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How to Overcome Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style


Reading time:

4 min


Published on:

Tue Jun 27 2023


Last updated:

Wed Apr 24 2024


Written by:

The Personal Development School

Do you crave intimate connections – only to withdraw if someone comes “too close”? Maybe you prefer to leave before someone can leave you?

If so, you might have a fearful avoidant attachment style. Fearful avoidant attachment style is one of four attachment styles, which three are insecure attachments – the others being anxious-preoccupied and dismissive avoidant.

To be a fearful avoidant in relationships poses the challenges of both anxious-preoccupied and dismissive avoidant attachment styles: fearful avoidants get anxious about being abandoned, yet take distance if someone comes close.

The good news is that anyone can turn an insecure attachment style around! In this article, we will cover the steps on how to overcome fearful avoidant attachment style.

The Core Wounds of a Fearful Avoidant

The core wounds of fearful avoidant attachment style are more complex than those of other attachment styles, since fearful avoidants in essence neither trust themselves nor others.

Their most common core wounds are: “I will be betrayed”, “I am not safe”, and “I am powerless and unable to change my life”. They have a deep feeling of not being enough that is often masked even to themselves, because the shame of not being good enough is too strong to handle. Furthermore, they often feel unseen and unheard and like they don’t matter.

External core wounds, related to their beliefs around other people, are on the theme of “people cannot be trusted”. Fearful avoidants constantly wait for the other shoe to drop and expect to be betrayed and let down.

Guilt and shame are central feelings for people with fearful avoidant attachment style. They are hard on themselves and often beat themselves up, thinking “I should have known better” or “I should have seen that coming”.

They often subconsciously believe that they can either have a relationship with themselves or with others, but not both. In childhood, they were often involved in emotional enmeshment, where everyone was responsible for the feelings of others. This is a draining dynamic and the cause of the avoidant behavior.

Because of this codependency, fearful avoidants have weak boundaries and feel like they have the whole world on their shoulders. They can easily fall into people-pleasing and can attach themselves to chaotic relationships.

How a Fearful Avoidant Behaves In Relationships

Fearful avoidants are desperate to be loved – but terrified to be seen. Another way of stating it: they simultaneously want closeness and repel it. It can thus be confusing to date someone with a fearful avoidant attachment style, since it can seem like they’re simply not interested or not ready for commitment.

A fearful avoidant person can go hot and cold without explaining why since they don’t understand it themselves. They swing between anxious and avoidant behaviors. They can get hyper-focused on their partner and imagine everything that could go wrong, like an anxious-preoccupied person – but also retreat, especially after intimate moments or when they start to develop feelings.

Their subconscious mind can self-sabotage and create distance when things are going well in the relationship to protect them from their subconscious expectations: the inevitable betrayal or abandonment.

How to Reprogram Yourself For a Secure Attachment Style

If you recognize yourself as a fearful avoidant and want to shift to secure attachment – congratulations! Awareness is the first step to change, so you’ve already come a long way in how to heal fearful avoidant attachment.

The next step is to gently observe your behavior without judgment. When do you tend to take distance and push away other people?

Communication is often challenging for fearful avoidants. You may desire deep connection, but feel trapped if someone gets close. Your communication is often strongly tied to your mood – when you feel emotionally stable and calm, you’re open to connecting, but if you have family stuff going on or stress at work, you might close off. The person you’re involved with can perceive this as unpredictable and get confused.

For harmonious connections, it’s key to practice sharing why you’re withdrawing. Even if you don’t feel comfortable telling the details, explain that you need space. The right person will understand without putting pressure on you. That said, for the relationship to deepen, you need to practice opening up more and including the person in your life.

Fearful avoidant people are often hard on themselves. The compassion you hold for your partner and others in your life needs to extend to include yourself.

One of the most challenging but also most rewarding things you can do as a fearful avoidant person is to practice opening up and being vulnerable in a relationship.

At the same time, be clear on your boundaries and standards in a relationship. Make a list of non-negotiables, and another of desirables you are willing to compromise on. If you feel the tendency to push someone away, reflect upon whether it’s due to an actual lack of alignment, or whether it’s a self-sabotaging mechanism or deactivating strategy based on subconscious fears.

Remember that relationships are meant to feel good and safe. Fearful avoidants can tend to self-sabotage since they subconsciously believe that relationships need to equal drama. Their reticular activating system is primed to look for what can go wrong and create more of that, simply because that’s what feels familiar and thus safe.

Overcoming Your Fearful Avoidant Style

If you want to learn more about how to overcome fearful avoidant attachment style, have a look at our course Re-Programming the Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style. In just about 1 hour, you’ll get powerful tools and techniques to use in your everyday life to turn your fearful avoidant attachment style into secure attachment!

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