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How to Self-Soothe If You Have An Anxious Attachment Style

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6 min

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Published on:

Mon Aug 14 2023

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Last updated:

Fri Nov 10 2023

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The Personal Development School

Self-soothing is a great tool to turn to for those with an anxious attachment style. Self-soothing isn’t always easy, however. Thanks to early attachment experiences in which they may not have gotten what they needed from their caregiver, anxiously attached people often rely on others (very often, romantic partners) to soothe them.

While there is a path forward for those with an anxious preoccupied (AP) and long-term healing is possible, there are in-the-moment tricks that can help, too.

Let's look at what self-soothing is and what triggers APs to use their self-soothing techniques.

What is Self-Soothing?

Self-soothing (also known as self-regulation or emotional regulation) refers to any techniques or actions we use to control and respond to our emotional triggers.

Naturally, these soothing behaviors are developed due to early childhood experiences, are repetitive in nature, and are seen as a calming and comforting response.

However, some self-soothing techniques are unhealthy, leading to destructive actions or responses, and promoting a never-ending cycle.

For anxious preoccupied individuals, growing up with inconsistent primary caregivers -- in the sense they switch between being reassuring and affectionate to dismissive and not present - can result in the person developing unhealthy self-soothing actions:

-- Desiring too much emotional and physical closeness and becoming too clingy.

-- Blaming the other partner for their actions.

-- Using blame or guilt during an argument in their favor.

-- Worrying about any potential threats to the relationship.

-- Becoming obsessed about whether the person will leave or not.

-- Developing a "people-pleaser" mentality to keep the person around.

This can happen whenever the AP gets triggered.

The Most Common Anxiously Attached Triggers

There are various different triggers for APs, and it really depends on their past and experience. However, listed below are the most common triggers:

-- When a partner's behavior, feelings, actions and moods are inconsistent, meaning they do things they don't normally do.

-- A partner starts acting distant, such as not calling or being distracted by other things.

-- A partner avoiding you or giving the idea they're rejecting you.

-- People make harmless jokes that trigger a feeling of embarrassment.

-- Reminders of previous abandonment, failed relationships, or childhood traumas.

-- Having negative thoughts about body image, lacking self-confidence and having poor self-esteem.

-- A partner forgets important personal events (birthdays) or relationship milestones (anniversaries).

-- An intense fear of being betrayed and left alone.

So when these triggers come up, try these self-soothing exercises to become a more securely attached person in a permanent way.

How to Self-Soothe If You Have An Anxious Attachment Style

1. Call a friend or family member for support

Anxiously attached individuals often hold the belief that they’re supposed to be absolutely everything to their partner, and vice versa. Unfortunately, that isn’t realistic. No one can be everything to anyone else, and this expectation can be damaging to the relationship.

So, if you find you need support and your partner is unavailable either physically or emotionally, try reaching out to someone else in your life for support. Is there a family member you can call? A friend? A therapist is a great option, too. Turning to someone else for support will not only soothe you in the moment but help give your partner a break.

When you call your friend or family member, you can feel free to give them some context. An example might be, “Hey, I’m struggling a bit today and am looking for some support. Can you be that person for me?

2. Distract yourself from whatever is making you anxious

Distraction isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes, it can be really destructive. But when you’re looking to self-soothe in the moment, distraction can be your best friend.

Let’s go back to the scenario where you texted our partner a few hours ago, and they haven’t texted you back. Instead of starting at your phone, turn off your notifications and put it away. If you’re at work, dive headfirst into a project.

If you’re at home, try to do something else that can easily distract you. Tackle a task you’ve been putting off like assembling a piece of furniture (always distracting and a little frustrating!), clean your house, or fold laundry. Put on a podcast. Dance around your living room to your favorite song. Call a friend. The time will pass anyway, and staying distracted can be very soothing.

3. Practice your healthy self-connection habits

Healthy self-connection habits are habits that help you connect with yourself, so you don’t have to rely on someone else. These types of habits can be very helpful for self-soothing in the moment.

While some people may find that journaling or meditation helps them feel more connected to themselves, others will feel more grounded in habits like knitting, gardening, or cooking.

If you know how to identify your healthy self-connection habits, engage with them when you’re feeling triggered.

anxious-preoccupied-attachment-style-individual

4. Read old text messages from your partner

It can be hard for anxiously attached people to get out of their heads, especially when their core wounds are triggered. Imagine that you ask your partner when you’ll see them next, and they say they don’t know. This lack of certainty can be incredibly triggering for an anxiously attached person, who may feel like they’re going to be abandoned because their partner has decided they’re not good enough.

To self-soothe, try looking for proof that this isn’t true. Think of all the times your partner has let you know how much they love and admire you, or better yet, read old text messages or letters from them that confirm how much tye love and care for you.

You'll also be able to detect relationship patterns. Looking for proof that the beliefs you hold aren’t true can help soothe and ground you.

5. Do something to prove to yourself that you can meet your own needs

Anxiously attached people are often triggered by certain scenarios because they don’t believe they’re capable of meeting their own needs. Instead, they expect someone else—usually their partner—to meet hose needs.

Imagine your partner is unexpectedly busy on a Saturday night, and you’re suddenly left with a whole night to fill. You feel panicked because you don’t believe you have the ability to make yourself feel better or have a joyful, fulfilling night.

Prove yourself wrong by designing your own perfect Saturday night. This might include:

-- Inviting a friend over

-- Having a movie night by yourself and watching your favorite movie with a bowl of popcorn and a pint of ice cream

-- Taking a bubble bath and writing in your journal

-- Taking yourself out on a date in your city or town

6. Practice deep breathing and somatic processing

Deep breathing and somatic processing can be excellent in-the-moment tools for self-soothing, especially if you’re feeling unsettled or even panicky in your body. Take a few minutes to count up and back down from ten, or try somatic processing. Practicing mindfulness exercises will keep you more grounded.

For somatic processing, try tuning in closely to any emotions you’re holding in your body. These can help give you information about past trauma and experiences and tune in more closely to what your body needs.

It will also put you in a safe space so you have a conscious awareness of what's happening in your life.

7. Question the story you’re telling yourself

Picture this: You send your partner a text in the middle of the workday asking them how their day is going. They usually right away, but this time a few hours pass and you don’t get a response.

Your mind runs through a million different scenarios, and none of them are very comforting. You tell yourself your partner is getting sick of you, or that maybe they never made it to work at all and got into a car accident.

While both of these scenarios are possible, they aren’t likely. So, try questioning your story. The more likely scenario is that your partner is busy at work with meetings, and simply hasn’t had the time to answer you. Reminding yourself of the more likely thing that’s going on is a great way to self-soothe when your attachment anxiety is triggered.

How to Overcome Anxious Attachment Style

Remember, these are meant to be temporary, in-the-moment solutions. If you want to fully heal from an anxious attachment style, consider taking The Personal Development School’s Advanced Anxious Preoccupied Attachment Style Course. With these tools in place, you’ll be able to develop healthier relationships, better self-connection, meet your own emotional needs more easily and become a more securely attached person.

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