Affective addiction, when too much love hurts – iO Woman
P.make Banksy’s best known graffiti (on display in Turin): the little girl with her arm outstretched towards a distant red balloon, in flight. Or take Esther, the protagonist of Esther’s letters by Cécile Pivot (Rizzoli), who sent a question to the five anonymous members of his correspondence laboratory: what are you defending from? But can a balloon and a question be enough to talk about emotional addiction? Maybe not. But it could be a good start if that is true a precise definition of this disorder does not exist.
A pathological addiction?
Scientific studies are insufficient and the dependence of the other it is not yet a true research pathology. In the latest update of the statistical manual of mental illnesses, behavioral addictions, or new addictions such as addiction to gambling, work, sex and shopping, have found their place. Some scholars have also included love addiction in this classification. There is so much to investigate. But those who suffer from it have everything clear. Anxiety, possessiveness, hunger for attention, morbid attachment. The ground where all this takes root is the story of our childhood, that phase in which we learn the ABC of love.
Stuck in wrong love
“An epiphanic moment, all of a sudden. I was arguing with my partner, he was insulting me because I had dared to confess his betrayal to someone. He only cared that our image of the perfect couple wasn’t cracked in the eyes of others. At that moment I realized that our relationship was wrongthat forgiving the betrayal and moving on out of fear of a breakup alone would be foolish. I left him that afternoon and from that moment on I looked at the past with clarity and I understood that mine was pure emotional dependence which I had never noticed for years ». Chiara S. works in an advertising agency, is 42 years old and lives in Bergamo. “In those days I hated him, because in general we tend to always blame the narcissus, but in the end I hated myself. I had deceived myself and perhaps I had also deceived him. I knew from the start that it was a bad relationship but I kept stubborn. I got out of it by myself. Or better, with the help of friends and also of some suitors who have increased my self-esteem »she continues.
“I went from being a good “wifey” model to a more active life in which I rediscovered my passions. Today I have a fulfilling relationship but the mechanism of emotional dependence is subtle and always remains. I often find myself suffering from exaggerated jealousy, a mania for control. But I’m working on it. When I’m about to give up something nice for me, to spend more time with him, I stop and change my mind. Because you don’t have to do everything in pairs. When that story ended I met a girl by chance, she became my friend, she is a psychotherapist. She helped me realize where the origin of all this was. I grew up with an absent father and a distracted mother. Focused as she was to manage her depression problems, she hugged me little, laughed little with me. I fell asleep in the evening in search of one of his last cuddles that never came. Growing up, her attentions have been criticism, censorship, coldness. I recently realized how much that hunger for love of then resembles that of today. I have lived convinced that if I give so much love I have the right to demand it, to feel worthy of esteem. I’m working on it. When anxiety hits me, I take a breath and ask myself “what makes you really happy? Who makes you happy? “. And I try to give priority to this »she concludes.
Affective dependence is widespread
The questions return and slide from one extreme to the other: to grow with little love or to grow with too much love. Too much love (Sperling & Kupfer) is the title of a new essay as well as the name of the author’s Facebook page Ameya Gabriella Canovi, psychologist and PhD, as well as co-author of a podcast on the subject with Selvaggia Lucarelli (who signs the preface of the essay). The podcast was downloaded by over 1.5 million listeners for one reason only: emotional dependence is a widespread pathology. It is not only women who suffer from it, on the contrary. The problem is the diversity of educational styles for which women grow up with an image of themselves that is not very autonomous on an emotional level and therefore risk much more of becoming dependent on an emotional level. The goal achieved is autonomy in work and in practical life. The emotional stumbling block remains.
«My patients are mostly very accomplished women in the profession, around 30-40 years old. Contrary to what one might think, emotional dependence does not correlate with low education or social status. It is a distorted relational modality that involves many people. Emptiness is the number one enemy of my patients. My task with them is to go and make friends with that fear, it is an invitation to liveto learn to stay fallow, like a fallow field. In my face-to-face courses I use different awareness techniques, including meditation. It helps. Do you know why? People are basically terrified of meeting themselves “, he explains. The fear of becoming an adult when you were unloved as a child is coupled with the fear of becoming an overly loving parent: intrusive, unable to support their children by staying at a distance even when they make a mistake, unable to practice a healthy emotional education.
Don’t merge, stay distinct
What are the limits to keep in mind in love? “Borders are invisible and permanent. If we are not aware of who I am and who you are, we will have big problems. There is the space of the I, the space of the you and the space of the we. They are distinct, they must function and breathe clearly. For me it is very clear that fusion is not healthy. The fusion is typical of the mother-child dyad. In the love affaircontrary to what is praised in poems, it is assumed that the two are adults and capable of recognizing oneself and the other not in an indistinct blob. The perception of one’s own and others’ boundaries in a relationship is not only necessary, it is essential if we want it to work. Call at all hours, expect the other to do, say, be as I want, expect him to share everything. I could make an endless list. Let’s see if we are invading or sharing, ”explains Canovi, a former emotional employee.
It is important to focus on self-esteem
And if someone thinks that isolation in the pandemic has accelerated the spread of the disorder, the answer is no: it has nothing to do with it. Addiction doesn’t come, or another person doesn’t. «It is a mode of attachment that derives from an experience in the early stages of childhood. There are situations or people that trigger the emergence of emotional dependence that can remain dormant for years. Until a meeting that brings us back to that ancient wound. I think about the story of my patient Inari, which I told in the book. She is a Finnish woman, so devoted and dependent that she accompanied her husband in the rituals of betrayal. Agree with him. And she was waiting for him in the car, or in the hotel lobby, suffering and swallowing tears of pain and humiliation. She did it to control him, and to delude herself that she was maintaining the bond. Everything, I do everything for you. But don’t abandon me, “she concludes.
Don’t walk away making me feel like a worthless person, essentially. So, while we beg the presence of the other to feel complete, while we cultivate romantic illusions convinced that our relationship is the only possible source of happiness, other questions await an answer. “What relationship do you have with your creativity?”we read in the essay by Canovi. Most patients remain silent. Not being encouraged as a child to dare and trust your creative source makes you run out of self-esteem, overwhelmed with guilt, unable to make a decision for our own good and give up who deserves it.
Elizabeth Strout in her latest book Oh William! (Einaudi) speaks of certain pains with these words: «A pain that makes one feel so alone; that’s what makes it terrible, in my opinion. It’s like sliding down the facade of a very long glass building while nobody sees you. While we think that a red balloon will save us, from the void ».
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