In your relationships, do you tend to be either anxiously attached or avoidant?
While many studies state that half the population has a secure attachment style, and the remaining half is either anxious or avoidant, I’ve always found this hard to believe. After all, at least in my experience, I haven't met nearly as many securely attached people as I have anxious/avoidant.
Of course, I could be wrong, and/or I could just be surrounded by the minority. But, when I came upon this study, which found that the majority of us tend toward either anxious or avoidant, versus secure attachment… well, it seemed far more true to my experience.
I share this not to be a pessimist, but rather to express that if you do identify as anxious or avoidant, you don’t need to be ashamed—not only is this not your fault (our attachment styles stem from our childhood experiences), but you’re far from alone.
Anxious Attachment: Signs and Solutions
Those with anxious attachment tend to people-please.
Do you often abandon your own needs in order to tend to another’s?
Do you find it difficult to advocate for yourself?
Do you tend to believe others will only like you if you have no boundaries?
Do you avoid disagreeing with others because you're overly concerned with how that will make them feel?
Are you always apologizing? Even when it's not your fault?
You may belong to this camp.
…and therefore be all too familiar with the pains that come from feeling like you "need" to behave in such ways.
Interestingly, this behaviour feels necessary because it appears to be the only way to hold on to relationships. And yet, in the end, it tends to backfire, crumbling relationships. This often happens because the object of attachment feels clung on to, "suffocated," and leaves, or the object of attachment feels as if the anxiously attached person is being insincere (which is true) and is put off by this, thus leaving.
Or, the anxiously attached person winds up growing resentful, likely due to having their needs unmet, and pushing the individual they’ve been attached to away, and/or beating themselves up for having negative thoughts bubble up about the difficult situation at hand.
To mend this, or prevent it altogether, the anxiously attached person has to do the opposite of what may feel natural:
Rather than discard their needs, they need to tune into their needs (through prayer, meditation, journaling, silent walks, etc.), and then voice them.
It can be scary at first. The fear that you may put people off and risk losing them is likely to pop up. But the work is remembering that this is okay, that fears come and go, that fear is just energy moving through the body—energy that you can, quite literally, shake off.
In the long run, and what you can hold onto, if you find yourself in this camp, is the truth that speaking up is going to yield much healthier, more enjoyable relationships that are far more fulfilling, far more rich—for you, and those in your life, too.
And by the way, for those that are put off by your voicing your opinion, let that be a part of their journey, their growth. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are toxic people you need to cut out of your life. It may just mean you have been coddling them for a while and they now need to learn to better stand on their two feet. Give them the gift of this growth.
Avoidant Attachment: Signs, Story, and Solutions
Those with avoidant attachment, on the other hand, they may identify with feeling the need to protect themselves.
Have you ever been hurt and decided to wrap yourself in armour as a result? Many moons ago, I remember “swearing off” relationships, post-gnarly-breakup.
It took me 6 years to step back into the world of dating.
They say the human body replaces itself at the cellular level every 7 years. That means by the time I felt mentally/emotionally grown enough to dip back into the dating pool, I was nearly an entirely new person on the physical front, too.
That’s a fun fact I find interesting in that it demonstrates in a tangible way how much time it really took to heal to the point where I could lower the armour and let someone in again.
While I’m an advocate for things taking the time they need to and not rushing processes, I am positive that, had I been a little more self-aware during that time, the whole healing process would’ve been far less lengthy.
One of the biggest things that helped me finally move forward was the realization that I had done enough of the inner work already, that I was in a place where I liked myself and, frankly, couldn’t think of a reason for not exploring relationships again.
Most of all, it was admitting to myself what I knew to be true: that it was actually in relationship that I would learn whatsoever was left for me to learn—I didn’t need to be in a perfect state of “readiness” to move forward.
I’ve since learned this applies to all areas of life, notably in entrepreneurship.
But that’s another story for another day.
For now, if you identify as being avoidant in your attachment style, I want you to know that, like the anxiously attached, the medicine for you is really doing the opposite of what feels ‘natural.’ Meaning, when you feel the need to lean out, lean in. It will feel hard, but this feeling is only temporarily.
One trick I used on myself------ (Find this out by subscribing to the LIKE WATER Newsletter).
Of course, ultimately, we want to do the deeper work and let people in without having to 'hack' our own minds. But, sometimes, we need to incorporate short term interventions to allow us to get to the next phase.
I hope this was of service.
If you feel so called to, let me know which attachment style, if either, you identify with, and what’s been serving you xx
Resources to read more:
The Different Types of Attachment Styles
How to Change Your Attachment Style and Relationships
Research Gate: Percentage of Anxious and Avoidant and Secure Attachment
How Attachment Theory Can Explain People-Pleasing Behaviors￼
Shaking One's Way to Health
Attachment Style Predicts Affect, Cognitive Appraisals, and Social Functioning in Daily Life