Healing Anxious Attachment Patterns to Create Space for Love

Relaxation

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“Anxious attachment stems from a deep sense of inner instability where old wounds make people anticipate that they will be abandoned again and again.” ~Jessica Baum

I have recently met the love of my life. Yay!!! He is the person I’ve been imagining for as long as I can remember, hoping and praying that one day I would find him.

It took such a long time that I began to suspect I was delusional for imagining that such a love was possible, and I almost gave up on the idea of him. But now he is here, and we share the most incredibly beautiful love and my soul is so vibrantly happy to be next to him.

But the story isn’t so simple because my soul shares this space with my conditioned mind (old parts of myself that developed their own ways of being). To these parts of my ego mind, love feels alien and threatening. When these parts take over, I fall out of alignment with the frequency of our love and tumble back into the fears and worries that trigger me to play out old patterns.

Until quite recently, I believed myself to be unworthy of loving or of being loved. I was born into a toxic family, to parents who were mentally and emotionally unwell, and as a result, I experienced much neglect and abuse. As is usual after such childhood trauma, I developed a deeply ingrained insecure attachment style, a deep mistrust and fear of others, and a consuming sense of unworthiness.

For decades, these wounds led me unconsciously down the same paths I had witnessed around me as a child. My idea of love was deeply confused. I sought validation and reassurance of my worth continuously, while feeling in my core that I was unworthy of love. I was only attracted to unavailable men who couldn’t, didn’t, or wouldn’t love me, confirming my idea that I was unlovable and unwanted.

As a therapist, I knew enough to try to manage my thoughts and feelings and work on myself. But in all truth these patterns of being anxiously and obsessively codependent continued to play out, making me both deeply miserable and also ashamed of my inability to fix, change, or manage them well enough.

After my divorce four years ago I was so broken, vulnerable, and devastated and so tired of these repeated patterns within myself that I made the decision to invest wholeheartedly into my relationship with myself. I wanted to heal these old childhood wounds that still haunted me so powerfully.

While these old parts still nudge me with their thoughts and feelings of being unlovable, of not feeling safe, of needing to remain vigilant and needing to perform as they always did, they are now way less consuming. I’ve healed enough that I’ve been able to find my love, and I’m able to separate enough from them that I can see them as they arise and support myself as they do.

I want to share with others the things I do to ride this inevitable wave of oscillating between the old patterns and the new emerging, more securely attached version of myself.

Last week our plans changed because his daughter was sad and needed him. It meant that I didn’t hear from him for the rest of that day and a little through the next one.

I imagined that he would realize that he had been neglecting his daughter, hence her sadness, and that he would decide that he needed to end our love so that he could better focus on his important role of being a good father to her. I felt so saddened by the thought of him leaving that I cried as the anxiety coursed through my body and the old familiar feelings of abandonment threatened to overwhelm me.

The good news is that I knew that I could soothe and support myself, so I stepped into the following action.

I listened.

I spent a good hour or so writing about my thoughts, feelings, and fears and letting this part of myself know that I was there and I was listening.

I gave her (this young part of myself) space to process what she was experiencing without jumping in to judge her. I approached her with open, compassionate curiosity by asking her a variety of what, why, how, and when type questions.

I let her write and share and come up with a plan to deal with what might happen (in the worst-case scenario), and I sat with all the heavy feelings it brought with it.

I offered reassurance.

I told her that it would be okay, that whatever happened I would be there and I would support and love her through this.

I asked her to breathe and be in this moment with me—to just breathe.

I reminded her that whatever happened was for our highest good.

I reminded her of the journey we had been on and how far we’d come to get to this loving self relationship.

I reminded her that she was just a ghost from the past, that she had already served her time in trying to protect me from harm, and that she could relax now because she was safe.

I refocused my attention.

All this managed to ease my anxiety a little so I could get on with my day; seeing friends, doing a little work, and keeping myself busy. While I could feel the panic and anxiety within, it wasn’t debilitating, not like it used to be. But it was definitely still there. I couldn’t quite shift the sense that I should pay attention to the uneasy feelings in my body.

I resisted the urge to text him seeking reassurance. I simply gave him space (with some phone stalking) and respected that he was having a process.

I planned to talk with him, when he was ready, to shift our connection so that we could stay together and make more space for his important connection with his daughter. If that was what he wanted too. By now I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, and I reminded myself that if he didn’t, I would be okay.

He arrived later that day, and I was ready for whatever was about to happen, but not actually what did happen.

He was just the same—happy to see me, feeling good in our love—and absolutely nothing had changed for him. His daughter was fine, and he had none of the problems or concerns that I imagined he had had.

And I was completely thrown!

I had gotten so involved in the story, with a whole plan of how we could move forward from this place, that it took me completely by surprise that NONE of it was real or necessary.

I just wasn’t able to see that the part of me that learned to be so vigilant of hurt or harm had imagined the whole thing.  I was so focused on practicing self-compassion and support that I hadn’t really stopped to question its validity.

I guess the next level of my process is about recognizing when it is important and necessary to offer myself gentle compassion and support and when is it time for a tougher kind of loving compassion by saying “That’s enough, no more!” I’m pretty certain that both have their place and are necessary!

What I’m learning is that loving and being loved is a huge process for the old parts of my ego mind, and maintaining the frequency of love is going to take some practice. And that my mind is really, really tricky!

For now, I am oscillating in and out of higher and lower states of energy, thoughts, and feelings about intimacy, love, and connection. I am both in the process of becoming a higher vibrational version of myself AND of releasing the old ways of being that no longer serve me.

I am choosing to remind myself that all these old energies, thoughts, feelings, and patterns are coming up in order to be released, and as long as I don’t believe in them, they will eventually pass.

I want to detach completely from any shame I have about my humanness, so I am leaning into my humor and watching myself with loving curiosity as these energies pass by.

For now, I am choosing to commit more fully to my daily mindfulness practice so that I can train my traumatized mind to stay present and enjoy this beautiful love.

I write this for all of us who are brave enough to face our own ghosts so that we can love and be loved, just as we deserve. My hope is that by sharing my journey, it will help you with yours. 

About Tracey Nakhila

Tracey Nakhila is a Psychotherapist and founder of A Space to Process.  She offers online counselling & psychotherapy to anyone who is wishing to find a space to process the thoughts, feelings and experiences that are preventing them from living the life they deserve.

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