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If You Were Told To Be Highly Independent As A Child, You May Have Fearful Attachment

It’s one of four predominant attachment styles.

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You can bet that most individuals would memorize the relationship manual if there was one. However, humans are inherently emotional and complicated beings, with a unique chromosomal mix and life experiences that influence how they interact with others. That comprehensive guide to relationships would therefore require approximately eight billion editable pages—and counting.

Understanding your attachment type is a more practical and doable method of determining how to approach relationships. Your attachment style is the central figure in your interpersonal interactions, some of which are simpler to comprehend than others.

John Bowlby, a psychiatrist, developed the hypothesis of attachment styles in the 1960s after seeing how infants reacted when separated from their primary carers (usually their mothers). The four main attachment styles he identified as secure, anxious, avoidant, and terrified avoidant were then used to categorize their behaviors.

Relationship anxiety and self-doubt overwhelm those with a fearful avoidant attachment style (sometimes referred to as “fearful attachment”) and put their relationships with others in danger. However, your attachment style doesn’t have to define you; in fact, with time and effort, it can shift from being insecure to secure. What you need to know about the frightened attachment style is explained below, along with healing techniques.

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What gives rise to anxious attachment?

Insecure attachment has a subcategory called fearful attachment (along with anxious and avoidant). According to Maggie Holland, MA, MHP, LMHC, the majority of insecure attachment types emerge throughout childhood, while it’s also likely that your experiences as an adult may have an effect. People who have fearful-avoidant attachment were probably raised to be fiercely independent, to the point that they believe that partnerships are unnecessary or unsafe. Perhaps one’s parents or guardians were extremely rigid or disrespectful of intimate feelings. Basically, a child learnt they couldn’t depend on relationships when their bodily and emotional requirements weren’t supplied.

Any important event that made you feel alone or abandoned, such as witnessing a contentious divorce between your parents or going through a painful separation of your own, can alter how you interact with other people. When your essential needs from previous relationships are rocked, even with prior safe attachment, that has an impact on your behavior and feelings moving ahead.

What do those who have an avoidant, fearful attachment style fear?

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Although it’s tough to generalize, people with fearful avoidant attachment frequently worry about being rejected. Humans are inherently social creatures who yearn for human connection, but people who experience fearful attachment learn as children that they cannot rely on these ties to take care of them. According to Holland, “fearful-avoidant attachment convinces a person that their wants are not worthy of being met and that people will disappoint them.” To shield themselves from being rejected, they frequently distance themselves from others.

According to Silvi Saxena, MBA, MSW, LSW, CCTP, OSW-C, fearful avoidant people frequently have a history where attachment is broken, typically resulting from childhood experiences of neglect or any type of volatile relationship. They are afraid of feeling alone but reluctant to form a close relationship.

What are the desires of those with scared avoidant attachment?

According to Dr. Krista Jordan, PhD, a psychotherapist in Austin, Texas, “those with a frightened attachment style have the same basic urge that all humans do—to connect and build strong relationships that generate a feeling of protection and security.”

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What does adult fearful attachment look like?

Similar to fearful attachment in children, fearful attachment in adults manifests as a great conflict between the need to feel safe and connected to others. In a baby, this manifests as physical motions, but in adults, it primarily manifests as relationship dynamics, according to Jordan. According to Jordan, a scared baby may begin to approach the parent before stopping abruptly and collapsing. She continues, “A terrified adult may phone you and schedule a date but then abruptly cancel due to a wave of dread that feels overwhelming.

People can become so overwhelmed by their conflicting demands for protection and closeness that they decide it’s best to stay by themselves. Adults with a scared attachment style could feel unlovable, unappreciated, and disconnected. According to Holland, “as babies, they encountered a pattern of expressing a need to their caretakers and having that caregiver fail to respond and meet that need; this certainly seems little to us as adults, but in a child’s thinking, this is essentially a full-out rejection.”

Adults with a frightened attachment frequently start becoming close to someone else before ending the relationship to protect themselves from the rejection they anticipate receiving because they picked up this pattern as children, according to Holland. It is common for people with this attachment style to avoid asking for help or to keep close ties at a distance. They are prevented from acting by their own anxieties and uncertainties; according to Saxena, this is the brain’s defense mechanism against an unhealthy connection.

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How does one love someone who is attached with fear?

There is no set way to love, however if you’re in a relationship with someone who has a scared attachment style, you should abide by the following rules:

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The most crucial thing you can do, according to Holland, is to ensure that you and your spouse communicate clearly and directly, and that you only say what you intend. Don’t make a commitment unless you are very certain you can keep it up. It takes time for your partner to fully believe you will always be there for them; they need to see this often.

2. Replace their critical internal dialogue with a fresh story.

Keep in mind that individuals with avoidant attachment frequently have unfavorable self-perceptions. Over time, gently remind them of their excellent traits to assist them in unlearning those inclinations.

3. Avoid interpreting their actions personally.

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Understand that if your spouse pushes you away out of fear, avoidance, or relationship anxiety, this is not their reaction to you specifically but rather their reaction to relationships in general. Remember that before you even met your mate, between the ages of 12 and 36 months, they may have established these patterns. “Knowing that can help you not feel wounded when their profound ambivalence shows up,” the author writes.

Learn how your behavior during conflicts connects to your attachment style by watching the following video:

4. Get ready for non-linear development.

In the event that your partner makes progress before reversing course, show tolerance and reassurance. Establishing trust requires a lot of honesty, dependability, and transparency, according to Jordan. They are wired to perceive others as threats, therefore you might have to put forth extra effort to demonstrate your safety.

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5. Recognize that you have a limited amount of power.

Love for someone with a scared attachment style entails assisting them in recognizing and comprehending their underlying problems and, if necessary, obtaining professional assistance. But Saxena adds that you can show someone you love them by being present and encouraging them on their journey to understanding themselves.

What are the coping mechanisms for people with scared avoidant attachment?

Breakups can be particularly traumatic for those with this attachment style since they have a deep wound of abandonment. Even the most “healed” person may not handle it well, but it’s crucial to realize that the trigger is an old wound, and the emotions associated with the breakup may cause everything to seem the same, according to Saxena.

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The person who has a scared avoidant attachment is typically the one who starts the breakup. According to Holland, “this is frequently an effort to protect themselves from what they regard as the inevitable: their spouse rejecting them.” She continues, “If they genuinely liked you, they could feel guilty and sad, but in the end they regard it as a necessary hurt.”

When they don’t start the relationship, a breakup only serves to confirm their anxieties about being dumped. There may be withdrawal, depressive symptoms, and recurrent negative self-talk. It is difficult for people with frightened avoidant to end a relationship without letting it affect how they feel about themselves. According to Holland, “fearful avoidant attachment folks would likely feel like they “deserve” the breakup and that it was inevitable, thus they aren’t likely to pursue further information or make attempts to repair the relationship.

One day they might seem downcast, but the next they might be distant and frigid. According to Jordan, they are essentially being propelled by two opposing forces inside of them: one that craves and requires connection and another that is profoundly suspicious of and scared of it. The one who craves connection will be saddened by the split, but the person who fears connection will be relieved.

How do you talk to someone who is afraid and avoidant?

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Any healthy relationship must be built on open communication, but dealing with an insecure attachment style makes this even more crucial. Here are some pointers for attentive and successful conversations:

1. Prioritize clarity.

Be as open and honest in your communication as you (ideally) are in all of your relationships with individuals. Holland counsels being straightforward, concise, sincere, and doing as you say you’ll do.

Because of the underlying fear, communicating with someone who has this attachment style can be challenging. Saxena advises “asking what was heard to ensure the other person understands accurately… since sometimes the worry can mess up the genuine objective of what is being expressed” to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.

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2. Assure them with positive statements.

Let them know you are not taking anything personally by expressing compassion and empathy. Jordan advises, “Let them know you want to be there and that you understand it could be difficult for them to truly lean into relationships.”

Expect that they may have histories of abuse or neglect, and make them feel comfortable speaking about their childhood memories by portraying them as resilient people who overcame adversity (rather than as victims),” Jordan advises. To provide them additional support as they work on their relationship skills, be ready and willing to accompany them to an attachment-based couples therapy session (like PACT).

3. Evaluate your communication habits.

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Be mindful of raising your voice, slamming things, making verbal or physical threats, or otherwise making someone feel unsafe because of their sensitivity to safety. They can tell that you are not threatening by hearing a softer voice, a more soothing tone, or even an occasional smile—yes, even during an argument.

Be willing to evaluate your own unconscious communication habits that might be causing them to feel afraid, advises Jordan. “Even expressive hand motions might trigger a person with a trauma history to feel uncomfortable.” Always keep in mind that they are probably looking at relationships through a trauma lens. Always listen to what they have to say and validate it without adding your own opinions or experiences.

4. Establish boundaries in a constructive, non-threatening manner.

Conflict and confrontation may cause a terrified individual to overreact and react emotionally. This response and reaction may manifest as a loud emotional outburst or a silent separation. Because of this, it’s crucial to establish limits and reassure others that you’re not pushing them away or loving them any less by doing so.

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If they can find a partner who is prepared to work hard and support them, they can eventually re-pattern their attachment and heal those traumas, according to Jordan.

Being honest, patient, and trusting are ultimately the keys to developing a long-lasting, good connection with a scared avoidant individual.

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