Relationship Engagement ABCs

One of the things we want as humans more than anything else in the world is connection. We long to be heard, seen, listened to, experienced, known, and understood. And yet, at the same time, the experience of reaching out for connection scares us – perhaps more than anything else. We are afraid of reaching out and being rejected. We are afraid of being the one who reaches out first and is not met. And so, when faced with the opportunity to engage with another or many other human beings, we often bypass the place of true engagement and connection.  One of the ways we sidestep true engagement is to avoid it. Relationship Engagement A stands for “Avoid”.  When avoiding, we withdraw, half connecting as if we are testing the waters or trying to get others to jump into the connection before we will commit.  As I’ve worked with people over the years I’ve noticed that, in both Avoidant and Controlling Engagement there are a few key valves of disconnection.  The photo below illustrates “Avoid.” Come back next week to view “Control.”

Where in your life do you find yourself engaging from “Avoid?”
Where do you notice those around you getting stuck in “Avoid?”

Avoidant Engagement

The four key physical disconnection valves in Relationship Engagement A are the legs, the heart, the eyes and our vital organs.

When in (A) Avoid, we might disconnect by habitually standing on one foot with the weight centered on the back of that foot. When we do this, we look as if we want to back out of the room. We might also cave our chest in while rolling our shoulders forward, protecting our heart. We might avoid eye contact. We can do this by looking down at the floor, side to side, or above the eyes of others. Finally, we might disconnect by gesturing protectively across the front of our bodies. Virtually any habitual gesture that places the arms or hands in between us and others could be an (A) Avoid habitual disconnection gesture.

As you can see from the variety of images, each of these physical disconnection valves can occur alone or in combination with each other. In fact, as in the central image, the disconnection or denial can be so extreme that all of these physical disconnections can be present at once. (This occurs quite often in teens, who may walk around while trying not to be seen.)

Remember: The underlying theme of all of the Soul Suckers is “not enough.” The Soul Sucking story in (A) Avoid is, “You are not enough, so don’t bother. Don’t bother showing up. Don’t speak up. Don’t put your voice out there. In fact, let’s not get anywhere near the moment where you could talk. Just withdraw … disengage.” In (A) Avoid, we withdraw, half connecting while expecting others to take the risk first. We want them to jump into the connection before we will commit ourselves, our hearts and our voices.