• jess

Relational "Deactivation" (AKA bitch, you so hot and cold)

I've been back at trauma reading and learning lately; a side-effect of preparing to go back to school AND having open access to scientific literature through the school's online library. It feels like taking a step back into my old life.

I might as well get used to doing research and writing about it again. It's been a few years of indulgent emotional writing for the sake of my own healing and self-learning... embarrassing, but hey, people seem to like it. Plus I needed a break from all the peer-reviewed literature after being in cellular biology research in my past life. Writing scientific manuscripts was not fun or inspiring. Reading them may have been even worse. Psychology articles, though? They seem to be much less dense and much more interesting than the cell signalling factors and cellular metabolism articles I used to be inundated with.

So, going back to database reading and writing.

One of the concepts that I just stumbled upon the other day really made me excited. Whenever I find something that helps to explain...well... me, and the things I hate myself for... I get pretty stoked. "Oh, there's a REASON for that?! I'm not just a crazy, emotional, psychotic asshole? That's pretty fucking sweet." Anyone else?

I hope this helps other folks.

You know I'm always a bit too happy to speak honestly about my relationship difficulties... of which, there are many. Whether we're talking about best friends, family members, or romantic partners, I'm pretty bad at creating healthy relationships that last.

My longest relationships tend to be relatively unhealthy, with significant mutual codependency and lack of boundaries. My shortest relationships generally include some interpreted emotional slight or betrayal; after which, it's like you never existed in the first place.

Am I just an ice cold bitch when I'm not being a needy Nancy, or what the motherfuck is this pattern about? Why am I so black and white in my relationships, just like every other aspect of life, when they mean so much to me?

Hey, it turns out there's a reason for this. My inner critic can take a seat. Learning time.

I recently learned about relational deactivation, a form of dissociation. It explains a lot about my past history being over-the-top committed to various relationships, as well as having intermittent periods of feeling completely aloof and detached.

AKA - You mean the fucking world to me until the day you don’t… and then I’ll never speak to you again without batting an eye. Good luck with your shit, I have better things to do.

Deactivation is a term that describes a defensive mechanism to protect our sense of self and safety. When early relationships are often challenging and dissatisfying, the child learns to dissociate from their feelings of confusion, hurt, and longing, rather than fully experiencing them.

This is deactivation - the process of rejecting the sensations brought about by their own rejection through turning away from the desire to be close in the first place.

For instance, if a child is repeatedly rejected and neglected by their mother, they will eventually stop attempting to earn their attention and approval. On a deeper level, the child will actually begin to quiet their own desire to have the maternal relationship in the first place. In my terms, “If I don’t want you, I can’t be hurt when you don’t want me.”

Deactivation is a defense mechanism to enable the individual to continue living. To fully feel the want and dissatisfaction would be too painful for the sufferer to come to terms with, so the sensation is rejected. To acknowledge the unfulfilled needs or implications for the individual’s inherent worth would be debilitating, so they learn to “turn off” the attachment altogether.

Later in life, this survival technique perpetuates challenging relationships. Sudden deactivation is difficult for all parties to come to terms with. This sudden switch from anxiously/codependently attached to deactivated can be labeled as “flaky, hot and cold, or crazy,” from the uneducated outsider, as well as the confused individual experiencing the relational deactivation.

Deactivation is yet another neurological obstacle to forming long-lasting, intimate, and satisfying relationships in Complex Trauma sufferers. These relational challenges are one of the most common and pervasive complaints for trauma survivors who regularly experience anxious attachments and relationship obsessions, yet fail to create successful connections.

Does deactivation explain any challenges in your relational life? This sounds very familiar in my relationships; both friendly, familial, and romantic. It’s a pattern I’ve struggled to understand - and I’m not the only one.

I’m willing to chew off my left arm and bleed to death for my loved ones, well, until I feel slighted or rejected. After an event that challenges my sense of safety and security in the relationship, I’m fuckin’ out. See you later. But not really, because you’re blocked on all technological fronts and I moved residences without telling you.

Is this “hot and cold?” I suppose so. However, it’s still grounding to know that there’s a reason for my rapid shifts in attachment and the “flighty” label I’ve brutalized myself over.

It makes a great deal of sense - after my childhood home was so characterized by being bullied, shamed, and alone, I learned to disconnect from my familial attachments. To fend for myself and keep quiet. To hang out with animals rather than expecting my kin to care.

During my early life attending public school, my challenging experiences with peers didn't help. I was often bullied in that environment, as well. My young friendships were fleeting; I was often "abandoned" for greener pastures when more popular kids became available for my old pals to buddy up with. I was often the butt of the joke, my personal life leveraged against me as social fodder for their new friends.

In short, throughout my childhood and adolescence I never experienced a safe or lasting relationship. The pain of rejection and loneliness was often overwhelming. I learned to detach from my expectations and hopes for relationships and to move on quickly when I sensed the slightest danger.

To this day, I turn my back on rocky relationships faster than I'm proud to admit. I'm with you until the fucking end... until I have a reason to think you don't feel the same. Watch out for this sleeping lion, I'm about to claw you right in the fucking face.

Now that I know the reason, I might have some amends to make, internally and externally. Sorry for being a flighty deactivated dick, former friends. My trauma brain was just doing what it does best; looking out for danger and reacting before I could be hurt.

I'm sorry for the ways I lashed out and put on my own disappearing act after so many people did the same to me in the past... if you can believe it, this cycle of shittery that hurt both of us was supposed for my own protection.

Alright dudes, that's my deal. I've had a hard time living with myself, both in codependent and relationship abandoning times. It's always been confusing to me... but now at least I have some basis for understanding my rapid relationship dissolutions from the past. Dangerous feeling connections lead to cut ties, and it's not just me being a dick. I always appreciate the reassurance.

If you can relate, you might be a real motherfucker. Head to t-mfrs.com if you want to join up with the Discord community or shout something out at me. If you struggle with relationships, know that you definitely aren't alone. You're just deactivating.

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