How To Recognize Secure Attachment After Processing Trauma?

Jun Wu
Jun Wu
Oct 7, 2020 · 8 min read
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One of the hallmarks of trauma recovery is this moment towards the end of your journey when you recognize how far you’ve come. It is almost like a flash of lightning that tells you that you are now an emotionally healthy individual. You never thought this could be your identity. You’ve inherited this identity slowly while working hard on your issues.

As you emerge from the fog of indecision, you face the new therapist and tell her that you no longer need her because you’ve spent the last ten years working on your issues. The reason is because of this moment of recognition of secure attachment you saw last week confirmed by a kind of confidence you feel at your inner core.

The secure attachment is your validation that all of your work in the past few years has paid off. You say to your therapist, “I know that you are only a phone call away when I need you again. I know that I still have a few minor issues to work through. I know what my lingering issues are, and I have the skills now to heal myself. I have learned to recover. I’ll be okay.”

You give her a smile that you are flashing every day since whenever you feel this intense love for the universe.

In trauma recovery, there’s rarely a confident moment.

You are never sure, burdened by a lifetime of shame that you are 100% healed. But, you know that good days are the norm. The bad days have gone. You have a lifestyle that’s putting faith back into your life. You also have a purpose for which you work diligently for, every day. You have learned new skills to get up when you fall. You love yourself enough not to let yourself fall again. You feel emotions at your core and can process them normally. You notice your reactions, in your gut, in your toes, from your head, in your third eyes. You have a gateway to your unconscious. You’ve accepted the whole of you, reflecting on all of the darkness and the light.

You are compassionate toward yourself.

If you are in trauma recovery, re-visit how you are doing once every year, reflect on how far you’ve come. While reading trauma recovery books, I’ve learned that my intuitions helped to steer me on my recovery journey. After ten years, I know what secure attachment looks like and how to develop it in relationships.

You are straight forward with people. You don’t hide.

One of the most harmful ways trauma teaches a person is that “hiding” is essential to obtain safety. You tend to minimize your anger, your discontent. You tend to please others. You tend to take on the responsibilities of others in every situation. You blame yourself. You shame yourself for other people’s actions.

Ask yourself, have you been hiding your feelings for the last few weeks from people you know well?

Being straight forward does not mean that you have to disclose everything or that words should hurt other people. Instead, you can detach from the situation’s outcome and sit with your feelings repeatedly to allow you to articulate your feelings better to other people.

For instance, if you don’t know what to say, say this, “I’m sorry I don’t know what’s going on with me. But, I know that I’m not okay with this. I feel uncomfortable. I don’t know why. Let me get back to you.”

When you are mad, are you hiding the emotions? I don’t mean that you have to throw a tantrum. Do you have a way to tell people that you are mad? Can you deal with conflict as they arise? Do you have uncomfortable conversations all the time in your house? Can you tell someone straight to their face what is bothering you? Can you call someone out if you think they’ve done something?

Confrontation will stop the shame and guilt train from coming for you after the fact.

You Are Holding People’s Eye Contact And Relating To Them With Your Full Presence

If you are holding trauma in your body, you will escape any chance you get. A lot of trauma victims live in their heads. At least in your head, everything makes sense. You build narratives around your trauma to make sense of them. You are escaping when you are uncomfortable.

When people don’t react to the way you want them to, especially when you can’t control their reactions, you stop holding eye contact with them. You’ve decided to retreat into your head because you don’t feel safe with strong emotions. It doesn’t mean what these emotions are. They don’t have to be dark emotions. They could be any intense emotion, and you are uncomfortable.

Try holding people’s gaze when they look at you. Try to look into people’s eyes at grocery stores. Try to look into people’s eyes as you are talking to them. When you see the discomfort in people, hold their eye contact anyway. Hold eye contact even when you are mad at them.

Interestingly, when you sink into the emotions that they are reflecting back at you, you will find that these emotions are not as strong or negative as you thought. You may experience the wonder of seeing their human-ness.

You Are Not Clingy

When your SO goes to work, do you have anxiety about the day? When your children leave for school, do you feel a sense of dread? When you have a significant emotional meltdown and wanted to cry on the phone to your best friend if she doesn’t answer the phone, do you feel so terrible that you can’t go on?

When you have a secure attachment to yourself, then you can give to others generously. You are the default person who can help you with just about anything life throws at you. What do you do with anxious thoughts about your SO? Do you let these thoughts fester? Do you sink into the “love” that you know and trust that they come back again and again?

By not become clingy to outcomes from relationships or any event in your life, you are not writing that trauma narrative all over the wall of your house. You can sit with that anxiety for just a few minutes. You can breathe deeply and inhale in the love that you know. You are then embarking on your day with no attachment to what you will find at the end of the day.

When you have a significant emotional meltdown, do you have a process that you fall back on that involves no one else? You can fall back to yourself to take care of your heart, soul, body, and mind.

You can trust that you will be there for you always.

You Give More Than You Take, But You Draw Firm Boundaries

One of the biggest challenges from overcoming trauma is this overwhelming sense of holding things inside. You don’t give love because you are living in numbness. Only when you start to love yourself unconditionally can you truly give love to other people. But, when you begin to show your love to others, it is not a free for all.

It doesn’t come as floods of love anymore. Nothing is dramatic when you are giving love to friends, family, colleagues, etc..

It becomes a natural occurrence of being compassionate toward people around you. You smile for the maintenance guy at your local park. You thank the cashier at your local gas station for adding extra vanilla into your coffee with firm eye contact, and you mean it.

You tell a coworker what you find not acceptable with their behavior, all the while offering a helping hand and an open heart to help them deal with the potential stresses in their life.

You no longer hesitate to reflect on your behaviors. You put your best face forward every day, all the time, not because you have to, but because you want to. You have all of this love in you, and you give that generously to people you care about.

You catch yourself when you think you need to draw boundaries. Then, you take action.

You Are Taking Actions To Improve Your Reality, But You Are Not Ego-Driven

Each one of us has a way to live in this world. Without feeling like the world is trustworthy and safe, it isn’t easy to engage in the world with any sense of love.

When you heal from trauma, it’s tempting to want to live in that “happiness” that you think is the outcome of all the hard work of therapy. But, the actual result is the optimistic outlook at your core. It’s the belief that you have the confidence to deal with anything. It’s the belief that you are stable in your internal locus of control. You can channel it to achieve anything that you want to.

You mold your reality into the vision that you see every day. But, by some chance, you don’t get the outcomes you want to along the way; you move on to find something else. You are flexible. You can deal with failure because you trust the world and how it will help you.

You attach to the world healthily and securely no matter what the world becomes. You trust yourself. Therefore, you have immense trust in your role in this world.

You Recognize and Appreciate The People Who Are Securely Attached to You

The final step in trauma recovery is always to have healthy relationships based on trust. These healthy relationships confirm the image of what secure attachment is supposed to look like for you. These healthy relationships that you have where you feel safe enough to engage with your authentic self validate your actions, give you confidence and are sources of love as well as the destinations where you place your love.

When you look into your child’s eyes, do you see that your child loves you unconditionally and attached securely to you? When your child goes to school, do you want them to have a good time, make friends, and look forward to the stories they tell you when they come back? When you are away, does your child miss you but know that they will be looked after by people who love them?

When you leave your child to play, does your child engage with the world with wonder and playfulness in their eyes?

Do you unleash a sense of freedom in your friends, SO, and your loved ones where they can be anything and do anything with you by their side?

If so, then you love unconditionally. Your loved ones are securely attached to you. You do not feel fear in your heart when they are away.

You’ve managed to maintain a handful of relationships while you diligently processed your trauma. Perhaps you recovered because of these people who gave their love by your side.

When you look at how they are still there, you recognize the new sense of freedom that all of you feel in your relationship.

The Takeaway

Trauma recovery is a long road. But, when you are in the thick of it, do you appreciate how far you’ve come? I didn’t recognize my secure attachment in my relationships, healthy boundaries, and unconditional love until I realized that I’ve healed.

All of the hard work, therapy, meditation, bodywork, breathwork, being alone, engaging in work that fulfills my soul, self-improvement, reflection, they all paid off handsomely.

When you have a new identity of an emotionally healthy person, wear it proudly.

Savor it by going out and meeting new people, taking risks, and living the life that you’ve always dreamed that you will have.

What are you waiting for?

Jun Wu Blog

Blog of Jun Wu — Life, Work, Women, Love, Relationships…

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