Love & Anxiety #7: Early Lessons Set Comfort with Love.

Love and relationships can be so scary and confusing, especially for those of us who were raised in an environment with any abuse/danger, neglect, or lots of anxiety. Here lies the primary premise of attachment theory: Your early environment sets your attachment style for your future! Thank goodness, that is barring any treatment. There are four types or styles of Attachment. The type we want is Secure Attachment, and three are Insecure Attachments. For more information go to Dianepooleheller.com.

Luckily, thanks to brain plasticity (Google it, it’s a fascinating topic, or reply to me with questions,) we can change our attachment style from any of the insecure styles to Secure attachment, at any age in life. The key is a safe, loving environment and safe, loving people to whom you can attach. Ultimately, learning new lessons about ourselves, about love, and safe relationships.

To explain this to clients I use my concept of a 3-tiered process, tiers that build upon each other and explain how we have been shaped by our early environment and parental attachment styles. It also explains the way we live our lives. In the long run, using this process as adults, we work to change our lives to replace feelings of anxiety with feelings of love. For visual learners, the three tiers and definitions are listed below:

LESSONS: The bottom tier is the foundation. The events we experience in our infancy and throughout our youth, teach us implicit and unspoken lessons or rules regarding the way life works. I.e., ‘If I have an angry and disappointed parent(s), the lesson I learn is, ‘I must be a disappointment and a failure’.

LENSES: This, hopefully, unspoken rule/lesson, becomes a part of my identity and it forms a lens through which I view myself in relation to the outside world. Using the above example, no matter what the situation, I will view myself as a disappointing failure. (Don’t be fooled, we all wear some form of lens, many exist below our conscious awareness. This is why therapy is not usually a speedy process.)

LIFESTYLE: Finally, the top tier is my chosen lifestyle. The lenses I wear, color and shape my view of life and sets my lifestyle-the way I act and live in the world. So, I won’t try new things or I will have tremendous anxiety and an expectation that I will disappoint or fail, even if I do try.

Unfortunately, those early lessons and lenses impact us more deeply than we would like, especially if they were painful. Many of us go to therapy or set goals to change our lifestyles. Sometimes, we try using will power alone, and, often these attempts fail and the old messages are once again reinforced.

Using the tier system as our guide, the key to significant life change, and to changing our attachment style to secure attachment, is to LEARN NEW LESSONS in your current everyday life. Once you learn some new, positive lessons, you will change your lenses through which you view yourself. Finally, changing these two tiers will automatically change your lifestyle. This will be easier than you think because you now have your adult brain and all your life experience and context to help you extract the right lesson from each situation. The need to learn new lessons is one reason why we are always told we need to face our fears or our stuck experiences, in order to move past them. You must have different (positive) experiences to learn the new lessons. Tune in to my next blog where I use the topic of spirituality to talk about learning new lessons.

Going deeper:

What is one or two of the main lessons you learned as a child with regard to relationships? Is this a message you want to keep living by, or is it one that you desire to change?

Identify one lens through which you view the world that differs from the lenses of your spouse or best friend. Journal about that difference and how each of your lenses changes the way both of you interact with the world

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

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