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The Heart and Soul Program
Avoidants and Anxious Avoidants
In this document—the term Avoidant is used to describe both Avoidants and Anxious Avoidants.
Psychological definition of an avoidant
When parents are largely dysfunctional, distant, or intrusive, they cause their children considerable distress. Children who become avoidant of their emotions adapt to this rejecting environment by building defensive attachment strategies in an attempt to feel safe, to modulate or tone down intense emotional states, and to relieve frustration and pain.
As children, they usually became self-contained little adults, or in my case, my mom called me her “little soldier.” The main strategy to protect themselves as kids was to never do something so dangerous as to show outwardly a desire for closeness, warmth, affection, or love. Crying in movie theaters or in front of others was also too scary, it may have attracted the wrong attention. These children may have wanted to remain physically close to the parent, but emotionally detached. Even as very young children these avoidants “intuitively picked up the feeling their parents have no intention of getting to really know them, which left them with a deep sense of emptiness.”
These feelings and strategies have carried them forward to adulthood and the reality of getting emotionally close to others can have them break out in a cold sweat. The emptiness is pervasive for these adults who find a multitude of strategies to try and fill it. The idea of getting close to others emotionally in a fantasy is the desired outcome, no one gets hurt or left. Many end-up single their entire lives or in unfulfilling relationships, always questioning if they should stay or go. This way of living is largely intellectual and nothing new is actually experienced in terms of emotional growth to be in a fulfilling and healthy relationship since no one can ever be the perfect partner for them.
Anxious Avoidants are those who fall into the avoidant category, but have become anxiously attached to another avoidant. There also may be anxiety in being the more outwardly avoidant in the relationship too–it is what keeps them overtly distancing. Most anxious avoidant individuals become attached to another avoidant who exhibits specific characteristics subconsciously reminding them of treatment in their earlier life emotional abandonment. The subconscious employs familiarity as a sense of safety, at the same time there is a deeper desire for events to go differently this time. Mainly, it’s the desire for the unconditional love which was never received to be given by an individual who does not want to or is not capable of giving it.
On the flipside, if the avoidant in this relationship were to become more emotionally available the anxious avoidant may choose to vacate the relationship. All of a sudden what seemed like a shiny diamond, loses its sparkle. The chase is over. In this case no one actually seeks emotional intimacy. Neither party has ever experienced true emotional intimacy and therefore, have no idea what it feels like. It feels scary, as though one or both parties may be engulfed by their own emotions or that of their partner. There is so much fear for both avoidants and anxious avoidants of intimacy that on a conscious level the mental stories they constantly tell themselves about dating/relationships continues to keep them in the loop. The loop of fear always wins.
Who are these people as adults?
Not all characteristics apply to each person, but an avoidant will possess many of these traits not just one or two. Many may not identify themselves as an avoidant, so this list of characteristics may give them a new perspective.
- People who tend to use their intellect rather than their heart (emotional repression).
- Core Belief: I am alone.
- Unable to deal with the disappointment of rejection.
- The lone wolf.
- Very independent/self-sufficient.
- May have an overly positive view of themselves and a negative attitude toward other people (this hides a fragile self inside–low self-esteem and hatred inside).
- The single who is always scratching their head as to why.
- The person who avoids a relationship and then meets another avoidant then becomes anxiously attached. Usually finds relief in the distance, so as much as they say they want the relationship, deep down inside they need the distance.
- Married and has a lover or is the lover of a married person.
- Cannot allow someone to value them more than they value themselves–so either they stay single forever or think there is something wrong with people who do value them.
- This person gets married to someone on sexual chemistry and no emotional intimacy.
- If married may live a separate life than their spouse. If not physically, then definitely emotionally.
- Suppressed emotionally.
- Craves alone time, if around too many people. May feel they recharge by escaping to their home.
- Feels misunderstood.
- Single–looking for the perfect partner (doesn’t exist).
- Has highs and lows in energy, sometimes is ultra busy and other times nothing is filling their time, which can make them anxious
- May even be anxious and depressed all the time whether single or in a relationship (may think this is a normal feeling)
- Has numbing out behaviors.
- Big emotional barriers–not emotionally available
- Highly intelligent.
- Deeply lonely, but may not look it because they are so busy or seem socially adept.
- Feels disconnected almost all the time, unless in a creative pursuit.
- May have a lot of superficial interests and/or friends.
- Hard time being in a group.
- Can entertain oneself for hours–no need for other people.
- Has many yo-yo relationships, come close, go away.
- Doesn’t realize fear is really the issue, not other people.
- Deep-seated lack of value, but again usually has no clue, because as an adult may be a high achiever.
- Over does: overperforms, perfectionist, people pleaser, etc something shows the lack inside and need for validation.
- Fixing others while “seeming” to remain problem-free to others (most of the time, unless the shit really hits the fan).
- Cannot get too close for fear of being found out that they are no good, worthless, etc.
- Control freaks.
- Scarcity-driven, even though they may have money/success.
- Fear motivates them rather than love, passion or ease.
- Can be introverted or extroverted, but usually a combination of both; leaning more to introverted.
- Most will say they hate drama, but find themselves in it (not just romantically).
- Avoid conversations that could be either confrontational, cause pain or criticism of the avoidant. Cannot handle it. It includes communicating through email and text as a way to avoid.
- Avoids all emotions their own and others. Makes them uncomfortable.
- Always in the pursuit of things to keep most avoidants on a Ferris wheel. (as in no balance in their lives)
- Dramatic arc to romantic relationships, as healthy ones seem boring.
- Lives in the fantasy that it’s really about finding that perfect person and then it will all change.
- Any kind of “holic,” or chooses people who are “holics.”
What do they do to keep themselves stuck?
Avoidants avoid. It’s safe.
Fear makes avoidants avoid.
Emotions make avoidants fearful and they avoid.
Avoiding vulnerability means they will not get hurt. (clearly not true)
It means anything which reeks of touching their own emotions, is something to be avoided, like a hot stove. Some avoidants believe they are emotionally expressive, but what they actually do is verbalize their victimization. They may blame and feel no one understands them. They may feel unheard or have given up being seen or heard.
Unless of course, they strive to receive validation on auto-pilot. Needing to be known as someone good or bad, their patterns keep them stuck in this position. Most avoidants cannot feel the validation when they receive it. Some think it means to try harder or get upset with the source they are trying to impress. They may work tirelessly, so others have sympathy or somehow elevate them to sainthood. (Though none would ever admit to it)
Avoidants almost always strive to intellectually resolve their emotional issues. Whether it is through books, learning tools or burying themselves in work or an intellectual pursuit. The way to survive (not thrive) as an avoidant are to mentally strategize emotions, to control reactions to others, to control “if or when” they fall in love, to control how they are seen/perceived, to control everything that could possibly trigger the pain inside of them.
This does not allow for any forward movement, although avoidants can look like they enjoy some change, because they may take physical or financial risks. They may do things others only dream of, but these things have no way of making the avoidant more emotionally mature. Avoidants emotionally stunted out as small children, when they intuitively realized their emotional needs weren’t getting met. They turned toward their intellect to make sure they survived. Staying emotionally immature is something most avoidants have on auto-pilot. They cannot see how this also affects their level of emotional intelligence, because the fear they have of their and others’ emotions is so big. It is difficult for someone who may see themselves as very intelligent–they not only intellectualize their emotions but others as well.
Fears most avoidants have:
- Fear there is no real answer to their pain
- Fear they have no value–insignificant
- Afraid of being found out
- Don’t want to appear weak or needy (yet may be victim/martyrs)
- Do not want to be abandoned, they like to leave first or be in control of the situation
- Fear of being engulfed by someone else’s emotions
- Fear of their own negative emotions
- Fear of choosing wrong
- Fear of losing themselves—being swallowed up
- Being alone the rest of their lives
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of failing
- Fear they are deeply unlovable
- Fear they can never let go of an attachment
- Not knowing who they would be without these patterns running their lives.
The reason for this program for the fearful avoidant and anxious avoidant.
Almost every avoidant I have ever known including myself has an image issue. Many of us are so used to looking like we have our shit together and helping others who appear to be struggling, that the last thing an avoidant may want to do is expose him or herself. Expose themselves to scrutiny or doing anything perceived as a “wrong.” Avoidants like to keep a tight control over their image. Avoidants are not fans of criticism, as it brings up deep feelings of shame and guilt. Many may have the martyr complex in believing they work tirelessly for everyone and yet, also believe on the other hand they deserve to be where they are, they are broken and can’t be fixed, etc. They may feel they just need to work harder.
Many avoidants do NOT join group programs, though some do, depending on the content (as long as it is not going to require them to be vulnerable). Many tend to be lurkers, but not all. Most who are in anxious-avoidant phase will tend to speak to their situations. When it comes to the level of depth in this program, most avoidants who are not ready to be vulnerable, happier and healthier will run for the hills.
This group format is to expedite the work I usually do with clients one on one.
In my own journey, there was no way in hell I would ever admit to having an issue, let alone one where others might see the emptiness inside of me. They may see I wasn’t perfect or they might judge me. This keeps avoidants hiding out. Hiding changes nothing. The more I looked at how I attract so many avoidants the more I looked into what would really change them? The anxiously attached peeps are more open to people seeing their struggle (sometimes), the avoidant is not. And that is where some of the change happens. It happens by being accountable to a group of peers, to coming out of the dark into the light, to doing what is extremely uncomfortable to create change and to finally start to feel more normal in the process. The group situation is what will expedite the emotional work to do. Just sharing your “stuff” in front of these people (it’s a requirement) will be difficult, because there will not be the ability to tell stories to others in which you emotionally distant yourself, nope! I will be there making you dig deeper and feel the stories you tell, so they are real and not intellectualized versions of memories.
The role-playing calls will provide a context of real life scenarios (since they will be scenarios of the participants). It is amazing how when either participating or observing the dynamic which happens with avoidants that epiphanies can happen quickly.
I attract over-doers of all types, and I find the people best suited for the program are sick and fucking tired of being lonely (in or out of a relationship), are sick of feeling misunderstood, not aligned with themselves and the world. Basically, YOU ARE SICK OF BEING IN THE PAIN OF YOUR SITUATION.
You may even be in an occupation which looks good but feels crappy. Even though you can talk yourself in and out of getting help (usually in the privacy of a therapist’s office), you also have a “do it yourself” attitude. You can feel you need help one minute and the next the belief kicks in that you can figure it out alone.
Remember over-doers put it all on their back and continue to intellectualize through their lives. It happens because fear kicks in from their negative belief because change is the last thing their belief system wants. The unknown is scary and unsafe, so to take a leap off the deep end emotionally is what many of these daredevils cannot do. It is easy to distract or hold off on this change, it is easier to buy another book or a beer or skydive. It is easier to go shopping or get sucked into others’ problems or be the workaholic. Avoidance is a behavior these people have perfected over the years. No one may be the wiser, just the avoidant whose low-level anxiety or feeling like things aren’t quite right, is what they are used to and so they may stay there the rest of their lives.
Excuses to not join the group
- This is NOT me—others are the issue (I like being a victim)
- I’d rather be alone, that way things are under my control
- I like repeating the same patterns over and over
- I will find new strategies, so I do not have to feel any pain
- Too expensive
- Too uncomfortable
- Would rather take things into my own hands–I’m pretty self-aware.
- Too structured—no escape!
- There must be another way for me to have successful emotional relationships
- I can find peace, love, and happiness on my own–I always figure it out.
- Totally NOT a group person
- The other people will be losers–they are different than me
- Fear of being seen for who I am—again being found out
- Not wanting to show up–hide out more and perpetuate the same ALONE story
- It’s not long enough or its too long
- I CAN’T DO IT–I believe that I will fail
Seriously, avoidants just avoid. Listen to the story in your head right now. What is it saying? I guarantee unless you get that no one is coming along to grant you peace, love and happiness–you have an excuse brewing. A million excuses to stay stuck, perhaps this is why there are not many avoidant programs out there?
The benefit to not joining
Your subconscious beliefs are alive and well, you can stay stuck in your old patterns of control. You can make more excuses and tell more stories, continue to build resentment and distance yourself from people. You can keep thinking–intellectualize it all, while believing you’re making progress, then a crisis hits and you’re right back to square one.
Ya know, Scrooge was an avoidant (a rather unhappy and lonely one), and so were all the “old maids” in fairy tales–you know the unhappy old witches, queens, lady who lived in a shoe and so on. (Is it any wonder we struggle with getting close to others)
I know from my own experience, the path will not change and you will meet more avoidants to attach to, or anxious people to avoid committing to or get into a breadcrumb situation with them. It can keep you self-righteous. You’ll remain the anomaly, you’ll feel different than others who “appear” to have it all. You’ll still have others to blame and won’t have to take responsibility for yourself. Most of it will remain subconscious, rather than conscious. Mainly though, it can keep you feeling the pain you have been holding onto. Whether it is something you have recently felt is unbearable or you know it is a heaviness that has been there your entire life—it will remain.
Avoidants and anxious avoidants. Examples in the media: these celebrities (from what is publicly know of them):
Main outcome for the group
- Improvement of satisfaction in all relationships.
- Become vulnerable and emotionally present
- Be connected to yourself, which makes you relax, emotionally present and abundant
- Ability to ask for what you want from an authentic place
- A release of many anger issues
- Find no social situations to be really uncomfortable.
- If single, can now date–ready to be in a relationship
- In a relationship, will know if you want to stay or go
- Feel lighter, happier more emotional freedom.
- Ability to get emotionally close to others without fear of engulfment.
- Express love
- Will stop hiding out
- Loneliness will not rule your world
- More successful in all parts of their lives.
- Feels connected and happy
- Less or no anxiety
- Outgrow victim mentality and be responsible for all your words/actions
- Out of the pain you are now in
- More able to receive love
- Less attachment
- Emotionally available
- Makes choices which actually feel good
- More energy
- Being assertive from a place of self-truth
- Feel more confident in exploring emotional intimacy
- More able to handle secure attachment.
- Will expand the individual’s emotional intelligence through the ability to emotionally regulate their own emotions (see below for more on EQ)
- Be more empathic (rather than a fixer)
- Self-compassionate and caring.
- Control issues will resolve to varying degrees.
- Ability to come from more of an internal locus of control rather than being controlled by the external.
- Anxiety is no longer the driver
- Not fixating on problems.
Emotional Intelligence [EQ]
“Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially beneﬁt themselves and others”. [Salovey, Mayer and Caruso]
This program will offer improvement in all 4 areas of EQ:
- The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.
- The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.
- The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.
- The ability to manage emotions so as to attain specific goals.
How to join.
Fill out the form https://goo.gl/forms/ZzdONEQUEasFZUPC2 and email me at Tracy@tracycrossley.com . From there, we have a discovery call process to make sure this is a good fit. Right now this group is a waiting list to join for the next start date in May.
It is for those avoidants wanting to take a major risk. The major risk will pay off in finally curtailing the fear-based avoidant tendencies they possess, which have run their personal and professional lives. Avoidants and anxious avoidants usually hide out, dismiss they have an issue which requires help and so the idea of a group program is intimidating.
I need to make sure everyone is on board who joins, so it is important that I speak to everyone first.
- 10 Weeks
-  one-hour group coaching calls on Zoom/FB Live with [3-4] hotseats per call
-  moderated role-playing mandatory for all who join
- Weekly non-moderated calls with your pod (2 groups of 4 or 3 groups of 4)
- Facebook group with mandatory posting 3 times a week by each member–ACCOUNTABILITY
- Weekly homework–either action/speaking-based or written. Being accountable by summarizing for the group to know what you have done.
- Group interaction to posted questions on FB (ongoing access to group after program ends for 12 mos.)
- Marco Polo group video chat
- One payment: 1997.00
- Three payments (every 20 days): 847.00
- There are no refunds. This is an investment in changing your entire life and a commitment to do this work.
Start: May 2019.
The group will be limited to 12 people maximum. For this to work it needs to be intimate.
Why not do my video course or coach one on one with me?
You could do either! This is more of a deep dive into escalating emotional movement. In essence, this program takes a lot of courage to join and is not for those who need to take it slowly or want a pace they set. One on one coaching is a combination of client and facilitator lead, so it doesn’t have the same intensity.
The level of accountability is multiplied by group size, FB postings, calls, and homework. This is similar to sky-diving, but emotionally.
Working with one on one clients gives them individualized attention over a 26-week period, instead this program is more reliant on “no excuses” and pushing your way out of your comfort zone (not incrementally as one on one coaching is to the individual). One on one coaching focuses more on the whole person getting out of a current situation that they no longer want to feel powerless over. Both one on one coaching and this program may end up with similar results, but the group program is accelerated, so results will happen sooner. Overall group interaction will definitely have you going beyond your comfort zone and therefore with full participation the individual should see a lot of movement.
The video course is a great option for those wanting to ease into the work I do. It is my foundational work and can help anyone at any stage of growth, but it is broader than the “avoidant or anxious avoidant group”. This group program is like the video course on steroids and my one on one coaching combined.
This is a totally different path to getting there. This is a change where you will sign up on a contract, because it is a commitment and the commitment is BIG. Are you ready as an avoidant or anxious avoidant? Hard to commit to something you cannot control.