When we have anxious attachment we have a tendency towards preoccupation. Preoccupation means that your thoughts will focus on one person and obsess over that person usually until it sends you into a pit of despair. Perhaps it’s the person who just told you they aren’t ready for a relationship and you two part ways. After the breakup, you can’t shake them from your brain and spend most of your days obsessing over what you did wrong, if you should go back and how great they were. Or you’re dating someone emotionally unavailable and you’re constantly in a state of fear when you aren’t with the person that things will end. It’s a very painful place to be.
I have been there and I can tell you with work, it gets better. I’m going to give you an exercise to help heal that preoccupation and bring you back to center. First, what’s going on when we are preoccupied? When we are in preoccupation our brain has too much dopamine. Excess dopamine suppresses serotonin, the brain’s “happy” chemical, making it very hard for us to feel good. Exercising and moving your body is really important during this time as it helps cut off excess dopamine and raise endorphins. You need those puppies! What’s also going on is you are focusing on outward validation and actually self abandoning . In the moments of preoccupation our inner child is crying out for some sort of validation- love, comfort, affection, attention, etc. In those moments therefor, we need to make sure we face the actual issue.
First notice your preoccupation with whomever it is that is looping through your brain. Stop and acknowledge what is happening. Say something like, “I am in preoccupation. Thank you brain for showing me I currently needing something I am not providing for myself.”
Then close your eyes, hand on your heart (we do this to help engage the vegal break that helps us to switch from sympathetic nervous system-fight/flight- to parasympathetic nervous system-rest and digest).
Take a couple of deep breaths, focusing on the exhales. Once you feel slightly more centered, ask yourself what do I need most in this moment? What am I thinking I need from x person? Once you get your answer, keep your eyes closed and hand on your heart, imagine yourself falling down a well. At the bottom of a well, it opens up to a huge room and inside the room is your inner child. Whenever I think of my inner child I think of her as 5 years old. Whatever age that is for you, imagine yourself at that age. Now, if the thing you needed most in that moment is attention than give your inner child attention. For example, I would watch my inner child do her cool new dance she just made up or watch her stand up comedy routine (I wanted to be a comedian when I was 5). If it’s love, maybe you just hold your inner child and rock them in a rocking chair. Or maybe you read them a book. Cuddle with them while they fall asleep, etc. The purpose of this is to begin to give yourself what you actually need at the deepest level so you stop looking outside for someone else to do the same.
This is by no means a quick fix. This will take diligence and vigilance. It takes A LOT of awareness to first notice the preoccupation and then to do this work around it. When I have been preoccupied, I have done this 10 to 15 times a day. I know it sounds like a lot, but the payoff is huge. Once I was able to REALLY give myself what I needed, I was able to stop letting my inner child drive the ship and make new decisions. Why? I was no longer seeking outside validation.
If you feel stuck in preoccupation or getting your attachment style activated, I look forward to connecting over a session.
Photo: Carolyn Ramella