Posted November 20, 2023 | Written by Stephanie Underwood, RSW
Understanding The Avoidant Partner and the Twin Flame Myth
You may have seen the latest Netflix release, "Escaping Twin Flames," a three-part documentary series that pulls back the veil on Twin Flames Universe, a controversial online community that former members accuse of preying on people seeking love. The concept of Twin Flames has become increasingly popular on social media over the years. The concept of twin flames has captured the imagination of many, portraying an idea of a cosmic connection between two individuals destined to be together. However, when examined through the lens of attachment theory, the notion of twin flames begins to reveal itself as a dance between the avoidant and anxious attachment styles.
Understanding Attachment Styles
Attachment theory, developed by psychologist John Bowlby, explores how early relationships with caregivers shape our attachment styles and influence our adult relationships. There are four main attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
The Anxious and avoidant attachment styles are often seen as opposite ends of the spectrum. Anxiously attached individuals seek closeness and fear abandonment, while avoidantly attached individuals value independence and may feel uncomfortable with too much emotional intimacy. The dance between these styles is a delicate one, and it's this intricate interplay that often gets labeled as the connection between twin flames.
As I often emphasize in my posts, I want to make it clear that there are no inherently good or "bad" attachment styles. At the root of all three insecure attachments is the same wound: the fear of abandonment. Our attachment style serves as a coping mechanism that we use to shield ourselves from the potential of being abandoned by others. The anxiously attached tends to move towards another person, whereas the Avoidant tends to pull away.
The Illusion of the Twin Flame Connection
The concept of twin flames has its roots in various spiritual and philosophical traditions, and its origin is challenging to pinpoint to a specific time or place. The idea of a special, deep connection between two individuals that goes beyond the physical realm can be found in different cultural and spiritual beliefs.
One possible influence is the concept of soulmates, which has existed in various forms across different cultures and religious beliefs for centuries. The idea that there is a unique and profound connection between two individuals often transcending lifetimes can be traced through various spiritual and mystical traditions.
In more recent times, the term "twin flames" gained popularity in the New Age and metaphysical communities. This concept suggests that a person's soul is split into two halves, and these two halves, or twin flames, are destined to reunite and experience a deep spiritual connection. This idea gained traction in the late 20th century and continues to be a topic of interest in spiritual and esoteric discussions, and more recently on social media.
The idea of twin flames often comes with a sense of predestined cosmic connection, implying that the relationship is meant to be. However, this narrative can be a smokescreen for the underlying dynamics of attachment styles. Instead of a mystical bond, what might be playing out is a familiar and patterned dance rooted in early attachment experiences.
The Avoidant Pulling Away
In the twin flame narrative, one partner is often described as the "runner," pulling away emotionally or physically., also referred to as the "Divine Masculine". This behaviour closely mirrors the characteristics of an avoidantly attached individual. Avoidants, when faced with emotional intensity or perceived threats to their independence, tend to withdraw to protect themselves from vulnerability.
The Anxious Attachment: The Chaser
On the flip side, the other partner in the twin flame dynamic, often referred to as the "Divine Feminine" is often cast as the "chaser," desperately seeking reassurance and closeness. This mirrors the anxiously attached individual upon activation of the attachment system. when sensing distance or a threat to the relationship, intensifies their efforts to regain connection.
The Activation of the Attachment System when the Avoidant Pulls Away
The attachment system becomes highly activated in an anxiously attached individual, and other insecure attachment styles, when experiencing a breakup with an avoidant partner. The breakup represents a significant threat to the emotional connection and attachment bond that the anxiously attached person values deeply. The activation typically occurs in various stages:
Initial Shock and Denial:
Immediate Reaction: Initially, there might be a sense of shock and denial. The suddenness of the breakup can be disorienting, and the anxiously attached person may struggle to accept the reality of the situation.
Intensified Anxiety and Distress:
Emotional Turmoil: As the reality of the breakup sets in, the anxiously attached individual experiences intensified anxiety and emotional distress. Thoughts of abandonment, fear of being alone, and a deep sense of loss contribute to heightened emotional turmoil.
Anxiously attached individuals thrive on emotional closeness and connection. The avoidant partner's withdrawal creates an emotional void, leaving the anxiously attached person feeling unanchored and vulnerable. The loss of the emotional bridge that once connected them intensifies the distress.
Psychological Turmoil: Anxiously attached individuals have a heightened fear of abandonment, a fear deeply rooted in their attachment style. When the avoidant partner pulls away, this fear is triggered, and a cascade of anxious thoughts floods the mind. Questions like "Will they leave me?" or "Have I done something wrong?" become pervasive, fuelling emotional distress.
Seeking Reassurance and Closure:
Behavioural Responses: The activated attachment system prompts the person to seek reassurance and closure. They may reach out to the avoidant partner, hoping for explanations or reassurances, as they grapple with the sudden rupture in the attachment bond.
Loss of Control: Anxiously attached individuals often struggle with a perceived lack of control in relationships. The sudden withdrawal of the avoidant partner amplifies this discomfort, as it feels like the ground beneath them is shifting. The loss of control contributes significantly to the distress they experience
Cognitive Distortions and Self-Blame:
Negative Thought Patterns: The anxiously attached individual may engage in cognitive distortions, blaming themselves for the breakup. Thoughts such as "I must not have been enough" or "If only I had done things differently" contribute to their distress.
Intense Grief and Mourning:
Emotional Response: The breakup triggers a process of mourning and grief. The anxiously attached person mourns not only the end of the relationship but also the loss of the anticipated future and the dreams associated with the connection.
Repeated Attempts to Reconnect:
Behavioural Dynamics: In an attempt to quell their escalating anxiety, the anxiously attached individual may engage in a desperate pursuit of reassurance. This pursuit can manifest through excessive texting, calls, or seeking constant validation, which, unfortunately, may push the avoidant partner further away, creating a painful cycle.
Physical and Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms:
Physiological Aspect: The attachment system's activation can manifest physically, with symptoms resembling withdrawal. These may include changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, and a general feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion.
Impacts on Self-Worth:
Impact on Self-Esteem: The avoidant partner's withdrawal can lead the anxiously attached individual to question their own worth and lovability. The negative self-talk intensifies, with thoughts like "Am I not enough?" or "What did I do to drive them away?" becoming pervasive.
The Role of Attachment Wounds:
Resurfacing Trauma: Past attachment wounds can resurface during times of relational stress. Anxiously attached individuals may find that the avoidant partner's withdrawal reactivates old wounds, intensifying the emotional distress with a sense of déjà vu.
Long-Term Impact on Future Relationships:
Attachment Patterns: The intense activation of the attachment system during the breakup can influence future relationship dynamics. The anxiously attached person may carry a heightened sensitivity to perceived threats of abandonment, impacting their approach to new relationships.
Additional Factors that Contribute to the Distress
The distress that a person feels when they are broken up with is not exclusive to one attachment style—it affects all, including securely attached individuals.
The distress experienced when the avoidant partner withdraws includes elements of confusion, a sense of betrayal, a lack of closure, and a disruption in our attachment system. As inherently social beings wired for connection, the first instinct upon entering the world as an infant is to form an attachment with the primary caregiver, essential for survival. The distress intensifies when someone abruptly pulls away, severing this attachment and leaving us grappling with the abrupt disconnect. The abrupt disconnection goes against our innate desire for human connection making the experience all the more distressing.
Individuals with avoidant attachment styles can often present themselves as having a secure attachment and appearing emotionally available, creating a paradoxical dynamic in their relationships. The avoidantly attached individual may display a charming and sociable demeanor, fostering an initial impression of approachability. They may engage comfortably in social interactions, demonstrating a seemingly secure sense of self. However, this surface-level confidence can mask an internal struggle with emotional intimacy. Avoidantly attached individuals have learned to suppress their emotional needs and create a facade of independence as a defense mechanism. They may be skilled at diverting conversations away from personal matters or avoiding discussions that delve too deeply into emotions. This ability to present as securely attached can make it challenging for their partners to discern the underlying emotional distance, contributing to a sense of confusion and frustration within the relationship. This is also part of the distress that one feels when the avoidant pulls away because there's a sense of betrayal. He presented well, but then overnight he turns into someone that we barely recognize—cold and withdrawn—leaving the partner grappling with the stark contrast between the initial presentation and the sudden emotional distance.
It's important to note that the Avoidant does not consciously choose to present in a secure manner and then abruptly end the connection. This is why healing and therapy is so important in making the unconscious conscious.
Healing Differences Between the Anxious Attached and the Twin Flames
Let's discuss the differences between these two different concepts of the Twin Flame versus Attachment when it comes to coping with the fallout of the connection with the Avoidant.
Focus on Self-Growth:
Both perspectives often emphasize the importance of self-growth and personal development. Whether in the context of a twin flame journey or for anxiously attached individuals, the idea is to use the experience of the breakup as an opportunity for self-improvement.
Both approaches advocate for inner reflection. Individuals in these situations are encouraged to examine their own emotions, behaviours, and patterns, fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their relational dynamics.
The twin flame concept is deeply rooted in spiritual and metaphysical beliefs, often involving the idea of a unique and eternal connection between two souls. Anxiously attached coping mechanisms, on the other hand, are grounded in attachment theory and psychological principles, focusing on the impact of attachment styles on relationship dynamics.
Energy Work and Spiritual Practices:
In the twin flame context, individuals may be advised to engage in energy work, spiritual practices, and rituals to cleanse and balance their energy. Anxiously attached coping strategies, while acknowledging emotional and psychological aspects, may not heavily emphasize these spiritual components.
Attachment Theory Framework:
Anxiously attached coping mechanisms are often discussed within the framework of attachment theory, highlighting concepts like the anxiously attached and avoidant partner dynamic. This provides a psychological lens for understanding and addressing relationship challenges. The twin flame concept, on the other hand, relies on a different spiritual framework that involves soul connections and cosmic significance.
Pursuit of Reconnection:
In the context of twin flames, individuals may be encouraged to persist in seeking reconnection with their perceived twin flame, often interpreting the separation as a crucial element of a broader spiritual journey. From an Attachment perspective, anxiously attached individuals are not advised to pursue reconnection with avoidant partners. Instead, they are encouraged to focus on enhancing their self-worth, acknowledging their deservingness of having their needs met in a relationship. However, they are not urged to passively wait for their twin flame to return.
Beliefs About Destiny:
Twin flame beliefs often include a sense of destiny and predestined reunions, whereas anxiously attached coping mechanisms may focus more on accepting the realities of the present and fostering healthier relationship dynamics in the future.
Recognizing the avoidant-anxious dance in twin flame dynamics can be a crucial step toward understanding and healing. Both partners need to explore their attachment styles, communicate openly, and work on creating a secure emotional connection. This might involve individual therapy, couples counselling, or self-reflection to break free from the patterns that keep the avoidant and anxious dance alive.
While the concept of twin flames may carry a romantic allure, it's essential to peel back the layers and examine the underlying attachment dynamics at play. Understanding the avoidant-anxious dance allows individuals to navigate their relationships with greater awareness, fostering growth, and creating the possibility for a secure and fulfilling connection. After all, true cosmic connection may not lie in the stars but in the shared journey toward emotional intimacy and understanding.