Let’s start with a description of a way to think about one’s attachment system. Our attachment system is the mechanism in our brain/psychology that is responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. People with an anxious attachment style have an ultra sensitive attachment system. Once activated, they are consumed with thoughts and feelings that have a sole purpose, which is to establish closeness and safe connection to one’s attachment figure. For adults, that would be their partner, spouse, love interest, etc. These thoughts and feeling are referred to as activating strategies. Some examples include:
- Difficulty concentrating on anything else except thoughts of one’s mate, aka ruminating.
- Maximizing their good qualities and minimizing their more challenging qualities, aka pedastalizing.
- Proximity seeking, strategizing ways to get physically closer to one’s mate.
- Being relentlessly hopeful that their mate’s negative qualities will disappear, to be replaced by only the qualities one hopes for in their mate.
Those with an anxious attachment style are more likely to engage in protest behaviors, which can be thought of as maladaptive responses that we exhibit when out attachment system feels threatened. Examples include:
- Excessive attempts to reestablish contact, such as texting or calling excessively, loitering at places where we think we might run into our mate, etc.
- Withdrawing or ignoring one’s mate as a way to bait them into reaching out to us.
- Keeping score with one’s mate.
- Acting with hostility or contempt towards one’s partner.
- Threatening to leave or terminate the relationship.
- Attempting to make one’s partner jealous.
The combination of activating strategies and protest behaviors can lead to a cycle of emotional manipulation and passive aggressive behaviors meant to compel one’s partner to pay attention, “love me”, “don’t let me down”, etc. Some common traits of those with an anxious attachment style are below:
- Desires a lot of closeness in relationship
- Feels insecure and worries about rejection
- Has difficulty being alone
- Plays games to get or keep mate’s attention
- Has difficulty expressing emotions in a calm manner
- Expects one’s partner to mind read
- Personalizes things
- Is preoccupied with their relationship
- Fears that small acts will drive away their partner
We will look more closely at avoidant attachment next time. Until then, peace.