Attaching

As much as I hate cliché, contrived pop psychology, I think there is much value in understanding attachment styles. I don’t think people are necessarily so easily boxed in as this schematic would have you believe, but I do think that for this, it is much more rigid than with other psychological concepts.

Apparently, anxious attachments are comparatively rare. This doesn’t bode well for societal acceptance. Indeed, I don’t think that individuals with anxious attachment are ever understood unless also approached by another person with an anxious attachment. I believe that there is something inherently pathological about it – not that there is any shame in that, either. However, there’s an underlying mechanism or genetic predisposition in all likelihood, I believe.

For me, I’m only realizing the specifics of my less-than-ideal anxious attachments. I seem to fall for the same thing over and over again. And I’m only now noticing that the triggers are there and they are the same every time. And with every trigger comes a vicious cycle of me attempting to fix the problem, make my needs known, and getting stone-walled because the person does not want intimacy or closeness. Not just with me, with everyone. I attach onto people with avoidant styles.

How can we overcome this? I don’t have the full answer, because I’m discovering it myself at the moment. But even if I’m not an optimist, I’m fully optimistic that I can overcome this.

The first step, as mentioned above, is recognizing the triggers. For me, it’s the lack of communication in between the times I see my partner. It’s also when I read “rules” online – whether from Reddit r/relationships or silly, outmoded and even sexist books like “The Rules.” When I see that my relationship is not conforming to every single step of an “ideal” relationship, I immediately jump to the conclusion that this relationship is going to fail. With these two things, I believe that we anxious attachers should do the following things: limit the power of texting over you by either reducing your exposure to your phone and apps, make it clear from the beginning what you will and won’t tolerate in terms of communication, and rather than looking for relationship advice, look for self-help advice. Because honestly, the best relationship advice is self-help advice.

The second step, if you’re unfortunate enough as I am to be in the phase of obsessive thoughts and actual symptoms of anxiety, is to gain conscious awareness of your thought process and your underlying hurt. Look at the narrative that you’re constructing in your mind. Look at the causality that you’re trying to establish. “Because X happened, because Y happened, therefore Z.” Z is your answer. Z shows you what you feel in the moment, what you fear. It’s your feeling-state. And remember that emotions are not facts. Just because you’re feeling that way, doesn’t mean it’s true. The narrative you are constructing is an effort to distract from the Z. Stories are distractions. But reality is that you are feeling Z and it is distorting your vision of reality.

For me, I’ve realized that my Z is that my problems with loneliness have ultimately never been resolved. Even if I am surrounded by the most caring, loving people, I still have this limiting belief that I am alone. That all of these people only conditionally care about me, and that I am easily disposed of if I displease them. And that no one will ever really understand or accept me as I am. And I’m sure many people who share anxious attachment tendencies feel the same.

This is why self-help is the only answer. Because if you feel lonely, then it’s really a question of you not accepting yourself as company.

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