This post was updated on Aug 14, 2020
Love addiction, love avoidance, and love ambivalence are terms we use in the “self-help” category. In clinical psychology we use such terms as attachment disorder and erotomania (falsely believing that someone loves you when they don’t). Beneath these conditions are underlying disorders, which include depression, anxiety, and codependency. It gets quite confusing when we start to get a diagnosis for mood disorders and for challenging relationships. We have had many clients who come to Five Sisters Ranch and express that they feel they have been over-assessed and under-treated by the medical/treatment profession.
The attachment disorder is self-explanatory. It is a broad term intended to describe disorders of mood, behavior, and social relationships arising from a failure to form normal attachments to primary care giving figures in early childhood. This results in problematic social expectations and behaviors. Such attachment styles result from unusual early experiences of neglect, abuse, and abrupt separation from caregivers after about 6 months of age and before about three years of age. We find that many people carry this way of “attaching” into their adult relationships. The energy they grew up in becomes familiar and we tend to seek what we know.
In addition to the attachment disorder, love addicts and love avoidants often present with anxiety, depression, and shame. These mood disorders often present themselves before the love addiction is diagnosed, but most of the time they come in a cluster of symptoms and all three manifest at the same time. So it is not hard to see how and why many people are confused, feel hopeless, and navigate in and out of relationships with a lot of trauma and drama.
Using the concept of cause and effect, the attachment disorder and the other above-mentioned symptoms stem from what Eckhart Tolle’s calls the “pain body.” The original wound is usually some type of neglect or abuse. The original wound manifests in the body and gets activated as a “pain body” which Eckhart describes in The New Earth. Neglect leads to anxiety about being abandoned, and abuse leads to shame [from some form of incest] or the child blaming him or herself for everything that went wrong in the family of origin. All of these childhood issues lead to depression whether it is clinical or situational.
The original wound occurs when the insistent need for love of the infant or young child gets ignored for so long that it goes underground. It becomes unconscious. The child splits into two personalities—one is no longer conscious of the need for love and the child gets on with his or her life. The other personality, the one that is unconscious, remains dormant for a while and then reaches out for love through projection. For the love addict, he or she meets someone and they unconsciously project the old need for love onto the person. Unfortunately, this unconscious need for love is insatiable, uncontrolled and horribly insecure because it is the need of the infant and child, not the healthy need for love of the adult.
If it progresses, this insatiable need for love becomes love addiction. If the original wound is abuse leading to toxic shame, the child usually grows up and finds intimacy uncomfortable, so they evolve into love avoidants, or more often ambivalents.
Many wounded people usually present with a mood altering condition like love addiction or love avoidance and then the underlying issues of depression, anxiety and shame, but not always. There are many possible ways for all of these conditions to be presented to the psychotherapist. They can come up one at a time or all at once.
It is important to treat the underlying issues immediately when one is presenting with love addiction. The attachment style that is presenting in the addictive relationship, the avoidant behavior, or both (the ambivalent) will need to be understood and managed in order for someone with a history of trauma, attachment wounds, mood disorders and/or addiction to be in a healthy relationship. Learning to manage and tolerate the “pain” as it comes up in life – AND IT WILL – is crucial to success in relationships.
This is all a process – peeling back of layers of both the presenting issues and the underling personality disorders.
If you feel you are ready to take this step, to understand your pain body wound and repair and restore, Five Sisters Ranch is the place for you.