Dismissive Avoidant Selfish attachment, one of the three organized styles, tends to prioritize independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency over relationships.
Dismissively attached individuals have often learned early in life that relying on others or seeking comfort, care, and connection leads to rejection, unreliability, or sometimes even danger.
As children, their emotional needs were frequently ignored, rejected, or even punished by primary caregivers.
As a result, many dismissively attached people unconsciously suppress their attachment needs, compartmentalize emotions, and rely solely on themselves as the only stable source of care and support.
This manifests in adult relationships with high self-sufficiency, discomfort with emotional intimacy, and lack of trust in romantic partners’ goodwill and positive intentions, among other interpersonal challenges.
Critics of dismissive avoidance may label those with this attachment style as selfish, cold, withdrawn, or incapable of true intimacy and reciprocity.
However, modern psychology recognizes that the root of dismissive avoidance lies not in selfishness but in painful early wounds, likely outside the conscious awareness of those with this style.
Dismissively attached individuals learned to protect themselves by avoiding reliance on inconsistent caregivers.
Their emotional unavailability, seeming indifference toward partners, and fiercely independent streak develop as coping mechanisms in childhood, not evidence of inherent selfishness.
While some behaviors associated with dismissive avoidance may appear selfish or self-centered from the outside, they originate from subconscious walls built early in life rather than malignant intentions.
For example, though dismissively attached people may ignore a partner’s bid for attention, seem unaffected by conflict, or prioritize work over quality time, the intent is likely not to hurt the partner but to maintain their protective independence.
Examining the root causes of Dismissive Avoidant Selfish patterns can illuminate that they function as survival instincts rather than conscious choices to put themselves first.
This article will explore how the worldview and defensive emotional strategies associated with dismissive avoidant attachment can manifest in ways that resemble selfishness.
However, the underpinning drivers reflect childhood adaption rather than genuine self-interest.
By tracing dismissive avoidance to its developmental roots, partners, family members, and therapists can access greater empathy, insight, and tools to promote security and intimacy.
What is Dismissive Avoidant selfishness?
Dismissive Avoidant Selfish is one of four key attachment styles that develop in childhood and affect how people relate to others in close relationships as adults.
Dismissive-avoidant individuals tend to be emotionally unavailable, uncomfortable with intimacy, and prioritize independence over connections with relationship partners. This can come across as distant and selfish behavior.
5 Key characteristics of dismissive avoidance
People with a Dismissive Avoidant Selfish attachment style desire high independence and self-sufficiency. They tend to suppress their emotions and dismiss the importance of close relationships to protect themselves from potential rejection or feelings of vulnerability.
Critical characteristics of dismissive avoidance include:
- Keeping an emotional distance from partners
- Being uncomfortable sharing thoughts and feelings with others
- Difficulty depending on others or asking for support
- Suppressing natural emotional needs for intimacy and attachment
- Valuing achievement and self-reliance over relationships
Emotional unavailability and suppression
One of the core features of dismissive avoidance is emotional unavailability. Dismissive individuals consciously restrict vulnerable emotions and suppress any emotional needs for attachment and intimacy in relationships.
Reasons for this emotional suppression include:
- Fear of rejection if intimate needs are revealed
- Aversion to feeling dependent on others
- The belief that emotions should be controlled and not freely expressed
- Past experiences of caregivers not responding to vulnerable feelings
By keeping emotions concealed and suppressed, dismissively attached people maintain their self-reliance but jeopardize relationships with protective barriers. Partners often feel disconnected.
Discomfort with intimacy
Hand-in-hand with emotional suppression is a pronounced discomfort with emotional intimacy in close relationships. Dismissive individuals equate intimacy with loss of cherished independence and a fear of engulfment by others.
This shows up in avoidant behaviors when partners seek closeness, such as:
- Creating physical and emotional distance
- Refusing to share innermost feelings and thoughts
- Acting suspicious or critical of a partner’s intentions
- Sabotaging intimacy through distancing behaviors
- Prioritizing solitary activities over quality time
These behaviors allow dismissive people to keep intimacy at arm’s length. However, their extreme self-reliance often gets labeled as selfishness by relationship partners.
Tendency to withdraw from partners
The most frequent complaint about dismissively attached people is their tendency to withdraw from partners. This occurs physically and emotionally at the first signs of demands for intimacy.
Reasons dismissive individuals withdraw include:
- Feeling hemmed in or controlled
- Attempts to limit emotional exposure
- Safeguarding independence
- The belief that relationships hold them back
- Lacking skills for interdependency
This withdrawal often leaves partners feeling abandoned, unimportant, or that their needs don’t matter. The dismissive person focuses firmly on their need for autonomy.
Desire for self-reliance and independence
At the heart of dismissive avoidance lies an intense desire to meet one’s needs and not rely or depend heavily on others. This prioritization of self-reliance and independence helps dismissively attached persons maintain emotional control.
Dismissive avoidance emphasizes:
- Taking care of themselves
- Not needing others
- Downplaying relational needs
- Task orientation over emotions
- Going it alone as much as possible
This excessive independence is a defensive posture rooted in fear of depending on anyone but oneself. However, it carries over into selfish behaviors that damage essential relationships.
Common Selfish Behaviors
While dismissive avoidance exists on a spectrum, those with strongly dismissive tendencies often engage in selfish behaviors that damage relationship intimacy. Their extreme self-reliance leaves little room to meet a partner’s needs. Common selfish behaviors of dismissively attached persons include:
Difficulty meeting partner’s emotional needs
Dismissive individuals prioritize their emotional independence and struggle to be attuned to a partner’s intimate feelings and attachment requirements. Their extreme focus on self-sufficiency prevents investment in:
- Noticing a partner’s vulnerable emotions
- Understanding intimate emotional signals
- Responding to bids for emotional connection
- Reciprocating emotional availability and sensitivity
This inability to meet fundamental attachment needs often leaves partners feeling lonely, unimportant, neglected, or rejected.
Unwillingness to provide affirmation
Praise, acknowledgment, appreciation, validation, and encouragement go a long way toward nourishing intimate bonds. However, dismissive people typically avoid providing this type of affirmation.
- Aversion to emotional expression in relationships
- Focus on autonomy interferes with attentiveness
- The discomfort of relying on anyone but self
- Devaluation of attachment bonds
This lack of verbal affirmation signifies partners and their feelings do not matter. Partners can feel unseen and unappreciated.
Lack of empathy and emotional reciprocity
Empathizing with a partner’s experiences and reciprocating emotional availability are vital ingredients for healthy relating. However, dismissive individuals fall short here due to:
- Suppressed emotions that inhibit understanding another’s feelings
- The belief that feelings should not factor into decision-making
- Discomfort with emotional intimacy
- Lack of interpersonal skills for reciprocal relating
Rather than mutual empathy, partners often feel dismissed, invisible, or that their emotions don’t matter to the avoidant party.
Tendency to prioritize own needs over partner’s
The extreme self-focus of dismissive avoidance frequently leads to prioritizing their desires while ignoring a partner’s needs. Their independence takes precedence.
This shows up when avoidants:
- Make unilateral decisions without consulting partners
- Refuse to compromise or negotiate joint decisions
- Overrule a partner’s requests, needs, preferences
- Insist on getting their way in most matters
Partners feel marginalized, disregarded, and disrespected, and their priorities are selfishly overruled.
Lack of investment and follow-through in the relationship
Intimate relationships require ongoing emotional investment, hard work, compromise, and committed action. However, dismissiveness avoidance inclines individuals away from engagement, effort, sacrifice, or following through on promises made to partners.
Their independence takes center stage, and relationships get back-burnered. This abandoning of collaborative relating leaves trusting partners feeling:
- Let down
- That their needs don’t matter
- Forced into a one-sided relationship
- Devalued and disrespected
In the end, this lack of motivation sabotages the health of the partnership over time. These selfish behaviors centered around emotional withdrawal, lack of mutuality, and extreme self-interest reinforce why the Dismissive Avoidant Selfish style harms intimate bonds from a partner’s standpoint.
Partners often feel hurt and neglected by these relationally destructive actions over time.
Underlying Causes and Triggers
Selfish dismissiveness and attached behaviors don’t develop in a vacuum. Often identifiable causes and triggering situations bring out more extreme distancing actions. Common origins underlying dismissive selfishness include:
Childhood emotional neglect or trauma
Dismissive avoidance has roots in insufficient emotional nurturing during childhood. Trauma, loss, neglectful parenting, or insecure attachments to primary caregivers teach children that vulnerability leads to rejection.
So they adapt by prematurely striving for independence, suppressing emotions, and avoiding reliance on others. This survival mechanism persists into adulthood relationships.
When current situations vaguely resemble childhood relational pain, fearful avoidance gets triggered, and dismissive partners reflexively distance.
Learned unhealthy coping mechanisms
In the absence of having core emotional needs met early on, dismissing individuals adopt unhealthy coping strategies that become entrenched over time. These include:
Dismissive avoidants consciously restrict vulnerable emotions and suppress any emotional needs for attachment and intimacy in relationships.
Reasons for this defensive emotional constraint include fear of rejection if intimate needs are revealed, aversion to feeling dependent on others, the belief that emotions should be controlled and not freely expressed, and past experiences of caregivers not responding sensitively to expressed childhood feelings.
By keeping emotions concealed and unexpressed, dismissively attached, people maintain their self-reliance but jeopardize relationships by putting up protective barriers. Partners often feel disconnected.
Given unreliable or inconsistent emotional nurturing in childhood, dismissive individuals learn the only dependable source of stability is themselves.
They compulsively turn to their inner resources to get their attachment and emotional needs met rather than risk dependence on others.
This self-reliance manifests in keeping a certain distance from partners, never fully letting down their guard emotionally, and maintaining secret independence to avoid potential hurt or rejection.
Habitual distancing when feelings arise
Dismissive avoidants have deeply ingrained emotional distancing habits that get activated automatically whenever vulnerable feelings emerge within an intimate relationship.
They reflexively withdraw physically and emotionally at the first signs of mounting demands for closeness or expectations to discuss private feelings or inner experiences.
Reasons for distancing when emotions arise include feeling hemmed in, attempting to limit emotional exposure, safeguarding their independence, and believing relationships hold them back.
Difficulty articulating or understanding emotional states
Dismissive-attached individuals often have a lexicon deficit when naming, expressing, and explaining emotional states within themselves or others.
Reasons relate to insufficient mirroring and emotion coaching in childhood, where caregivers did not help label feelings, discuss their origins, or guide appropriate expression.
Dismissive did not develop the language for articulating their inner, vulnerable emotional landscape. This inability to put feelings into words keeps intimacy at bay. Partners feel disconnected.
Relying on denial and repression
With core emotional needs going unmet during childhood, dismissing individuals adapted by burying awareness of attachment requirements through denial and repression. Needed feelings got stuffed deep inside rather than expressed and reconciled.
This habitual denial and repression persist into adult relationships as automatic, unconscious defense mechanisms against revived painful feelings. Yet continually denying emotional needs for care, understanding, and intimate connection strains relationships.
Partners complain of emotional unavailability. When these faulty coping mechanisms kick in during intimacy, dismissive partners pull away or compromise closeness.
Fear of rejection, abandonment, or getting too close
Dismissive avoidance is underscored by an intense fear of rejection or abandonment if intimate needs are revealed, or dependence on others is shown. Allowing closeness also risks painful engulfment.
Triggers activating these fears include:
- Requests for emotional intimacy
- Pressures to commit more deeply
- Expectations for self-disclosure
- Sensing unwanted obligations or strings attached
- Spending extended couple time together
When fearful avoidance gets triggered, distancing behaviors provide emotional safety.
Feeling trapped or losing independence in relationships
Dismissive individuals value autonomy as their highest priority. Situations triggering perceptions of lost freedoms or feeling trapped lead to extreme distancing designed to reclaim independence.
Such autonomy-threatening triggers include:
- Pressured commitments like moving in or marriage
- Making significant relationship compromises
- A partner attempting to “change” them
- Emotional expectations outside their comfort zone
- Ongoing constraints on alone time
Reestablishing autonomy, control, and separateness then becomes paramount.
Difficulty trusting and relying on others
Given early attachment wounds and suppressed relational needs, dismissive individuals struggle deeply with trusting others and allowing interdependence in relationships. This magnifies distancing when experiencing:
- Moments of vulnerability or needing support
- Asking for someone else’s help
- Leaning on a partner during hard times
- Granting partners emotional responsibility
Seeking or receiving emotional assistance risks dependence – their greatest fear. Self-reliance reflexively kicks in to reduce vulnerability, even at a partner’s expense.
Impact On Mental Health And Well-Being
The habitual distancing and suppression of emotional needs by those with a dismissive, avoidant attachment style can negatively impact both parties in a relationship. Beyond relationship discord, dismissing avoidance also erodes mental health and well-being over time. Common effects include:
By continually minimizing the importance of emotions within relationships, dismissive individuals struggle to relate to, understand, validate, or respond appropriately to a partner’s feelings and experiences.
Their suppression of vulnerability and intimacy needs leaves little room for attuning to others’ states, reciprocal sharing, or “feeling felt” – the essence of empathy. Over time, this erodes meaningful social connections. Partners lament the empathic void.
Challenges in Building Bonds
Healthy social connections and intimacy require some ability to emotionally invest in others by exhibiting vulnerability, warmth, caretaking behaviors, and reciprocal give-and-take.
However, the protective barriers shielding those with high dismissal avoidance prevent deeper bonds from forming, leaving them relationally isolated. Partners come and go, but the superficiality persists due to the lack of vulnerable attachment components.
The most frequent complaint about dismissive avoidance relates to the degree of emotional distance purposely maintained. This keeps partners feeling perpetually disconnected and unable to break through to establish a felt sense of closeness, no matter the duration of the relationship.
Physical and psychological space from others may help avoidants feel safe but engenders chronic social isolation.
Isolation from Social Connections
The accumulated impact of struggle with empathy, emotional constraint, and avoiding deeper emotional attachments leaves many dismissively attached individuals leading solitary existences in the social realm – or at least devoid of intimate friendships.
While living with partners or families, they report feeling alone and separate behind thick protective walls that minimize interpersonal contact.
The Depths of Despondency
Continual denial of innate human needs for care, understanding, and meaningful social bonds over extended periods often eventuate in depression.
The emotional distance, lack of social support, buried feelings, and skepticism towards intimacy sap life fulfillment for both avoidant persons and rejected partners. Masked anguish fills empty inner space.
Navigating Anxious Matters
Managing a host of past emotional wounds while constantly monitoring situations for any potential repeat hurts or loss of autonomy generates ongoing background anxiety for many dismissive.
Unconscious fear of betrayal simmers below the surface, erupting when new relationships grow too emotionally demanding. The mental work of being self-reliant yet relationally safe is draining.
Substance Abuse Struggles
Both within social isolation and attempts to quell inner turmoil, missed social-emotional needs, loneliness, and depression, those employing habitual avoidance often abuse substances.
Alcohol, marijuana, and even harder recreational drugs provide a distraction from painful feelings of disconnection. Partners may enable these destructive coping attempts by ignoring signs of emotional avoidance in the relationship.
Self-Protection, Not Selfishness
On the surface, the distancing behaviors of dismissive avoidance seem selfish, cold-hearted, and relationship-destroying. However, a deeper examination reveals that self-protection drives these actions more than innate selfishness.
Barrier to guard wounded inner self
At its core, dismissive avoidance developed in childhood as a defensive facade erected to guard against further harm to an emotionally wounded sense of self underneath.
This defensive autonomy and suppression of vulnerability serve to shield fragile self-esteem, intense fears of rejection, and core shame rooted in childhood emotional abandonment or trauma. It is a protective barrier that carries over into adulthood relationships.
A belief that one can only rely on themselves
Given unreliable or painful early attachments, dismissiveness fosters an engrained belief that the only dependable source of emotional stability is oneself.
Reliance on others risks disappointment at best and utter collapse at worst if they become unexpectedly unavailable.
Independence and self-sufficiency become the only safe approach to life, even if that means withdrawing from caring partners.
Relationships feel threatening and not nurturing
Healthy relationships represent emotional intimacy. But for dismissive people, intimacy connotes loss of self-direction, engulfment by others, and a slippery slope towards dependent agony if abandoned.
Partners become sources of too many unpredictable, scary emotions rather than calming support. Distancing then feels like the only solution, however painful for partners.
Instinct is to withdraw rather than engage
The depth of early emotional wounds shapes nervous systems biased towards self-protection, not engagement when relationships trigger past hurts. Threat reactivity floods brains, overriding incentives for intimacy.
Withdrawal for self-preservation occurs instinctually and reflexively – not through conscious, selfish intentions. The partner gets left behind in service of old survival fears.
Coping strategy, not inherent selfishness
At its foundation, dismissive avoidance developed as an adaptation to childhood adversity that left deep attachment injuries and fears. Self-protection by withdrawing from emotional closeness became a necessary coping strategy.
This dismissal of intimacy in adulthood is rooted in early survival programming, not inherent selfishness. Recognition of these developmental wounds can inspire compassion for the protective withdrawal tendencies.
While damaging to relationships, withdrawn dismissal derives more from unconscious childhood coping strategies than deliberate selfishness or callousness.
Identifying the roots allows growth towards relating that honors autonomy and healthy dependence needs in adult partners.
The path involves healing emotional wounds so that relationships can become places of nurturing rather than peril. Then, self-protection is no longer required, and compassionate interdependence can emerge.
Overcoming Dismissive Avoidant Selfish Patterns
While dismissive avoidance feels self-protective to those individuals employing it, the distancing behaviors wreak havoc in relationships. Partners suffer feelings of neglect, rejection, and abandonment when up against the emotional walls.
However, the ingrained habits and fears perpetuating dismissiveness can evolve with motivation and consistent effort – especially utilizing professional support. Key areas to address include:
Self-awareness and identifying triggers
The first step lies in building conscious awareness of one’s engrained dismissive patterns – naming actual distancing behaviors and examining the fears or perceived threats activating them.
Creating a detailed list of triggering situations provides critical insights into the roots of withdrawal so situations can be anticipated and coping responses planned.
Learning to feel safe depending on others
Childhood emotional wounds convince dismissive individuals that depending on others is dangerous. Healing involves creating corrective emotional experiences where vulnerability can be expressed safely.
This builds confidence in realizing needs can be met through interdependence without losing autonomy or selfhood.
Working through childhood wounds
Painful emotional memories from early caregiver relationships generate subconscious effects that penetrate dismissiveness. Processing these core wounds within the safety of therapy disarms their influence so that the past stops dictating the emotional present.
Building capacity for intimacy and communication
Skills deficits around emotional intimacy, expressing feelings, empathetic listening, and mutual self-disclosure maintain defensive distance. Building these intimacy capacities with partners creates growth experiences, strengthening bonds against withdrawal urges.
Therapy, journaling, books, and online resources
Ongoing professional counseling provides essential support and accountability for unpacking wounds and acquiring new relationship skills. Books, online dismissal avoidance resources, and journaling also boost success.
While the work requires substantial vulnerability, effort, and persistence, dismissal patterns can soften considerably into emotional availability and mutual interdependence in rewarding relationships where both partners meet their core needs.
The keys involve acknowledging the childhood roots fueling dismissiveness, disarming those latent triggers, and intentionally replacing old habits with vulnerability and communication skills practice across varied situations.
Standard methods to overcome entrenched emotional avoidance include:
Seek professional therapy
Working regularly with a dismissal Avoidance therapist provides the primary vehicle for understanding and transforming ingrained beliefs and reflexive distancing patterns.
The therapeutic relationship acts as a “test lab” to build vulnerability muscles before enacting learnings with outside partners. Counseling assists in:
- Processing childhood emotional wounds
- Calling out protective distancing as it unfolds
- Tracing urges to withdraw back to root fears
- Planning coping responses for triggering situations
- Practicing expression of emotional needs
Join a dismissal avoidance support group
Connecting with others who share similar struggles helps build awareness of behavioral patterns and cement commitment to change. Shared insights, accountability, and encouragement keep motivation high in the face of relapse risks.
Read self-help books
Bibliotherapy offers both education and inspiration in overcoming the challenges of attachment-related avoidance issues, reading profiles of dismissive emotional patterns while providing exercises and healthy relating tools useful in daily life.
Some top recommended reads include:
Attached Avoidant: How to Love or Leave a Dismissive Partner Wired for Love Hold Me Tight
Write in a journal
Journaling strikes at the heart of dismissal by encouraging emotional processing and vulnerability expression on paper. Over time, chronicling relationship fears, distancing incidents, and intuitive insights provide self-awareness. Journals help integrate learning between therapy and life situations.
Listen to podcasts and online talks
Podcasts offer excellent supplemental support through interviews with dismissive relational experts and personal first-hand accounts by avoidance-focused therapists or former dismissives. Hearing these vulnerable stories fosters insights.
Practice corrective emotional experiences
Actively engaging in intimate situations that are used to trigger distancing provides growth opportunities to employ new communication skills.
Emotional risk-taking with responsive partners builds trust in depending on others. These experiments in closeness rewrite old relational assumptions.
While overcoming dismissiveness presents significant challenges, concerted effort over time can gradually replace protective distance patterns with secure emotional bonds. The reward is greater mutually fulfilling intimate relationships.
Key Takeaways on Dismissive Avoidant Selfish
As detailed earlier, those with a dismissive, avoidant attachment style frequently display behaviors that seem selfish, insensitive, and damaging to intimate partners. Common behaviors include:
- Emotional distancing and shutdowns
- Lack of vulnerability and self-disclosure
- Difficulty providing praise and verbal affection
- Resisting dependency or relying on others
- Prioritizing independence over couple closeness
- Withdrawing into self-reliance when feeling trapped
These distancing reactions understandably frustrate partners, sparking accusations of selfishness.
Explain psychological Fundamental
However, these harmful behaviors reflect instinctive childhood survival programming more than any inherent selfishness. They emerge from emotional coping mechanisms like:
- Suppressing vulnerable feelings
- Compulsive self-reliance to avoid rejection, abandonment
- Dismissing others before they can dismiss you
- Preventing enmeshment by severely restricting intimacy
- Using withdrawal to regain self-control
These patterns developed as necessary defenses following insecure childhood attachments. Lingering subconscious wounds get triggered, sparking self-protective reactions.
Reiterate why more self-protection than selfishness
At their foundation, common dismissive withdrawal patterns serve one essential purpose – reducing emotional danger threats tied to past attachment injuries and fears. Withdrawing ensures no further harm can come from depending on unreliable others.
This puts self-protection central as the motivator. Partners get shut out not from any conscious selfishness but due to subconscious survival programming protecting the injured inner self.
Useful tips for managing dismissive avoidance
For partners weighed down by dismissive distancing in their relationship, empathy and emotional self-care are essential survival skills Additionally:
- Keep communication clear, consistent, and thoughtful
- Set healthy intimacy boundaries
- Don’t pursue or attempt controlling behaviors
- Participate in your support outlets
- Encourage therapy if your partner is willing
Creating a stable relational environment can slowly build trust and new bonding experiences – the root of change.
Encourage empathy and support, not judgment
Rather than harshly judging the distancing behaviors of dismissal avoidance, psychology invites compassion for early emotional wounds driving these patterns.
Providing patient emotional support while reinforcing personal boundaries can encourage positive change. Partners can help rewrite old harmful attachment scripts through new healthy relating experiences – the pathway that heals avoidance.
Dismissive avoidants prioritize their independence and can have difficulty attuning to a partner’s emotional needs. Their distancing behaviors are self-protective coping strategies that allow them to maintain emotional control, but this often leaves partners feeling neglected.
No. With self-awareness, learning new relational skills, and resolving their fearful avoidance tendencies in therapy, dismissive avoidants can become more intimately engaged and emotionally available. It requires motivation and work.
Perceived threats of losing autonomy, feeling controlled or engulfed, expectations for premature commitment, excessive demands for self-disclosure, and situations reminiscent of painful childhood relationships can all trigger dismissive distancing reactions.
Seek support through friends, family, or support groups. Communicate your needs clearly and set boundaries around unacceptable behavior, but avoid attempts to control. Validate their underlying emotional wounds while requiring accountability for the impact of their actions.