March 22, 2024

The #1 Anxious Attachment Trigger & How to Alchemize it.


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If you identify with having an anxious attachment style, managing your triggers and regulating your nervous system are probably two common challenges you face.

When it comes to triggers, instead of merely managing them, what I teach my clients is to alchemize them. To turn them into catalysts for growth. Triggers can be our biggest teachers if we start viewing them in this way. 

The first step in this process though is to become fully aware of our triggers and the root cause. When we have awareness, then we have the choice and power to react differently and ultimately learn and grow from the process. 

While triggers will appear in in a myriad of different ways, one of the biggest triggers for the anxiously attached individual is the experience of (perceived) abandonment. 

Anxious attachment usually gets formed because of inconsistent caregiving and feelings of rejection or abandonment growing up. 

Perceived abandonment refers to situations where an individual interprets certain actions, behaviors, or circumstances as indications of being abandoned, even if that’s not the intention or the current reality.

(Perceived) abandonment might look like: 

1. Unresponsive Communication: Interpreting delayed responses as distancing or loss of interest.

2. Canceling Plans: Feeling hurt and perceiving plan cancelations as a sign of prioritizing something else over the relationship.

3. Emotional Withdrawal: Interpreting emotional distance as personal rejection or abandonment.

4. Changes in Relationship Behaviors: Interpreting a shift in a partner’s or friend’s behavior as abandonment.

5. Physical Separation: Experiencing a sense of abandonment due to loved ones moving away or even going on vacation for a few days.

6. Lack of Emotional Availability: Feeling emotionally neglected due to a partner’s or friend’s temporary emotional unavailability.

7. Changes in Relationship Dynamics: Perceiving evolving relationships as abandonment, feeling left behind or unimportant.

Do these points resonate? 

The (subconscious) conclusion or belief that “I am going to be abandoned” can cause us to spiral, protest, and experience the deep pain and suffering of being neglected or abandoned as children. And remember, for a child, abandonment essentially means death. So the intensity of the emotions can be proportional to that. 

I want to clarify here that the trigger of course can be caused by an actual separation (like a breakup), but more often than not, there are certain situations that trigger feelings of abandonment but do not reflect reality.

Having awareness of your triggers is a key part of healing anxious attachment and becoming secure. If you are reading this, and you have anxious attachment tendencies, my guess is that you are also sensitive and attuned to other people’s emotions. You probably feel things intensely and maybe even identify as an empath. While this can have so many benefits, it also comes with downsides. 

Personally, this is something I have worked on for many years, as in the past when I would get triggered, I would spiral and be stuck in negative thinking loops for days, weeks, and sometimes months. This would lead me to suffer but also sabotage my relationships. When we experience the world with such intensity, it’s so important to have tools to come back to our centre and minimize the effects of these triggers.

One of my favorite tools for personal growth and healing is the trigger tracker. This tool is based on the understanding that triggers are not mere obstacles but are, in fact, valuable teachers signaling areas within us that require attention, care, and healing. When we experience triggers, it’s as if our inner child is reaching out, asking us to address unresolved pain and to offer ourselves the support and love we need.

The trigger tracker, as the name suggests, is a template that is designed to guide you through the process of identifying, documenting, and reflecting on your emotional triggers. The template guides you through the process of recording the specific trigger and reflecting on the following questions:

>> What happened?

>> What was the type of trauma response? (Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn)

>> How intense was it from 0-10?

>> What thoughts came up?

>> Where in the body did you experience the trigger? How did it manifest?

>> What did you do in that moment? What did you do the following days?

>> What is this trigger trying to teach you? What deeper wound is being activated?

>> What does your inner child want and need?

By following this process, you gain insightful revelations about your emotional patterns and the underlying wounds that need healing. This tool not only promotes awareness of the mind’s reactions but also encourages tuning into the body’s responses, supporting a holistic approach to healing that encompasses mind, body, and spirit.

By acknowledging where in the body a trigger is felt—such as a tightness in the chest—and recognizing familiar sensations associated with these emotional states, you start to understand your coping mechanisms and ways to self-regulate and soothe.

Moreover, the trigger tracker facilitates a deeper connection with your inner child, especially in moments of vulnerability. By encouraging you to pause, place a hand over your heart, and offer reassurance to your inner child, it helps you to navigate and heal from the feelings of rejection or abandonment that triggers often unearth.

In essence, the trigger tracker serves as a multifaceted tool that not only aids in recognizing and understanding your triggers and reactions but also plays a crucial role in your journey toward healing and self-discovery. By bringing light and awareness to your emotional and physical responses, it enables transformation and healing, underscoring the power of self-awareness, compassion, and the courage to face and embrace your truth.

This is something I usually reserve only for my private coaching clients, but as a special gift for Elephant Journal readers, I would like to offer you complimentary access to the Trigger Tracker template. Included with the template is an example to illustrate the practical implementation of this process. Additionally, you’ll find a short video explanation on the page to guide you through the process. Click here to download it for free.

I’m eager to hear how this article resonates with you. Please share in the comments how it landed for you, what tools you are currently employing to manage your triggers, and if you have any questions regarding the Trigger Tracker!


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