Attachment, love and NEED

The REAL! conversation was unplanned, and un rehearsed, so odd for me. It just happened. Started because of his fish tank…

Hubby loves his fish tank, NEEDS his fish tank. He’s had salt water fish and corals since he was in high school and he has this huge attachment to them. The tank has looked like crapola for many years now, as he has not had time/money to keep up with it. It has gone through cycles of every color of algae and slime covering everything in sinister looking ways, looking more swampy/deathy than lovely. He’s been working on cleaning it up, found an issue with the water filter, lights are old, pumps are old.

We’ve been discussing selling our house. Practical me asked him “Is there any way to simplify this tank setup so it is easier to maintain and will look beautiful when we show our house to buyers?” He responded with the usual anger and why am I attacking him and his tank. This tank has been a point of contention for over, well, ok forever. I never understood it and I still don’t. His NEED for it. We had that tank when we could not afford it. I used to resent the cost of electricity, water and upkeep supplies. We can technically afford it now – if I keep being able to work. I’m already worried about our reduced income with my reduced hours and going in to planning mode.And thinking it will A) be difficult to sell our house with this tank built into the wall how he made it and B) difficult to move with fragile critters and corals.

I asked him “Would it be possible to convert this tank into something easier to manage that will look great without all of the hard work and time?”

He responded “Roar, roar, why do always attack me and this tank, roar, roar, and why do want to take away something that I love?”

Something clicked in me. He does NEED this tank and LOVE this tank. He is ATTACHED to this tank. Hmmm. I don’t understand. In theory, yes I understand. But I have no possessions or relationships that I feel attached to permanently.


So here is my basis for reality. I have no attachments. Nothing really matters to me. Certainly not any of my stuff, its all just stuff. Hubby responded with “What if I asked you to get rid of your art supplies? You’re always so protective of them and don’t let the kids use them. Wouldn’t you be upset that I asked you to consider that?”

I considered it, and no. I protect the art supplies because they are expensive. If I could sell used pencils/paints I would do it and buy new ones later in life if desired. I have no attachment to these particular pencils/paints and no use for them at this moment in my life. It didn’t hurt or pain me at all. Its just stuff – I don’t NEED it.

And I starting thinking about the people in my life. I have no actual attachments there either – close but not it. And this isn’t new or some leftover of depression. I’ve felt this way all of my life. I can’t rely on anything or anyone and so I learned not to attach myself to anything I think. I love my kids and will do anything to protect them, but if I could give them to someone else to raise, I would not hesitate, and I would not miss them. I would be relieved. Being a mom is hard, and for me, honestly, not rewarding. Am I a terrible person? Well – I do hate this part of me. But I seriously think my brain is incapable of this level of bonding. Groomed my entire life to mistrust, to fear, to analyze, to avoid, to expect everything I care about to be destroyed or taken away from me — Raised to survive, not to love or be loved, not to need or be needed, not to expect anything to belong to me or remain mine for long. I recall the devastation of watching my objects of affection be tortured, mutilated, destroyed, or taken away from me countless times.

The only thing I could count on was not counting on anything. At this point, at 38, after 22 years of therapy and/or meds – I honestly do not believe my brain can recover from this.

I think love, need, attachment – I think those are things that need to be given to you by your parents. I am going through the motions to provide this for my kids, and I think it is working. I love my kids, but I don’t feel attached to them. I don’t need them. I don’t feel like they are mine, and I know this is terrible to write, but I wish they weren’t mine. If there were any way to drop them off at Grandma’s permanently without causing them pain, I would do it.

I have no NEED for other people. I have learned to tolerate people. I have no NEED to belong. AM I antisocial? Do I have attachment issues? Some borderline personality traits? Permanent sense of loss keeping me in an avoidance pattern? Did fearing and hating my parents and brothers, being repeatedly hurt and abandoned by childhood friends, being repeatedly disappointed by the amount of hurtful people in the world at large…Is this as good as it gets for me?

I see other parents at kid events – sports, plays, recitals, competitions, etc beaming with love and pride and experiencing joy at their kiddos accomplishments. I do and say the right things, but I don’t feel anything inside, nothing more for my kids than any of the others. I could just as easily swap kids and guide and encourage someone elses kids. I have a generalized sense of wanting the best for everyone, but no specific feelings about my own. I don’t live through my kids and generally find all of the extracurriculars a nuisance and annoyance using up my time and energy in preparation, driving and then either dealing with or avoiding the other parents.

So sorry Hubby. I know this is terrible. I have huge amounts of guilt for feeling – or not feeling – this way. But thank you for listening, and freeing me to finally discuss these feelings here as well. I feel like a bit of my load is lightened now that you know the truth. I also know it is too much for you to accept, and that you will protect yourself by thinking this must be a fleeting bout of depression causing this and that it isn’t true. Sadly it is one of the main topics I discuss with my therapist, week after week, year after year.

I don’t FEEL  – I THINK.

Go to an article “Treating adult survivors of severe childhood abuse and neglect”


7 thoughts on “Attachment, love and NEED

  1. Raising my children is the toughest and best job I ever had. In a way it’s how I gave to myself what I never had, though that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to provide a safe, natural childhood where their interior selves stayed whole and intact. I may or may not have accomplished that, or almost but not completely.
    I appreciate your honesty. Hope your kids never read this though. It’s a bit astounding, and you’re right, I don’t totally believe you. If in some fantasy land you suddenly had some one else’s kids as your own, I can’t believe you wouldn’t care nor stop wondering about the welfare of your real children.
    There’s a bit of difference between fish, coral and kids… But I’d really roar about the dirty fish tank so he’d know what roaring is. ‘Clean the dam fish tank or I’m tossing it out!’

  2. I’ve often wondered the same thing. My counselor would ask, “If your sister were hurt, would it bother you?” “Yes.” “You aren’t detached. You’ve simply had to learn to bury your feelings to keep them safe.” I still keep a safe distance; I’m still burying my feelings, but at least now I know what I’m doing. I have to start somewhere. You’ve been taught that those around you, those you care about, aren’t safe near you. It’s difficult to unlearn that it isn’t your fault they won’t be safe; those lessons were carved terrifyingly deep. Praying for you and me.

  3. “I honestly do not believe my brain can recover from this.”

    Maybe your brain cannot recover, or maybe it can. You won’t know the answer to that question until you continue to explore the path of healing, and have exhausted every opportunity to recalibrate the way your brain processes thoughts and information.

    I say this from a place of experiencing a continuing journey through trying to overwrite the messages that were etched into my brain. I once firmly believed “I could not recover from this” but am slowly finding that although some residual effects are still something I struggle with from time to time, that with the passage of time and working at educating myself and an ongoing dedication to rewiring how my brain functions, I’m beginning to finally have pure moments of effortlessness … something I could never have imagined possible. I really and truly never had the ability to imagine or picture what it might look like when I wasn’t struggling just to function somewhat normally every minute of ever day, but these days, the entire landscape has changed. The balance has shifted.

    I have many more good days than bad, and even though the old me would never have believed it was possible, thankfully, the old me just kept trying to move forward, an inch at a time, sometimes sliding all the way back down the hill, only to have to begin the climb all over again. You have incredible powers of observation, an intelligent and logical mind, and even though today it might feel like there is no connection between the ability to FEEL versus THINK, I’m confident you’ll continue to explore how one connects to the other. We have been programmed to unhinge the part of us that FEELS, but one day, when you least expect it, you might surprise yourself by discovering that not only has that part of you reawakened, but it actually might become the source of your most intense feelings of peace and contentment. An inch at a time. Another day, and another step forward. Keep going.

    • I am storing this in my reasons not to give up, won’t know if I don’t try place inside me because your description of “pure moments of effortlessness” is exactly all I ever want. Just to have a real moment effortlessly, without scanning for cognitive distortions, without battling the inner demons, the inner tape of negativity, feeling a feeling and knowing it is true and valid. I truly don’t believe it is possible at this point in my journey, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying to get there. Your words bring me comfort and support, though I’m not in a place where they can inspire right now. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your attempt though, thank you. ((hugs))

  4. I am similar to you, though I suspect further down the path to understanding where I buried all my ‘attachment’ feelings and how to recover them. I do not attach to ‘things’ but am more attached to a small group of people, including children, a small group of friends and family members. It was a very long road though.

    I am an introvert. I also think vs. feel. But I feel more today than twenty years ago (your age).

  5. Man, I relate to this. My lack of attachments to people sometimes bothers me. I wonder if I might be more happy if I were more normal (probably, but forcing attachments just makes me resentful). I think, in part, it was growing up feeling like asking for connections (with my mother in particular) had to be paid for with too much of me, so I feel more comfortable not relying on others for anything.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Thank you for your comment it means a lot to me. I’m often afraid to discuss this topic as it is difficult to convey exactly what I mean. I think you’re right about forcing attachments can lead to resentment or like the cost is too high.

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