Question: When I was a child I couldn’t really depend on my parents’ love, which felt like it came and went depending on their moods. As an adult, I still can’t really trust others’ love for me or feel like I deserve it. My therapist says I suffer from “insecure attachment.” What exactly is this and how can I overcome the negative effects it’s having on my life?
Answer: Ah, reader, my heart goes out to you in sympathy with the universal human longing to be loved. You ask what insecure attachment is. Your own words name what it is, along with its impact—that you “can’t really trust others’ love” for you.
To change its effects on your life, bring awareness and kindness to your experience. Since those negative effects manifest in your body’s sensations, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, every moment is an opportunity to let go of coping strategies you may have adopted that interfere with opening to love.
There are many ways to let go and open, and your therapist can support you to find those that help you most. Generally speaking, relax into sensations through breathing into areas of tension. Recognize difficult emotions to be like ocean waves—they form, gather momentum, peak, and subside. Ride the waves with curiosity and embrace your feeling nature. Choose affirmative self-talk and challenge limiting beliefs, such as the thought that you do not deserve love. You can also join a process group that supports experiencing trusting and loving relationships.
Cultivate experiences that bring forth your love of life. The more you can trust in your own ability to love life, the more you will be able to risk trusting in others’ love for you. Then, your feeling loved will not be dependent upon being loved. It seems to me that yours is a lifelong journey of daring to trust in and express love. How demanding, how worthwhile! May you be accompanied by trustworthy and loving people on your path.
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