Have you ever caught yourself making multiple phone calls, sending countless texts, or eagerly waiting for a phone call from your partner?
Or perhaps you've found yourself lingering around your Ex's workplace, hoping for a chance encounter?
These behaviors might be signs of an overwhelming desire for connection, but they can also be indicative of an anxious attachment style.
Only two weeks into this new relationship, and I'm already consumed by thoughts of him leaving me and anxiously awaiting his call. I fear that my insecurities will once again ruin my chance at love. I don't know how to act, and despite my better judgment, I avoid making plans with friends in case he calls. I've completely lost interest in everything else that was important to me. Everything soon comes to a screeching halt - Nia.
If you can relate to this emotional rollercoaster, know that you're not alone. But have you ever wondered why you experience a primal panic in relationships?
Well, the answer lies in John Bowlby's attachment theory.
According to this theory, the emotional bonds we formed with our caregivers as children continue to shape our behaviors and tactics even as adults, profoundly influencing how we connect and build relationships.
Your Childhood Experiences Shape Your Current Relationship Dynamics:
So, when you feel that deep-rooted panic or anxiety in your relationships, it's not just a random occurrence. It's a reflection of the attachment patterns you developed in your early years. These patterns become ingrained in you, shaping how you perceive love, seek closeness, and respond to triggers in your adult relationships. This primal panic you encounter could be the result of your insecure attachment style. By shedding light on the way, you connect, you get the insight into the underlying dynamics at play and opens the door to develop more secure and fulfilling relationships.
Understanding Insecure Attachment:
I was a bundle of nerves. Constantly on edge, my mind raced with thoughts of her. I'd catch myself obsessing over her whereabouts, desperately searching for reassurance. Every little thing became a trigger, a potential sign that she might be ready to end it all.
It was like walking on thin ice, afraid of the slightest misstep. Our conversations felt like a delicate dance, carefully choosing words to avoid any misinterpretation. I clung to every word she said, dissecting them for hidden meanings. - Sam.
If you find yourself consistently feeling unsure, anxious, and experiencing instability in your relationships, it may be rooted in your early experiences as a child. It's possible that your emotional needs were not consistently met by your caregivers.
Even as an adult, you may still carry the fear of abandonment from your attachment figures. Your attachment figure, whether it was your mother or a caregiver in the past, now manifests as your romantic partner or someone you seek emotional connection with. The moment you sense the possibility of being abandoned by your attachment figure, your attachment system kicks into gear.
Your attachment system:
You can think of the attachment system as your brain's personal bodyguard, always on duty to track and monitor the safety and availability of your attachment figures. It's like having a built-in security system that keeps a watchful eye on those you're emotionally connected to. This system works tirelessly to ensure that your loved ones are there for you when you need them, providing a sense of safety and support.
If you have an anxious attachment style, that means your supersensitive attachment system kicks into high gear when you sense any threat to your relationship. You pick up on subtle cues that something might be wrong. Which others may not even notice.
When your attachment system activates, your mind becomes consumed with thoughts focused on reestablishing closeness with your partner. You may find yourself thinking about them constantly, idealizing their qualities, or feeling anxious when you're not in contact with them. You also resort to protest behavior.
Protest is all about grabbing your partner's attention and reconnecting with them by doing things that jolts them into noticing and responding to you.
Excessive attempts to reestablish contact:
Ex: Constantly checking your partner's social media, sending frequent texts or calls, and showing up unannounced at their home.
Withdrawing from interactions:
Ex: Becoming emotionally distant, avoiding conversations or intimacy, and spending less time together
Keeping score of perceived slights or imbalances:
Ex: Playing a silent game and keeping score of many times they called or how long they took to respond back.
Acting hostile, including making threats to leave the relationship.
Ex: Using threats or ultimatums to manipulate your partner
Why You Fail to Forget Your Ex. Even After the Breakup:
The thing is these behaviors and strategies can linger even after your partner is gone. That's the heartache you experience.
The longing for someone who's no longer available, while your attachment system keeps urging you to win them back. Your rational mind might say otherwise, but your attachment system doesn't always comply. It has its own course and schedule, keeping that person in our thoughts for much longer than you'd like.
In simpler terms, if you have an anxious attachment style, it's harder to switch off that activated attachment system once it's triggered.
Insecure attachment patterns:
· Anxious attachment:
This is when you have a constant need for reassurance and worry about being abandoned. You might find yourself being clingy or dependent on your partner.
You feel scared that they might leave you. So, you text them frequently throughout the day seeking reassurance and get panic when they don't respond to you.
· Avoidant attachment:
With avoidant attachment, you tend to shy away from emotional intimacy and have difficulty opening up. Independence and self-reliance are important to you, which can make forming deep connections a challenge.
I prefer to handle things on my own. I don't like sharing my feelings and allowing anyone to get too close.
· Anxious-avoidant attachment:
This combines elements of both anxious and avoidant patterns. You may go back and forth between seeking closeness and pushing your partner away. Intimacy can be a source of fear, and maintaining stable relationships can be tricky.
I want to be close to you, but I also need my space. It's complicated.
What to Do if You Have Insecure Attachment Style:
Choose Secure over Avoidant Partner:
If you have insecure attachment style the best way is to have a partner who has secured attachment style. However, most of the anxious style end up with avoidant style. People have tendency to seek closeness are attracted to people who want to push them away. The constant thoughts, and the rollercoaster of emotions confuse with love. When avoidant avoids them, anxious confuses it with passion. But in reality, it's just the attachment system being activated leading to heartbreaks, pain and misery.
Reshape your attachments style:
Rethink your attitudes and beliefs about relationships.
Heal your inner wounds and building self-compassion.
Cultivating self-love and acceptance
Acknowledge and accept your true relationship needs.
Believe that you deserve good, and you can have who deserves you.
Be your authentic self and use effective communication.
Embracing Secure Attachment:
By embracing secure attachment, you let go of old baggage and open yourselves up to more meaningful connections. You accept your feelings. you don't shy away from asking what you want, and you believe that you deserve it. You learn to communicate your need openly and honestly, and understand and respect other's needs, you have boundaries, and you respect others too, and you work and build trust with others.
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Together, let's embark on a journey towards healthier and more fulfilling connections!
Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love. TarcherPerigee.