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What Triggers a Fearful Avoidant?


Reading time:

6 min


Published on:

Thu Feb 29 2024


Last updated:

Tue Mar 19 2024


Written by:

The Personal Development School

Everyone experiences intense emotional and mental triggers -- especially fearful avoidants.

Understanding what triggers a fearful avoidant is essential to know how to manage and control these emotional triggers.

That's the focus of today's blog. We'll be looking at:

  • What is a fearful avoidant attachment style
  • What are emotional triggers
  • What triggers a fearful avoidant
  • And how to heal fearful avoidant attachment triggers

What is the Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style?

The fearful avoidant (sometimes referred to as a disorganized) is one of four attachment styles, including dismissive, anxious preoccupied, and secure.

The fearful avoidant attachment style is developed through childhood chaos and trauma, living in a household that may have been extremely chaotic or even abusive (either verbal, mental, emotional, or physical).

This chaotic upbringing results in the child craving an emotional, positive, and loving connection while instilling a sense of impending betrayal. They associate love with pain because every time they reach out for love to their parents, they get it initially before it returns through chaos or abuse.

That's why, in adulthood, fearful avoidants tend to display very turbulent tendencies in relationships.

  • Some of the most common traits include:
  • Being unpredictable and having difficulty trusting others
  • A deep belief that they must earn love from others
  • Being highly focused and an overachiever
  • Face deep hardship and potentially struggle with substance abuse
  • May experience intense feelings of inadequacy
  • Feel their emotions strongly
  • Highly empathetic and giving by nature
  • Hypervigilant toward the feelings and actions of others
  • Despite fearing it, they have an innate desire for depth of emotional connection, leading them to swing between very “hot” to very “cold” in relationships

Now that we know how a fearful avoidant can act in a relationship, let's look at what triggered them to feel this way.

What is a Trigger?

An emotional or mental health trigger refers to a sensory reminder of a traumatic event, causing a painful memory to resurface. These triggers include sound, sight, smell, physical sensation, or specific words and conversations.

This emotional and mental change can be swift and come out of nowhere, and it can cause significant pain and hardship.

Many people experience anxiety-like symptoms, including fast-paced breathing, headaches, sweating, and much more.

People can also react strongly to these sensory reminders, which surprise friends or family because it seems out of proportion.

But that's because the trigger is so powerful that it makes the person relive the original trauma.

Disorganized avoidants, due to their turbulent upbringing, can experience many emotional and mental triggers. Knowing them is the first step to help you control them.

What are the Triggers of the Fearful Avoidant?

A lack of trust Any suspicion that trust has been broken in any shape or form can trigger a fearful avoidant. They place a great deal of belief that trust is vital in relationships, given their childhood experiences.

And given their intense nature, little things can be triggering for them. These include:

  • Lack of transparency
  • Secrecy or lying
  • Not keeping promises
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Inconsistency between words and actions

Behaving inconsistently or seeming distant or distracted If partners, family, or friends act out of "order," according to a fearful avoidant, they tend to assume something is wrong.

This can include situations like:

  • Coming home late from work or events
  • Doing something different than usual
  • Forgetting important events, such as a birthday or anniversary

They might suspect the person dislikes them or is doing something behind their back.

Similar to the issue of trust, it can cause them to feel triggered.

Attempting to become emotionally close If a fearful avoidant is trying to establish an emotional and positive connection and it's rebuffed, it can cause an emotional trigger. That's because they're opening themselves up and being vulnerable, which they don't necessarily like to do.

They'll then tend to swing the other way -- the hot to cold trigger -- and slowly start to shut down or build walls around the relationship.

Brushing them off when they’re reaching out for attention and affection should be avoided when dating or having a relationship with a fearful avoidant, particularly if they love you too.

Becoming dependent in the relationship Fearful avoidants, due to their upbringing, tend to rely on themselves a lot (despite the innate desire to get into a serious relationship).

They tend to be triggered if they feel they're becoming dependent on a partner, family member, or friend.

They fear that the person will betray them if they get too close, just like they experienced in childhood.

Confronting them with intensity or creating an emotional situation Fearful avoidants can be very passionate and intense about specific topics or subjects. That's why engaging them or creating an emotional environment can set them off.

Being calm, transparent, and honest while keeping the stakes low is the best way to approach fearful avoidants.

Feeling unworthy A fearful avoidant has an “I’m defective” core wound triggering them. They might have low self-esteem, so they quickly feel inadequate or inferior. They tend to overthink much about what others think of them.

So, when things go wrong, whether in relationships, personally, or at the workplace, they're quick to blame themselves.


How to Heal Fearful Avoidant Attachment Triggers

For a fearful avoidant to overcome and manage their triggers effectively, they should apply the following tools:

Address your core wounds According to Integrated Attachment Theory™, core wounds are the foundation of why emotional and mental triggers occur. Each attachment style has its core wounds, so approaching them is unique for each case.

For Fearful avoidants, identifying and addressing core wounds from the beginning, can help heal and manage triggers better in the future.

Change your attachment style Fearful avoidants are part of the insecure attachment styles, which also include anxiously attached and dismissive avoidants. However, people can change their attachment style by becoming securely attached.

Being securely attached means you'll be able to manage and control your triggers better than ever before, reducing your own anxiety and stress.

However, changing your attachment style takes a lot of effort, patience, and time. So go slow and be patient with yourself.

Open up emotionally to important people The best thing people can do regarding any of their relationships is be honest and upfront about their triggers.

That way, your partner, friends, or family can manage their actions to stop you from reacting. It might seem challenging and difficult to do, but it's the best way to start healing your triggers and strengthening your relationship at the same time.

Reset and use meditation or mindfulness Sometimes, it's best to hit the pause button in the heat of a trigger.

Managing an emotional trigger in a relationship is as simple as pausing to take a breath.

When you do this, it becomes easier to step back and understand why you’re so triggered—is it actually the person’s behavior, or is it a past trauma bringing something up for you?

From there, you can begin using meditation and mindfulness to help you manage your triggers. This will help you better understand why certain things are triggering for you (often, they’re rooted in childhood traumas) and working to stay in the present moment.

The Next Step for You...

Now, overcoming your triggers isn't easy, and there will be a lot of ups and downs.

But if you have the right tools and strategies in place, you'll be able to manage your fearful avoidant triggers better than ever before.

If you're a fearful avoidant, and are interested in learning more, consider our Release Emotions with Somatic Processing course or Fearful Avoidant to Securely Attached program.

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