I’ve come across this awesome blogger, who is also sharing about her therapy experience over at Therapy Diaries, I bloody love her already! She has a great writing style and is so admirably honest. Whilst reading through her posts, I found one that linked to another blog about the Anxious-Preoccupied ‘attachment type’…and, at the risk of sounding a bit dramatic, it’s been life changing.
I make the biggest leaps in healing my mind, when I understand how it came to be damaged in the first place. When I understand, it means I know why I believe what I believe, and thus think what I think, feel what I feel, do what I do. When I know why I believe what I believe, I feel suddenly equipped to remove barriers that I didn’t even know existed. It’s like emerging from a dark damp cave to go skipping in a sunny meadow!
The latest barrier became visible since reading about Anxious-Preoccupied, and it explains why I’ve been so emotionally clingy. In many ways I already knew, it’s not rocket science really, but that post just hit home in a new way. All the things that seemed so reasonable and natural for me to expect from a romantic relationship, have essentially been based on lies. My basic education of life was hijacked in childhood, and it’s set me up with unhealthy and impossible emotional expectations of people.
There were several points about the Anxious-Preoccupied post that I identified with:
They crave intimacy but tend to feel doubtful about their own worth, making it harder for them to trust that they are loved and cared for
Some preoccupied mothers frequently intrude when the baby is happily exploring on his own…. For if a mother unconsciously wishes to keep a baby addicted to her, there is no better strategy than being inconsistently available. Nothing makes a laboratory rat push a pedal more furiously than an inconsistent reward
They commonly blame others for not understanding their feelings and needs while not feeling safe enough in the relationship to describe them openly
The key to happier relationships for the anxious-preoccupied is working toward an inner feeling of security and independence…And self-coaching can help — replacing inner dialog about failings and worries about what others think of you with reassuring self-talk can help prevent overly-clingy and paranoid behavior that drives away significant others. Build confidence in yourself and your value by accomplishing real tasks, and try harder to see things from others’ point of view before acting on fears and anger about how they treat you. Soothe your own worries before they trouble others, and have more faith in their goodwill before you assume the worst.
The anxious-preoccupied should work toward taking the time to consider all the evidence before reacting negatively, so their fine sensitivity to others’ emotional states will serve them better.
The anxious-preoccupied will sometimes explain that they feel very strongly and so can’t help themselves when overreacting to perceived threats to their relationships. The real explanation for their paranoia is not so much the intensity of feeling, however, as it is their insecurity and lack of understanding and trust in others’ good intentions. Because they are so wrapped up in the fear of losing attention or affection, they don’t take the time to see matters from the point of view of their significant other and so blunder into misunderstandings and attempts to control their partner through protest behavior.
Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that reestablishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.
Protest behavior is a term originally coined to describe children’s screams and cries when separated from their caregiver, now applied by analogy to adult attempts to display unhappiness with a lack of attention or responsiveness from partners.
It made for both insightful and uncomfortable reading!
In particular, “so wrapped up in the fear of losing attention or affection” describes me to a T.
I can make educated guesses, but I haven’t quite delved into my past enough yet with Marge to understand exactly how this hijacking took place for me. But right now I know enough to feel in control of changing it, and in fact I had already started “working toward an inner feeling of security and independence” as the post mentions, for example:
Building self confidence – I made a list last week that I called “What I’m good at – be bold”, which was an embarrassing exercise but I made myself do it. I wrote down all the things I’ve been fairly sure I’m good at, but hadn’t dared to be so bold to declare them as fact before now, because I’ve always needed that confirmation from others. I hesitated as I wrote each one, but it was incredibly rewarding to push through and complete it.
Saying what I really think – I didn’t actually realise that I wasn’t before, I thought I was saying plenty haha! But now that I’m more self aware, I catch myself feeling uncomfortable and realise I’m not actually saying the thing that needs to be said. Like yesterday with a friend I nearly said “I’m not sure I can take the boys to soft play because baby is too heavy to carry around, and I wont be able to watch the toddler”, when I caught myself and actually replied with “Ah man, I can be honest can’t I? I am too pooped to handle the pair of them in public today”.
I have two goals now. The first is for me to shift to living a secure attachment type, to gain that healthy sense of independence and inner feeling of self worth, that my relationship can add to rather than stopping me from falling apart. The second is to raise my boys to be secure too, but that will come naturally if I achieve the first.
I feel more secure and free already, just knowing that the insecurities I have been feeling all these years were from a past time in my life, and they don’t have to apply to me anymore. It’s flicked a switch in my brain and I’m all kinds of excited about it!
It’s never too late to change, you just have to want to. And I really really want to, so I’m going to.