5 Things You Need to Know If You Have Avoidant Attachment in Love
When we have avoidant attachment, any emotional displays make us want to run for the hills. We’d rather avoid than be vulnerable.
At least that’s what we learned as children. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?
Being comfortable with expressing emotions is challenging if we’ve learned the opposite.
I squished my emotions down like putty in the jar, but they’d always overflow eventually.
I had no idea how to manage them — instead; I’d analyse them like a science experiment.
While emotions are foreign to us when we’re avoidantly attached, it doesn’t mean we’re stuck this way forever.
Here are 5 things you need to know if you have avoidant attachment in relationships.
5. Your Left-Brain Is Running the Show
As children, we may have experienced emotional neglect or rejection, or a lack of quality engagement or presence from our parents.
From these experiences, avoidant attachment emerges. We’re often not in tune with our emotions because we never learned to be.
Our right-brain becomes under-active, and we may struggle with processing emotions — it’s too overwhelming.
We learn to intellectualise our feelings instead.
I struggled to cope with my emotions for years; I didn’t understand them. I picked them apart and tried to make sense of them using logic.
Trying to problem-solve your emotions isn’t healthy in the long run. We’re meant to feel our feelings, not solve them like a Rubik’s cube.
Right-Brain Activities to Try
- Meditation and visualisation — Try a guided meditation to help spark your ability to visualise. Even imagining yourself the last time you walked to the grocery store can stimulate your right-brain.
- Use your non-dominant hand — Create a daily practice where you write or brush your teeth with your opposite hand. I write my gratitude list each morning with my left hand!
- Drawing, painting or sculpture — Doing these type of visually focused activities can help promote right brain activity.
4. Reaching Out for Support Feels Hard for You
As children, if our parents reacted negatively to us wanting our needs met, we may have learned relationships aren’t loving or fulfilling.
As adults, we carry this belief with us. We wind up not valuing interpersonal connections in the same way anxious or securely attached folk do.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have friends or relationships, we do. But these interactions might scrape the surface because it feels safer for us.
We don’t often reach out for support from others because it was a negative experience in the past.
Connecting with others on a deeper level can feel triggering, which sets off our subconscious avoidant habits.
Our experiences have shaped these beliefs and patterns, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be changed.
Try Interactive Activities
- Reduce activities with limited interaction — Activities like watching Netflix can put a barrier between you and others. Try doing something that involves focusing on each other. It can be as simple as walking together or going out for dinner.
- Make an effort to give and take — Instead of deflecting and asking about the other person the whole time, allow yourself to share things about you. Practice making eye contact, talk about how watching a TV show made you feel.
3. Avoiding Emotions Feels Safer
We know the right-brain is under-active, which can make managing and expressing our feelings tricky.
And if others express their emotions to us, it can trigger our avoidant behaviours.
If in our past, if we cried or needed support, but our parents punished or shamed us, it makes sense we’d want to avoid emotions.
I found it challenging to open up to others on a deeper level; I thought crying was weak. I learned to ‘just get on with it’ rather than allowing feelings to come up.
This is unhealthy in the long term.
Getting in Tune With Yourself
- Don’t distract yourself — When you feel emotions coming up, avoid distracting yourself. Don’t reach for your phone and scroll through social media (I did this all the time) — learn to sit with your feelings.
- Let go of the cause of your feelings — Drop thoughts or blame about who or what made you to feel upset. Focus on the sensations in your body. Do you feel heat in your chest or stomach?
- It’ll feel uncomfortable — When you’re used to trying to solve your feelings, it can feel weird just sitting with them. But it can help you get in tune with your body and park your thoughts.
2. You Might Have a Habit of Attracting Anxiously Attached People
Anxiously attached people need constant reassurance and place high value on their relationships. When we’re avoidant, it’s usually the opposite for us.
The result often is the anxious partner clinging on and expressing their feelings, and as an avoidant, this is terrifying and overwhelming.
If we have an anxious partner (or keep attracting anxiously attached folk), sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise when we have self-awareness.
Sefora Janel Ray states,
“This can be very magical (you’re learning about the exact thing you have trouble with from your partner) but often very difficult (you’re learning the exact thing you have trouble with)!”
They’re reflecting to you what you subconsciously want deep down (love and the ability to be open.)
Here’s What to Do
- Realise your past is running the show — When your avoidant tendencies kick in at full-force, the ‘threatening’ situation feels real. But it’s your brain trying to protect you from perceived danger. Often, it’s just that — perceived.
- If you need space, give your partner (and yourself!) a timeframe for returning — Instead of avoiding them for a week, give yourself a few hours. Try sending a message and reaching out. It can feel hard to do this, but the more you practice not running, the easier it’ll get to face the music.
1. You’re Highly Independent
When we’re avoidantly attached, we often prefer being independent and not having anyone rely on us or vice versa.
My cortisol levels would hit the roof if I felt as if I was being depended on — even if someone asked me to go and pick up groceries for them.
Because our earliest relationship was damaging, we learn to be independent. We’d prefer to do it on our own rather than risk getting hurt.
Independence is our brain’s defense mechanism to keep us ‘safe’ from experiencing closeness.
Diane Poole Heller explains,
“At times longing for others might surface and then we might not like being alone — it can even feel devastatingly painful at times — but we don’t realize that there’s another way of being. We simply don’t know what it’s like to live in a comfortable relational field.”
- Ask for help — It doesn’t need to be a huge favour. Even something as simple as asking for help around the house with something, or getting a friend to come shopping for clothes with you.
- Hug your loved ones — Safe touch is a healthy way to foster feelings of security. Having this healthy and appropriate contact can help you feel connected to others.
Avoidant attachment doesn’t mean we’re doomed to travel the path alone — even if it’s what we think we want!
When we can get in tune with ourselves, it becomes easier to connect with others. Connection is vital for our wellbeing and happiness.
It takes time and self-awareness to shift our patterns, but it’s possible with consistent practice. Change is scary, but it’s worth it.
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© Kathrine Meraki