Why Am I So Insecure In My Relationships?
Today’s topic is Attachment Theory and Codependency. If you’re struggling with codependency characteristics, it will serve you well to learn about the various attachment styles there are and how your attachment bond that you formed in childhood may be affecting you now.
Many people wonder why they stay in relationships that are not healthy for them. Why remain in an unhealthy cycle of “crazy”, repeating the same dysfunctional patterns over and over?
While many factors come into play, the style of attachment for each partner will have something to do with this.
If you’re struggling with codependency, if you’re an adult child of an alcoholic or addict, or if you’ve been involved with narcissistic abuse, learning about attachment styles may help you in various ways.
Today, I want to talk to those who struggle with attachment injuries, and how to begin healing them. Now, how do you know if you have suffered attachment trauma? It’s likely if you have a:
- History of abandonment, abuse, neglect
- If you are extra clingy in relationships
- If you have trouble being your authentic self
- If you’re closed…unable to connect emotionally with others
- If you’re attention seeking
- If you grew up in a home where alcoholism or addiction was present
Now, I know you may want to heal from attachment trauma, but I want you to realize that there is no quick fix and the way each person will heal from such trauma varies from one person to the next.
It’s going to depend on various factors, like your level of emotional maturity, current skills, willingness to “do the work”, education, ability to integrate what you learn, triggers, and so on. It will vary for each person, as it’s not a “one size fits all”.
How does attachment theory help us? It provides an explanation of how the parent-child relationship comes forth and how it will influence the development of the child.
The parent-child relationship
Let’s start at the beginning. When you were born into your family, there was an opportunity for you to form bonds with your caregivers. The kinds of bonds formed, or not formed, had an impact on your life then, and now. These kinds of bonds are called “attachment styles”.
Let’s say your parents were alcoholics, and your emotional needs were not met. You were neglected and oftentimes verbally abused. That’s traumatic. That’s something you do not know how to deal with as a baby or small child, so that trauma essentially gets coded into your body. It gets “downloaded” and stored. Meaning, it remains unintegrated in your nervous system, adding undue stress upon it.
Now, that attachment trauma may very well still be looping in your mind and body, creating various distresses in your life and relationships.
Now, in previous lessons, we explored the nature of codependency and how it can slowly ruin a relationship. You get into a relationship and things seem oh so amazing when the “love high” is going on. However, at some point the relationship takes on some patterns that are not so healthy. You, or both of you, start displaying dependent behavior.
Clinginess. Neediness. Anxiety.
Just how do people end up practicing such dependent behavior? What are the roots of our codependent tendencies? Why do we give up our freedom and control in exchange for safety and submission?
What kind of attachment do you have?
Every relationship is different, but some relationship experts have come up with three ways in which people “attach” in a relationship. It is called the attachment theory.
It was John Bowlby who first began studying attachment theory in the 30’s, studying many children who had emotional challenges. Over time, he learned a lot about how important a child’s relationship was with the mother in terms of developing socially, emotionally, and cognitively.
He defined attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” He believed that the attachments formed early in life had a significant impact throughout the rest of life. If a secure attachment is made early, the child will have a better sense of security as he ages and if not, an insecurity will most likely develop.
It was Mary Ainsworth that took Bowlby’s research and expounded upon it in the 70’s and formed the three styles of attachment I will discuss today:
- Avoidant-insecure attachment
What do the percentages look like regarding these groups? According the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, about 20% of people fall in the anxious camp, 25% fall into the avoidant camp, and everyone else (55%) rests in the secure camp.
Now, let’s take a look at them to see where you may stand.
Those with an anxious attachment style most likely did not receive adequate maternal care as children. They became distressed when the primary caregiver would leave because they did not think he or she was coming back. Many emotional needs went unmet due to absence or the caregivers own emotional, mental, or physical distress. Basically, home life was quite dysfunctional and as a result an extreme sense of insecurity formed within the child.
Even homes that may just be slightly dysfunctional can still produce anxious attachments. Maybe Mom suffered from major depression and though she cared for her baby, she just wasn’t able to give the baby her undivided attention. She was living in a depressive state unable to really give her baby the emotional support needed. Or perhaps Dad was not expressive of his love, so he never offered tender loving care to the child. He may have engaged with the child some, but not on a deep level, and therefore the child did not really bond with the father. Insecurity can be formed during childhood for numerous reasons and the level of insecurity depends on many factors.
Some might call this group needier, clingy, or codependent. If you have an anxious attachment, you are anxious a good bit of the time- especially when you are not with your partner. You crave their presence almost continually; thus, you might get termed “needy”. You get anxious when your partner doesn’t call or text you back immediately, you are very sensitive to your partner’s moods, and you don’t like creating or having to deal with conflict. However, you do create conflict because that tends to gain your partner’s attention. Experts state that essentially you are recreating the same childhood trauma trying to get your unresolved issues resolved, yet this is not the way to go about it and ends up creating much pain.
I was totally in this category for far longer than I’d like to admit, and it can still creep in at times.
Those who have avoidant attachment probably avoided their primary caregivers much of the time as children. Perhaps their caregiver was mean or abusive or the child would get punished for “relying” on him or her. This causes them to put a wall up and learn not to depend on anyone. Those with avoidant attachment love their independence. They want intimacy, but they are afraid that if they go after it, they will lose their freedom. People in this camp tend to feel smothered or apprehensive when a partner wants to get close. They want deep connections, but put a wall up. They repress their desire for intimacy and keep partner at arm’s length. They get annoyed easily at little things.
Oddly enough, these are the types of people many codependents are attracted to, which is really a recipe for disaster. If you want to read an excellent book on this topic, purchase Ross Rosenberg’s The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us. This book gives incredible insight into the dysfunctional relationship between a codependent person and a narcissist/addict/emotional manipulator. Excellent reading! Ross also has many videos on YouTube that I found extremely enlightening on the topic.
Interestingly enough, I’ve found myself in this category at times too!
Those in the secure camp do pretty well in relationships. As children, they were able to feel secure that their primary caregiver was dependable and would not abandon them. This helped them to feel more secure throughout life.
Those with secure attachments are great communicators and know how to treat their partner. When conflict arises, they tend to stay calm and openly discuss the situation. They like intimacy and invite it as often as they’d like. They like for their relationship to grow, so they invest in it on a regular basis. They are secure in themselves and this helps tremendously in a relationship.
It would be nice if everyone fell into the secure attachment group, but that is not the case.
Chances are if you are reading this, you fall into the Anxious-Attachment group.
Your mother or father may have been an alcoholic, neglected, abused, addicts, not available, schizophrenic, codependent, a narcissist, clinically depressed, married to an addict or alcoholic.
So, you are wanting to attach so badly. You are yearning. Oftentimes you attract someone like your primary caregiver.
Is this true? Dear one, bring it light, and become conscious of this. Do you long for that parental attachment that you’ve never gotten? Do you seek it from others? Are you always trying to get that emotional need met, yet failing time and time again?
We want to bond. We’re created to bond with others, and especially our parents. But when that deep connection with parents didn’t form, we’re more apt to feel a huge void, and unworthy. We feel NOT worthy to be loved.
So, we end up attracting those who will cater to that unhealed wound. Those that we will attach to in an insecure way.
In my current relationship, my partner came from a family where Dad was an alcoholic and Mom was an emotional abuser/narcissist. She grew up codependent and has worked a lot over the years at healing gaping wounds, however, those codependent traits still pop up at times. She’s the more insecure/anxious one in this relationship.
Me? I grew up with an alcoholic father and depressed mother, and I grew up with some codependent tendencies. And, in my past relationship, they came out in a big way when I was with a recovering addict who had selfish tendencies.
But in a relationship with someone who has more of an insecure attachment, I fall more into the avoidant attachment category. This actually surprised me, as I always thought I was more the codependent type.
But it makes sense. Insecurity attracts Avoidant. It’s just the way it works, so we work through issues and understand we have the opportunity to help heal at a deep level various wounds.
Shift your attachment style
Good news is that you can shift your attachment style if you invest in growing, learning, and changing. It will take some work, but you can do it. Both anxious and avoidant attachment camps ought to be trying to become more secure.
As you invest in personal and spiritual growth, a better relationship will be a byproduct. As you journey toward becoming whole and secure in yourself and in God, all of your relationships will improve.
There are so many people who have relationship problems their whole lives, but never make effort to get some good relationship advice. When something is not working, do something different.
What attachment category do you see yourself in? Regardless of what type, commit to doing whatever it takes to get closer to that “secure attachment” group. This may require a season of counseling, or seeing a Shamanic healer, or attending a 12 Step group like Codependent’s Anonymous, or seeing a spiritual counselor, such as myself.
There is hope, dear one!