Healing practices for anxious attachment
Updated: Jan 2, 2022
“Our preoccupation with other people - whether we aid or hinder them, love or hate them - is at bottom a means of getting away from ourselves."― Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind: And Other Aphorisms
The anxious attachment style is the result of long-standing instability of early bonds.
Unlike the disorganized attachment style, the anxious attachment style is not necessarily rooted in trauma, but it certainly manifests as the kind of relational trauma that persists over the years and well into adulthood.
Let me first talk about the main characteristics of the anxious attachment style.
- Intense preoccupation with the primary attachment/relationship as the only source of emotional sustenance
- Persistent fear of abandonment and the anticipatory anxiety about the loss of the primary attachment/relationship
-Hyper-sensitivity to relational threats, necessitating constant reassurance that the connection is indeed intact (do you love me? am I important to you? are we okay?)
-Difficulty or inability focusing on self: needs, wishes and preferences. Focusing or paying attention to self causes anxiety and distress and is construed as the abandonment of the primary relationship/attachment
Now let's talk for a moment about the high price and the heavy burdens of the anxious attachment style:
1. For somebody who is anxiously attached, connections rarely feel stable. More specifically, the primary attachment/relationship rarely does. Because love and care were scarce growing up, there's usually a lot of competition as to who is going to get the little that is available. When it comes to love, there is never a sense that "there is plenty to go around" or that "there's more where that came from."
2. Because of the underlying belief that love as a resource is scarce and tenuous, the anxiously attached person tends to accept less than full meals when it comes to emotional nourishment. They hold on to relationships that are less than satisfying in order to avoid the loss of the only source of nourishment they believe they have.
3. For someone who is anxiously attached, self-neglect and the abandonment of oneself is a survival strategy. It's not easy for the anxiously attached person to practice self-love. In fact, it's often scary and painful. Self-love floods the anxiously attached person with immense amounts of fear and discomfort because paying attention to oneself in the environments that fostered this type of attachment style was highly discouraged, if not dangerous.
4. Because of the immense preoccupation with the primary relationship/attachment, the anxiously attached person struggles in having a genuine connection with their own instincts, needs and wants. Instead, the trained reflex is to be other-oriented. For example it is not uncommon for the anxiously attached person to wonder what the other is doing, thinking or wanting. This emotional engulfment only exacerbates the anxiety and the sense of the loss of self. When this state becomes critical in relationships, it is not uncommon for the person to act out, to sabotage or to flee the primary relationship in an unconscious attempt to prevent the permanent loss of self.
Next I'd like to offer some simple reminders, mantras and affirmations for anyone who is trying to heal from this kind of relational insecurity. I have found that having the specific easy to say mantras readily available is often helpful in disrupting the limiting beliefs associated with this kind of attachment style.
-If I don’t feel safe enough in my relationships, I am forever alone.
-Holding onto relationships that are unsafe -just to not be alone-perpetuates my aloneness.
When the fear of scarcity arises:
-This relationship is not the only source of emotional nourishment that is available to me.
-I am enough.
-I have to be willing to let go of pseudo-nourishment in order to allow myself to have what truly nourishes me.
When focusing on self feels scary: --I'm willing to take steps to recover my connection to myself. In finding my way back to myself, I recover inner peace and full aliveness.