One of the reasons why I write a lot about relationships is because I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and misunderstood. I know what it’s like to constantly push love away, yet crave it at the same time.
It’s incredibly difficult to get in touch with the deepest parts of ourselves and recognize why we are the way we are, or why we feel the way we feel.
For many years, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t simply get into normal, healthy, secure relationships. I’d feel overwhelmed by people who had genuine feelings for me, and I’d feel attracted to people who pushed me away — just like I pushed those who loved me.
Those of you who’ve been following my journey know that I love exploring attachment theory and sharing it with you, so the title may sound contradictory. But I promise it’s not contradictory at all.
Attachment theory can be a wonderful tool to understand your emotional tendencies regarding relationships. It helps you realize how you perceive intimacy and closeness, as well as why you tend to attract a certain type of partners.
Once we identify our attachment style, we usually have an “aha moment” and, suddenly, everything makes sense.
However, it’s crucial that we know how to use that knowledge — and that’s what I’m sharing with you today.
Your Attachment Style Is Not Your Identity
Throughout our life, we identify as many things: our job, our family role, our sexual orientation, political values and personality traits. We say I’m a father, I’m a lawyer, I’m an introvert, I’m an actress, I’m an activist or I’m a liberal.
Our identities make us feel comfortable. They tell us who and what we are. But sometimes, when we’ve been carrying an identity for long enough, we get attached to it. We lose our ability to see life outside that box we’ve put ourselves into.
Identities are dangerous because they take away our power. Ironically, they shouldn’t have any power at all — they’re just the result of our past experiences, that lead to a series of beliefs and behaviors. We only give them power once we hold onto them.
This applies to your attachment style. If you keep telling yourself, I’m anxious or I’m avoidant, you’ll end up feeling powerless because you’re assuming that’s just who you are and can’t do nothing about it. And that’s not true.
It’s just like Kathrine Meraki says:
“Everyone has a secure version within themselves — but sometimes we need to unravel the layers that others have wrapped around us to access it. We can blame others (like I did) or we can take the reins and change our lives.”
Once you label yourself as something, what you’re really doing is reinforcing that identity and limiting yourself to that specific label. So, let’s be honest: do you really want to be insecurely attached for the rest of your life?
You Have The Power To Change
Instead of viewing your attachment style as an identity that you can’t let go of, you can use it as a tool to increase your self-awareness and improve your intimate relationships.
Becoming secure is a long process but it can be done with courage and determination. Every person is different, but I can share with you what I did to change my attachment style to secure:
- I identified my fears and emotional wounds. I realized there were 2 main reasons why I was so afraid of relationships: abandonment issues from my childhood and my first romantic relationship. When I was a teenager, my therapist had told me that being adopted would always highly influence my life. I thought she was exaggerating, but now I can clearly see what she meant — when you’re abandoned at birth, you subconsciously carry a huge, terrible fear of being abandoned again.
- I questioned them. Why do I push people away? Why do I assume people are always going to abandon me at some point? Is it because that would prove to me what I already know— that I’m unlovable and unworthy of love? Is that really true or am I self-sabotaging?
- I created a new narrative. Once I identified what was holding me back, I changed my internal dialogue. I started telling myself that it was safe to be vulnerable and open up. That I was worthy of love, and that love didn’t have to painful. I started saying no to people that I knew were not interested in something stable and committed and I allowed myself to set boundaries.
Weeks after I initiated this process, I met the person I am with now. And the truth is, the process never really stopped. It’s been 3 years and no matter how amazing and magical our connection is, I’m still healing and finding new ways to be more secure.
From time to time, wounds appear and emotions come up to the surface. That’s okay. In fact, I believe that’s precisely the purpose of a secure, conscious relationship: to support us in our personal growth journey.
“Although in childhood you may have learned habits of insecure attachment, it may be possible for you to override them with effort as an adult. Practice being aware of how you interact in relationships to determine what you’d like to improve. Determine what emotions you feel when you experience insecurity with a romantic partner (anxiety, anger, distrust?) and how they diminish your interactions.”
Berit Brogaard, in How to Change Your Attachment Style
Your attachment style is not your identity, it’s just the result of your past experiences. You can use those experiences as a way to grow and heal, rather than to limit yourself.
At the end of the day, attachment theory is a tool that only you can choose how to apply — and you can choose to be more secure.
How? Making a conscious effort to get in touch with your fears, feelings and insecurities. Catching yourself exhibiting unhealthy, insecure behavior. Changing your internal dialogue and getting out of your own way.
Don’t forget: healing is for the brave.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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