Attachment Styles in Life, Relationships & Business with Abigail Holland
Welcome back to this week's episode everyone!
Today we have the lovely Abigail (@authenticallyabigail). I am so stoked to introduce you all to her because she's amazing, her energy is just absolutely incredible. She is a certified life coach that helps people heal their attachment wounds so that they can invite in more love and fulfillment into their lives. She specializes in Re-Parenting NLP and creating secure attachment in relationships.
In this blog we cover:
- What are Attachment Styles?
- How to Create Secure Attachments
- Understanding Attachment Styles in Business
Rachael: I would love for you to share a little bit more about your pathway to get to where you are now. Just tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Abigail: Oh, gosh, the journey to get here was paved with so many bad first dates. I was in a really long relationship all throughout college, and it was good, but I kind of felt like I was performing all of the time. I made the decision to drop out of college, breakup with the guy I was dating and flew five hours away to the city I had never been to and I was like, let's go and just cut the safety net loose from and figure it out.
It was ridiculous. I felt really alone. I was isolated from my family after the decision I made to leave school, I had isolated myself from the community I had growing up. I was kind of just surrounding myself with people out of convenience, people I wouldn’t choose if I wasn't coming from a place of desperation and neediness.
It was great, because of how much it sucked, it taught me a lot about my need to be validated by other people and my need to be around other people. I realized I was wounded. I had no idea.
This was when I got into learning all about attachment styles. I was in a life coaching certification at the time for Re-parenting. And I just started connecting all these dots. Like the first time I read the book “Attached”, I remember sending a screenshot of the book to my coach at the time and being like, “do you think that they bugged my house?” Because they knew all of my innermost thoughts and feelings, and I just felt like this is me to a tee. And that kind of started the two year long journey to get here.
Rachael: It's amazing how once you're on the other side of really challenging experiences, in hindsight you realize it actually helped you to get to this magical place.
Abigail: I wrote in my journal at various points throughout that season of my life, “This sucks, but it's good for the plot, this is my character development, this is part of my hero's journey.” I'm going to get through this, and I'm going to use it as fuel.
What Are Attachment Styles?
Rachael: I'd love for you to just kind of dive into what attachment styles are, and what attachment means, because I feel like it's like something that I even just recently started to hear more and more.
Abigail: Yes, it's getting bigger, which is awesome. So your attachment system is something that is created when you're really young. When you're still in that, theta brain state from zero to seven, and we're all moldable, mushy little brains. We witness what is happening between our caregivers, and between our caregivers and us. Based on those behaviors we see we formed this map of how relationships work.
So for example, if you're going to kindergarten and you want to wear really sparkly shoes, and your parents are like, “No, no, wear these plain black shoes, you don't want to stand out, you don’t want to call attention to yourself, you don’t want to be too much.”
Most parents aren't saying this to five year olds, but that's what the five year old is hearing, they're hearing, “it's not good to stand out, I need to play by the rules and fit in this box."
Anytime there's punishment or reward for certain things, you start associating certain behaviors as ultimately good, and others as ultimately bad.
If you express that you're having a bad day, and your parent doesn’t validate that experience, saying, “No, you're fine, it's okay, don't worry, you'll be fine.” The little five year old brain is like, “Okay, my experience isn't valid. Even though I'm having this feeling that something's not right. The person I would look to, to validate that isn't, so I must be wrong.” And then you kind of start just questioning your whole internal experience.
Depending on what kind of caregiver you had, you'll develop different behavioral tendencies as adults.
The ideal is a secure attachment, which means that you had caregivers that were very emotionally attuned to you. You would ask to have a need met, and the need would get met. You would express an emotion and the emotion would be heard and validated, and you would be helped to process it. These people grow up, well adjusted and happy, this is what we all strive for. They have meaningful relationships, they're very secure in themselves.
The main thing with anxious/insecure attachment, is that there was a feeling of not getting your needs met as a child. So now whenever you're feeling that those needs aren't being met again, you get activated, and it's a very triggering situation in your nervous system.
With avoidant attachment, you had a parent who didn’t give you enough space to be independent to develop on your own. So you grow up identifying love with suffocation and somebody who's overbearing.
People with anxious attachment styles tend to get really clingy when they're feeling activated, and people with avoidant attachment styles tend to push people away. And ironically enough, these two partners usually gravitate towards each other. So we have this beautiful horrible dynamic of nobody being happy.
Rachael: I love both my parents but I will say that a huge thing I heard a lot of the time was, “It is what it is.” “You're fine.” “Keep going.” “Suck it up.”
My mom was a single mother, very strong willed, that was how she made it through life. It was probably a very similar way to how she was parented. It led to me not validating my own emotions, and then eventually went through a huge period of like, disassociation from my emotions, pushing them away.
I think there's so much that goes into conscious, healthy relationships beyond just your love language. It's so important to start inviting in these conversations around what triggers your partner and how you can be of support in those moments?
Abigail: Yes, and I really feel like that's why I went into this realm of working with people on relationship dynamics. I feel like in my experience, and what I've witnessed in other clients is that most of the transformation happens when you have a mirror, when you actually are being witnessed.
It's hard to journal on Shadow Work prompts, but it's harder to say that to another living human as they're looking at you and witnessing you in that. You have to bare your soul and get vulnerable like that. That is way harder than doing it by yourself, but that's why it's so much more powerful.
To learn more about inner child healing, see my article:
Self-love, Inner Child Healing & Embodied Purpose with Ella Tsang
How to Create Secure Attachments
When you work with people around attachment styles, how can people start to create secure attachments in their relationships? What do you feel like that would look like for someone listening?
Abigail: The first thing to any healing is conscious awareness, just bringing in that knowledge of when you’re feeling activated?
When are you not feeling activated?
When are you feeling safe?
Noticing what those triggers are?
From there it’s exploring what those triggers are bringing up in you. Knowing that you can have a reaction to something someone does, but it has nothing to do with them.
So that's the first thing, knowing for yourself and what patterns you fall into.
If you tend to be more anxiously attached, and want to seek closeness and comfort when triggered, then a really good recommendation is finding ways to self soothe, doing inner child healing and just really telling the little person inside of you that she's good enough, and she's worthy, and it's okay, she's safe.
If you're more avoidantly attached, then it’s about reminding your body that you can have a connection with somebody without it being overwhelming, but you can still have boundaries and you can still be independent and your own person.
I had both anxious and avoidant attachment styles, double whammy, so I had to heal both of those. I think a key healing tool is practicing with somebody you can have a safe attachment to, someone you know you can count on for safety and security there and permission to like be fully yourself, to express fears and concerns and insecurities and doubts and not have any negative reaction.
Doing this will teach your body and mind it's safe to share these things, it's safe to be here. And then you have a model for what a secure attachment is.
Use this as a baseline for when you go on dates or hang out with friends, check in and see if they feel like a secure attachment.
Understanding Attachment Styles in Business
Rachael: I would love to know how these attachment styles would show up in business?
Abigail: So the thing with secure attachments is that you feel safe, your nervous system is not being activated. And when it is being activated, it's instantly soothed. And so in your business, same kind of thing, it should feel safe, there should be a level of stability.
When I was first learning about attachment styles, I was still doing business coaching. Your business is a relationship, money is a relationship.
So when you're anxiously attached to your business, that's the person who has notifications on for everything, is always on Instagram, breaks boundaries to be available to respond to the DM’s from the potential lead, and reschedules calls no problem, even if it's not convenient, because the fear is about being abandoned.
So they’re so present, like over the top present, to compensate for that.
If you're avoidantly attached to your business, this was me with money for a really long time. I just didn't want to know. I thought, every time I check my bank account, I get stressed, so I'm gonna just not check my bank account. That's not great, money is something I need to interact with.
If you get overwhelmed, are you more likely to go onto Instagram and connect with your community? Or are you more likely to like ghost Instagram and delete the app for a week and try to get that space? There's a lot of nuance to it.
If you loved the topic of this post, be sure to listen to the full, unedited podcast episode of The Embodied Leadership Podcast at the links at the top of the page.
Please reach out and connect with Abigail or myself below 👇
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