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Autonomous

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We talked about trust last week and how if we have never learned to trust anyone as a child, or have been traumatised or had a major health condition such as cancer then we could be still living in this state.  Autonomous is often seen as a very positive thing in our society and many people living in other countries where their rights are restricted often dream of this way of living. By being able to self-legislate your life, making judgments and actions based on your own particular set of values, preferences, and beliefs. I do believe that we all deserve the right to live this way and own our own thoughts, actions and beliefs and that all people deserve the right to fully exercise their rights to autonomy.  But the type of autonomy I am going to talk about today is based on fear not freedom, due to events in life we may have become anxiously attached to people. Being anxiously attached to people means that we fear letting people in or even letting them close, we can see this sometimes when someone is going through a hard time, they can’t even accept a hug. This is because being autonomous is the only thing which is helping them keep things together and is helping them hold in the turmoil of emotions rising inside. People in this state will often become avoidant to other people’s emotions, not even being able to watch or hear sad things, as this can trigger the feelings of fear that the barrier will drop and they will collapse.

This is linked to the fight, flight and freeze response and is often seen with people who are suffering with PTSD, this of course is not a conscious response, it is first triggered by the trauma and the minds internal response to protect you.  People with this can feel at times, detached from the world, there but not there, feeling like they are sitting a bit further back in their heads watching the world go by. You may have heard of these sayings, this knocked us sides ways, blindsided us or floored us, many of us have experience this at one time or another in our lives and we know what this feels like to have this happen. Hopefully, time as they say, is a healer and we start the gentle process of working this through and then over time we can feel safe to feel fully connected to ourselves, building up our trust and confidence in the process. But if the event is too intense or traumatising, that we can’t find a way to start this process, then we can get trapped this way, feeling the only safe way is to keep the wall up, be super independent and not let anything or anybody in. This helps to start with, but then over time we can start developing anxiety and if this goes on for a long time then we can develop quite severe anxiety.

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Being excessively autonomous in an overly anxious way can lead to us finding it hard to form any kind of close relationship, as without trust we just can’t relax enough to let them in.  This lack of trust often leads to lying and deception, as we can’t be our true and authentic self, we fear the relationship may break, so we over give and lose sight of ourselves. Trust is essential in a marriage or romantic relationship so we’re not losing sight of who we are by over giving. If trust isn’t there, then we may lose sight of the person we’re with and not trust what they say or do. Trust involves knowing that a partner has your best interests at heart and that they will be there for us when we need them.  It is hard to feel safe and secure when you are involved with someone who would betray your trust. Initial assessments of whether someone is worthy of trust comes down to the answer of the “friend or foe” question. This happens automatically, outside of our consciousness minds, thanks to our evolutionary history. But the truth is that even in the context of intimate relationships, our responses are the result of working models we don’t consciously perceive and are locked deep in our unconscious. If since a child or since the trauma you have lost trust and become anxiously attached, searching for the safety of autonomy, then your internal answer to “friend or foe” question will always be foe. Nobody was there for you in the past or could help you in that moment of life or death, or that traumatic health issue, from then on, we now unconsciously worry that our partner, friends and family won’t be available or responsive at our times of need

Denial will be playing a part in this and we won’t often be aware that we’re living this way out of fear it will just seem the right way and the safest choice. We may have decided it’s easy to do things ourselves then trust someone else to do it, or that relationships are too complicated and there’s no point in bothering with them. But deep within us there will be that craving for love and support, because as a species we have always been social beings, we lived in packs and groups, as surviving on your own has never been an option before the last 100 years. We either had to try and trust and deal with the feelings of anxiety and insecurity, in extremes cases we may not even being able to sleep in the same room as someone as this would of course require trust that you would be safe. If we can’t trust, then will the food be safe, will the advice be true or are they just a wolf in sheep’s clothing like the demons of the past or when push comes to shove are they just not going to be there for us. Or maybe we are in the barrier lock down mode and just can’t let anyone close or in as we don’t trust ourselves to be able to hold it together and that can of course terrify us. 

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If this sounds like you then it’s time to start the process of letting people close or learning how to trust again. When its personal trust we have lost then work with smaller things first, asking for help to do things with us rather than just giving up total responsibility, as initially that could be one step to far. Start being confidence that you can let people in and that your safe to do this and can trust that you won’t fall apart. For relationship trust it time to stop over giving to please and holding onto that person in fear and start working at ways of having your needs meet in the relationship too. If you avoid relationships completely then firstly it’s time to start building being better connections with the people in your life and then looking at working at developing new relationships from a place of safety and trust.

Thanks for dropping by Sara x

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