I mentioned in a previous post that I suffer from insecurity in relationships because I don’t know how the other person feels towards me. In terms of Attachment Theory this would be described as preoccupied or anxious-preoccupied attachment, characterized by worrying about what others think of you and a need for approval and validation.
In my case I am aware that I have a disposition towards clinginess: I can become dependent on the other person for validation of my self-esteem, sometimes to the point of obsession. Being aware of this does help to a degree because it means I can moderate my impulses. I don’t mean that I’d stalk somebody, following them around everywhere – nothing that scary – but I without that self-restraint I’d quite probably be getting to the point of harassing them with the frequency of contact. This is not good. Obviously it can destroy a relationship if one party is too clingy and constantly seeks reassurance of their worth – it can be very wearing for the other person involved.
The trouble is… even though I am aware of how I am, I still feel insecure; still feel a need for the approval of others. It’s such a good feeling when I receive attention from somebody I care about, and they appear, to me, to reciprocate the friendship. And then, after we go off our separate ways and carry on with our lives, my doubts start to creep in and the insecurity builds: am I reading too much into the relationship? Do they care or were they just being polite? Am I, in reality, just a pain in the ass to them? Are they secretly glad to get away from my clingy behavior? And so it goes on.
I catastrophize (thank you Musings) when I send a text and get no response. The reality is most likely that they are every bit as bad as me when it comes to checking for messages and then remembering to reply when I get the free time to do so, but in my mind I imagine that they are sick to death of being pestered by me, that I’ve offended them, or even that the relationship exists only in my mind. I worry that I am being too demanding for attention and driving them away.
All these negative fantasies are distressing, driving my anxiety and dominating my thoughts to the extent that I struggle to concentrate on anything else. Recently I have begun to work on handling this situation by focusing on the positive facts about the relationship: remembering occasions and incidents that provide evidence of reciprocation. I also regularly remind myself that this negative speculation is groundless, that I have no reason to harbor such doubts. And I also reflect on the fact that somebody as poor at reading others as I am can certainly not draw those worrying inferences with any confidence – I simply do not know for sure how the other person feels and so rather than assume the worst I try to keep a balanced view. It’s not cured my anxiety but it does help prevent the self-destructive downwards spiral.
Now, if I could just work on developing a healthier attachment style I’d be happy! Still, any progress is a help and at least I recognize that a problem exists which is the first step in fixing it.