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Aloof

In my research into attachment "disorders" I came across this article about cold people in Psychology Today.

If you've gotten into a relationship with a cold person, the article says, "hopefully you walked away." "Avoidant-dismissive attachment disorder" (characterized by aloofness, coldness, lack of affection, self-absorption--the list is long and decidedly not neutral) is caused by faults of "maternal caretaking". One commenter on part 2 of the article calls for finding and sterilizing women with this disorder, presumably to curb the creation of more people the commenter might feel uncomfortable with.

It's just one pop-psych article, written in a comment-baiting style, so I don't take it too seriously. But its strongly biased language and illustrations caused some disparate ideas to coalesce in my mind--ideas about myself, heredity, types of people, and the peculiarly American drive for "self improvement" that has dogged me all my days.

A Tweet from childfreediva with the text I will forever defend my right to be dysfunctional when those are not functions I want anyway and the tags childfree and introvert.



Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby developed attachment theory in the 1960s by studying the effect a mother's nurturing style has on the personality of her baby. Basically, "good" nurturing fosters a "securely attached" child who grows up to be well-liked, well-integrated, easy with intimacy and, if female, likely to raise good, socially-desirable children of her own. (The language in the field really is that value-laden.)

Bowlby himself questioned why the undesirable attachment styles (present in a sizable minority of the population) would persist unless they served an evolutionary purpose. Otherwise wouldn't they have been selected out of existence? Maybe attachment style is heritable--like introversion. The nurture argument still holds the field--Blaming Mom, after all, was the name of the 20th century psychology game--but the nature crowd might be making some inroads.

It doesn't matter whether I was born this way or made this way. What matters is that I am this way. What matters is that I've spent way too much of my life trying to be cured of something that's far more of a problem for other people than it is for me.



All the therapies, programs and methods I tried were aimed at fixing me. I don't blame them--I went into each of them hoping to be cured. I longed to be one of those winning, attractive people.

Funny, it was a scientifically-unsound fashion-and-beauty system that gave me the gift of self-acceptance that years of therapy withheld.

In Carol Tuttle's Energy Profiling, the Cold Person corresponds strongly with Type 4-Carbon, and Carol (quite unscientifically) contends that your Energy Type is detectable from birth--sometimes even in utero--clearly implying nature, not nurture.

Energy Profiling and Dressing Your Truth provided better illustrations than Psychology Today, and a much better vocabulary: cool, still, deep, silent, bold, exacting, striking, poised, moderate, dignified, commanding, structured, thorough, elite, serious, regal, reflective. (Also ironic, sarcastic, intolerant of fools, literal-minded, logical, and perfectionistic. So sue me.)

"But don't you pay a high price for your insistence on being an ice queen?"

Okay, a)? I don't insist; it's not like I haven't tried to change and b) Yes, there's a price. I'm not popular. Nobody discernibly wanted to marry me and hardly anyone even had the nerve to get to know me when I was younger. I have few friends: I just can't keep up a warmhearted facade long enough to win a host of social contacts. Even as a little girl I was sometimes perceived as a threat by adults. I'm looking at an old age of pretty much total self-sufficiency (which, thank God, I can probably manage).

What's more, I'm rigid, and prone to ailments of rigidity like arthritis. I have rarely been lonely, but I have been terribly ashamed of being alone, and I spent years battling the depression that arose from that self-hatred. The stress of not being able to become what I was supposed to be took on near-suicidal proportions.

So yes, there's a price. Cry me a river. The thing is, I've accepted it. I've learned how to pay it because trying to avoid it costs a lot more.



To every wonderful person who has dared to be my friend I say thank you, from the bottom of my cold (but deep) heart.

And to the name-calling institutions and individuals who can't get past the fact that I'm not the kind of lady you're comfortable with, I say NOT SORRY. FIND BETTER WORDS, OR STOP TALKING ABOUT ME.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
cattraine
May. 4th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
*fist bump* Sister mine!
emeraldsedai
May. 4th, 2013 04:43 am (UTC)
People like us don't hug, so here, have a very tiny picture of a tiger hugging a total stranger. :D
(Deleted comment)
emeraldsedai
May. 5th, 2013 04:58 am (UTC)
I loved this concept of the outside observer! Brilliant as a metaphor and possibly very insightful as to the actual evolutionary purpose of the so-called "cold" temperament.

The options in the attachment literature are essentially three (secure, anxious and avoidant), with more and more gradations appearing as the focus of the science shifts from infants to adults. In any case, attachment style isn't and shouldn't be a temperature. The psychologist who wrote the article that triggered all this thinking was unbelievably biased in his terminology. I'm fine with "cool," personally, but "cold" is way too value-laden and insulting.
helenajust
May. 4th, 2013 09:23 am (UTC)
It has always been the reaction of the majority to determine that anyone who differs (whether from choice or not) is wrong and a threat (why?) and must be attacked. Is that a type of natural selection? You communicate very well through your writing, both in your blog and in your stories, so you'll never be alone.
emeraldsedai
May. 5th, 2013 05:09 am (UTC)
I've run across interesting theories about the biological/genetic basis for all kinds of human group behavior. In-groups and strangers, us-and-them, kill or be killed, mob mentality. Science keeps solving mysteries of human nature, and it seems like the more we understand, the more we can choose to be better--choose acceptance, non-violence, and inclusiveness.

I've seen the world change amazingly in those dimensions during my life. I'm pretty optimistic, really. But I think I need to write to the jackass who wrote that Psychology Today article and take him to task for his inflammatory language.

Thank you for your kind words.
decemberleaf
May. 5th, 2013 09:18 am (UTC)
From a favorite book of mine, on page 10 of Mabel Robinson's "Bright Island," recently republished, which got me through my teenage years: "She knew how steadily they were trying to make her alike, too, and learned a different kind of dodging."
emeraldsedai
May. 7th, 2013 03:13 am (UTC)
Bright Island--here I thought I'd read all the Newbery books in my youth, but I missed that one. It sounds wonderful. It certainly has a lot of fans on Goodreads.
lyrstzha
May. 6th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
I would just like to say that I don't think there's anything wrong with you. I didn't think so when I met you, either.

As you no doubt know, I am of a more actively social orientation myself. However, Gwyd is very much more like you. It's bothered me for years that he thinks this is a personal flaw of his. He'll say he doesn't have a life, things like that. (Less than he once did, but still.) But of course he has his own kind of life, and there's nothing wrong with that. I wish there was a broader understanding that we are simply not all wired to want or need the same things - and what a boring, predictable world it would be if we were.
emeraldsedai
May. 7th, 2013 03:23 am (UTC)
Well, the single greatest thing about my involvement in fandom is that, on the whole, fannish people are pretty accepting. So thank you.

The meme flying around the internets on How to Care For An Introvert (and the delightfully snotty riposte) would seem to apply to people like Gwyd (and me) and seems to reflect a growing acceptance of a basic difference among people.

Of course, I'm less concerned today about being accepted than I was earlier in life (no further gene expression depends on it, after all), and I think what I'm groping towards here is a stance--one that I can articulate clearly--against some of the less-obvious ways that society still "others" people and tries to homogenize us.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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