How to Overcome Avoidant Attachment in 2022

overcome avoidant attachment

Want to learn how to overcome avoidant attachment? 

You’re in the right place. Today, you’ll learn how to identify your triggers, overcome them, and heal your avoidant attachment style.

Want to learn more? Read on!  

Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

What is avoidant attachment? 

First, let’s discuss attachment styles. You see, avoidant attachment style is one of the four different attachment styles that adults form in relationships. Here’s what you need to know about these attachment styles: 

What are attachment styles?

Attachment styles are behavioral patterns we develop in childhood that determine how we attach to our caregivers. Later in life, these patterns determine how we form romantic and platonic relationships. 

Attachment theory was initially developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Ainsworth’s student Mary Main then expanded on the theory. 

There are four attachment styles: 

  • Secure attachment style: a healthy way to attach to others. Securely attached people have positive thoughts about their relationship both when present and physically separated from their partner. I call securely attached people Cornerstones.
  • Anxious-preoccupied attachment style: anxiously attached individuals fear abandonment and are self-critical and insecure. That’s why they tend to want a lot of emotional intimacy, but often their partners (who tend to be avoidantly attached) don’t want to get as close. I call people with anxious attachment Open Hearts.
  • Dismissive-avoidant attachment style: also known as avoidant attachment. People with this attachment style don’t typically like closeness and want a lot of independence. I call them Rolling Stones. 
  • Fearful-avoidant attachment: this attachment style is also known as disorganized attachment. Disorganized individuals are a mix of anxious-preoccupied and dismissive-avoidant attachment styles; they want and fear emotional intimacy at the same time.

While it’s more common to be securely attached than to have other attachment styles (50% of people have a secure attachment style), half of the population is still insecurely attached. That means that they have either anxious, avoidant, or disorganized attachment. 

According to estimates, 20% are anxious, 25% are avoidant, and 5% are dismissive. 

What does it mean to be avoidant, though? 

What is avoidant attachment?

How do you know if you are avoidantly attached? It depends on if you have dismissive-avoidant or a fearful-avoidant attachment. Here’s how to recognize both.

Dismissive-avoidant attachment

If you tend to fall headlong into relationships, but end up feeling bored, smothered, trapped, and worried about hurting your partner, you might be a Rolling Stone or avoidantly attached individual. 

Dismissive-avoidant individuals often suffer from addictions, whether it’s work, food, shopping, alcohol abuse, gaming or something else. 

In relationships, you likely feel that your partners demand too much of you. As a result, you’re sensitive to even small requests.

When things go wrong in the relationship, you feel you’re blamed for it and so you avoid taking on too much responsibility. You avoid commitment, but not necessarily because of a fear of it. Instead, when you commit, you take it quite seriously.

Because you may feel things intensely, you prefer to try to shut down your feelings. That’s why people often think you’re emotionally distant. 

Maybe you also struggle with perfectionism and fears of failure. You don’t want to appear vulnerable, though, so you act the opposite. 

And because you feel you need to earn love, you are drawn to partners who make you work for it. But if someone gives it to you too freely, you find them “too nice” or “boring.”

You tend to fall into relationships, but at around three months, you start focusing on the flaws in the relationship and the missed opportunities out there. 

secure couple

The problem is that avoidantly attached individuals seldomly end up in relationships with secure individuals (who typically pair up with other secure people). 

Instead, avoidant attachment and anxious attachment tend to attract each other, which creates the anxious-avoidant trap. Both partners reinforce their beliefs about love (anxious people that people don’t love them and avoidant people that they can’t love other people). 

That’s a cycle we’ll try to end in this article.

But before we look more at that, let’s talk a bit about fearful-avoidant attachment. 

Fearful-avoidant attachment

If you have a disorganized attachment style, you are a combination of avoidant and anxious attachment. Your attachment style can lean more either way, depending on your partner’s attachment style and the context. 

While avoidant and anxious individuals can lean in the other direction from time to time, disorganized individuals experience this in extremes. 

Some of the signs you’re disorganized include: 

  • You might demonstrate unpredictable, confusing, or erratic behavior and not always with an apparent trigger. You also behave frightened or frightening (aggressive or hostile behavior) when you feel distressed. 
  • Often, you have a hard time making sense of your experiences and forming coherent narratives about your past.
  • You might find it difficult to open up to others and seek out help and you don’t trust others easily 
  • You find it difficult to form and sustain solid relationships; you struggle in your relationships/friendships.
  • You might be prone to black-and-white thinking and it’s hard for you to sustain feelings for long without taking action to find relief. For example, you might act out in various ways (ending a relationship on a whim, picking up an addiction, and so on). 
  • Maybe you see your partner’s attempts to assert their boundaries as criticism so that you treat them with hostility or emotional withdrawal. 

Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

Avoidant attachment triggers 

To know how to address your attachment style, you must understand your triggers. So, what triggers avoidantly attached individuals? 

Dismissive-avoidant triggers

Rolling Stones can feel triggered by phrases like these: 

“If you can’t figure it out, you don’t know me at all.”

“Keeping something private from me means you’re cheating.”

“You wouldn’t do or say that if you really loved me.”

Someone who is dismissive-avoidant will easily feel smothered if their partner tries to chase them. If they feel controlled or like their partner is trying to change them in some way, they might pull away. 

Fearful-avoidant triggers

Spice of Lifers will feel triggered by similar things as dismissive-avoidant individuals. But they also dislike ambiguous statements that make them question their own intuition and reality. 

Some phrases that trigger them include: 

“You’ve lost control of yourself. You’re too intense.”

“Let me do it for you, you’ll just mess it up.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I know what’s going on here.”

Now you know what triggers you to fall into your attachment style patterns. But how can you put your triggers aside? Here’s what you need to know. 

How do you overcome your avoidant attachment style?

Can avoidant attachment and relationship success co-exist? Yes. By being conscious about your response to your triggers and working towards a more secure attachment style, you can move towards healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

That’s what my student Jordan did. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvzZ5VHgn4c

And here’s how you can do it, too.

How do you feel safe as an avoidant individual?

The first thing to do as an avoidant individual is to work on your response to feeling triggered and falling into your old behavioral patterns. 

You now know what triggers you. And even if you’ve already fallen down a spiraling conversation of negative evaluations and defensive posturing, you can make the choice to move in a more secure and compassionate direction.  

First, attend to your body and its responses. 

When you feel triggered it is your attachment system switching into survival mode. Notice where the tension lies, place a hand there, breathe into it, and sit down or lean against something for support. Put your hand on the back of a chair, a countertop, or lean against the wall. 

If you have to, sit down on the ground and fold your legs. Pay attention to something quite literally supporting you. And try to keep your chest and belly open. ⁠

Then, conjure a visual anchor. Imagine a safe or serene place that is soothing and emotionally grounding for you. You might also create and repeat an affirmative mantra in your head, ahead of time.⁠

And third, focus on connection, not content. 

Conflict almost always occurs when our attachment connections are threatened. How might the surface content of a conflict reflect a deeper emotional fear for your partner? Or for you? What reassurances are they looking for? What reassurance do you need? How can you shift your energy so that the communication can become more compassionate, and the connection is reinforced rather than dissolved?

Now you know how to respond to a triggering situation. But how do you eventually move towards secure attachment? That’s what we’ll look at next. 

How do you stop being avoidant and move towards secure attachment?

As research shows, those with avoidant attachment can move towards secure attachment. And there’s good reason to work on your attachment style; secure folks tend to be happier. 

Dismissive-avoidant attachment

If you have dismissive-avoidant attachment, you tend to treat a small wound or infection by cutting off the whole arm. Similarly, when there is a perfectly normal conflict or argument in a relationship, you might jump to an extreme response and determine the whole thing isn’t worth it, walking away from a perfectly good thing. 

Usually, this is unnecessary, as it would have taken only a small measure of patience and care to repair the situation, and heal better than ever. 

Therefore, the growth challenge for you is to learn to open up to partnership and allow a lover to participate, contribute to, and enhance your emotional experiences so that you can have more flexible boundaries. 

This makes you less afraid of the influence of your partner’s emotional needs and better able to access a full emotional range. If you can accomplish this, you can stop overreacting to normal bids for contact and connection thereby treating the wound (relationship conflict) properly, without sacrificing a limb! 

Ultimately, the goal is to have bendable rather than rigid -and therefore brittle- boundaries. 

Fearful-avoidant attachment

If you have fearful-avoidant attachment (or disorganized attachment), you might oscillate between being flooded with emotions and cutting yourself off from it. You live in survival mode, caught in punitive power dynamics and harbor a harsh internal critic that is both grandiose and self-deprecating. 

You might be unable to trust and thus unable to relax or experience a relative state of stasis and equilibrium. You tend to be suspicious of others, so others find it hard to relax and connect with you. 

Normal conflicts in relationships can trigger an extreme reaction from you, including dissociative symptoms, such as out-of-body experiences, emotional numbing, depersonalization, fogginess, inability to focus, extreme exhaustion, and so on. 

In the relationship, you might experience this as your feelings suddenly turn off like a light switch, when you were previously very attracted and interested in your partner. You might take this as a sign it’s “not meant to be” and end the relationship, or otherwise sabotage it. 

Once your partner is again at a comfortable distance, your feelings might come rushing back, and you will want to resume the relationship again. This is like numbing the wound before cutting off the limb and then trying to sew it back on. 

The primary growth challenge for you is to learn to calm your own nervous system first, in order to regulate and integrate the stimulating energy the threat of intimacy creates, so you don’t “short circuit” when love presents itself. This will help you then tackle the same challenge to the dismissively avoidant folks, which is allowing others to safely contribute to and participate in your emotional experiences, and vice versa. 

How to move towards secure attachment

To learn how to overcome avoidant attachment, you need to work on three parts:

  • Mind
  • Body
  • Spirit

On the Mind level, you need to reframe negative beliefs about yourself and the world so that you can open up new possibilities in life. You stop unconsciously recreating painful scenarios, which is what feels familiar to you. 

On the Body level, you loosen and integrate energy that has constellated around negative limiting beliefs and patterns of energetic armoring and constriction in the nervous system and limbic brain. 

You need to work with experiential interventions to tap into your life force energy (such as creative arts interventions). This helps you access the real you and heal a fundamental self-wound. You also get an understanding of bilateral integration of the brain and create new sensorial experiences that can carve healthier synaptic grooves in your limbic brain, while stimulating the socially active and good-feeling vagus nerve. 

And third, on the Spirit level, you need to strive for post-traumatic growth. You adopt a new belief system and identity that promotes increased organization, emotional and mental coherence, and a deeper experience of personal meaning and connection.  

This is also supported by accessing creative life force energy, which is an integrative and holistic influence in both your inner and outer worlds. 

In other words, you learn how to orient yourself in relationship to your inner wisdom and spiritual compass, rather than obsessively preoccupying yourself with attempting to control everything and everyone outside of yourself, in order to avoid uncomfortable feelings. 

Working with self parts, such as with the wounded inner child or the inner critic, is a particularly effective method of accomplishing this goal, and blends well with creative arts approaches. 

You learn to view your emotions as energy moving through your body, offering you important information about your proximity to your own spirit. Once you learn to act on that information more objectively, life satisfaction improves exponentially. 

Want to know what your attachment style is? Take the quiz! 

Over to you!

There you have it! Now you know how to overcome avoidant attachment. 

What it comes down to is learning how to communicate, identify your triggers, and avoid getting stuck in your old patterns. 

Now, I’d love to hear from you:

What is your #1 question in terms of avoidant attachment? 

Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Hi, I'm Briana.

And I love romance novels and campy science fiction shows (anyone else a die-hard Supernatural fan?). I also like being my own boss. Doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. And treating work like play. Through my education, professional experience, and personal life experiences, I have come to passionately serve insecurely attached adults, who want to experience soul-deep intimacy, in their romantic relationships.

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