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May 2, 2024

The Exact Moment I Realized I Moved out of Anxious Attachment.

{*Did you know you can write on Elephant? Here’s how—big changes: How to Write & Make Money or at least Be of Benefit on Elephant. ~ Waylon}

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My hope is you find this article before beliefs like “relationships are not for me,” “I always feel like a love beggar with my partner,” or “something is wrong with me” creep up and solidify in your head.

Walking through life with my anxious attachment style has been painful. Especially at a time when there were no conversations about it, at least in France, my country, and no tools to deal with it.

(If you are not yet familiar with the attachment styles, The power of attachment by Diane Poole Heller is an excellent resource.)

To sum it up, people with anxious attachment grew up with caregivers who were inconsistent in giving them loving attention.

Babies, children, need attention. It is vital. Attention brings nourishment; catching it is really a matter of life or death.

So much that the attitude of those adults caregivers “sculpt” the nervous system of the infant.

When the adult doesn’t attune to the child, the child’s nervous system registers, “I might not get what I need.” It generates anxiety. The child looks anxiously for the adult and spends time trying to figure out how to catch the adult’s attention to get his or her needs met.

That’s how relationships and anxiety get coupled in your brain (neural pathways firing together).

That’s how “ working hard for love” gets wired in your system y’all!

I coach women. Most of my clients are anxiously attached. I believe for women it can be reinforced during adult life by all this false claim of a woman being needy when she stands for herself and asks for what she needs.

The good news is our brain and nervous system are not fixed; it’s possible to rewire and change your attachment style.

Today, I want to tell you how it felt the first time I realised I was on my way out of anxious attachment.

I completely fell for a man. He was super smart and classy. But as usual, at that time, he was emotionally unavailable. He was present to seduce me, and after a few dates started to show up inconsistently. And one day, in the middle of an exchange where we were organizing our next date together, following his request, he ghosted me.

Disappeared, gone.

It made no sense; he was the one contacting me to meet again.

Before I would have written back: are you okay?

Before I would have asked: what’s going on?

Before I would have sent him a treatise about how I don’t have time and energy for anyone treating me with such disrespect.

Why?

Because the anxiety was high and unmanageable.

Because writing back to the silence would help me discharge this anxiety…for a while.

That’s actually the only positive thing writing back does—it gives the nervous system temporary relief.

And then what?

I would have signed up for more anxiety as I couldn’t have helped hoping for an answer.

Back to square one, or even worse.

But not this time.

This time, I was disappointed. I was sad. I won’t lie to you, it was not pleasant. It wasn’t that I didn’t care.

But:

First what I felt wasn’t anxiety; it wasn’t this accelerated heartbeat and this panicky sensation in my chest.

It was sadness and disappointment and I could stay with what I felt.

Until this day, I experienced it each time: relationship anxiety. Which is basically not dealing well when the other person’s attention isn’t on you. It’s exhausting for you; it feels heavy for the other.

It’s because there’s a circuit in your nervous system that, because of too much painful experience with neglect, connected “attention isn’t on me” with “danger.”

It’s in fact a protection mechanism: “Danger, danger, you won’ get your (vital) needs met. You have to do everything in your power to catch the attention of that caregiver(and now partner).”

It’s a mechanism your body put in place a long time ago, but it can be undone through a somatic/body/nervous-system approach.

Talking about it won’t change anything as it’s not a voluntary response; it’s an automated one.

The process looks like this:

>> You want first to be aware of it and how it feels for you. For me, it was this accelerated heartbeat and this panicky sensation in my chest.

>> You want to recognize it as your automated response.

>> You want to reframe to: “If I don’t get what I want, I will feel heartbroken/sad/angry and my life isn’t on the line.”

If reframing isn’t enough, you need to ask a somatic practitioner to help you to end what is called a cycle of stress. It means looking for the involuntary responses your body couldn’t have as an infant to express its distress and have them now to evacuate that charge stored in your body.

You want to stay with the emotions that arise from this bad experience you are having today, feel them, give yourself time to process, and start to grieve.

That’s what I did.

I built some capacity in my nervous system, enough to hold the charge of my emotions, and I could self-soothe.

I uncoupled relationship from anxiety; I hacked that circuit! So anxiety didn’t show up this time, only sadness and disappointment.

This was a pivotal moment for me. I realized, “Wow, I can change things from inside. I can change how I feel about a situation.”

This unbearable feeling of anxiety—that my caregivers were the only ones to be able to help me relieve when I was a kid—became my main bind to them. And until this pivotal moment, it played out in the same way in my relationships as an adult. When it shifted, the anxiety bind was gone, and with it, the urge to have it relieved by this man.

Even though it was still challenging, feeling differently helped me to stay in touch with my desire of being treated with respect.

And this time no panicky sense of urgency would make me override it.

I didn’t care this time about the many reasons why he could have done that. My desire became loud enough that I had no place in my head and heart to find excuses for him.

I could grieve, let him go, let him one day be someone else’s problem. I would not be the one exhausting myself “figuring him out,” and I could move on.

This created so much safety inside, a comforting sense of calm emerging from my core saying, “You’re not going back.”

And with time, it only got easier and better.

I was not anymore a lost planet revolving around the sun as if he could be the only one to give me light (like in my early years’ experience).

I was the centre of my own universe, and it felt super powerful.

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