to hear others say, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – July 13, 2011

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