What are anxious attachment triggers?
Anxious attachment triggers are events, references, or interactions with others that cause a steep rise in anxiety inside of an already anxious person.
So what kinds of things could trigger you if you’re anxiously attached? When you’re anxiously attached, possible triggers could be almost everything.
Overwhelming, I know.
But take it from me, somebody who was anxiously attached for at least the first 21 years of my life – it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
In fact, just knowing the fact that anything could be a trigger is actually what may free you from the triggers, if you respond to them correctly.
12 Anxious Attachment Triggers
Basically anything that could cause you to feel emotions (and magnify your emotions) is a trigger.
Here’s a list of 12 possible triggers for anxiously attached people…
- Going to a party and meeting new people
- A friend being distant
- Your boyfriend not calling you for a day or two
- Your boyfriend/partner talking to someone else
- People making harmless and playful jokes about you (because of internal shame)
- People avoiding you or giving off rejection vibes
- Cliquey groups of people
- Something reminding you of a previous abandonment
- The thought of a big exam looming
- Competitive sport (competition can raise stress levels, which anxiously attached people may not be good at dealing with)
- Someone reminding you of the attachment figure from your childhood who traumatised you and abused you
- Being around other people who are anxiously attached (two anxiously attached people spells problems)
All these things could potentially be triggers. Since the anxiously attached person is already living in an emotional world of constant uncertainty, anything that exacerbates uncertainty in their environment is a possible trigger.
Someone not replying to your email or someone not being as emotionally or physically present for a moment, is enough to cause that uncertainty to self-magnify.
Just before we get further into it, let’s establish what anxious attachment actually is.
What Is Anxious Attachment style?
Here’s how I define anxious attachment:
Anxious attachment is characterised by a persistent feeling of stress related to the dependability and security of your intimate relationship.
You develop anxious attachment (also called preoccupied attachment) through your infancy and childhood due to your caretakers not being consistently responsive and reliable in addressing your attachment needs.
What this creates is an unconscious pervasive belief that human attachments are inherently unreliable and untrustworthy.
If you’ll bare with me, we need to bring history into this briefly (I promise there’s a good reason for it).
You might be surprised to learn that ever since the industrial revolution, anxious attachment has become pervasive.
Why is this?
It’s because of the meddling with (and semi-destruction of) the family and the human tribal culture.
As Robert Karen PH.D. (the author of “Becoming Attached”) says:
“Before the modern era, most life tended to be family life….Hired labourers lived with the farmer, the baker, or the cobbler and his next of kin and were considered family members themselves….Apprentices were treated like sons…Few people went out to work….The setting may have been claustrophobic, with all the intense hatred, resentment, and murderous jealousies that inevitably arise under such conditions, but there was also love, familiarity, and unquestioned belonging.”
In other words, the modern society, obsessed with achievement, careers and the nuclear family, have given rise to less-than ideal environments for babies and children to thrive in.
If your mother is isolated from immediate family and friends, (and if her own immediate family and friends are preoccupied with working to keep themselves alive), then she’s probably not able to get much of a break from taking care of her children and family.
As such, we have to acknowledge that the plethora of anxiously attached people exists due to a universal shortage of emotional resources among parents and caretakers.
Not only has the children-oriented culture of days past been eroded – several generations of parents have been encouraged to detach from their baby’s extreme emotional demands.
There simply isn’t enough extra pairs of hands – a village – for most parents to help raise their child.
It’s not just the lack of emotionally available parents that creates insecurely attached people, it’s also the isolation from other humans in general.
Being deprived of a dependable emotional support network has its costs on our attachment style.
Why Does Uncertainty Cause Anxious Attachment Triggers?
I’ve already established that almost anything uncertain could be a trigger when you’re anxiously attached.
The reason why anything remotely uncertain could be a trigger is because of what causes anxious attachment in the first place: no one was consistently there to help you regulate your emotions.
See, all mothers of securely attached children fare well on the following 4 positive maternal traits and behaviours:
Robert Karen also says in his book ‘Becoming Attached” that the mothers of anxiously attached children didn’t show this particular style of mothering.
In other words, they didn’t fare as well in these 4 behaviours. He writes:
“Insecure attachment can reverberate through the child’s life in the form of lowered self esteem, impaired relationships, inability to seek help or seek it in an effective way, and distorted character development.”
If your mother or father (or both) didn’t show consistent warmth, sensitivity, responsiveness and dependability, then you wouldn’t have had anyone to help you regulate your emotions, manage your stress and make you feel safe.
As a result, you are left with a nervous system that’s different to those people who have secure attachment.
When you aren’t securely attached to your mother (and developed an anxious attachment style), you learn that feeling emotions is not safe.
This is why almost anything remotely uncertain could be a trigger for you. It’s because you avoid feeling emotions to try to control your environment and manufacture a false sense of safety.
Anxious Attachment Dating: How Do I Manage Dating When I Have Anxious Attachment?
Dating when you have anxious attachment is a little more tricky due to the heightened stress, worry and overthinking that you experience.
But after coaching many women in the area of dating when you have anxious attachment, here’s what I’ve found works.
- Firstly, you have to use affirmations for anxious attachment to calm yourself.
- Secondly, you have to know the ultimate goal and always focus on that.
What is the ultimate goal?
The ultimate goal is greater attunement with the man (or woman) you’re dating.
Greater attunement helps you take better care of yourself and honour your own vulnerability – which is important for successful dating when you have anxious attachment.
To reiterate – attunement is how women can be able to date even whilst having an anxious attachment style.
How To Work Through Anxious Attachment: Know The Goal
Knowing that almost anything could be a trigger, what can you do to help yourself?
How can you date happily and better still, be loads of fun to date?
Essentially what you want to do is to gradually become a more securely attached person who is capable of attunement.
It’s also the prerequisite for keeping any other meaningful relationship in your life long term.
Without attunement, you cannot have these two critical elements in a romantic relationship (emotional attraction and emotional connection), and therefore you cannot expect to keep a long-term relationship both stable and passionate.
This is because your fears will get in the way, leading you to sabotage your relationships due to anxiety, stress, or just a general fear of abandonment.
So let’s look at this ultimate goal in healing anxious attachment. The primary goal (aside from calming your anxiety), is to become a balanced human who is capable of emotional attunement.
When you’re capable of attunement, you’re capable of bonding with yourself and with others, thereby becoming more able to make better decisions in your relationships.
Second of all, it’s very important to know that as an anxiously attached person, your attunement skills are inherently poor.
You may be wondering what attunement is. Attunement is defined as: an attuning or act of making harmonious.
Anxious Attachment Triggers: Becoming More Attuned
Knowing that our ultimate goal in coping with anxious attachment triggers is to stop being triggered and move towards attunement, how can you help yourself do that?
First of all, you need to work through your past and deal with any repressed memories and trauma.
Why is this?
Because those of us who have been through a lot of trauma will not be sensitive enough to feel. If you’re not sensitive enough to feel, you cannot attune yourself to others and have healthy relationships.
So you need to regain that sensitivity by feeling through and healing trauma. By processing it alone through private grieving or with a loved one, you can begin that healing process.
You can also use affirmations for anxious attachment (which I’ll discuss shortly).
This article is part of a two part series on anxious attachment, and you can learn more about how to actually self soothe and self-regulate anxious attachment by reading this article.
One you feel as though you’ve given yourself the opportunity to grieve and process old memories and emotions, you can then take the necessary action steps towards minimising triggers and becoming securely attached.
Here are two steps to do that for yourself.
How To Heal Anxious Attachment Triggers
You take these 3 Steps:
- Use Affirmations For Anxious Attachment.
- Focus on understanding and attuning to the other person.
- Practice bantering.
Let’s discuss these 3 steps in detail now.
1: Use Affirmations For Anxious Attachment.
What are affirmations? They are declarations or statements that provide emotional support and encouragement to you.
And there are some specific affirmations for anxious attachment that I’m going to share with you now.
You should use these to change your physiological state (it also assists in rewiring your nervous system) whenever you notice yourself becoming anxious or uncertain when dating.
Here Are Affirmations For Anxious Attachment:
- “You are worthy. You were born worthy and nothing can ever change that.”
- “You have everything you need within you right now to feel relaxed, calm, and attuned to the situation at hand.”
- “You are ok. I love you.”
- “Just breathe. With every deep breath you take, you are getting closer to unshakeable confidence, security and self esteem.”
- “With every effort to attune to others, you are getting closer to secure attachment.”
2: Focus On Understanding And Attuning To The Other Person.
This has helped me wonderfully to heal my anxious attachment patterns (after extensive grieving and processing the trauma): leading with my understanding.
What this means is that in your interactions and in your relationships in general, you replace your own feelings of anxiety (your triggers) with feeling into the world of your lover, partner or family member.
Since being anxiously attached means that you err towards focusing on your own fears (which we have to admit, fears take you around in circles), it really helps to focus on something that you can control.
Something that you can control is your intent and ability to be at one with the feelings and values of those you love.
See, most of the time anxiously attached people make up a bunch of irrelevant scary stories in their own head (that are more related to past abandonment than the present).
This uses up valuable energy that could be going towards actually attuning to the other person.
So here’s how you do it:
Whenever you notice yourself becoming anxious, you put the focus on the other person. You put your energy into hearing them and feeling where they are at.
If they are not in your presence and you cannot see them, then you take out a piece of paper and you write down answers to a bunch of important questions about the other person.
What questions do you want to answer about the other person?
Questions To Ask Yourself When Dating With Anxious Attachment
Here are some questions to help you attune to the other person and consequently feel emotionally safe when dating with anxious attachment.
- What are they focusing on right now?
- Are you in the picture of their life/are they willing to make room for you?
And of course, as an anxiously attached person, you would want to know whether attuning to them (and investing in them) is worth your time or not, right?
Is He Worth Your Time And Commitment?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to discern whether they are worth your emotional commitment and time…
- Do they actually care how they make you feel?
- Have they ever shown that they care (beyond what is comfortable and convenient for them)?
If you cannot answer these questions, you may find it helpful to learn to test them. Here’s a guide on how to test a guy.
For more help, see my article on The 6 Behaviours You Should Never Tolerate In A Man.
3: Practice Bantering.
Because to banter, you have to be attuned. And this is hard for people who have insecure attachment, because it requires your presence.
And presence is something that’s not as easy for insecurely attached people to give.
Banter (or high value banter) is a communication style that is unique to humans.
We are smart, social animals that have the privilege of evolving towards this type of communication.
However, it is only those with a secure attachment style who usually have the privilege of evolving smoothly into bantering. Those of us with insecure attachment tend to get left behind in this realm of communication.
This is one reason why you’ll see some people intuitively ‘getting’ banter and others, well, not intuitively getting it.
Other than that reason, just by being a woman, we are a little less likely to banter than men, because we spend more energy on magnifying emotions.
(Those of you who know my work would be aware that the feminine energy makes things bigger, while masculine energy makes things smaller).
You can learn more about the biases of the feminine and masculine in these two popular articles:
See, when you’re a feminine soul and you spend a lot of energy on making feelings bigger, you have a little less energy left over for things like banter.
Emphasis on: a little less energy.
(Ie: a little less energy than securely attached men who naturally gravitate towards banter as a communication style).
But if you’re a woman with secure attachment, you’ll have more comfortability and familiarity with bantering than a woman with insecure attachment.
Even though feminine souls may banter less, that doesn’t mean that feminine souls cannot do it. In fact, a lot of women do actually banter – not only with other men, such as their own brothers or fathers, but with girlfriends too!
But people with anxious attachment style have a different feeling towards bantering altogether.
It’s not just a feeling of “preferring” not to banter, they actually feel stressed by it, because they’re not inherently trusting of the bonding process in the first place.
Add to that the layer of uncertainty in banter, and they really want to retreat.
Instead of welcoming it as a great tool for triggering attraction and bonding with others, they feel scared of it, easily offended by it, and even denigrate others who use it.
And here’s something else interesting that I’ve found – the people who really don’t ‘get’ the value of banter – even after having its usefulness explained to them – tend to see only one intent in it: to offend others.
The fact is that not only is banter not designed to offend; banter is a tool of playfulness that is excellent for building emotional attraction and emotional connection.
But it’s threatening to those of us who feel unsafe and too insecure to venture off into the unfamiliar land of high value banter.
Nonetheless, like anything that’s difficult for insecurely attached people, it’s probably something you should do.
The more you avoid it, the more you need it.
And luckily for you, my husband and I have written a guide on what it is and how to use banter to your advantage.
Warning: Attaching Early while Dating Is Different To Having Anxious Attachment
Just before we finish, here’s something to consider:
If you’re a woman, then you have an innate feminine bias for attaching early. This means that you have a tendency towards attaching early to a man while dating.
But this is different to having anxious attachment.
You can attach early but be securely attached, and you can attach early even while being an anxiously attached person.
These are two different things that need to be managed differently.
If you have anxious attachment as a woman, this means that your problems in dating may be compounded.
Not only do you find yourself anxious, you’re also dealing with attaching to a guy super fast – and that can make you do things that sabotage your dating success, at the same time as coming across as low value.
My husband and I have made a brand new program called High Value Attachment, where we teach women how to use their feminine bias for early attachment to their advantage.
Enrolments for this course have closed, you can get onto our email list to find out more about it when it’s re-launched in the future.
I hope this article on anxious attachment triggers and how to heal them helped you, because it took me several days to write it.
Please leave me a comment below, telling me your story. I always read the comments and look forward to hearing from you!
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Renee is the founder of The Feminine Woman & co-founder of Shen Wade Media where we teach women how to show up as a high value high status woman whom easily inspires a deep sense of emotional commitment from her chosen man. Together with her husband D. Shen at Commitment Triggers blog, they have positively influenced the lives of over 15 million women through their free articles and videos as well as 10’s of thousands through paid programs through the Shen Wade Media platform.
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