Total Eclipse of the Heart by Lisa Arango, Ph.D.
In the last decade, due in part to advances in neuroscience and neuroimaging, our understanding of the human brain has grown dramatically, especially in the area of human attachment and emotional bonding. Secure attachment in either is based on loving attunement between two people that creates a felt sense of safety in knowing that your loved one is near, tuned in to your needs, and available. Attunement is a kind of emotional presence that we long for in close relationships that assures us that we are valued, loved and cherished by our loved one, and that they are open, emotionally present, and available whenever we turn to them.
This deep desire to be known and loved is not just a longing or a need reserved for the dreamers or romantics, this is a biological need that is hard-wired into our human brain and necessary for survival. The absence of that security in our relationship, even for a moment, can spark fear and panic in a lover or a child. Just as when the moon overshadows the sun taking away its warm familiar presence leaving a sense of darkness and stillness on earth, in this same way, when the one we love and depend on for emotional security is unavailable, even for a moment, we can experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety and even panic, that we may not understand or know how to respond to. In this context we lose our emotional balance and try different strategies to regain it and reconnect to find emotional security.
Reconnection as well as connection especially in adult romantic relationships, requires us to be vulnerable as we reach to our partner when we are feeling shut out or unloved. When we are unable to reach to our loved one for fear of rejection or abandonment we may shut out our partner and turn to methods of self-soothing or focus our attention outside the relationship towards work, self or even an affair that can be destructive. We might even become overly critical and demanding driving our partner away while deep down inside we are longing to connect. Either strategy leaves both people alone in the relationship unable to reach and respond to each other’s needs. Prolonged disconnection in a relationship creates conflict that leads to distance and an emotional turning away that can be hard to recover from.
The pathway to connection and security in relationships requires emotional presence that comes when two people are vulnerable and present with one another. This requires that we keep our hearts open and tuned in to our loved one so that when the eclipse comes, because eventually it will, you will be able to regain that familiar warmth and connection you both long for.
Dr. Lisa Arango has a private practice in South Miami treating teens, adults, parents, and couples dealing with anxiety, parenting, and relationship issues. She is also on the faculty in the psychology department at Florida International University.