The Anxious Attachment Style: Seeking Security and Connection
How Core Anxious Attachment Wounds Develop in Childhood
Anxious attachment wounds often originate from inconsistent caregiving during childhood. A caregiver might have been emotionally available at times but then distant or preoccupied at others. This unpredictability leaves the child unsure of when they will receive attention and affection, leading to anxiety and hyper-vigilance around attachment figures.
A parent who fluctuates between being warm and affectionate to being absorbed in their own issues, causing the child to become anxious about when the next 'dose' of love will come. Alternatively, a caregiver who responds enthusiastically to a child's needs one day but is neglectful or dismissive the next, reinforcing the child's belief that they must constantly seek attention to ensure it's given.
How Core Wounds Can Develop with a Significant Partner Relationship
In adult relationships, someone may experience an abandonment. Alternatively, one with AA may find familiarity with certain individuals and end up choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable or inconsistent with their affection. This can trigger the Anxious individual's fear of abandonment and need for reassurance.
Clinginess and Potential Negative Impact on Relationship Dynamics
These core wounds can manifest in behaviors such as clinginess, where the Anxious individual might excessively seek contact, affirmation, or reassurance from their partner. They may also interpret a partner's need for space as rejection, leading to a cycle of anxiety and pursuit that can push the partner away.
An Anxious partner sending multiple texts or calls when their partner is unresponsive, fearing the worst-case scenario.
Overanalyzing a partner's words and actions for signs of waning interest or affection, often leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.
The Need for Therapeutic Interventions
The dynamic created by clinginess and the need for reassurance can strain the relationship and may require interventions from a therapist. Therapy can help the Anxious individual understand their attachment style, develop healthier communication patterns, and learn to self-soothe.
There are many therapeutic strategies but I find a couple approaches to be particularly beneficial.
EMDR to process past times of abandonment and desensitize the fear of abandoment and to install adaptive cognitions that then lead to a more secure self and thus adaptive behavior in the present.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to challenge and reframe the negative thought patterns that fuel anxiety and dependency.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to build a more secure attachment within the relationship by fostering emotional responsiveness and deeper connection.
Mindfulness practices to help the Anxious individual stay grounded in the present moment and reduce the tendency to spiral into worry about the relationship.