UNDERSTANDING INSECURE-ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT AS A CHILDHOOD TRAUMA SURVIVOR
Hi Love! I'm Morgan and I'm a childhood trauma survivor, certified trauma-informed coach, and the creator of Rising Warrior Collective, a safe community for survivors of childhood trauma to begin healing. If you're ready to take your healing to the next level, let's connect and talk about what it looks like to work 1:1.
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Attachment theory is the study of the emotional bonds between infants and their caregivers. John Bowlby, a British psychologist, developed it in the late 1950s. Bowlby’s theory is based on three different types of attachment: secure, anxious-ambivalent, and anxious-avoidant. These categories are based on how children react to their caregivers when they leave them or come back after a period of separation. Bowlby also believed that we can pass attachment styles down from one generation to another. As humans, we naturally fluctuate between the different attachment styles throughout our lives and experiences, however it is common to have a stronger influence in one area of the attachment spectrum.
As trauma survivors, we spend much of our lives living heavily in the insecure-anxious spectrum of attachment. I know, if your trauma has shown up similar to mine, you have also spent your life struggling deeply within your closest and most intimate relationships because of it.
Insecure-anxious attachment is not an easy topic to approach as a childhood trauma survivor. Having an insecure or anxious attachment style can often drive us to do things and react in ways that cause even more stigma, fear, regret, and shame than we already carry. While it’s not an easy topic to approach, doing so helps us to bring awareness to an influential piece of our story and creates space to shift the types of relationships we call in, how we show up for ourselves and others, while also creating a new foundation for how we expect to be treated.
“We don’t have to hide ourselves anymore. A necessary piece of healing from trauma is having a willingness to look at the darker aspects our ourselves so that we can shed light on them and come out from hiding.”
Insecure-anxious attachment is a type of attachment in which a person is preoccupied with thoughts about whether others will abandon them. They may also have difficulty trusting their partners and loved ones, and experience extreme distress when they feel that someone has been away for too long. If you have an insecure-anxious attachment style, it’s difficult to form relationships with others.
You may find that you are constantly on edge, checking your phone to see if a partner, friend, loved one, or even someone you just met has reached out or not. You may feel uncomfortable being separated from others for any length of time, no matter how short the separation. The most common cause of insecure-anxious attachment comes from childhood trauma – both emotional and/or physical abuse.
It’s common for those of us with insecure-anxious attachment styles to have higher levels of chronic stress and insecurities. This is because we are more likely to be traumatized by events and have a hard time recovering. We have a tendency towards being “clingy” and anxious in relationships, as well as feeling lonely and abandoned when we are not receiving enough attention from others. Insecurities are common for those of us who have learned to live with chronic stress due to insecure attachment to our primary care-givers. On the flip side, some of us may not show any signs of insecurity until we face a major trauma, especially within a close or intimate relationship.
I have struggled with Insecure-Anxious Attachment my entire life because of a lack of secure attachment to both of my parents during childhood. I was passed around from family member to family member throughout my entire childhood and adolescence because of my mom’s substance abuse/addiction and my dad’s mental health struggles. I learned early in my life that people were not safe, reliable, or consistent. Experiencing a lack of safety and attachment during those earliest developmental years had a deep and lasting impact on who I became as an adult and on every relationship that followed. While I spent much of my life in the dark, assuming these traits were a part of my personality, who I innately was, I now understand that I have simply responded normally to very abnormal childhood experiences.
“It’s a normal response to carry the weight of our traumatic childhoods, especially when we were and continue to be surrounded by dysfunctional parents, caretakers, and extended family, as well as any unhealthy relationships in our adult lives. But knowledge and awareness now give us the choice to set it down and heal.”
Just a gentle reminder as you read through this list and possibly recognize some or all of these traits in yourself; it’s normal to feel triggered, shameful, sad, or even resentful. It’s ok to allow space for these natural emotions AND it can be an opportunity to offer yourself compassion, empathy, and love. We can choose to either judge ourselves harshly, which ultimately keeps us in our unhealthy patterns, or we can approach the feelings from a sense of curiosity. I want to remind you again that these are NORMAL responses to an abnormal childhood experiences.
Understanding your traumatic experiences as an adult is important for several reasons. One, it helps you to understand how the trauma has impacted you, two, how it continues to impact you, and three, it helps you to manage your feelings and memories so that you can process and move through them. Bringing awareness to and understanding our trauma can be difficult and painful. It takes time and patience to heal from traumatic experiences. It’s important to take care of yourself during this process by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising, and taking part in activities that bring joy into your life.
“Awareness is the first step towards healing from childhood trauma and family dysfunction.”
Yup, it’s true, as a childhood trauma survivor, you’ve likely been deeply impacted by your earliest experiences and because of that, you have struggled with interpersonal relationships your whole life. I’m right there with you, beautiful friend. For this, I am truly sorry for both of us. We never deserved to go through such hard things as young children. However, this is not a life sentence. We CAN heal from this and create healthy, grounded, loving, symbiotic, and intentional relationships with ourselves and others. We can learn to trust – not only others but also ourselves. And we can let down our walls and navigate the world with healthy boundaries that keep us safe while allowing ourselves to be loved.
1. Educate yourself on insecure-anxious attachment.
2. Get to know yourself and how insecure attachment shows up for you and in your relationships (Get to know your triggers).
3. Keep your mind open and stay curious.
4. Take an honest look (Inventory) at your current relationships. Here’s a free resource I’ve created to help with this piece “Creating Intentional Relationships as a Childhood Trauma Survivor.”
5. Identify your boundaries.
6. Find an accountability partner (Preferably someone also interested in healing & self-development and not someone that you have a toxic history with).
7. Gently lead yourself through this process with self-compassion.
8. Take care of yourself, go slow, and rest when you need to.
9. Find support – this is challenging work and while it’s absolutely possible to begin the healing process on your own, it’s common to feel stuck and unsure of what to do next. It’s ok and often necessary to ask for help.
If you are ready to connect the dots between what happened to you and how it’s impacting your adult life so that you can finally begin to heal those wounds, I would love to support you. My 1:1 coaching container creates a compassionate, non-judgmental, and safe space that meets you right where you are today. From there we move at a pace that supports your life, goals, and visions for your unique and beautiful future, a future that can look anyway you CHOOSE.
Click here to book your free 1-hour discovery call.
You never know how one conversation could shift the direction of your life.
Lots of love ~ Morgan
August 29, 2022