Attachment Theory is relatively simple, yet it provides such profound insights into human behavior in relationships. I’m delighted to see people openly discussing their attachment style as these ideas filter into the mainstream. My biggest concern, however, is the shame, judgment, and negative connotations associated with insecure attachment styles.
Perhaps you’ve heard that anxious attachment style means you’re a needy, unboundaried, codependent, people-pleasing, self-abandoning, overly emotional clinger in relationships. Certainly not a flattering diagnosis.
Maybe you read that having an avoidant attachment style automatically makes you a cold, distant, abusive, controlling, emotionally unavailable, narcissistic gaslighter. Well fuck, that sounds awful.
And because disorganized attachment style is a blend of the other two insecure types, does that make these folks loose cannons of unbridled relational dysfunction, both desperate for and terrified of love at the same time? Yikes!
Shots Fired by Attachment Theory?
Look, whether any of that shit is true or not, insecure attachment is not a terminal illness, nor is it anything to be ashamed of.
If you’ve got an insecure attachment style, it simply means that it was somehow impressed up on you as a child that relationships aren’t safe. You experienced some kind of physical or emotional neglect, abuse, or abandonment. It could’ve been flagrant-ass Jerry Springer shit or subtle parental misattunements. As is often the case, you may not even have the foggiest recollection of anything “bad” happening to you as a kid.
But despite everything, insecure attachment patterns are all the ways you adapted to protect yourself and get your needs met when your primary attachment figures didn’t. In other words, your anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment style was a solution, not a problem!
So please, don’t shame, judge, or hate yourself for the completely natural and commonplace ways that you instinctively survived.
Getting Out of Survival Mode
Developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld wrote, “Human beings are either in defensive mode or in growth mode, but they cannot be in both at the same time.” Your insecure attachment style is a defense mechanism that may very well be interfering with your growth.
However, your nervous system won’t surrender its coping strategies until they’re no longer necessary, and not one moment sooner. Why were your insecure attachment behaviors necessary in the first place? Because it was absolutely true for you at one point that relationships weren’t safe. Your task now is to discover why relationships still don’t feel safe to you.
Maybe you’re unskilled at identifying and communicating your feelings, needs, and boundaries with other human beings (prerequisites to safe and healthy relating), so your nervous system keeps shielding you from human connection the only way it knows how.
In many cases, there will be some underlying relational trauma that hasn’t been dealt with yet. This is the healing work you must look into for yourself. Unfortunately, “tips and tricks for being a secure partner” isn’t gonna cut it. You can find that shit on the internet all day, but I’m not here to sell candy and bandaids.
Doing The Work
I’ve written pretty extensively about the healing process in over a hundred articles (see When Your Survival Strategies Start Killing You or The Most Diabolical Thing About Self-Abandonment). I write because I have a full caseload of clients and it’s impossible for me to work one-on-one with the millions of people who need this type of help.
But now, I’m launching Fix Your Picker Academy with a series of live workshops so I can work directly with even more people!
Next Saturday — June 11th, 2022 — I’m leading a workshop entitled “Healing Your Insecure Attachment.” If you have any questions after reading this article, I’m already planning to answer them for you.
Details and registration here.