AVOIDANT TO SECURE ROADMAP: PART I

TRANSFORMING CORE BELIEFS

'"As long as I do not love myself then there must be something wrong with someone who loves me - and if someone doesn't love me than I have to prove I am worthy by winning that person back. On some level we are trying to earn the love of our unavailable parent(s) to prove to ourselves that we are worthy and lovable'"

 

“Self-sabotage is about bringing our external reality back in line with what we feel we inwardly deserve”

"We seek the love for things we don't really have. When we get it, the mismatch with our expectations feels unbearable."

"The past is no longer here"

At the centre of the transformation to secure attachment is learning to accept and love our true selves. Once we have accepted our inner selves we do not need to fear being truly seen by someone. We can accept that we need and deserve love and intimacy, and that it's ok for us to have it. But someone wanting to be close to us is too jarring while part of us believes we are unworthy. We instinctively believe we cannot live up to the task and so we must hurt them. We will move to create this output or otherwise just resist close relationships until we have addressed our own deeply held self-beliefs. How we treat people, and the treatment we feel comfortable accepting, is just a reflection of what we think we deserve. Until our internal dialogue supports us to believe we are worthy of good treatment, we may punish those who try to provide it. All research shows that it is ultimately our fear of being unworthy of connection that keeps us from that connection. People who have a strong sense of love and belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. They then prioritise finding those who will make them feel that way, and do the same in return.

 

"When we are triggered to feel such anxieties, the cure isn’t to try to dispel anxieties with logic, it is to try to dispel it with love; it is to remind the anxious person (who may be ourselves) that we are not inherently wretched, that we have a right to exist, that past neglect wasn’t deserved, that we should feel tenderly towards oneself – and that we need, both metaphorically and probably practically too, a very long hug. The logic of this analysis is truly counter-intuitive. It suggests that when panic next descends, one should not spend too long on the surface causes of the worry and instead, try to address the self-hatred fuelling the agitation. Anxiety is not always anxiety: sometimes it is just a very well-disguised, entrenched and unfair habit of disliking who we are."

Therapy: the key ingredient

People with an avoidant attachment style usually hate the idea of getting help. But avoidant attachment stems from deep core wounds of inadequacy, abandonment and shame. No website is going to transform our sense of security in relationships. We are hurt by people, so we can only be healed by people. It’s one thing to read self help books all day, but to heal attachment, you gotta get dirty under the hood. It’s not your fault you didn’t have the opportunity to learn the skills of secure attachers, who learnt to trust the reliability of attachment figures and that feelings and needs are ok. But the first and indispensable step is to challenge the core limiting beliefs in a professional setting, otherwise it won't matter if you learn new behaviours (that said, once you've started on this journey head to Behavioural Strategies for some key changes you can make now!).

Everyone’s position is unique; if you are serious about rewiring these core beliefs, it is important to work on healing with a psychotherapist who specialises in adult attachment and dependency issues. Avoidants have blocked emotional memories and denied needs for attachment. A therapist with a good understanding of attachment can provide a reframe of our expectations and actions. Therapy is a process - a journey together. Seeing our thoughts and feelings through the eyes of a therapist can help pull the ship to a calmer emotional shore. But this requires being open and describing feelings, and sharply questioning stories and rationalisationsRewiring attachment requires reliving it: verbally describing experience to allow it to come under conscious control, through a process of review and transformation that rethinks the past, and allows us to reattribute new meaning to our behaviours, and those of others - understanding, for example, that others' actions are usually not an intentional assault on you. Treatment involves dismantling defensive strategies by encouraging giving up the "false self" constructed to protect against rejection and vulnerability, and by fostering recognition of needs for closeness with others.

Be alert that the ingrained defence mechanisms of avoidant attachment will often look to thwart both self-awareness and psychotherapy (for example, avoidants are also often tempted to give up therapy fast because it is particularly painful to them, and with they inbuilt assumption they are 'not good enough' avoidants naturally fear they won't succeed) . Don’t expect a miracle when working with a therapist - it is hard work and takes time, sometimes years, but has real results. Find a therapist with whom you have a rapport, as trust is a necessary part of addressing past traumas. Within the therapeutic relationship itself, avoidants actually develop secure attachment (in a process known as transference, the unconscious redirection of the feelings a person has about their parents on to the therapist) - a trusted intimate relationship which then forms the basis for expanding new secure behaviours into other relationships.

Attachment is a messy experience and emotional healing requires having someone else grasp who you really are. A good therapist can assist you in in revealing your true self to a partner, and slough off the ill-fitted trappings of unsuitable lives, potentially changing your life path. Your healing will also require enrolling friends and family to talk about it with others, build internal understanding, and learn to trust in the safety of intimacy. It cannot be done alone. 

 

 1. Discover the source:

    Understand your attachment history & reframe as the inner child

 

 2. Identify & challenge limiting beliefs

 

 3. Address guilt

 

 4. Build your self-esteem

 

 5. Individuate