Imagine it’s a typical day and your partner is getting ready for work. As they walk out the door they say, “Okay, see you later, bye”. Suddenly you tense up and you feel a pit in your stomach.
You start thinking, “They didn’t say I love you like they normally do. Are they mad at me? Did I do something to upset them? I should text them and ask what’s wrong. But I don’t want to seem too clingy, maybe I’ll just tell them about by day and see how they respond. Then I’ll know where to go from there.”
For the rest of the day you run through the motions but you are preoccupied. You’re thinking about the exchange you had that morning and you’re not going to rest until you get to the bottom of it when they get home.
This is a day in the life of someone who leans toward an anxious attachment style. Today I’ll be giving 3 tips on how to move from an anxious attachment style to a secure attachment. Let’s get into it.
Welcome everyone to The Love Brain podcast. I’m your host Camilla Rees. If you lean toward an anxious attachment style, you’re a lot like me. You see circumstantial things as a threat of abandonment and you feel emotional distance so easily.
Maybe when you were listening to the situation I just explained, you really related to that sense of urgency and anxiety that comes with separation or the threat of emotional distance from your partner. When you lean toward an anxious attachment style, you feel a need to fix things and have a super deep emotional closeness with your partner all the time. You crave validation, reassurance and emotional connection. When you feel any kind of distance from your partner you tend to become needy and clingy and urgent to reconnect with your partner.
You also feel like the stability of your relationship solely depends on you and your actions. In a secure attachment, partners believe that they can trust each other and that they’re both worthy of love. They’re also very willing to be open about their needs, emotions and contribution to the problems that the relationship faces.
You’re probably wondering, “How do I go from an anxious attachment style to a secure attachment with my partner?” It’s totally possible. It just takes time and practice as everything does.
3 Tips to Move From an Anxious Attachment to a Secure Attachment
The first thing we’re going to talk about it self-soothing. I’ve talked about self-soothing in one of my previous blog posts. It’s called “7 Steps to Deal with Anxiety in a Relationship“.
Self-soothing is probably one of the most helpful things we can do to relieve some of the anxiety that comes with separation or emotional distance. Self-soothing is a way we move ourselves from negative thoughts and feelings to a more positive zone where we can relax and deactivate our nervous system.
So, how do we self-soothe? Think of yourself as a child. Think of yourself as a baby. What did you need? You needed comfort, love and support. You needed someone to be there for you all the time. That doesn’t change when you grow up. You still need to be surrounded by people who love, support and comfort you, and will always be there for you.
But you need to be there for yourself too. You need to show up for yourself. Treat yourself as your child self deserved to be treated. Give yourself that love. Give yourself that permission to believe, “I am lovable. No matter what anyone else says or does, I am worth loving.”
Give yourself time to settle down. When you feel the anxiety rising up inside of you, give yourself time and tell yourself the things you need to hear.
Another part of self-soothing is staying in your rational mind. Remind yourself that not everything has to do with you. People’s actions, attitudes, and emotions can be separate from you. Try to remind yourself of these things when you are in the middle of one of those high anxiety days.
2. Be Open About Your Fears
The second thing you can do to help yourself move from an anxious attachment style to a secure attachment is to tell your partner about your fears and concerns. A lot of the time, those fears are pretty irrational. They’re valid because you feel them, but that doesn’t make them rational.
All of these anxieties that you’re keeping to yourself need to be shared. When you lean toward an anxious attachment style, you’re much more likely to keep your frustrations and anxieties to yourself. You tend to push aside your needs for the sake of keeping the peace in your relationship. You think that not talking about your needs and frustrations is somehow going to make your partner happier.
But the problem is, if you keep ignoring your needs and avoiding your problems, they won’t get solved and you will continue to feel anxiety. The hardest and scariest part of opening up to your partner about what’s going on for you is starting that conversation. That is where you have peak anxiety. But, once you do, you’re not in your head anymore and it’s out in the open so you can start to confront it.
So, start now. Practice being vulnerable, direct and clear, and avoid any passive aggression.
3. Self-Awareness (Become an Observer)
Self-awareness takes a lot of practice, but it’s so necessary to move to a place of trust and self-worth. Try to notice when you act on your anxieties in unhealthy ways like texting your partner over and over until they respond or projecting your fears onto your partner (i.e. accusing them of thinking you’re ugly, or not loving you anymore with no solid evidence).
In cases where you feel a threat of abandonment from your partner, like maybe they don’t say ‘I love you’ when they walk out the door like they normally do, become an observer.
Notice the thoughts you’re having and then question the validity of those thoughts. From an objective standpoint, how does what your partner did reflect any kind of threat of abandonment? If you were watching that same exchange between another couple, would you feel any reason to worry for their relationship? Probably not.
As somebody who does lean toward an anxious attachment style, I had to practice this a lot before I could get to a place where I felt calm every day.
The more you observe your thoughts and responses to triggers, the easier it becomes to replace those thoughts with more rational ones.
Speaking of triggers, most of them are going to be rooted in some kind of childhood trauma or negative experiences. Your partner is going to do things that remind you of things your parents did when you were a child. Maybe there was a time when they weren’t there for you when you needed them and the same thing happens in your relationship. Or maybe your parents hovered over you and did everything for you, which made you feel incapable and inferior. And your partner is the type of person who tries to fix problems for you. That can become a trigger when it reminds you of those negative childhood experiences that have never been resolved.
So, while you’re observing, really pay attention to those triggers and what the true source of your thoughts and emotions are.
Anxious Attachment Summary
We’ve talked about the anxious attachment style, and 3 things you can do to move from this style to a secure attachment. Those 3 things are:
- Communicating your feelings and needs with your partner
- Self-awareness or becoming and observer
These 3 things combined help you bring your anxieties to the surface so you can start to confront them. If you want to learn more about the roots of an anxious attachment style, listen to my previous episode, “Attachment Styles Explained”.
Thank you everybody for tuning into this week’s episode of The Love Brain podcast. The Love Brain’s next episode will be on the dismissive avoidant attachment style and how we can navigate from that attachment style to a secure attachment.
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