Our interactions with primary caregivers form our attachment styles in early childhood. Our attachment style, or how we attach ourselves to our parents, also tends to be how we attach to our romantic partners.
There are four attachment styles:
- Anxious Preoccupied
- Dismissive Avoidant
- Fearful Avoidant
Anxious attachment style or Anxious Preoccupied (AP) attachment style is when a person has high love and connection needs in a relationship. Their connection needs are so strong that whenever they sense any potential or actual disconnection, they experience anxiety.
Following are the signs of anxious preoccupied attachment:
- Being really good at connecting with others
- Fear of being alone
- Being needy and clingy in relationships
- Low self-esteem
- A tendency to overthink
- Having trust issues
- Being codependent
The root cause of anxious attachment style
At its core, anxious attachment is all about a fear of abandonment. When they were children, the anxiously attached individuals experienced inconsistent caregiving from their primary caregivers.
Their parents were present and responsive when available but soon became unavailable for whatever reason, such as work or moving to a new location.
As a result, the child had to cling to the parents when they were available and couldn’t self-soothe when they were not. There wasn’t enough disconnection in the relationship dynamic for them to break free and become independent like avoidants.
Anxiously attached individuals have a hypervigilance for being abandoned, rejected, and excluded. They’re wired to avoid abandonment at all costs. So, they’re likely to see abandonment where none exists.
This hypervigilance was necessary for their survival in childhood but creates conflicts in their adult romantic and other relationships.
Healing anxious attachment
Healing anxious attachment starts with understanding the patterns that show up for you in your romantic relationships. If most of the above signs apply to you, you’re likely an anxiously attached person.
Anxious attachment has positives as well as negatives. APs tend to be kind, sweet, caring, and charming. They can light up the room with their warmth and connection.
However, the negatives significantly impact the quality of their relationships and happiness.
They tend to have core wounds that are triggered in certain situations. When these core wounds are triggered, they react emotionally and act hurtfully towards others.
So, the main job when it comes to healing anxious attachment is to manage these triggers and reprogram the beliefs behind them.
“I will be abandoned” core wound
The reason APs have such high expectations for connection is because, deep down, they have an intense fear of abandonment. Their strong need for love and connection is an overcompensatory mechanism that tends to burden their partners.
After all, no one can be available and connect all the time. People have their own things to do.
So, if you’re in a relationship with an AP, and you dare take time for yourself and other things, your partner is likely to get triggered. They get triggered because your distance, distraction, or divided attention touches their abandonment wound.
If you’re an AP, you need to be aware of your triggers. When you get triggered, go inward. Notice your thoughts and feelings. They’re probably lying to you. Your partner most likely isn’t abandoning you.
When you do this enough times, you’ll reprogram the beliefs behind your triggers. Over time, the triggers will weaken or completely fade away.
“I’m not enough”
Why do AP’s over-focus on their relationships?
It’s because they derive their entire identity from their relationships. Since they didn’t get a chance to become independent during their psychological development, they become codependent and enmeshed with others.
The problem with not having a sense of self is that you don’t know what you want from life. The problem with not knowing what you want is not doing what you want. The result of not doing what you want is low self-esteem.
APs tend to put their relationship partners on a pedestal because they’re like:
“If my partner is good, then I’m good.”
We all identify with our partners to some extent. That’s normal. But APs do it too much.
The solution to this is identity diversification.
It’s okay to identify with your partner, but you must have a life outside your relationship. You fall behind in other life areas when you’re over-focused on your relationship.
If you’re AP, start giving time and attention to other life areas that you’ve been ignoring. This doesn’t have to take away from your relationship. Your relationship will only strengthen when you don’t burden your partner, and they see you working on yourself.
“If I’m not perfect, people will leave me.”
This core belief prevents APs from working on themselves. When you start working on yourself, you won’t be perfect immediately. Failure is inevitable when you try something new.
While failure doesn’t feel good for anyone, APs get massively triggered by it because they believe that if others see them as failures, they’ll be rejected. While people don’t react very positively to failure in others, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be punished with exclusion when you fail.
Some people support their partners through endless failures. They exist. You may fail in one life area, but be good in other areas for which others love you.
Of course, when you’re triggered, this type of rational thinking is hard to come by. Hard, but not impossible.
You can mix in some self-compassion and re-parenting when you’re trying to reprogram these beliefs. For example, you can say to yourself:
“It’s okay. You’ll do better next time.”
Just as a supportive parent would to their child.
The subconscious mind responds very well to emotions.