Tacoma Christian Counselor
Anxious-avoidant attachment names a way of approaching relationships that can lead to unwelcome outcomes in those relationships.If you’re in relationship with others, you will notice certain quirks and habits people have. These may include how they choose to communicate and whether they freely express their thoughts and emotions. To be sure, you also have your quirks and habits, as well as ways you relate to people that are unique to you. These patterns of relating to others are formed through years of experience.
Self-aware people will know themselves and understand how they may come across to others. Part of that self-awareness is about these patterns of relating to others. Even if you aren’t self-aware, this article might be helpful for you in identifying some patterns in your life or in the life of a loved one.
Understanding anxious-avoidant attachment.
It’s important to understand what an attachment style is. An attachment style describes how a person connects to and communicates with the people with whom they are closest. That style will often develop during infancy and childhood based on the care and attention provided by one’s caregivers in meeting emotional and other needs. Further experiences later in life may cement a person’s attachment style or help him or her cultivate a different style.
An attachment style has a profound influence on relationship patterns. There are four main attachment styles – one is secure attachment, and the other three are types of insecure attachment. One of these insecure styles is the anxious-avoidant attachment style.
Anxious-avoidant attachment is a form of insecure attachment. This means that the individual has learned from formative experiences that they may eventually get rejected or their needs go unmet within relationships. They learn to distrust others and feel unlovable in relationships.
Anxious-avoidant attachment is also often called fearful-avoidant or insecure-avoidant attachment. Despite having the desire to be accepted and loved, a person with an anxious-avoidant attachment style may struggle to establish healthy relationships with others.
Vulnerability might feel uncomfortable to them. This can result in entering relationships, including romantic relationships, then quickly leaving the relationship when it becomes serious.
While desirous of deep and meaningful connection with others because acceptance by others will make them feel better, an anxious-avoidant person will also fear and avoid love and intimacy with others.
That is because formative experiences have shaped him or her to feel insecure in approaching and remaining in vulnerable situations. This may be a result of frightening behavior exhibited by a parent or caregiver such as abuse or the refusal of comfort when in need.
How anxious-avoidant attachment manifests in relationships.
When an anxious-avoidant person is in a relationship with other people, he or she will want to form strong, meaningful bonds with others. But to protect from possible rejection, he or she will then withdraw. As soon as a relationship becomes too intimate, the anxious-avoidant individual will pull back and attempt to avoid true commitment to the relationship.
Additionally, an anxious-avoidant person may lash out emotionally and distrust the people who try to get close out of a deep fear of the pain of potential rejection.
When placed under stress, an anxious-avoidant person may experience emotional outbursts. Due to the distrust he or she has for others, he or she often won’t seek help when needed. He or she typically won’t express emotions to others, choosing instead to suppress them. These pent-up emotions can build up over time, leading to an outburst at an inopportune time.
Overcoming insecure attachment.
One of the first steps to overcoming insecure attachment is to become aware of your patterns of relating to other people. This awareness will help you to gain insight into your thought processes and patterns of behavior in relationships, which can be invaluable in doing things differently for positive outcomes in your relationships.
Aside from a growing awareness, other steps you can take include the following:
Being kind to yourself is necessary for everyone in a variety of circumstances. However, a person with the anxious-avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment style tends to think negatively about himself or herself and can often be self-critical. Being kind to yourself may look like disrupting your harsh inner critic by naming it and even dialoguing with it.
By offering counterevidence to your inner critic, you can counter negative self-talk. The same goes for learning to talk to yourself and to your inner critic like you would a friend. Be mindful of what you say to yourself – would you ever say such things to a loved one? This approach to things enables you to be more compassionate and understanding toward yourself while muting self-criticism and dealing with it constructively.
Recognize your thought patterns and acknowledge them for what they are. Allow yourself room to create distance between those thoughts and the reality of the situation.
Create and communicate healthy boundaries.
Every healthy relationship has boundaries. For an anxious-avoidant person, sharing too much may precipitate the desire to withdraw before things get too real and he or she gets too committed.
If sharing too much about yourself in a relationship too quickly potentially leads to withdrawing from the relationship, know that it’s okay to slow things down a bit. Let the other person know that you’re more comfortable taking time to share about yourself and open up to them.
Opening up gradually may allow you to allay your fears. Being open about what makes you feel anxious and what helps you feel more secure in relationships will cultivate a deeper sense of safety in the relationship.
Individuals with an anxious-avoidant attachment style often find themselves hesitant to make use of counseling or therapy because of the intimacy that is implied in the therapeutic process. To overcome this, it may be helpful to find a counselor or therapist with experience in treating people with the anxious-avoidant attachment style, as the counselor will know how to overcome this challenge.
Discussing the challenges that you face due to an anxious-avoidant attachment style with a counselor can be helpful. A person’s attachment style is not an immutable characteristic. Some studies indicate that an attachment style can be changed through therapy, becoming better educated about it, and working with your partner.
Your counselor will help you in recognizing and identifying your insecure attachment style. This is a helpful first step to improving how you handle and interact with others in relationships. Your counselor will guide you in learning to discern the patterns you may have fallen into as a child and that you typically follow in relationships. He or she will help you see how these no longer serve you in your current relationships.
In addition, your counselor can assist you in becoming more mindful of your thoughts and feelings as you learn about the formative experiences they come from and that shaped them. Part of the process of overcoming your insecure attachment issues may reside in learning to forgive your child or adult self for any negative experiences you went through that resulted in your current patterns in relationships.
Insecure attachment can have a profound effect on one’s relationships. Experiences in childhood with one’s caregivers or parents are an important factor in the development of one’s attachment styles. Other experiences in peer groups as an adolescent or an adult also have a significant role in shaping and even changing one’s attachment style. An insecure attachment style can lead to difficulties within relationships, and this ought to be addressed.
Working with a counselor will help you understand your attachment style, including its origins. Your counselor can help you by teaching you what secure attachment looks like so that you can have healthy relationships with others.
Your counselor may help to develop your coping mechanisms by giving you assignments to try at home with loved ones or by yourself. Reach out to a counselor to begin working on any issues connected to your attachment style.
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Uday Mittal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hiding”, Courtesy of Fernando Dearferdo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Fog”, Courtesy of Mitchell Hartley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freaking Out”, Courtesy of Camila Quintero, Franco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.