You may oscillate between being pushy and angry and being helpless and needy. You are defiant one day and people-pleasing on another, which creates identity confusion for both yourself and those around you.
Your feelings towards another person tend to swing between extremes, one day, they are the love of your life, and the next day you decide to withdraw your trust completely. On some days, complete dependence feels like the only option while on another day, you do not want to invest any hope.
You can become obsessed with people. You go through phases of becoming wildly addicted to someone. When you were younger, you fell in love with your teachers or classmates; mostly, these romances are one-way only; deep down you do not believe you can have a genuine relationship with those you idealize.
You long for affection, but when they are given, it is as though you cannot take in the soothing, because you are bus panicking about losing the love you have, and your energy is already focused on getting the next ‘fix’.
You hold grievances for longer than you would like to and ruminate over events in which you feel you have been wronged.
You make intense efforts to please others, but feel resentful later when your efforts are not reciprocated. Sometimes, you are deeply hurt by other people’s thoughtlessness.
You tend to seek advice or reassurance but remain unconvinced when help is given.
When there is a conflict, you may storm off, but on the assumption that you can return whenever you are ready. You might have underestimated the strain this puts on the relationship until your partner protests by leaving you.
You get distracted by relationship stress so much you have a hard time focusing on work and get held back in your career.
What Is ‘Object Constancy’?
Neuroscientists have found that our parents’ response to our attachment-seeking behaviors, especially during the first two years of our lives, encode our model of the world. If as infants, we have healthy attachment interactions with an attuned, available, and nurturing caregiver, we will be able to develop a sense of safety and trust.
If our parents were able to respond to our calls for feeding and comfort most of the time, we would internalize the message that the world is a friendly place; when we are in need, someone will come and help us. We would also learn to calm ourselves in times of distress, and this forms our resilience as adults.
If, in contrast, the message that we were given as an infant was that the world is unsafe and that people cannot be relied upon, it would affect our ability to withstand uncertainty, disappointments, and relationships’ ups and downs.
Most people are able to withstand some degree of relational ambiguity and not be entirely consumed by worrying about potential rejection. When we argue with our loved ones, we can later bounce back from the negative event; When they are not physically by our side, we have an underlying trust that we are on their mind. All these involve something called Object Constancy– the ability to maintain an emotional bond with others, even where there are distance and conflicts.
Object Constancy originates from the concept of Object Permanence— a cognitive skill we acquire at around two to three years old. It is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, touched, or sensed in some way. This is why babies love peekaboo- when you hide your face, they think it has ceased to exist.
According to psychologist Piaget, who founded the idea, achieving Object Constancy is a developmental milestone. To learn more, there are plenty of youtube videos of babies demonstrating this.