5 Steps Towards Healing Anxious Attachment
It’s been almost 24 hours and you haven’t heard anything. You start to feel anxiety in your stomach and start to rationalize why they might be distracted: maybe they had a busy day, maybe they just didn’t have anything to say, maybe their parents are in town and they forgot to tell you. You then start to think about the last time you talked. Did you say anything wrong?
If this sounds familiar, you may have anxious attachment. However, attachment styles are not absolute. While we tend to gravitate towards one style, you may find that you have a cocktail of attachment styles depending on the person you are in relationship with: friend, someone you’re dating, authority figure, or acquaintance.
Anxious attachment is one of four attachment styles. It is also classified as an insecure attachment style. This means that within the relationship, someone with an anxious attachment style has a fear that the relationship is threatened or insecure in some way. They are triggered by moments of absence by their partners because it is registered as a potential sign of abandonment if they are not reassured within an expected timeframe to calm their nerves. People with anxious attachment tend to be on the lookout for signs of abandonment, and also for signs of reassurance that their partner is still invested in the relationship.
Those who have anxious attachment tend to be in relationships with partners who have avoidant attachment styles (another insecure attachment style) almost subconsciously. As it portrays in the title, those with avoidant attachment keep at an emotional distance in relationships. Those with anxious attachment move towards others for reassurance, and henceforth this creates the synchronous dance. Much to their detriment, those with anxious attachment seek out the person who reinforces their insecurity in relationships.
There is hope. Since attachment styles are a not absolute, one can heal their attachment wounds and grow to be more securely attached. Here’s some advice for my anxiously attached friends.
1. Ask yourself: when did it start?
Sometimes reviewing how this whole anxious attachment started can be helpful. Who was the first person who abandoned you? Who was the first person who made you feel like they were just out of your reach? Typically attachment wounds stem from a parent, however, it could have been a past relationship or friend breakup that you need healing from. Although events happen a long time ago, they can still have an effect on our current relationships. It’s important to put a name to the person who hurt you, and recognize that it’s not the same name as the person you are in a relationship with right now.
2. Don’t keep tabs
If you have anxious attachment, you know what I’m talking about all too well even before reading what I have to say about it. The way that you have learned to survive relationships and to spot any threat to it is by monitoring how invested your partner is in the relationship. Since there’s really no metric of tracking this, you have come up with your own metrics: if they are initiating texts/hangouts, how long it takes for them to text back, how much time they are spending with you in comparison to their friends, etc. This is taking up way too much of your time and head space. While the anxiety is real and needs to be dealt with, there are other ways to manage it: Distract yourself, use your best self-care tricks that you know how.
3. Know about your need for reassurance
Asking for your needs in relationships is SO HEALTHY! If you are someone with anxious attachment, let your friends or partner know that you need reassurance. If they love you, they will care for you in this way. This will also help you so that you don’t feel like you need to get reassurance in indirect ways, like I mentioned in #2.
4. Pair up with someone with a Secure Attachment style
The healthier the people are that you are paired up with, the more healthy and secure you will become. While having someone who is attuned to your needs and gives you reassurance may feel uncomfortable at first, it will get more comfortable over time. As you start to realize your partner is not leaving, you will become more relaxed and secure.
5. Seek out an Attachment-Based therapist
Good news: There are therapists who specialize in Attachment theory! The most healing part of therapy is the relationship that you have with your therapist. A therapist can be another secure healing relationship that helps you grow into a more secure attachment. As you meet with them weekly, you can talk through some of your insecurities not only in your relationships outside the office, but also any insecurities that come up within the therapeutic relationship. Don’t be afraid to bring those insecurities up- what you learn about yourself can be transformative.