This article will help you answer the question, “How do I heal my attachment style?” with practical steps for anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant attachment.
There are some steps which are relevant whether you are anxiously or avoidantly attached. Other steps for healing your attachment style are specific to being anxious or avoidant.
Healing is Possible
When you want to heal your attachment style, it’s natural if there’s two parts of you. One part may feel determined and hopeful to heal. While another part of you may feel overwhelmed, or even discouraged, by the potential to heal your attachment style.
Please know that it is completely possible to heal your attachment style. At the same time, you are embarking on a journey of recovery.
Healing is a Journey Not a Destination
A healing journey is not a linear process. You absolutely can follow steps and guidance provided by people perhaps further along on the healing journey than you but there’s no perfection in this process.
While you work on healing your attachment style, you may discover new insights. These may be related to other things you need to address such as healing trauma you didn’t realize was there. You may also discover previously hidden ways you sabotage your relationships at times.
Progress Not Perfection
As you heal, you will absolutely experience wins. For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, you may notice that you are suddenly enjoying a night alone when your partner has a night out with friends rather than obsessing about them potentially cheating on you.
At the same time, since healing is not linear, you will also sometimes struggle with “old” behaviors you thought you were past. You may, for instance, notice that you are putting up walls with you and your partner again if you have an avoidant attachment style.
When these old behaviors emerge, the most important thing you can do for your healing is to be patient and compassionate with yourself. You cannot do this process perfectly but you absolutely can heal!
Related: What is Self-Compassion?
Name It to Tame It
You are asking a wise question in, “How do I heal my attachment style?”
This is very wise for a couple of reasons. First, you must name a problem to be able to identify the steps to fix it. Secondly, if you are struggling in your relationships at times, there’s a part of you that’s reinforcing these difficulties. You don’t need to be angry at yourself and it’s wise to know that it’s not just your partner’s (or the other person’s) fault.
You Can Have Multiple Attachment Styles
There are 4 attachment styles: Avoidant, Anxious, Anxious-Avoidant, and Secure. All attachment styles, other than secure, create suffering both personally and in your relationships.
While you may have one dominant attachment style that creates difficulties, it’s completely possible you have a “mixed bag” of attachment styles at times.
Address Your Different Concerns
When you take the quiz, you can see your various attachment style results. For example, one type may be predominant like “Anxious.” You may also have symptoms of the other unhelpful attachment style i.e. “Avoidant.”
Finally, you may have Secure parts of you as well. This is good to note as you are just building on this part.
Noticing Your Natural Urges
When you are healing your attachment style, it’s helpful to consider your natural urges which may be unhelpful.
If you are anxiously attached, for instance, your urge is likely to spend as much time as possible being with or staying connected to your partner.
On the other hand, if you are avoidantly attached, your natural urge is to put up walls with your partner around your emotions, thoughts, needs, etc.
Finding Balance to Become Securely Attached
When you are aware of your natural urge, you can use a helpful Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill called “Opposite Action.” This coping skill asks you to do the opposite of what you naturally want to do i.e., openly communicate if you’re avoidant or spend time alone if you’re anxious.
Many of the strategies to heal your attachment style in this article will use Opposite Action to help you find balance.
Heal Anxious Attachment Guidance: Fill Your Own Cup
When you are anxiously attached, you likely want to be with your partner as much as possible. When you’re not in a romantic relationship, you may feel empty or like you don’t know who you are.
This is all understandable yet to heal, it’s important to build your relationship with yourself and keep your life as full as possible. A romantic partner, when securely attached, adds to the joy in your life through companionship and support. However, when you’re securely attached, you know that a romantic partner cannot be your end all be all.
Ways to Nurture Yourself
An anxiously attached person often wants their romantic partner to be their source of comfort and entertainment. However, this is too much to expect from just one person. You can heal by learning how to give yourself attention and comfort.
You can fill your own cup in various ways including:
- Developing a sustainable self-care practice,
- Overcoming blocks such as feeling selfish or guilty when you take care of yourself,
- Spending time with family and friends without your partner,
- Self-soothing when you face difficult emotions,
- Taking yourself out on fun inner child dates i.e., do things you loved doing as child such as going to a museum or painting pottery, and
- Building your personal self-confidence
Heal Anxious Attachment: Address Codependent Symptoms
Codependency is very simply a pattern of “prioritizing others’ needs, expectations, or problems over one’s own mental and physical health.”
When you are anxiously attached, it makes sense you may have a tendency to lose yourself in your relationships. You may also find that you tend to focus on pleasing others rather than being authentic. These are core symptoms of codependency; therefore, working to recover from codependent symptoms can help you immensely in becoming securely attached.
While codependent symptoms are completely understandable, these symptoms only reinforce your anxious attachment. After all, the more you lose yourself and have relationships focused on people pleasing, the less secure you will feel with others.
Recovering From Codependency
In my book, The Codependency Recovery Plan, I outline 5 basic steps to recover from codependency. This book simplifies the often confusing process of recovering from people pleasing.
You may gain an overview of these steps by reading the article, Codependency: How to Fix It for Healthier Relationships.
Heal Avoidant Attachment Guidance: Lean In
When you have an avoidant attachment style, you deeply value independence. This is of course, important, yet when you overly value independence, your partner may complain of you being emotionally distant.
The goal state of healthy relationships is interdependency. You may picture a Venn diagram where you balance independence with leaning in and being close and connected to other people.
How to Lean In
If you’re avoidant, your work is to let down your walls and to lean into your relationships. You can do this in a multitude of ways including:
- Using Opposite Action if your urge is to work long hours to reduce time with your partner – schedule a date with them instead,
- Ask for help because while it’s great you can depend on yourself, healthy relationships – and secure attachment – require you ask and accept others’ support at times i.e., asking your partner to come with you if your dad’s in the hospital,
- Be appropriately vulnerable which means instead of putting up walls push yourself to share intimate things such as your feelings or needs with your partner i.e., “I feel scared about work lately and that I may get fired.”
- Practice gratitude
When you’re avoidantly attached, you are likely afraid of being controlled or suffocated by your partner. Or you may resent them for having a lot of needs from you. All of this puts your walls up further.
Instead of looking for ways your partner is too “needy” or “controlling” look for ways they improve your life. You may choose to keep a gratitude journal where daily you push yourself to note the ways your partner is adding to your life rather than “taking away” from your life.
Healing Anxious & Avoidant Attachment Guidance: Openly Communicate
When you are not securely attached, you have the tendency to communicate in ways which are unhelpful to your relationships.
If you’re anxious, for instance, you may hide your needs behind a mask of people pleasing. This leads to greater insecurity because you never get the chance to build trust when you don’t share your needs with your partner.
If you’re avoidant, on the other hand, you may hide your needs to not seem too “needy” or dependent. After all, you really value independence. However, this reinforces your false belief that you need to be able to do it all on your own which pushes your partner away.
Balanced and Kind Communication
When you are anxious, you likely don’t have enough boundaries in your relationships. And when you’re avoidant, you often have boundaries which are too high.
The best way to communicate includes healthy balanced boundaries which you may visualize here:
You may also gain clarity on healthy communication in a relationship with the article, Good Communication in a Relationship: A Couples Therapist Explains.
Healing Anxious & Avoidant Attachment Guidance: Heal Unhelpful Core Beliefs
All human beings have the tendency towards confirmation bias. This means that when you have different experiences in life, and in your relationships, you tend to filter them to “prove” what you already believe.
If you are avoidant, for instance, you may view your partner telling you that they miss you as “proof” they are trying to suffocate you.
Or if you’re anxiously attached, you may believe that your partner having a busy job is “proof” that they are cheating on you.
Check the Facts
The human tendency to look at new information as “proof” for what we already believe can often be unhelpful. After all, many core beliefs a person holds may originate from traumatic experiences or unhelpful life messages such as “Relationships are doomed to fail.”
To help you overcome this tendency, it’s helpful to use the DBT skill called “Check the Facts.” This is helpful for both anxiously or avoidantly attached individuals to become more secure. This skill very simply is to take what you think is going on and compare this to literal facts of the situation.
How to Practice Checking the Facts
When you want to check the facts, it’s helpful to first note what happened and what you think this means. Then you list the facts. Based on what you observe to be true, you can then figure out a more balanced view of the situation rather than simply “proving” what your avoidant or anxious attachment style says is true.
Here’s an example:
“My new girlfriend told me she misses me. I think she’s too needy. I also think I may need to end this relationship before she suffocates me.”
“Here are the facts: We started dating 3 weeks ago. I told her that I like her and we agreed to be exclusive. I have been really busy with work for the last 6 days and have only spoken to her a a couple of times. She told me she misses me via text last night after not seeing each other for 9 days.”
“Outcome: It seems valid that she may miss me after going over a week without seeing each other. I do like her and I will schedule a date. I will also communicate that right now, seeing each other once a week is the best I can do. I hope that works for her.”
Another Example of Checking the Facts:
“My husband has been working late a lot. I’m afraid he’s cheating on me.”
“Here are the facts: He told me a month ago that he has a deadline coming up and his boss is putting a lot of pressure on him to lead this project. When I see him at night, he always gives me a hug. He seems tired and stressed.”
“Outcome: Based on the facts, my husband is trying to finish this deadline. I will let him know I see how stressed he is and ask if there’s anything I can do to support him rather than obsessing he’s cheating on me. I’ll also reach out to some friends to go out to dinner rather than sitting at home obsessing.”
Change Your Beliefs
There are numerous types of therapy which can help you change unhelpful beliefs which reinforce your attachment style.
A highly recommended therapy to work on unhelpful beliefs is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This is a trauma therapy which targets unhelpful beliefs and upsetting memories. For example, if you’re afraid to get close to someone because your mom cheated on your dad, you can target this with EMDR.
EMDR helps you broaden your perspective and see things outside of the lens of trauma. For example, you may realize that while your mom cheated, your parents had other problems including your dad never being around. You may also realize that many partners never cheat and there are happy marriages out there.
Healing Anxious & Avoidant Attachment Guidance: Reduce Perfectionism
When you are securely attached, you know that you are worth of love, respect, and commitment.
However, when you are avoidantly or anxiously attached, there are often parts of you that feel you can’t be authentic with your partner. If you have avoidant parts of you, then you may feel like you have to often perform like you have all the answers. You may value be the “strong” one in the relationship and never needing anyone.
If you have anxious parts, you may feel like you have to walk on eggshells and hide your true needs, to keep people around. You may feel like if you show others who you really are then they won’t stick around.
The antidote to the fear of showing your true self is to work on reducing perfectionism.
Being Kind to Yourself
Remember that you can absolutely heal your attachment style. At the same time, you may not be able to completely eradicate the scared or walled-off parts of you. This is part of what it means to be human.
Rather you can be kind to yourself to help yourself cope well. After all, being hard on yourself never makes it easier to be securely attached.
To practice self-compassion, you can validate yourself. For example, if you hear that voice that attacks your worth i.e., tells you that you shouldn’t have dated your last partner, you can be kind to yourself by saying, “This is a really hard time and it’s ok to make mistakes. You can’t predict the future. And it is really painful that [your partner’s name] disappointed and rejected you. It’s ok to be sad.”
Honestly, practicing self-compassion for many of us (myself included) is one of the harder aspects of healing. However, this is an invaluable step towards healing your attachment style. For more guidance and support, the book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself is highly recommended.
One Step At a Time
You can heal your attachment style step by step by practicing the guidance provided in this article. Then see where this journey takes you.
Please remember you can’t do this process perfectly. In fact, it can feel like two steps forwards and one step back as you heal your attachment style. It can also feel worse sometimes as you address deeper layers for why you may be anxious or avoidant with others.
This poem, Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters, perfectly encapsulates the healing journey. You may want to read it for guidance and reassurance along your way.
Continued Support is Available
You may also want to continue the resources on this blog for more support.
If you are anxiously attached some especially helpful articles include:
- How Do I Stop Being Insecure in My Relationship: 3 Therapeutic Ways,
- Self Worth Journal – Free Daily Journaling Worksheet,
- Love Addiction Signs and 3 Ways to Heal: A Therapist Explains
If you are avoidantly attached some especially helpful articles include:
- Dating a Nice Guy But Not Attracted to Him? Find Out Why,
- Self-Sabotage Behavior in Relationships: What It is & How to Stop, and
- How Much Time Should You Spend Together When Dating?
It’s also wise to consider attending therapy to heal your attachment style. With this link, you can earn 15% off your first month of therapy with BetterHelp which offers therapy you can do virtually or even by text.
Keep Track of Your Wins
I’m wishing you all the best in your healing journey. You truly can do this!
Also, I encourage you to set a reminder to take this attachment quiz again in 6 months. Notice where there’s still work to do at this time.
But even more importantly, at this time, celebrate your progress!
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About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.