When an important relationship has broken down, or you’ve suffered a loss or trauma, it’s normal to feel insecure. But what if you have the feeling of emotional insecurity pretty much all the time? Is it possible to learn to feel more secure?
Thankfully, yes. Many people can learn to feel more secure emotionally. But it’s not as simple as reading a set of instructions in a self-help book, and following them to the letter.
Most emotional learning doesn’t come from books and classrooms. Emotional learning needs to be experienced — it needs to be felt on a bodily level. This is because the parts of the brain that are most crucial for emotional learning are not very well accessed by what therapists call ‘top down processing’ (cognitive stuff like learning from books, teachings or thinking).
Emotional Learning Happens in Relationships
The other thing about emotional learning is that often, much of it happens within a relationship between two people. And if you’ve been struggling with feelings of insecurity in relationships, it’s doubly important that the healing work needs to happen in the context of a relationship.
Not just any relationship either; it needs to be a relationship in which you feel emotionally attached in the right way. A healthy attachment relationship with someone you experience as a ‘stronger, wiser other’ who is emotionally available and able to help you with your feelings. (Important note: this is totally different to an attachment to someone who is preoccupied, distant, self-absorbed, addicted, frightened or frightening).
So how do you find this ‘stronger, wiser other’ who can help you manage your feelings better, connect with your inner resources and begin to feel more secure inside? There are various types of relationships that might help, depending on the qualities of the other person (and on the health of the interactions between the two of you). A friend, a relative, a partner, or even a warm trusting connection with an animal such as a horse or dog, could all have the potential to help you increase your own inner security.
But if long-term ongoing feelings of insecurity are your thing, it’s unlikely that those kinds of relationships will make enough of a shift in how you feel deep-down. It might be time to try therapy.
Attachment Based Therapy: a Relationship that Can Help You Feel More Secure
One way of getting this kind of help, so that you can make the brain changes in yourself that can help you feel more secure inside, is to work with an attachment-oriented therapist. Many psychotherapists and counsellors have attachment as an underlying basis to their work (if their website or online directory listing doesn’t mention it, do feel free to ask them when you first contact them).
At this point, you may be thinking ‘But I don’t want to get too attached, and be reliant on a therapist all through my life!’ Of course you don’t want that! Neither does your therapist. The goal of therapy is always to help you grow your own wisdom, strength and inner sense of security – and to improve your ability to grow healthy attachments with other people in your life.
The therapeutic relationship is not meant to be a permanent crutch that you could never do without. Think of it as more akin to a splint to support the healing of a broken limb, or like a stake that’s tied temporarily to a sapling so that it can be supported to grow into a strong flourishing tree.
Attachment-based therapy could last six months or less. However it’s likely to continue for longer, perhaps even several years, depending on various factors. (You should be starting to experience some relief right from the get-go, though).
What Happens in Attachment Based Therapy?
Attachment-oriented (or attachment-based) psychotherapy is a professional relationship in which you can gradually feel safe enough to look at difficult stuff. In the safety of the attachment you can explore and unpack all the tricky emotional baggage you’ve been carrying around for years. You and your therapist can, over time, work out what to do with that baggage. What you may need/want to keep. What you can let go of. What needs to be adjusted/ repaired. And (very importantly) what in your psyche can be prized, delighted in, and allowed to flourish and blossom.
The other very important thing that happens in psychotherapy with an attachment-oriented therapist, is less tangible. New, more helpful links and networks are being formed in your brain, due to the interactions between you and your therapist. Even when occasionally your therapist gets it wrong (they misunderstand you or even say something that you find hurtful), as long as there is a genuine willingness and openness to repair the rupture, the positive brain changes can be happening. (You can read more in my article Does Your Therapist Get It Wrong?’)
The very processes of the therapy interactions, verbal and non-verbal, are what drives the change in your brain and in your feelings. A strong attachment-based relationship with your therapist can help you start to feel more secure inside, more trusting, more able to understand what’s going on in you and how to influence and manage your feelings.
Can I Get This With Any Therapist?
Unfortunately, no. Above all, make sure you’ve chosen a therapist you like, and who appears ready to like you. In addition, they’ll need to be well trained and qualified, including in how to work with and understand attachment. For good attachment work, it’s also important that they have personally experienced a powerful and effective attachment-based relationship with their own therapist. (Remember: attachment learnings come through relational experiences, not just from books and lectures.)
Psychotherapy modalities based on working with attachment include Attachment-based Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), Psychosynthesis, and Integrative Arts Psychotherapy, among others. Some counsellors, too, are trained and experienced in working with attachment. You can find a therapist via your usual search engine. Alternatively you can use an online directory such as:
- Psychology Today (worldwide)
- Welldoing.org (UK)
- Counselling Directory (UK)
- Bowlby Centre (Attachment based psychotherapy in London)
- ACTO (for online therapy) (worldwide, but restrictions re USA/ Canada)
- UKCP (UK)
- BACP (UK)
Give Attachment Based Therapy a Try!
If your experience has always been that when you get emotionally attached to someone, it always makes you feel insecure, then attachment based psychotherapy could be really helpful to you. It’s not a quick fix, but through the therapeutic relationship over time you can have a relational experience that’s different than any you’ve had before.
And this can allow you to alter your patterns of feeling and behaviour elsewhere in your life, too. So that you’re more able and free to have better, more secure relationships with important people in your life such as partner, friends, family and even co-workers.
You’ll still be liable to have blips and wobbles of insecurity at times (who doesn’t?) But having the ‘earned security’ gained through a good experience of effective attachment oriented therapy, is likely to mean you’ll regain your equilibrium quicker and more easily.
Read More About Attachment
My article ‘Attachment: A Beginner’s Guide’ introduces attachment. I’ve also written ‘Secure Attachment – What Is It And How Do You Get It?’ in which I discuss secure (including earned-secure) attachment.
What’s Your Experience?
Has therapy helped you to feel more secure inside, and/or more able to have more secure relationships? Let us know in the comments below.
Work With Me
I offer attachment based psychotherapy and art psychotherapy for sensitive, thoughtful people online, and also in person in Essex, UK. See my online therapy page or read more about psychotherapy or art therapy. You can contact me by emailing espcameron[at]protonmail[dot]com, telling me a bit about what you’re looking for help with, and we can arrange a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if I could be the right therapist for your needs.