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Move From Fear Mode To Secure Mode

In, Abandon Your Fear, Not Yourself, we delved into how to celebrate yourself by practicing showing up in your life from a place of freedom, joy, and self-confidence rather than fear. So you can be yourself anytime, anywhere, with anyone. We also covered why being what you think other people need you to be, is a trauma response. 

Today we’re delving into a type of fear that might show up for you in relationships: Fear of rejection and/or abandonment.

Why is this important?

Because this fear is part of your attachment style, which affects how you feel about yourself, your pattern of reactions, and your relationships. If your attachment style centers on fear, then there’s a good chance you’re letting fear make choices for you. 

What Are Attachment Styles? And Why Do They Matter?

Attachment styles, in a nutshell, are ways of relating. They are the patterns you learn throughout your life, but especially in your early upbringing, about how people relate to one another and communicate:

  • How to show love and care
  • Expressions of kindness and harshness
  • Discipline and punishment
  • Reward and reinforcement
  • Rejection and acceptance
  • Generosity and scarcity
  • Failure and success

All of these dynamics influence The Four Foundations of Your Self-Worth (Source: Stanley Coopersmith)

  • Significance (e.g. “I am loved.” / “I belong.”)
  • Competence (e.g. “I can succeed.” / “I am capable.”)
  • Power (e.g. “I have the power to make decisions.” / “I have choice.”)
  • Virtue (e.g. “I have purpose for my life.” / “My life has meaning.”)

Types of Attachment Styles

Attachment style diagram

Your attachment style develops depending on how your needs were met or not at different developmental stages by your primary caregivers. Primary caregivers are adults in your life that play a crucial role, not just your parents. Think of grandparents, teachers, extended family, and neighbours.  

There are various attachment styles that we have understood so far. The primary ones are:

  • Secure
  • Avoidant-Dismissive
  • Anxious-Preoccupied
  • Fearful-Avoidant or Disorganized

Sometimes you can have a mix of different styles.

The main idea here is to recognize that these styles, except for the secure style, center both avoidance and anxiety as reactions to fear, which comes from unmet needs.

Attachment Styles in Action

They can show up in your relationships with yourself and others in these ways:

  • If you have an Avoidant-Dismissive style, you will have a fear of intimacy despite really craving it. You’re more likely to be guarded and put your walls up. It’s hard to depend on anyone because you don’t trust easily. 
  • If you have an  Anxious-Preoccupied style, you will have a fear of abandonment. This fear leads you to be preoccupied with having a relationship or prioritizing the relationship with others above your own. You fear being alone to the point of giving in to others in ways that may be damaging to you. 
  • If you have a Fearful-Avoidant or Disorganized style, you will have a fear of vulnerability and deep closeness and intimacy. Your relationships would have a push-pull quality. You might feel confused about love and relationships. 

In these three styles, you feel “insecure,” and you’re chronically in survival mode. Your attachment style is also most evident in your most close, most intimate of relationships. 

The good news is, you can do something about it because…

Bonding is biological, Attachment is learned.

The Courage to Belong to Yourself & Stand Alone

You can move from fear mode to secure mode through Belonging.

The belonging we’re talking about is the courage to belong to yourself. An insecure attachment style makes this difficult because you crave belonging to others and abandon yourself. 

When I asked one of my friends about their definition of courage, they said:

I think it's doing something even though you might be scared to do it. - Z

Overcoming the fear of rejection and braving the world is why belonging is an act of courage.

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” - Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness

Three Ways to Be Who You Are:

Start healing and building a more secure style by engaging in ways that help you return to yourself.

Here are my top three recommendations to try:

  • Say No to Conformity:

If you’re a Yes person, start practicing saying No, even if that means saying No to yourself! 

What I mean is this: Your initial default reaction would be to give in to the internal pressure that shows up for you when you’re interacting with others. Temporarily practice saying no to this internal pressure. 

At first, it will feel scary, odd, and weird. Over time, your internal system will adjust, and you’ll be able to tune to yourself more. When you say no to internal pressure, you’ll align more with your beliefs and values; building an internal sense of knowing yourself. 

  • Practice Turning Down Requests or Adjusting Them:

Extend saying No to the outside world by turning down requests or making changes to them. It can be something small. I encourage people to practice with small situations like adjusting their order at the restaurant or telling a server they got it wrong. These situations generally involve a lower emotional risk and can be a good place to start. 

“Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.” - Oprah
  • Enjoy Your Own Company:

Prioritize spending time with yourself just like you prioritize spending time with others. This time alone allows you to cultivate and build your connection to yourself.

You can do so in a variety of ways, such as taking yourself out for a coffee, tea, or drink, going to the movies on your own or going to eat at a restaurant. The idea can initially seem overwhelming, so start small and build from there. 

The main purpose here is to get to know yourself and how you navigate the world. These behaviours help you develop your self-confidence and self-trust and build your sense of mastery. 

Why is this Worth it?

Showing up differently for yourself can lead to a series of wonderful things. You can:

  • Honour your limits and boundaries, and your capacity
  • Have less internal pressure to please others
  • Reduce being the fixer, pleaser, and caregiver in your relationships. When you reduce this, you’ll regain your energy and your balance.
  • Choose primary relationships in which your needs are respected and met 

In other words you increase your significance, competence, power, and virtue.

As you move intentionally this week, take some time to see what attachment style you think you have. Reflect (and share with me if you feel called to do so):

  • What characteristics stand out the most to you? And Why?
  • If you believe you can move closer to a secure attachment style?
  • What steps you’re taking to bring you closer to that?
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Hiba Khatkhat

Hiba is a holistic psychotherapist specializing in trauma, couples treatment, and culture. She's passionate about solving mental health crises by practicing prevention. She brings over 18 years of experience working with individuals, couples, & families in her private practice. She is known for her work on the transmission of trauma and its impact on relationships.

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