When trying to connect to others or build a healthy relationship with them (especially a romantic one) one’s attachment style matters.
People with secure attachment styles find it easier to open up to others and form emotional connection with them because they expect positive outcomes.
However, those with insecure attachment styles, avoidants, in particular, expect the opposite: Their so-called “working model” has shaped them into believing that they should hide their emotions.
Can you relate? If you can, there’s a lot more you should know about avoidant attachment.
To understand yourself better, it’s important to find out where it stems from and whether it’s something that you can change, and how.
Let’s get started!
What’s Avoidant Attachment Style?
Avoidant attachment style is one of the insecure attachment styles identified in psychological literature. It is characterized by a tendency to avoid emotional closeness and a belief that one does not need it in their life. This attachment style is often a result of upbringing, where parents may be strict, emotionally distant, and do not tolerate the expression of feelings.
Where causes Avoidant Attachment Style?
Attachment styles are formed during childhood. A person usually becomes an avoidant if…
… their parents don’t give them attention when they are crying
… their caretaker actively discourages crying and showing negative emotions
… their mom or dad don’t react emotionally to their achievements or failures
… his or her parent(s) constantly make fun of their problems
… their caregiver(s) are always annoyed when they have a problem
… their medical issues or nutritional needs are not properly addressed
… there is a lack of physical contact and touch from their parents
Basically, because avoidants learn that they can’t rely on their parents, they end up thinking that they won’t ever be able to rely on other people.
The fact that their caretaker doesn’t help them or provide them with emotional support when needed makes them think that no one will and that it’s not okay to need it or want it.
On top of that, when emotional attunement and responsiveness are not provided to a child while growing up, he or she will have trouble showing and feeling their emotions as an adult.
So, it mainly stems from the primary caregiver’s lack of responsiveness and trustworthiness.
Can You Heal an Avoidant Attachment Style?
A person’s attachment style is formed in the first 2 to 3 years of life. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed.
On the contrary, according to this study, one’s attachment style goes through various changes throughout the years.
During this time, different external factors contribute to the way a person regulates their attachment behavior, making it better or worse.
But can someone change their attachment style just because they desire to do so? Research done in 2020 shows it’s possible!
However, the changes tend to be temporary. If their needs stop being met for one reason or the other, avoidants experience a setback.
The exception? Thanks to other research in the field, we now know that a variety of life events have the power to permanently reshape an adult’s attachment style.
What does all this information tell you? Simply put, being an avoidant is not a permanent condition.
You have the power to change certain aspects of yourself, a fact that increases your chances to build a secure healthy relationship that leads to life-changing events.
How? Take a look at the following 8 ways to heal avoidant attachment style:
10 Ways to Heal Avoidant Attachment Style:
1. Acknowledge your emotions, thoughts, and past experiences related to attachment
The first step to a more secure attachment style requires you to take a look back and remember your past experiences related to attachment.
Now, I know you can’t remember much of what happened when you were a baby. However, I am sure that you have brief memories related to your early childhood.
Anything that comes to mind is helpful. Any detail about how you were feeling, what were you thinking, and the things that actually happened are essential.
For example, if you remember that you were often alone or that your mother never wanted to play with you, try to process those memories.
Try to recall how your mom’s unresponsiveness made you feel. Or think about the things you had to do because you spent a lot of time alone.
Acknowledging that you were treated in a cold way by your primary caretaker, as well as in what ways that changed you, should help you overcome some of your insecurities.
2. Challenge your critical thoughts about yourself and reframe them
Look, if one or both of your parents didn’t take the time to look at your drawings as a child, maybe you always thought that drawing is not interesting or that you were not good at it.
Or, if your primary caregiver didn’t have the patience to explain something to you twice, you may have lived your life thinking that you’re not the smartest person around and that you shouldn’t ask anything twice, even if you don’t understand it.
Who knows, maybe you beat yourself up because you feel uncomfortable with physical touch, especially the affectionate kind. But have you considered that you are not to blame?
Whatever critical thoughts you have about yourself, it is advisable to take them one by one and think them through.
As yourself whether your flaws are as bad as you think they are and try to remember what happened that make you think you’re flawed.
In this way, you can get to the root of your problems and fix them.
3. Identify the negative thought patterns that stop you from getting attached
What are you really afraid of? A big part of your journey to fix your attachment style is to identify and deal with your fears.
Your negative thought patterns are really about your fears. Do you have any idea what triggers them?
The most common triggers are:
- When your boyfriend/girlfriend tries to get close to you emotionally
- When he or she opens up to you emotionally
- When you don’t know what to expect or you’re unable to control a situation
- When you have no choice but depend on others for something
- When you are under the impression that you spend too much time with someone
- When your boyfriend or girlfriend begins to criticize you
- When someone judges you for being emotional
Here’s what you need to do: examine the evidence, try to develop more balanced thoughts, and practice self-compassion.
For example, just because your partner criticizes you, this doesn’t mean that you’re no good or they don’t love you, even if that’s what you thought your entire life.
4. Develop emotional regulation skills and embrace better coping strategies
The fact is: If you think rationally and logically about your situation, you’ll feel better and react in a more secure way in your future interactions.
In this regard, developing emotional regulation skills, as well as embracing better coping strategies are the way to go.
So, how can you take control of your emotions? How can you decide when and what to feel? By being…
… self-aware, which means noticing how you feel and naming your emotion
… mindful, which refers to being aware of your body and what surrounds you
… adaptable, a fact that helps you deal with various changes that occur in your life
… self-compassionate, meaning that you take care of yourself, keep a gratitude journal, use relaxation techniques, and meditate
5. Maintain a daily journal to track your emotions and monitor your progress
Journaling is a very effective method to keep track of your emotions and analyze how and why they change.
On your journey to healing, there will be days when you’ll feel like you’ve made progress and days when your insecurities will overwhelm you.
If you pay attention to what exactly triggers you and then you look at the situation in a logical way, you’ll draw helpful conclusions that will aid you in the future.
For example, if you put yourself in uncomfortable situations and try to relate to others differently, and then write everything down, you’ll be able to monitor your progress.
6. Openly communicate your thoughts and feelings to your partner
If you have a partner, then know this: They want to know what you think about and how you feel.
Even if you’re not used to communicating your thoughts and feelings to someone and it feels uncomfortable, I urge you to give it a try.
I assure you, your partner wants to hear you out. They want to deepen your connection and increase the intimacy between you two.
The idea of intimacy could scare you. But, that’s the whole point, right? To overcome your fears and experience a different outcome.
So, don’t be afraid to communicate your needs to your partner.
7. Ask for space when you need it in a respectful manner
As an avoidant, you are probably accustomed to spending a lot of time alone, a fact which could make you see other people as clingy and needy because they want to spend their time with you.
The truth is that none of you has a problem. You are not to blame for being a more reserved person just as they are not to blame for being open and warm.
So, one other step toward healing your attachment style is to understand your need for loneliness and to ask for space in a respectful manner.
Avoid using the words “clingy,” “needy,” and “demanding” when referring to your partner or others. Simply let them know about what you prefer.
8. Spend time with people that have a secure attachment style
How can you tell if someone has a secure attachment style? Here’s how:
- They are comfortable talking about their feelings, needs, and hopes
- They encourage others to rely on them and they trust others enough to ask for their help
- They handle conflict really well by communicating openly and respectfully when the situation requires it
- They know their worth
If you know any securely-attached people, spend as much time as you can with them. By doing so, you’ll see how they interact with each other, how open and understanding they are, and so on.
All of that should help you overcome your avoidant tendencies.
9. Put yourself in at least one vulnerable situation every day
While healing avoidant attachment style is possible, it doesn’t happen in 30 days or less. If you really want to succeed, you’ll have to do something every day for… as long as it takes.
For example, if you put yourself in one vulnerable situation per day, such as sharing something about yourself with another person or with your partner, you’ll become more and more comfortable with doing that.
The way you relate to others will change, especially if you fight your desire to withdraw rather than spend time with someone. Or, if you finally decide to ask for help.
You’ll see that most people react positively in situations like that.
10. Dare to seek professional guidance during your healing process
Listen, not everyone is good at applying self-help techniques. If you’re one of those people, you should consider asking for professional guidance.
A therapist trained in attachment theory can help you make the desired changes. They can give you step-by-step instructions that will make your transition easier.
Fair warning: Be prepared to talk about your early childhood experiences a lot.
Avoidant attachment style is formed during childhood and it has everything to do with how your main caretaker treated you.
If you were neglected or treated in a cold, dismissive matter when you were little, chances are you grew up to be an avoidant adult.
Fortunately, you can heal avoidant attachment style if you really want to. By following the steps above, you’ll be able to relate to others in an improved manner.
Remember that fixing an attachment style takes time and patience. Don’t forget to practice self-compassion on your way.
Keep track of your progress and don’t get discouraged. If things get too hard, don’t hesitate to ask for a therapist’s help – it’s safe to rely on them!
Continue with our series of Relationships For Attachment Styles: