In my last piece I presented the practice of “feel, ask and receive” for those of us who have a tendency to lose ourselves in relationships. Easy for some, hard as hell for others.
Why is that exactly? Why is this easy for some and super challenging and uncomfortably vulnerable for others?
A Full Moon Reflection on Secure Attachment
As the Moon blossoms in its fullness in grounded, practical Capricorn and reflects the light of the emotional and vulnerable Cancer Sun, it seems important to answer this question with a little exploration of a thing called secure attachment.
If you’ve heard about secure attachment before you might know that secure attachment comes in both adult and infant varieties.
Healthy Bonded and Loving
The adult variety is characteristic of a healthy, loving bonded adult relationship. Partners in such a relationship know how to “feel, ask and receive.” They also know how to respond, connect and show up. Individuals who enjoy secure attachment can listen to their needs, take responsibility for them and dance with the ebb and flow between intimacy and time apart with ease, care and respect.
Statistically, adults with secure attachment were likely to be securely attached infants that had responsive, physically and emotionally attuned and present caregivers. Such babies played well with others and knew how to reach out to their primary caregiver for soothing and support during times of distress.
Embedded in these children’s nervous systems is an implicit memory of being felt, supported and loved. In this context, their parasympathetic nervous systems developed so that as they got older they knew how to self-soothe and calm themselves down during times of stress.
Are the Insecurely Attached Screwed?
So what about the 46% or so of us that came into the world with caregivers that didn’t have the ability to show up? Are we screwed?
Are those of us with insecurely attached childhoods doomed to repeat painful, anxiety provoking romantic relationships where we aren’t convinced that it’s safe to feel, possible to have our needs met or receive love without repercussions?
Reverse Engineering Secure Attachment
I say no. I’ve been experiencing more and more of secure attachment and so have my clients. In my experience, it’s possible to reverse engineer secure attachment.
What do I mean by that? I don’t mean I think you should go out there and find somebody that is willing to show up in all the ways that your parents didn’t, including wipe your butt and think your sh*t is adorable.
I say we study and examine the behaviors and patterns of securely attached people and lean into them with mindfulness. I’m suggesting that we learn how to do what the blessed securely attached children were lucky enough to learn early on (e.g. feel, ask and receive.)
Practices to Rewire your Nervous System for Love
It might be awkward and slow. It may require unlearning a lot of bad habits and you may benefit from some professional support. That said, do know that every little bit of love that you learn to internalize is a blessing sooo worth the time and energy.
Here are few other practices to help you rewire your nervous system to naturally create and attract healthy loving relationships:
1) Respond to your feelings and sensations with curiosity, acceptance and openness. When we abandon our own feelings, push them away and judge them, in many ways we are replicating what our less than present parents did with our feelings. Intentionally practicing being present to your feelings with the fundamentals of love (curiosity, acceptance and openness) will help you progressively become more intimate with yourself and feel more and more securely attached within.
2) Take responsibility for your happiness and well-being. If you’ve dipped into any personal growth circles, at some point no doubt you’ve encountered the ‘inner child’ conversation. The childhood parts of us that weren’t met with love can get frozen in time and show up scared and asking to be soothed when we get triggered. When that inner child shows up in her vulnerability, fears and anxieties I find it's incredibly healing call upon your healthy adult self (with spiritual practices and support systems) and make a commitment to show up and respond to that inner child as best as you can.
3) Imagine with all of your senses what it would have felt like to have supportive parents. As I step out of my shell more and more and share my professional and creative offerings with the world a certain amount of vulnerability easily bubbles up. In the aftermath of bold action, my childhood father’s critical voice frequently pops up in my head and spoils the party. Lately, I’ve been intentionally imagining what it would have been like for my father to be lovingly present as I figured things out. I’ve been feeling into the sensations and emotions of having a father that trusted my instincts and assured me that he would be there for me even if I fell flat on my face.
My heart relaxes, I feel my feet on the ground and a sense of possibility brightens my face. By purposefully using my sensory imagination this way I’m imprinting my heart and body new and healthy ways of being supported.
4) Savor all the ways people have shown up beautifully in your life. With repeated acts of savoring and gratitude we can purposefully amplify positive nurturing experiences so they can occupy more space in our neural internal maps of the world.
In what ways are you willing to be present to your feelings, commit to your happiness and generate feelings of being supported?