WHAT IS THE FEARFUL AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT STYLE
People who have a fearful avoidant attachment style typically express an ongoing ambivalence in relationships – they constantly shift between being vulnerable with their partner and being distant. This attachment style develops when, in childhood, a parent is emotionally available to their child, but their child doesn’t entirely trust them. Often, the absence of trust stems from a turbulent household, whether it be from emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. Therefore, in adulthood, those with fearful avoidant attachment styles have a strong desire for their partner to meet their needs but are simultaneously uncomfortable trusting them.
Since the fearful avoidant tends to have immense internal conflict, they often end up projecting feelings of frustration or resentment onto their partner. Since they, from a young age, perceived love as a turbulent and chaotic entity, their subconscious essentially feels safe recreating that environment since there is a sense of familiarity.
The fearful avoidant also tends to express something called depth of processing. This means that they overanalyze their partner’s micro-expressions and body language for signs of betrayal. Since their core wounds are related to trust, they tend to control or manipulate their way out of being betrayed. When they feel as though they have lost control of their feelings and may be overly vulnerable, they will respond with anxiety and frustration towards their partner because of their subconscious fear surrounding the stability of love and relationships. Unfortunately, this behavior is what actually tends to perpetuate chaos in the relationship, and unless it is addressed, will continue to do so.
HOW TO HEAL
The Fearful Avoidant Needs to Learn to Communicate and be Vulnerable
The fearful avoidant tends to be naturally suspicious and will not communicate their feelings well. Therefore, they tend to assign a lot of untrue meaning to actions. For example: if their partner comes home 10 minutes late, they will suspect they have been untruthful, rather than asking about what actually happened. After internalizing such beliefs, the fearful avoidant will later tend to lash out from the unjustified anger they feel. What the fearful avoidant may not realize, is that those beliefs stem from early childhood when they experienced betrayal through a form of abuse, or they may realize this but be uncomfortable being vulnerable enough to express this to their partner.
Therefore, to be able to say something like: “I feel insecure about why you may be home late” allows the fearful avoidant to be vulnerable with their partner in a way that prevents future fights that stem from internalized emotions. It also allows them to acknowledge that their insecurity may have resulted from past experiences and will help them to reprogram beliefs in a way that is more reflective of their current relationship. Their partner also then can reinforce the fact that they are in a safe relationship by invalidating the stories that the fearful avoidant may telling themselves.
The Fearful Avoidant Needs Reprogram Their Subconscious
“Reprogramming” refers to changing the beliefs that your subconscious mind stores. Since the subconscious mind is programmed through repetition and
emotion, the fearful avoidant needs to give their brain multiple examples of how they are safe today to reprogram the beliefs it created when they were a child. For example: “I am safe today because if my partner were to hurt me unjustly, I have the adult capabilities to leave”, or “I now have the autonomy and freedom to take care of myself and be safe with myself”. Through repetition and reasoning, you can convince yourself that you are safe to experience love, and that you are safe in the worst-case scenario. Since the subconscious mind builds beliefs through repetition, outdated beliefs must be undone by grounding new beliefs in specific examples and events where being vulnerable resulted in happiness. An example of this could be: “Loving another person allows me to feel fulfilled and express myself”.
In summation, the key piece for the fearful avoidant to understand is how to be vulnerable in their relationships. Although they tend to have tumultuous relationships, it is important to note that it is not because of any fault of their own – it is because they experienced trauma in early childhood in their close relationships. By recognizing core wounds, reprograming them, and reintegrating new beliefs into your life, the fearful avoidant can shift into a secure attachment style and have a much better relationship.