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“We’re afraid of being vulnerable. But vulnerability creates genuine connection.” ~ Gabby Bernstein
When we come into the world wailing and screaming our way through, there’s only one thing that we are looking for: connection.
Someone to hold us, to make us feel safe and protected.
Someone who can put our fears to rest and make us feel that everything is okay and that they’ll be there for us no matter what.
We want to be held, cuddled, and cajoled into believing that we matter to someone.
Most importantly, when we’re our vulnerable selves, we need to be comforted the most.
We need to know that we’re not alone and that no matter what, we’ll be taken care of.
It’s not about the mere physical presence of someone, rather the emotional energy that they give out that enables us to feel safe, secure, and valued in every aspect of our lives.
It is this connection that enables us to go out there and explore the world. It tells us that no matter where we go, there will always be someone looking out for us.
We will always have a secure base to stand on and safe haven to come back to. That’s what leads to the formation of a secure attachment style—when you have this innate knowing that you matter, and you trust your loved ones to be there for you whenever you need them.
You go about exploring the world as if it belongs to you. You know you will always be seen, heard, and held in ways you need.
But what happens when this doesn’t happen? When you’re left to yourself without anyone to come back to?
When the very base you’re supposed to stand on is cracked, broken, or simply nonexistent?
Then you spend all your time and energy in trying to create that base for yourself and looking for safety in whatever you can find.
You keep crying out for someone, asking, “Are you there?”
But it feels like you’re screaming into a void and your own voice comes back to you.
Then, you don’t know what to do.
“Most people are as needy as their unmet needs.” ~ Amir Levine
It’s when this insecurity takes over, the need for connection gets overpowered by the need for safety.
You still want to reach out and connect, but you also want to keep your fragile heart protected because when it breaks, it hurts like hell.
That’s what gives rise to certain insecure ways of connecting with the world.
“Realising what your attachment style is offers you a lot of freedom. It helps you to remember that at the core you are whole.” ~ Amanda Blair Hopkins
The two most prominent insecure attachment styles that come up as a result are:
1. Anxious attachment style:
Stems from the fear of being abandoned. This often leads an individual to be preoccupied with the needs of other people in order to get attention, approval, and validation from them. The mere thought of being alone scares the living daylights out of them. They want to be close to the ones they love to the extent that they give up their own needs and desires and make their life about others.
They tend to doubt themselves a lot and struggle with feelings of low-self worth. They’re highly sensitive to criticsm, rejection, and other people’s emotions. The only way they feel safe is by being around people.
They’re constantly focussed on whether the other person is there for them, valuing them enough, and their absence, even for a few minutes, is enough to throw them off-balance. Being alone and by themselves is such a scary experience for them and brings up intense feelings of being abandoned and unworthy, that there is nothing else that they can do.
2. Avoidant attachment style:
On the other side of the spectrum lies the avoidantly attached individual, who dismisses the idea of being close to anyone for the fear of getting hurt, rejected, or abandoned. Unlike the anxiously attached who seeks closeness, proximity, and validation, avoidant individuals keep their guards up all the time. They fear closeness and intimacy. They prefer being on their own and struggle to form deep connections. While the anxiously attached individual relies on others to soothe them and validate their sense of self-worth, avoidants rely on their own selves.
Even though both these styles are completely opposite, the similarities between them are the sense of insecurity and fears of rejection and abandonment.
They just deal with them differently.
It’s not easy to grow up in an environment that is not able to support your growth and give you all that you need to bloom into a secure, stable version of yourself.
Yet, these ways of coping and relating to the world are not set in stone either.
You can change.
But for that, you need to acknowledge all the ways in which your needs haven’t been met and the impact it’s had on you.
“We are born with inalienable emotional needs for love, safety, acceptance, freedom, attention, validation of our feelings, and physical holding. Healthy identity is based on the fulfillment of these needs.” ~ David Richo
And then it’s about unlearning certain ways of being and connecting.
For the anxiously attached, it’s about:
1. Identifying and recognising your own patterns and triggers.
2. Learning to self-regulate and soothe yourself when you’re gripped by your anxiety and fears.
3. Strengthening your sense of self so that you can rely on yourself.
4. Understanding that your needs are your responsibility and others are only a means to those needs.
5. Balancing your needs with others.
6. Learning to ask for what you want rather than complaining, criticising, and blaming others.
7. Knowing that one person cannot meet all of your needs and that doesn’t mean that you’re unworthy.
For the avoidantly attached, it’s about:
1. Going within to understand your own internal experience (i.e your own triggers).
2. Embracing the discomfort that comes with getting in touch with your own feelings.
3. Learning to express yourself.
4. Stepping out of your comfort zone to connect with more people.
5. Learning to have open conversations with people, especially loved ones, rather than avoiding, dismissing, or stonewalling.
At the end of the day, it’s important for us to understand that the world of human relations is built on connections.
Whether we reach out aggressively or shut ourselves away, the innate need for connection doesn’t go away.
But the only effective way to connect with others is to first connect with your own self and then with someone else. Irrespective of what our attachment style is, we all need to be secure in our own presence and be okay with the vulnerability that comes with it.
It’s only then that we’ll be able to sift out the relationships that are truly capable of giving us what we need.
Making room for vulnerability without letting it engulf you is the only way to be secure in you who you are.
It’s that security which leads to the formation of a genuine, open, secure connection with another.
“To heal is to touch with love that which was previously touched by fear.” ~ Stephen Levine