Attachment styles are not something that we typically think about or consider when entering into dating or relationships and yet they can have a significant impact on the quality of our relationships and often subconsciously direct our lives and control our interactions with our love interests and partners. There are four distinct attachment styles, including secure attachment- where it is easy for us to feel that our needs are met and we do not suffer extremes of anxiety or avoidance for example, but we are going to specifically address the anxious attachment style in this article.
A large percentage of the woman who come to me for coaching with their love lives often feel that something is not quite right, perhaps that relationships appear to be more difficult for them to maintain than they are for others, and that they never quite feel relaxed or secure. Often it comes to light that they are suffering with deep relationship anxiety due to an anxious attachment style.
I truly sympathise with this; if you are familiar with my blog you will know that in my teen/young adult years, I had a lot of issues and hang ups about relationships due to an abusive past lacking in stability and structure, as a result I too developed an anxious attachment style, this was a driving force in becoming a counsellor back in the day and in time, a relationship coach and consultant- as I had a deep desire to help women who had suffered just as I once did. I am going to share with you how I was able to overcome my attachment style and become secure in love and relationships.
But first of all lets look at the manifestations of anxious attachment...
The symptoms of of an anxious attachment style
(You may find that some or all of these are present)-
•Feeling anxious and worried in relationships to the point that it takes over, you may find that between relationships you live quite normally and even when you first meet someone you are quite confident and calm, it is once attachment to a person develops that things become challenging.
•Obsessive thoughts and fixation on where you stand in the relationship, how much your partner loves you or how committed they are. There might be a feeling that you always love more or it may be impossible to believe deeply that you are loved.
•You may find that you simultaneously crave a close relationship but push them away out of fear of being rejected. On/off relationships, break-up and make-up patterns are common.
•Deep fear of break-ups or of being alone, people who jump from one relationship to another with no breathing space between often have an anxious attachment style.
•Discomfort at spending time alone within a relationship, for example when a partner is away on a trip or busy working, you find that being alone with your thoughts is too much and you have to distract yourself until you can be reunited with your significant other.
•Consciously or subconsciously "testing" our partner or love interest to check how much they care or if they fear losing us, which slowly erodes trust between you.
• An urge to constantly “take the temperature of the connection” observing to the point of obsession how your partner or love interest is responding to you at all times, even the slightest perceived disinterest can cause severe anxiety, even to the point of extremes such as closely monitoring our partners activities and movements, watching their online activity or monitoring how long text responses take/how long phone calls last.
-This is a way of managing ones fears, attempting to stay alert to avoid being hurt or to predict when we might be rejected so we can prepare, however such negative fixation can become a self fulfilling prophesy as no one can be 100% consistent at all times, we all have bad days/become preoccupied or get busy, or even just wake up in a bad mood, those who anxiously attach tend to take this personally and cannot perceive that lowered attentiveness may not even be about them.
•Paradoxically those suffering with anxious attachment often do have very refined intuitive senses about their partner or love interest because they have tuned into their partner to an exaggerated level.
• Anxious attachment can manifest as extreme jealousy and insecurity about partner, overwhelming fear that they could cheat, or that they were looking at another woman/interested in another person even if its unfounded, this leads to arguments and often the outcome we fear most.
•Often unsuitable or unworthy partners are chosen, you subconsciously select avoidant partners or you end up in abusive situations because the thought of being alone is so terrifying.
•Clinginess or neediness, a constant need for reassurance and validation, as well as a need to know you are valued/ perceiving even ordinary human fluctuations as confirmation that you are not valued, on the other extreme you may push down or neglect your feelings and refrain from speaking up about your needs in relationships.
•Feeling unworthy, inferior, wondering why your partner even loves you, feeling sure they will soon "wise up" and choose someone "better".
Some people will obsess and worry themselves to exhaustion about a partner or love interests feelings for them, but then feel repelled when the other person does express genuine affection or announce their devotion and even question if they want to be in a relationship with them.
•Being unable to think about anything except our partner/relationship to the detriment of other areas of our life.
•Most people suffering with an anxious attachment style will find that they vanish into their relationships, abandoning goals, hobbies and interests and giving less priority to other relationships, so that gradually love life becomes their only source of joy, which further exacerbates fear of losing their partner as they have become our only source of fulfilment, this also lowers confidence as we achieve less in other areas of life.
•Some people even subconsciously sabotage their relationship as a type of conformation bias, proof of our worst fears that we are inferior, unworthy or un-loveable. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing belief systems.
How an anxious attachment style develops
Generally, our attachment style is set in childhood and is rooted in how our needs were met in early life.
•The result of an emotionally withholding/distant parent, an inconsistent parent- or parents who only showed affection on their own terms, i.e. when it suits them or for their own comfort rather than the child's.
•Early parental separation.
•I have also observed this to sometimes be a trait of women who were raised by a loving but highly anxious parent, i.e. a parent that excessively anticipated danger in ordinary situations which the child picked up on and adopted as their own coping mechanism.
•As a reaction to traumatic early experiences.
•Further impacted by difficult early dating and social experiences.
Anxious attachment style is not a mental disorder and with time and inner work we can absolutely overcome and grow to develop a secure attachment style.
An anxious attachment style is painful, sometimes even debilitating in relationships...
The same mechanisms we put in place to protect ourselves can end up being precisely what prevents us from enjoying fulfilling happy relationships.
How we can begin to change our attachment style and heal our love life
Become conscious in your patterns. Take the time to delve deep and reflect on the patterns you can identify within your love life and relationships, explore your childhood and parental relationships with a view to observe where you have felt emotional deficits, some clues of this may be childhood memories that reoccur often and cause you sadness or insecurity.
Identify if you tend to become attracted to unavailable or emotionally distant partners.
This can be a big clue and can be a subconscious attempt to resolve our own issues and fear of abandonment. We are attracted to situations where we are more likely to be taken for granted, this is so the subconscious has an opportunity to resolve the issue. Sadly for many of us we repeatedly fall into the same anxiety traps rather than being successful in a resolution which leads to a further lack of confidence in our abilities to maintain healthy and functional relationships.
Identifying that we have an anxious attachment style is the first step to working through it
Take time to learn to love yourself. Spending time alone to face your fears and to re-learn how to enjoy your own company and trust in your own capabilities is so useful. Make a concerted effort not to disappear into your romantic relationships by keeping other hobbies, friendships and activities as a high priority even when you are dating or in a committed relationship, thus not allowing your relationship to become your only source of joy and keeping a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Communicate with your partner. In an established relationship gently make your partner aware that you suffer with an anxious attachment style, talk things through together and explain the ways that your attachment style affects you day to day however do not make your partner responsible for your anxiety or for managing the stress it causes you, as this will put an incredible strain on your relationship.
Understand that constant fixation keeps us in our masculine energy. Being in our masculine energy means that we have become stuck in "problem solving mode" which causes us chronic stress due to increased cortisol levels, although a more masculine problem solving mindset is useful in many areas of life, in our love life it become exhausting, it also bring us further away from our joyful feminine state where our oxytocin levels are functioning well so that we feel relaxed and secure, in our masculine energy we are more likely to "lean forward" often in attempts to direct the relationship, over time our partner may struggle to feel polarised by our energy which can cause a gradual loss of emotional attraction.
Seek support. Dealing with an anxious attachment style alone can be difficult and therapy or coaching can assist us in becoming more self aware and secure, although it may take time the rewards are high, sometimes we don't realise how heavy the burden of anxiety is that we have been carrying, releasing it can be life changing. You deserve to enjoy loving and positive relationships and to feel confident in yourself, if you would like to work with me you can get in touch here to apply for an introductory session.
Avoid anxiety turning into entitlement. Do not use your attachment style as an excuse to become demanding or to place impossible expectations onto your significant other. In the worst cases when anxious attachment is not worked on, it can manifest as overweening controlling behaviour, unfair demands and hysterical or unreasonable levels of manipulation, which can become toxic or abusive to others, this is fear out-of-control and it must be dealt with urgently.
Learn about the male/female intimacy cycles. Personally I feel that the differences between male and female intimacy cycles can fan the flames of an anxious attachment style, without understanding we may find ourselves confused by the things that men do or even take it personally. For example men may deeply enjoy being inseparable and romantic with you for days on end but eventually he is going to need to step back to rebuild his testosterone levels, he may do this by spending time with the guys, or by disappearing into sports or video games for a while for example, and he may temporarily feel less connected to the woman in his life, once he has been able to balance his testosterone levels he will bounce back to being loving again, this is not conscious but because we don't experience this as women, it can sometimes be perceived falsely, as a rejection.
With a secure attachment style you are able to love deeply without unhealthy attachment-complete pure love.
How I personally overcame my anxious attachment style
As someone who relates completely to the terrible difficulties you many be experiencing as a person with an anxious attachment style I want to share with you some of the steps I took to gradually develop a secure style permanently. Much of the advice you may find on this subject is written by people who have never actual experienced the perils of anxious attachment, let alone conquered it for themselves.
Of course I followed the steps above, including having counselling and committing to the process of inner work to observe my fears, triggers and traumas, this absolutely is a process and it doesn't happen overnight but it is so worth it as it truly was the end of difficult/toxic relationship patterns in my life.
~I worked on self confidence and my own accomplishments, especially whenever I was tempted to fixate on a partner, developing more of a sense of achievement and satisfaction in my life and pouring more energy into my own plans and goals was not only a welcome distraction at times, but it also assisted in growing my self confidence to such a level that I was no longer seeking any sort of validation externally.
~I actually took two years out from dating and learnt to truly enjoy being single, I consciously built a life that was so full and interesting that I came to feel that I didn't even need a relationship to be happy, although it wasn't easy at first, I made a point to face my ultimate fear of being alone, and as a result when I finally did meet someone it was a truly enriching relationship that I got into for the right reasons, rather than as a reaction to my anxieties. Years later I am happily married to a man who also has a secure attachment style.
~Meditation and subliminals have also been a major tool for me. There is no area of life that cannot be improved and enhanced with subliminal meditation and hypnosis. This is such a life hack and glow up if used correctly.
~ With the help of meditation I surrendered to the realisation and acceptance that everything ends eventually, even if we find the most loving and transcending relationship, nothing is permanent we will eventually be separated by death, however separation is merely an illusion, we are all, we are connected to all, we can never really lose anything or anyone.
“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”
― Neil DeGrasse Tyson
~I realised that I feared uncertainty and yet everything in life is transient, I began embracing that uncertainty is a part of the rich diversity of life, appreciating experiences for what they are in the moment.
~ I worked to shift my mindset towards feeling gratitude and abundance instead of allowing my dominant vibration to be rooted in fear or a lack mentality.
~ I spent time strengthening the root chakra (Muladhara) and the crown chakra (Sahasrara) It is important that we work on activating and balancing all of our chakras, however I would also work on meditations specifically for anxious attachment. Energy work is huge when it comes to healing. The root chakra rules our sense of safety and connectedness to the 3D world helping us to feel rooted in it, as well as security and abundance. The crown chakra is responsible for our ability to connect to source and to detach from things and to understand deeply that separation is an illusion.
~ I developed mindfulness in all areas of my life so that I could be aware of my own processes and stop living on autopilot, when we live on autopilot our conditioning, fears and subconscious triggers end up running the show rather than us making the best decisions possible for ourselves from a place of true self awareness.
From my heart to yours, I hope you have found this helpful. If you would like to be supported in your process to overcoming an anxious attachment style, please get in touch here to apply for coaching with me, sessions are compassionate, confidential and affordable ♡