Commitment Issues: What They Look Like

Commitment is one of the crucial characteristics that separate children from adults. We start learning about commitment and responsibility at an early age. Some parents ask their children to clean their rooms, take care of their pets or do various household chores to instill the concepts of responsibility, accountability, and commitment. 

Why are these concepts so important that we begin teaching them to our children?  For example, learning to pick up toys teaches about making an effort, investing time into something, and getting something valuable in return, whether it’s a sense of achievement and self-worth, approval of others, or being accountable to helping contribute to the family system. 

Commitment means making a promise to dedicate yourself to something or someone. So what’s the meaning of commitment issues, and where do they come from? What if we’re scared of not being able to keep that promise? We might think we’re not capable enough or that we’ll lose interest and stop caring. Or maybe we’ll care too much and open ourselves to disappointment and pain. What do all these examples have in common? 

Fear. We’re scared to commit because if we do, we invest ourselves into something, give ourselves to someone, and open ourselves to the possibility of being hurt. We’re also making a choice without knowing if it’s the right one. When we say “yes” to certain things, we’re also saying “no” to many others.

What Do Commitment Issues Look Like?

Let’s forget typical stereotypes of eternal bachelors that value freedom and fun above anything else and can’t imagine a worse punishment than living the life of a family man. Instead, we’ll discover that fear of commitment takes many different forms and has various underlying causes. Of course, there’s some truth to the stereotypes, as usual, and commitment issues do come up more frequently in romantic relationships, or at least that’s the context that makes them more noticeable.

They commonly manifest as an inability to take the next step in a relationship, plan ahead, and set common goals with a partner, like moving in together, getting married, buying real estate, or having children. One person’s noticeable hesitation can feel quite alarming to the other partner, and rightfully so. They might feel like their partner doesn’t love them and doesn’t want to tie themselves to that relationship in any permanent way.

Whether it’s your partner having commitment issues or you, recognizing them is not easy and figuring out what some of these behaviors mean is even more challenging. Here are some pointers that might help you determine if you’re the one struggling with hesitance:

  1. You avoid thinking about the future of your relationship with your partner.
  2. You purposely choose partners who prefer keeping things casual (self-sabotaging).
  3. You don’t make plans, not even short-term ones.
  4. If your partner begins showing signs of being ready for more serious steps in your relationship, you feel uneasy or trapped.
  5. You feel emotionally detached from your partner.
  6. You’re avoiding conversations about the future and avoiding addressing fundamental issues.
  7. Being honest about your thoughts or feelings doesn’t come naturally to you.
  8. When you do make plans, they don’t involve your partner.
  9. You’re not too bothered about returning calls or answering text messages, sometimes even for days.
  10. You question the relationship, unsure if you’re ready for it, and whether you really want it to work.
commitment issues meaning

Why Do I Have Commitment Issues?

Like most emotional issues, commitment problems can have various underlying causes. If you want to understand your behavior and begin overcoming this commitment fear, it’s important to  recognize and understand these “issues.”  The root cause of commitment issues is fear: of being hurt, choosing the wrong person, missing better opportunities, etc. However, in some cases, the fear is much deeper and stems from childhood trauma, unwholesome family life, bad breakups, and traumatic or abusive previous relationships.

These negative experiences can affect one’s self-worth, ultimately preventing them from trusting their choices. They can also make people vulnerable and scared of being hurt, abandoned, ending up with the wrong person, and feeling severe anxiety about romantic relationships. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether someone has severe mental health and emotional issues or simply doesn’t want to commit to a specific relationship.

When it comes to recognizing these traits in yourself, you might be having commitment issues for any of the following reasons:

  1. Being afraid of change.
  2. Not wanting to miss other opportunities.
  3. Thinking you might be in a relationship that’s wrong for you.
  4. Assuming you’ll lose your freedom and get stuck.
  5. Not wanting to repeat the past.
  6. Fear of losing your identity.
  7. Being afraid that things won’t work out.
  8. Having attachment issues.
  9. Having low self-esteem.
  10. Being indecisive.

How Do You Cure Commitment Issues?

Since commitment issues are generally caused by fear, the way to overcome them is to understand the origin of that fear and identify events or circumstances that caused it. The depth and complexity of emotional issues that underpin commitment anxiety can significantly vary in severity from person to person. This is why more severe cases require expert guidance. Identifying and addressing these fears usually leads to uncovering a wide range of suppressed emotions.

You might need to allow yourself to feel those emotions fully, even the very unpleasant ones, so you can normalize them, rationally explore them, and change your thought and behavior patterns. This can lead to healthier coping mechanisms, modified behavior, and deeper connections with your partner and people in general. Remember that being afraid of commitment doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner. This fear is often about you, not them. People can deeply care about their partners and still be afraid of commitment.

Take it one step at a time:

  • Admit and confront your fears.
  • Ask yourself, do you really want a partner at this stage in your life?  Is it a good time for you to be in a committed relationship? 
  • Overcome the misconception that committing to someone means losing your independence.
  • Empower your partner by revealing your weaknesses and vulnerabilities and communicating openly.
  • Practice making plans for the future; start with short-term ones and slowly work your way up to more important ones if you feel your partner’s the one you want to be with in a serious, committed relationship.
  • Consider individual or couples coaching so an expert can evaluate your issues and attachment styles and guide you toward the solution.
commitment issues

Overcome Your Commitment issues And Form Healthy Relationships With Help From PIVOT

Getting to the bottom of your fear of commitment can require a deep dive into your childhood and family dynamics to try and recognize thought and behavior patterns or circumstances that made you respond to fear by avoiding attachment and commitment altogether. This challenging work might take some time. 

However, proper guidance from experienced experts can help show you the way. In addition, you can schedule individual sessions with PIVOT’s relationship coaches, who will make the process run smoothly, and help you incorporate your new insight into your life and relationships as you go.

Sharing this self-discovery journey with other people with similar issues might make you feel less alone and provide a more optimistic outlook on your circumstances. Glass House retreats are a perfect little escape from the pressures of everyday life that can offer you a safe space to explore your feelings and understand your behavior patterns. The guidance of our knowledgeable coaches will help you make the most of it and return to your life with a new perspective and determination to change the things that have been holding you back.

Emotional Detachment: Causes & Signs

We are creatures of emotion. Feelings are a driving force behind most every action we take. They are the light that guides us through life. They are the very basis of our interactions with the world and, especially, the people that surround us.

Our feelings toward others and ourselves help define our actions.

What happens when emotions become overwhelming? When the disbalance between positive and negative ones shifts toward the latter? That’s when we start putting fail-safes in place and start developing strategies to protect ourselves from the proverbial flood. One of those strategies is emotional detachment.

Emotional detachment represents a state where a person becomes disconnected from their feelings, either as a response to difficult situations or as means to cope with stress, anxiety, pain, or fear. When that happens, an individual may exhibit a general unwillingness or inability to adequately, or at all, respond to situations that typically trigger strong emotional reactions.

This state of mind can be severely detrimental to virtually every aspect of a person’s quality of life, which is why understanding the meaning behind emotional detachment, as well as its causes and signs is essential for a person’s overall well-being.

What Causes Emotional Detachment?

Emotional detachment is a complex issue, mainly because its causes can be completely situational or they can stem from a long line of past events and experiences. Some of the most common causes of this condition include:

  • Trauma: Those that experienced trauma may disconnect themselves from their emotions as a way to avoid the pain associated with the trauma;
  • Childhood experiences: Individuals who grew up in emotionally deprived environments, neglected, or abused often struggle to create meaningful connections in their adulthood;
  • Mental health disorders: Individuals suffering from mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may have trouble regulating their emotions, resorting to detachment as a way of coping;
  • Personality disorders: Some personality disorders (e.g. borderline personality disorder (BPD), avoidant personality disorder (APD), etc.) can cause emotional detachment as one of the symptoms;
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse is often a way to numb or avoid difficult emotions, which is why those that suffer from substance use disorder often become detached from their loved ones.

It’s important to note that emotional detachment can be a willing, intentional, and also a temporary choice. Such is the case in situations where we know we’ll get agitated, angry, or we may need to buy some time to process our feelings. It’s essential to stay cool and focused. In these cases, emotional detachment can be quite an effective “preventative measure” against our feelings getting the better of us. 

emotionally detached meaning

What Are The Signs Of Emotional Detachment?

Emotional detachment can manifest itself in many different ways, some of which are subtle and barely noticeable, while others can be visible at a glance. Some of the most common symptoms a person can experience are:

  • Numbness: Inability to feel anything at all, or having a rather limited array of emotions;
  • Avoidance: Avoiding social situations or people who could trigger an emotional response;
  • Apathy: General disinterest or lack of motivation to partake in activities they once enjoyed;
  • Disconnection: Feeling that they are a passive observer, rather than an active participant in their own life;
  • Difficulty expressing emotions: Struggling to convey or, even, identify their emotions.

If you notice some of the above signs, whether in yourself or someone close to you, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. While emotional detachment is not an official medical condition, it may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue, such as depression, which can be perilous if left unattended.

How Do You Fix Emotional Detachment Issues?

Both the situational nature of emotional detachment and its potential to “mask” a more severe underlying condition make it rather challenging to overcome. As such, seeking professional help is highly recommended, as it is the best way to address the issue, as well as factors that may have led to its formation.

Practices That Can Help With Emotional Detachment

Aside from professional help, there are some methods that can help you keep emotional detachment in check:

  • Practice mindfulness: Some mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, can help you become more in-tune with your emotions and physical sensations;
  • Connect with others: Hanging out with family and friends brings about a sense of belonging and reliability, both of which can be immensely powerful tools for overcoming emotional detachment;
  • Practice self-awareness: Understanding your emotions, as well as how and what triggers them can help you become more connected to them;
  • Focus on self-care: Regular exercise, quality sleep, and a balanced diet are all proven ways to improve your mental and physical health.
emotionally detached

Reconnect With Your Feelings And Overcome Emotional Detachment In A Healthy And Constructive Way

Emotional detachment can be a challenging issue to overcome. However, with the right support and guidance, it is possible to rekindle that spark and nurture it back into a cozy flame that warms the heart and soothes the soul.

At PIVOT, we provide a safe, nourishing, and non-judgmental Glass House retreat where you can explore your feelings and rebuild your connection with your emotions in a healthy and wholesome way. Our conscientious and compassionate coaching team will be with you every step of the way, to help you uncover the root of your emotional detachment, and provide the support and guidance you need to overcome it. We are here to help you find your way to a better, happier life.

Stonewalling: How to Deal With It

Have you ever been in a situation where you were trying to communicate with someone and they completely shut down? Where, no matter how hard you try, which angle you take, and how you choose to approach the discussion you receive zero response? If the answer is “yes”, you’ve likely experienced stonewalling.

This communication behavior can be downright excruciating. After all, when every attempt to improve your relationship is falling on deaf ears, when you’re constantly walking on eggshells, being afraid to bring up important issues or express your concerns so you don’t trigger the shut-down response, it is easy to feel frustrated, powerless, and isolated.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining. With the right methods and strategies, stonewalling in a relationship can be addressed, improved, and, in some cases, rooted out entirely. By taking a proactive approach and learning how to respond to stonewalling in a healthy and productive way, you can start to rebuild trust and establish more effective and meaningful communication that will lead to a stronger, healthier relationship.

What’s The Definition Of Stonewalling?

By definition, stonewalling is a communication behavior in which one person (“stonewaller”) refuses to engage or respond to the other person’s attempts to communicate, usually during a conflict or a difficult conversation.

Stonewalling can manifest itself in a variety of ways. The most common ones include:

  • Avoiding any discussion about one’s feelings (mainly due to general discomfort);
  • Refusing to offer nonverbal communication cues (e.g. avoiding eye contact, maintaining neutral facial expression, etc.);
  • Giving short or noncommittal responses;
  • Diminishing the other person’s concerns of straight out dismissing them;
  • Refusing to engage and/or respond to communication;
  • Walking away from discussion without any warning or explanation;
  • Outright refusing to discuss the issue at hand.

It’s important to note that stonewalling occurs on a spectrum, with varying degrees of intensity. In some cases, a person may occasionally or briefly refuse to respond while, in others, they may withdraw completely for months on end. And, If someone is unsafe and a person chooses to not have a relationship with them, this is not stonewalling.  Every person has a right to protect themselves. 

In regards to stonewalling, this type of behavior can be a significant barrier to building a strong and healthy relationship, as it prevents effective communication and conflict resolution, which is why it is essential to understand how to recognize and address it.

stonewalling definition

Is Stonewalling Manipulative In A Relationship?

There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Stonewalling is a complex issue and whether or not it is ill-intended (i.e. manipulative) depends entirely on the causes that led to the person adopting this type of behavior. 

Stonewalling As A Defensive Strategy

In the majority of cases, stonewalling develops as a defense mechanism to either:

In the above cases, stonewalling cannot be considered ill-intentioned, simply because it is not intentional. Rather, it is a learned behavior, a maladaptive coping mechanism born out of fear, anxiety, and/or frustration. This is a indication to do attachment work. 

However, even if a person adopts this behavior out of “necessity”, it is still an unhealthy way to cope with emotional distress. In the most extreme cases, stonewalling can even be dangerous to a person’s mental health, since bottling up emotions leads to a higher risk of developing chronic illnesses and mental health disorders.

In this instance, it is highly advisable for a person to seek professional help and guidance. Today there are many effective strategies that can help a person get more in tune with their emotions and, as such, help them develop healthy coping mechanisms.  PIVOT can help identify what those habitual actions are and help shift into healthier actions based on one’s individual wants and needs. 

Stonewalling As Emotional Abuse/Manipulation Tactics

Whereas stonewalling as a defense mechanism is unintentional and, therefore, innocent, if this tactic is willingly and intentionally employed as a means to an end, it becomes the complete opposite. Stonewalling can be considered manipulative and even abusive when a person uses it to:

  • Control the conversation and, by extension, the relationship;
  • Belittle, disrespect, and demean their partner;
  • Avoid responsibilities;
  • Deflect blame;
  • Punish their partner for (perceived) wrongdoings.

In these instances, stonewalling is born out of a selfish and, often, immature desire to assert dominance over the other person, all while avoiding conflict and meaningful resolution to the issue at hand. As such, this type of behavior is both manipulative and highly toxic, too.

What Type Of Person Uses Stonewalling?

There is no one specific type of person who uses stonewalling. People of any age, gender, background, convictions, or personality can resort to this behavior as a way to cope with stress, fear, anxiety, or a whole range of other emotions.

That said, there are certain behavioral and thought patterns that can make a person more prone to using stonewalling in difficult or conflicting situations. Said factors often have a basis in past experiences that influenced the forming of their attachment style and emotional regulation skills.

How Do You Respond To Stonewalling?

Dealing with stonewalling can be incredibly difficult and frustrating and, in some cases, even infuriating. Fortunately, from these, we can extrapolate how you need to approach the problem: with patience, tactfulness, and a clear mind.

Here are some of the best ways to deal with stonewalling:

  1. Keep your cool. Don’t allow yourself to get angry or agitated and don’t get defensive. Acting on impulse can only escalate the situation and cause the other person to retreat deeper into their shell;
  2. Empathize. Try to see things from their point of view so as to understand what is causing them to shut down;
  3. Define. Set clear boundaries and expectations for communication;
  4. Reschedule the conversation. Taking a break will give both of you a chance to re-center, relax, and clear your thoughts;
  5. Express your feelings. Use “I” statements to make it clear they are your feelings and not sound accusatory;
  6. Encouragement. Give the other person a chance to express their feelings and explain their perspective without judging;
  7. Control your responses. Take responsibility for your actions, reactions, and emotions in the situation to let the person know you’re not out to get them. Rather, you’re trying to solve the issue;
  8. Practice active listening. Asking open-ended questions, making a conscious effort to understand their point of view, and reflecting on their responses is an amazing way to get them to share more.
  9. Take the time to understand their motives and reasoning. Avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions;
  10. Remain patient, yet persistent. Keep working toward a resolution keeping in mind that overcoming stonewalling behavior takes time and effort.
stonewalling in a relationship

Tear Down The Stone Wall With Pivot’s Help

Ultimately, dealing with stonewalling can be exhausting and, at some point, it may be too much for one person to handle. If that happens, it’s crucial not to quit or give in to despair. Rather, it is much better to suggest seeking professional help, as it can make the whole process faster, more fruitful, and much more effective.

If you or someone you know is struggling with stonewalling in a relationship, know that there’s no need to suffer in silence. At PIVOT, we offer personalized coaching and in our Glass House retreat, you can find a variety of workshops that can help you and the person you care about break the pattern of stonewalling and rebuild it into a healthier, happier relationship.

Reaction Formation: How To Detect It

Human beings possess the vast ability to form emotions and thoughts that “complex” doesn’t even begin to describe, let alone explain. Still, along with our incredible ability to think and feel, another trait that defines us as “human” is our inclination or, rather, existential need, to be accepted. To receive approval, affection, and recognition from those that surround us.

To belong.

However, that also means that, at times, we conform our thought, belief, and behavioral patterns to socially established norms deemed acceptable by people around us. Needless to say, that is easier said than done, since each person possesses a unique set of worldviews, resulting from their past experiences.

While some manage to fit in in a constructive and healthy way, others may struggle. This may lead them to develop coping and defense mechanisms that, while allowing them to fit in, tear them apart from the inside as it is in direct confrontation with what they believe in. One of those mechanisms is reaction formation.

By definition in psychology, reaction formation is a defense mechanism that causes individuals to behave in a way that is opposite to their true feelings or beliefs. This can lead to confusing and sometimes harmful interactions with others, especially when the behavior is not in line with the person’s true thoughts and feelings.

What Type Of Defense Mechanism Is Reaction Formation?

To understand reaction formation, first, we have to understand the concept of “defense mechanism”. The term was coined back in the late 1890s by Sigmund Freud and further crystalized by his daughter, Anna Freud during the late 1930s, to describe patterns we develop to protect or “defend” ourselves from distressing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

They separated these defense mechanisms into 3 distinct categories which are widely accepted in modern psychology:

  • Primitive Defense Mechanisms;
  • (Intermediate) Less Primitive, More Mature Defense Mechanisms;
  • Mature Defense Mechanisms.

Primitive Defense Mechanisms (PDMs)

PDMs are mostly used by children or emotionally immature individuals. This form of defense is unconscious and automatic, as it stems from the behaviors people learn very early in their lives. PDMs are incredibly effective short-term. However, in the long term, they become increasingly detrimental to a person’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being. 

Some examples of primitive defense mechanisms include:

  • Denial;
  • Regression;
  • Acting out.

Less Primitive, More Mature (Intermediate) Defense Mechanisms

Intermediate defense mechanisms are typically used by individuals who possess a better sense of self-awareness and are more emotionally mature. These strategies involve a certain degree of conscious effort and self-awareness and are, therefore, a much healthier way to cope with stress and anxiety.

Some examples of Less Primitive, More Mature defense mechanisms include:

  • Humor;
  • Rationalization;
  • Suppression.

Since it involves a conscious effort and self-awareness in dealing with disconcerting emotions, Reaction formation falls under this category. Still, it is important to note that, while Intermediate defense mechanisms are much healthier than their Primitive counterparts, they are still not an ideal way to deal with difficult thoughts and emotions.

Mature Defense Mechanisms (MDMs)

MDMs are the healthiest and most effective ways to deal with stressful and difficult emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They are also the most constructive and helpful to the vast majority of adults, as they help address the underlying cause of the problem. As such, they provide a long-term, healthy coping solution rather than a temporary fix.

MDMs are also the most difficult defense mechanism to adopt since they require a conscious effort and a lot of self-reflection to take root. However, once they do take root, they promote personal growth and development, as well as help individuals become more resilient in the face of adversity.

Examples of Mature Defense Mechanisms include:

  • Acceptance;
  • Forgiveness;
  • Empathy.
reaction formation defense mechanism

Is Reaction Formation A Good Defense Mechanism?

When it comes to defense mechanisms, the situation is rarely fully black or white. Reaction formation is no exception. Granted, this strategy can prove (somewhat) effective and (somewhat) beneficial in some situations, if applied properly and at the right time, which is hardly ever the case.

However, its limitations, particularly the potential to provoke adversity in others and oneself, make it an ill-suitable tool for prolonged or continuous use. While more advanced than primitive ones, reaction formation is still a far cry from mature coping strategies such as empathy or forgiveness.

Therefore, it is much better to work toward developing or adopting mature defense mechanisms over time. Especially so because advanced coping strategies can be learned, improved, and mastered over time, given enough practice and dedication, as well as professional help. At PIVOT, this would require what we call your Healthy Adult taking action from a higher level of consciousness. 

How Do You Identify Reaction Formation?

Identifying reaction formation can be challenging, both in others and oneself. This is due to the conflicting and opposing nature of this mechanism, as well as (falsely) passionate projection of strong beliefs and standpoints that all but bury true beliefs in the subconscious.

Still, there are some indicators that can point toward the usage of this coping strategy:

  • Opposite behavior: Exhibiting behavior that is contradictory to what they think or feel. 
  • Exaggerated behavior: Acting out of proportion in regard to the current situation. 
  • Repetitive behavior: Forming habits that distract a person from their true thoughts or feelings.
  • Discomfort: Becoming defensive, fazed, or upset about specific conversational topics or situations.
  • Inconsistency: Changing one’s behavior in a sudden way whenever an uncomfortable situation arises.

Examples Of Reaction Formation

To better explain reaction formation we’ll provide an example that resembles a widespread real-life scenario. Let’s say that an individual falls in love with their best friend’s spouse. Based on existing societal norms, community guidelines, and an innate moral compass, said individual realizes that their feelings are wrong and possibly even distasteful.

However, since the individual struggles with these “unwanted” feelings (namely guilt and shame), they resort to reaction formation, in one of several ways: 

  • Opposite behavior: An individual starts showing signs of indifference or even hostility towards the person they’re in love with.
  • Exaggerated behavior: They start showering the person they’re attracted to with compliments and seeking their attention and approval.
  • Repetitive behavior: They believe the other person doesn’t like them physically, so they start to obsessively exercise or spend excessive amounts of time grooming.
  • Discomfort: They become defensive, fazed, or upset whenever the topic of the other person is brought up.
  • Inconsistency: They start acting like a completely different, unrecognizable person when the object of their attraction is around.
reaction formation psychology

What’s The Difference Between Reaction Formation, Projection, And Sublimation?

Projection and Sublimation share some similarities with reaction formation. However, they are entirely different coping mechanisms, which can easily be seen from their respective definitions:

  • Projection is a primitive defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously attributes (or “projects”) their own unwanted feelings, thoughts, or impulses onto someone else;
  • Sublimation is a mature coping strategy, in which a person channels their unwanted impulses into socially acceptable activities or behaviors.

As it stands, both projection and sublimation have a degree of self-deception or redirection of unwanted thoughts or emotions. However, what makes them different from reaction formation is the lack of behavior that is in direct opposition to what they truly think, feel, or believe.

Start A Chain Reaction That Will Help You Overcome Reaction Formation

Dealing with the effects of reaction formation can be challenging and emotionally exhausting. Whether you’ve been struggling with patterns of exaggerated or repetitive behavior, or you’re feeling so conflicted that no one, including yourself, cannot understand your actions anymore, it is time to seek support and guidance.

At PIVOT, you can find personalized and compassionate coaching that you need to break free from chains of reaction formation. Our Glass House retreat offers a safe, supportive environment where you can work through your feelings, identify harmful behaviors, and develop new, healthy coping strategies that will allow you to move on to a better life with clarity and confidence.