“The key is in learning how to live a healthy, satisfying, and serene life without being dependent on another person for happiness.” ~Robin Norwood
When it comes to relationships, people can call you “crazy” and “needy” all they want. I can only guess some people don’t know how crazy it feels when every cell in your body feels like the only way to breathe is to stop this person you desire from abandoning you right now.
You may not realize it as the emotions hijack your mind and body, but unconsciously, you only have one job in that moment—to stop history from repeating itself by keeping this person close. And so, you do and say everything you can to try and control the situation: the incessant texting, questioning, crying, overthinking, over-pleasing, phone checking, and the list goes on.
Of course, in most cases, this person cannot leave you because they were never with you in the first place, either physically or emotionally. Either way, as soon as you get even the slightest hint of rejection and abandonment, you experience what I call “The Emotional Takeover.”
Now, not for one second am I defending the unhealthy behaviors that you have in place in that instant, but I do understand them.
Because it used to be me. I used to feel so insecure when I felt there was even the slightest threat to my relationship, and I would become preoccupied with ‘fixing’ the situation in any way I could. It was draining, upsetting, and hugely unsettling.
I know you are not crazy because who you are in those times is not you. You must know that, while it is you that has not yet learned how to break free from that toxic pattern, how to walk away from people who are no good for you, or the art of self-soothing, it is not you.
Sadly, you might not realize that, because it is likely you don’t know who the real you is. You’ve lost yourself to the fear of abandonment.
If you relate to this, it is highly possible that, like me, you fall into the attachment style that is “anxious attachment.”
We tend to experience anxious attachment when we had inconsistent love as a child. It is likely your relationship with your caregivers was unpredictable. As an adult, you struggle with feeling secure in relationships and may find that you experience a ‘need’ to be wanted and intense emotions of anxiety and jealousy when you sense this is being taken away from you.
In a bid to keep people from leaving you, even the wrong ones, your internal blueprint is designed to put others first, to take on their feelings as your own, to prioritize what they want and need, to ‘fix’ them, to mother them, and to do what needs to be done in order to never be abandoned.
I can honestly tell you the science of adult attachment styles has transformed my life. Not only does everything now make more sense to me, but I now understand that my perception of love was totally warped.
For the anxiously attached, it’s hard to know what love is. Chances are, you haven’t had much experience of stability in love, especially from those you desired it most.
It’s probably fair to say you’ve felt intense feelings you believed to be true love. You may have even felt this with one person and become fixated on them, or you may have felt this many times in your life, with different people. Yet there is always a question mark over it because deep down, you know that the love hurts and/or is not reciprocated.
That is often what makes this attachment style so hard: the excruciating moments when you know you are being treated poorly, the times you consider you are in the wrong relationship, and the lack the belief you could ever leave.
What makes it even tougher is how skilled you are at pushing that truth back down and fully convincing yourself that this person does love you back, and if you just work harder, it will eventually turn it to the right relationship.
Often, the anxiously attached are attracted to the avoidants (hot and cold, suddenly not interested, giving you crumbs), and this makes for an incredibly difficult time. It’s not a match made in heaven because you have very different intimacy needs, and much to your dismay, you cannot change the way they feel about you or love.
Trust me, I know how much that hurts to hear, but it’s best you hear it before you meet the next one, or the same one comes back around (again).
I have come across many others with the same attachment style as me, all with a very distorted view of what love is, and I can’t help but notice just how much we love love.
We love it so much, we think that without it, we are not worthy. Without it, we cannot be happy.
That is why you settle for people who don’t meet your needs or chase the person that doesn’t see you or never allow yourself time to just be on your own.
As impossible as it sometimes feels, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you can break free of this pattern.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, and that I don’t feel the feels or drop the ball from time to time, but I now know how to manage the intense emotions, how to recognize the unavailable guy before I’m in too deep, and how to live life as securely as possible (note: secure attachment is considered the healthy style).
You are no different than me; you too can tap into the mind-set of the secure attachment style so you can be happy on your own, invite in sustainable love, or where possible, save your relationship.
Below, you will find the top seven tips that have helped me to become happy in myself and more secure in my relationships:
1. Try to resist overthinking.
If you’re insecure in love, one pattern we have in common is overthinking. Thinking about the potential of the person you ‘love’, overthinking why it ended, overthinking why they haven’t texted, overthinking why they canceled on you, overthinking their latest Instagram post, overthinking how you can get them back, overthinking what they really feel… overthinking.
Your brain feels threatened, and you are trying to think of every single reason this could be happening and of every single solution to solve it. But it’s an impossible job because there is nothing to figure out right now. Remind yourself that the stories you are making up are adding to your stress, and as much as you can, be in reality rather than wasting your precious time searching for closure or answers that do not exist.
2. Beware of chemistry.
You know when you’re with someone and you have that rush of love and excitement even though you hardly know them or they are treating you poorly? That feeling is not love.
That feeling is what you perceive to be love, but it is not love. It’s the rush of an activated attachment system, the feeling of familiarity. Feel like you’ve met this person before? You have, in many of your other relationships from childhood through to now.
It’s your job to re-wire your pathways to see that this feeling is not love. That ‘chemistry’ you feel must instead become your warning sign that this may be the kind of person you need to consider backing away from.
3. Give up on the love you desire most.
This is usually the love of a parent. No matter how many of these people you attract, they will never be the love you desire the most. I know that’s sad, but I can’t sugar-coat it for you (us). I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, but I just think you have so much potential in this life, and seeking that love and approval is holding you back.
We all know how parents and caregivers ‘should’ love, but it is simply true that not everyone is able to or knows how to. Rather than try and fix the past or change your past experience with love, your time is better spent figuring out a more realistic and secure view on love. You cannot change your past, but you can influence your future.
4. Pick yourself.
If you ever felt in any way that one or both of your parents did not pick you, you may find you have a mission to get picked now.
Ever feel like you are second best to the person you desire? You are attracted to that. On a subconscious level, you have found a person where you can continue your fight to be picked.
Deep down, way beyond any conscious level, you believe that if you can get this person to pick you then it undoes the very abandonment that got you here in the first place.
As a child, I wanted to be picked over drugs. As an adult, I found people who were ‘too busy’ with work, sports, and/or drinking. I spent my time trying to make them pick me because I thought I needed that to prove my worth.
Learning to pick myself and quit seeking that external validation meant I am able to live my life confidently and not settle with anyone that has a highly different values system to me.
5. Master the art of emotional intelligence.
Here’s the thing, those with anxious attachments styles do possess a very unique skill in noticing when there is a slight shift or indication that there is a threat to the relationship. As soon as that is noticed, you get triggered, the old familiar feelings take over your whole being, and your only mission is to do what you can to save this relationship.
You must come to understand that the emotion you feel is simply a stored memory from your past. This is your bodily response to abandonment.
Take time to notice where you feel it in your body, and what happens to you physically, and name the emotions that you feel in those times. These symptoms should become your greatest warning sign that your anxious attachment system is activated, and it’s time to soothe yourself, the same way you would a child who is feeling overwhelmed because their mother has popped to the kitchen for five minutes.
6. Own your needs.
It’s time to get real about your own needs because I have news for you, your needs count too.
Life isn’t enjoyable for anyone that goes through it without their own needs being met.
So, get to work and write out what needs you have in your relationships.
Not only will this exercise highlight to your subconscious mind that you actually have needs, it will make it more likely that you admit it to yourself when they aren’t being met—so when you do find yourself back in the unhealthy pattern, it will be harder to lie to yourself about what this person brings to the table and how real this relationship really is.
It will become less likely that you will stay in the situation when you are working on this kind of conscious level and understanding.
7. Create something bigger for yourself.
I call this “Following Your Fire.” Whether you know it or not, you have a purpose, you have desires, and you have unique gifts to bring to this world.
When it comes to experiencing a real level of contentment and being able to walk away from crumbs, finding what lights me up as an individual has been the greatest move I have ever made.
I created a life that I care about. I nurtured the right relationships, I found the activities that I truly enjoy on a soul level, and I followed my deepest dreams that I had otherwise buried. While a healthy love is something I desire, I know for sure that my life is way more than that. That makes it so much easier to walk away from what does not serve me.
When you begin to practice the tips above, you likely won’t see progress straight away, but every now and then you will have monumental moments where you’ll see your growth and give yourself a high five.
When you get to know your attachment style and build a life that you adore, your confidence and self-worth will grow, and you’ll find yourself at a point where you won’t sacrifice your happiness for a person that doesn’t see your value.
You’ll decide that being single is nowhere near as bad as the anxiety that comes from the unhealthy relationships you’re used to. The fear of spending your life with someone who cannot meet your needs will become scarier than being single.
We may always be anxiously attached, but we can learn to live a secure life. So what are you waiting for?