Deficiency of Oxytocin - Can This be Healed?
May 20, 2023 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I probably am 2nd gen of Oxytocin deficient decedents. We've pretty much have all been tossed into this world deficient and devoid of love and attachment. Needless to say, my entire family is estranged and dying alone. I've been the proverbial black sheep, calling stuff for what it was, internalizing, causing trouble for everyone, but never knowing the root cause. Neurologically and technically, I do know. But now what? How do you cure a oxytocin deficiency when you've been entrained to isolate and shun people from inception?

This is the hardest quest ever so am asking the hive-mind - how do you begin to even approach connecting when you've never been attached to another human being? I have had animals my entire life to keep some kind of semblence of hormone efficiency going but since losing my best friend, my beloved in March this year, that will no longer be repeated. The pain is too great. Now, I believe is time to *graduate* to humans. I have no idea how to, I am shy beyond belief, I am avoidant to the nth degree, I dismiss, I shut people out and way prefer my own little sphere, yet, I feel on a deeper level that I have to do this to heal - everything.

I am not lack courage, I do lack - immensely - social skills. I also do lack the sincerity of it all. I would go through the motions my entire life, mostly people pleasing, because that's also how I was conditioned. The scenario went this way - stored away as an infant, had zero interactions with people, was given stuffed animals and had a dog and a cat who provided comfort. Then was taken out of isolation to perform and smile for photo ops. Other than that - ignored. The result has been similar - farcicle, fake and requiring huge effort. I could just say f it all and let me continue living in my own world, but for selfish reasons of simply wanting to experience love and maintaining one single relationship with another human being that is real, honest, loving and also altruistic is forcing me at a later age - out of my shell and into the terrifying unknown.

What do I need to know on this trek? What do I need? Where can I find info? Who are the teachers (not religious)? What is the book/manual on how to do this? Has anyone tried this before? Thank you.
posted by watercarrier to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is a well known psychological issue that is caused by severe neglect by the parents or caregivers in early childhood. There are therapists that specialize in treating this. The benefit of working with a therapist is not just that they can be your guide or teacher but they can also be a person that you can safely try out your first steps to letting someone in.

This is not a genetic aberration, it is natural response of a child who lacks the chance to experience other people as loving and responsive resource. Unfortunately those early experience shape the child's perspective of the world in a lasting way that makes it hard (but not impossible) to change.

Please be careful if you want to search for this term on the internet - much of what is out there is very pathologizing and might make you feel unnecessarily worse.

Finally, I want to recognize your courage. it is very scary to put yourself out there to try to do something that is so new, unfamiliar and emotionally risky. I hope you find your path to creating the kind of caring human relationship that you have missed out on so far.
posted by metahawk at 10:22 PM on May 20, 2023 [30 favorites]

I started a long reply to this and then deleted it as it became more personally revealing than I was comfortable with. Suffice to say I am like you in many ways, although I learned effective and adaptable social skills as a means of survival. I think metahawk's comment is very good, although I think of myself as "attachment injured" rather than disordered. Like you, I have leaned heavily on attachment to animals, especially cats, as safer than humans.

I'm in my late 50s now and I think I've done some healing and some figuring things out. A brief period of therapy has helped some, although I don't know whether or how my therapy experience fits into any particular approach. I was lucky enough to find an older, experienced, kind and flexible therapist near to me. I told him two things that he listened to very carefully, the first being that I felt that if it were possible for me to push a button and make all other humans in the world instantly and painlessly disappear, I thought I would choose to do so, because ultimately I would be safer fending for myself with no other humans, and the second being that I thought what I needed most from a therapist was for them to act as an example of decent human community and to give me calibrating information about what decent human community is like. I spent about six months seeing him weekly before we hit the limit of what I could make use of, and it did help. I am not dramatically changed but I no longer feel that way about the hypothetical button.

I think that for people like us, it is important to respect the truth of our experiences. We will never find attachment now to make up for the deep experience of safety, trust, and permanence that we did not get from our parents, because we are no longer children and all living things are temporary and we will lose them to death if nothing else. So I think it is helpful to work to come to terms with that philosophically, in whatever framework resonates for you, whether spiritual or secular.

At the same time, connection with other humans does have many good things to offer, and it is also possible to experiment with what kinds of connection work for you and how much probability of transience you can tolerate. I find it much easier to trust that connection will last when it is embedded in my home place, and it is very hard for me to invest in maintaining connection with people who move away. So I look for attachment within my local community, especially my closest neighbours, and especially the ones who have lived here their whole lives and are unlikely to leave. I feel like that is a good path for me. To generalise from that, I would say that human connections have context, and when looking to find and invest in connections it is helpful to think about what context will most support the kind of connection you would like to have.

I hope some of this is helpful to you. And I am so sorry for your loss of your best friend. I lost my first best cat friend 15 years ago and I still keep his ashes at my bedside. I have another equally beloved and wonderful cat friend now, and perhaps you will have another best friend sometime in the future after you have had time to fully grieve.
posted by Rhedyn at 4:38 AM on May 21, 2023 [13 favorites]

One quick follow up rec: there is a long, amazing Good Omens fanfic titled Demonology and the Tri-Phasic Model of Trauma: An Integrative Approach which is really an extended, wise and thoughtful meditation on and exploration of trauma therapy for an adult survivor of parental abandonment and rejection. I found it at least as useful as any book about trauma recovery that I've ever read.
posted by Rhedyn at 8:45 AM on May 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

I’m so sorry for what you were put through as a kid. Like the other commenters above, I commend you for finding love and connection with your animal family, and for thinking about and working toward other connections you might want to build with people.

My own experience was much different, but I feel deep empathy for what you’ve shared of your story. I also grew up fundamentally disconnected from parents and family - I learned from age seven or so that my parents were more invested in their own anger and pain than in caring for their kids, and that I was on my own for learning how to handle my emotions. Thank goodness for cats, novels, and movies.

For me, one of the most powerful ways to connect with myself and with other people has been through dancing - studio classes like ballet, modern, tap, flamenco, various West African styles, and also social dancing, mostly lindy hop and blues, as well as a little contra dance, tango, and house.

Studio classes give me the chance to experiment with the flow of emotions through my body and my movement (theater is also like this, allowing me to play and experience great joys and sorrows, but it’s a hell of a lot more vulnerable and direct than dancing). Social dancing has helped me learn to be comfortable touching and being touched, making (and not-making!) eye contact, feeling powerfully good feelings with other people and being ok with letting them go, getting comfortable with rejection (both saying no and embracing other people’s no). Dance activates ALL of the neuroanatomy of emotion - adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, you name it, it will be coursing through your veins.

All of this happens in rooms with lots of other people that I’m not required to talk to or share my deep personal history with - while some people do springboard friendships or relationships off of dance communities, I love them for their ability to bring me into community with others in ways that are *only* about taking care of each other and expressing ourselves to music. It’s still vulnerable, but allows connection with other people not based on any ideas or identity signifiers that we can express with language, which for me makes for a really profound exercise in empathy, attention, and connection.

Feel free to send me a message if this sounds intriguing but you wouldn’t know where to start - I’d be glad to help poke around studios in your area and see if any look more kindred in their approach than others.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 12:24 PM on May 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

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