Tremendous post

An astronaut is probably the most difficult job to land on the planet. Of tens of thousands of applications, NASA selects roughly half a dozen each decade. The application process is rigorous and highly demanding. You have to be a total badass to qualify. You have to have deep expertise in science and engineering. You need at least 1,000 hours of piloting experience. You have to be physically fit and strong. And, most of all, you have to be a smart motherfucker.

Lisa Nowak was all of these things. She had a masters degree in aeronautical engineering and had studied postgraduate astrophysics at the U.S. Naval Academy. She flew air missions for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific for over five years. And in 1996, she was one of the fortunate few to be selected to become an astronaut.

Clearly, she was smart as hell. But in 2007, after discovering that her lover was seeing another woman, Lisa drove 15 hours straight, in a diaper, from Houston to Orlando, in order to confront her boyfriend’s new squeeze in an airport parking lot. Lisa packed zip ties, pepper spray, and large garbage bags and had some vague-but-not-really-thought-through plan to kidnap the woman. But before she could even get the woman out of her car, Lisa had an emotional breakdown, resulting in her quickly being arrested.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a concept researchers came up with in the 1980s and 90s to explain why intelligent people like Lisa often do really, really stupid things.1 The argument went that the same way your general intelligence (IQ) is a measurement of your ability to process information and come to sound decisions, your emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to process emotions—both others’ and your own—and come to sound decisions.

Some people have an incredibly high IQ but low EQ—think your nutty professor who can’t match his socks or doesn’t see the purpose in showering. Other people have incredibly high EQ but low IQ—think the street hustler who can’t even spell his own name but somehow talks you into giving him the shirt off your back.2

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Emotional intelligence consists of 5 key elements:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. (Good) values

The way to become emotionally intelligent is basically to find or create these five elements in yourself, hence the five skills (more on that in a bit).

If this is all a little vague and abstract, and if you’ve never met a street hustler who convinced you to strip half naked on the streets (aren’t you lucky?), think of someone in your life who:

  • Seems calm yet in control in stressful situations
  • Takes responsibility for their actions instead of blaming every mishap on others
  • Expresses—rather than offloads—their emotions
  • Listens to you and makes you feel heard
  • Genuinely cares about the world and tries in their own way to make it a better place

That is an emotionally intelligent person. And if you’re not there yet, you can become one too.

The thing with emotional intelligence is, it permeates every aspect of your life. Being emotionally intelligent is associated with academic3 and professional4,5,6 success, financial stability,7,8 fulfilling relationships,9 life satisfaction,10 as well as better physical and mental health.11,12 

Every endeavor in life requires you to make decisions. And if you let your emotions consistently ruin your decisions, you likely won’t get very far. Hell, even one emotional mess-up—cue Lisa and her 15-hour kidnapping crusade—can wreck your entire career. So get your shit together. Developing emotional intelligence comes down to not being a fucknut like Lisa was.

Here are five ways to start doing it.

Practice Self-Awareness

Like with most things emotional, you can’t get better at them until you know what the fuck they are. When you lack self-awareness, trying to manage your emotions is like sitting in a tiny boat without a sail on top of the sea of your own emotions, completely at the whim of the currents of whatever is happening moment by moment. You have no idea where you’re going or how to get there. And all you can do is scream and yell for help.

Emotional intelligence - girl under water

Self-awareness involves understanding yourself and your behavior on three levels: 1) what you’re doing, 2) how you feel about it, and 3) the hardest part, figuring out what you don’t know about yourself.

Knowing What You’re Doing

You would think this would be pretty simple and straightforward, but the truth is that in the 21st century, most of us don’t even know what the fuck we’re doing half the time. We’re on auto-pilot—check email, text BFF, check Instagram, watch YouTube, check email, text BFF, etc., etc.

Removing distractions from your life—like, you know, turning off your damn phone every now and then and engaging with the world around you is a nice first step to self-awareness. Finding spaces of silence and solitude, while potentially scary, are necessary for our mental health.

Other forms of distraction include work, TV, drugs/alcohol, video games, cross-stitching, arguing with people on the internet, etc. Schedule time in your day to get away from them. Do your morning commute with no music or podcast. Just think about your life. Think about how you’re feeling. Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to meditate. Delete social media off your phone for a week. You’ll often be surprised by what happens to you.

We use these distractions to avoid a lot of uncomfortable emotions, and so removing distractions and focusing on how you feel without them can reveal some kind of scary shit sometimes. But removing distractions is critical because it gets us to the next level.

Knowing What You’re Feeling

At first, once you actually pay attention to how you feel, it might freak you out. You might come to realize you’re often actually pretty sad or that you’re kind of an angry asshole to a lot of people in your life. You might realize that there’s a lot of anxiety going on, and that whole “phone addiction” thing is really just a way to constantly numb and distract yourself from that anxiety. It’s important at this point to not judge the emotions that arise.

You’ll be tempted to say something like, “Ick! Anxiety! What the fuck is wrong with me!” But that just makes it worse. Whatever emotion is there has a good reason to be there, even if you don’t remember what that reason is. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

Knowing Your Own Emotional Bullshit

Once you see all the icky, uncomfortable stuff you’re feeling, you’ll begin to get a sense of where your own little crazy resides.

For instance, I get really touchy about being interrupted. I get irrationally angry when I’m trying to speak and the person I’m speaking to is distracted. I take it personally. And while sometimes it is just them being rude, sometimes shit happens and I end up looking like a total dickface because I can’t stand going two seconds without every word I speak being respected. That’s some of my emotional bullshit. And it’s only by being aware of it that I can ever react against it.

Now, just being self-aware is not sufficient in and of itself. One must be able to manage their emotions too.

Channel Your Emotions Well

People who believe that emotions are the be-all-end-all of life often seek ways to “control” their emotions. You can’t. You can only react to them.

Emotions are merely the signals that tell us to pay attention to something. We can then decide whether or not that “something” is important and choose the best course of action in addressing it—or not.13

Anger can be a destructive emotion if you misdirect it and hurt others or yourself in the process. But it can be a good emotion if you use it to correct injustices and/or protect yourself or others.

Joy can be a wonderful emotion when shared with people you love when something good happens. But it can be a horrifying emotion if it’s derived from hurting others.

Such is the act of managing your emotions: recognizing what you’re feeling, deciding whether or not that’s an appropriate emotion for the situation, and acting accordingly.

The whole point of this is to be able to channel your emotions into what psychologists call “goal-directed behavior”14—or what I prefer to call “getting your shit together.”

Learn to Motivate Yourself

Have you ever lost yourself completely in an activity? Like, you start doing something and get immersed in it and when you snap out of the quasi-hypnotic state you’ve somehow induced in yourself, you realize three hours have passed but it felt like fifteen minutes?15

This happens to me when I write sometimes. I lose my sense of time and I get this cascade of subtly-layered feelings when I’m fleshing out ideas in my head and putting them into words. It’s like a feeling of fascination mixed with slightly frustrated intrigue mixed with little bursts of dopamine when I feel like I just came up with a great line or funny poop joke or somehow got my point across without cursing.

I love this feeling, and when I achieve it, it motivates me to keep writing.

Notice something important here, though: I don’t wait for that feeling to arise before I start writing.

I start writing and then that feeling starts to build, which motivates me to keep writing, and the feeling builds a little more, and on and on.

This is what I call the “Do Something Principle” and it’s probably one of the simplest yet most magical “hacks” I’ve ever come across. The Do Something Principle states that taking action is not just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.

Emotional intelligence - motivation

Most people try to look for inspiration first so they can take some momentous action and change everything about themselves and their situation. They try to pump themselves up with whatever flavor of mental masturbation is in style that week so they can finally take action. But by next week, they’ve run out of steam and they’re back at it again, jerking off to another “method” of motivation.

But I like to turn this on its head completely. When I need to be motivated, I just do something that’s even remotely related to what I want to accomplish and then, action begets motivation begets action, etc.

When I don’t feel like writing, I tell myself I’ll just work on the outline for now. Once I do that, it often makes me think of something interesting I hadn’t thought of yet that I want to include and so I write that down and maybe flesh it out a little.

Before I know it, I’m halfway through a draft and I haven’t even put on pants yet.

(NOTE: This is just because I never wear pants.)

The point is that in order to use your emotions effectively to get your shit together, you have to do something.

If you don’t feel like anything motivates you, do something. Draw a doodle, find a free online coding class, talk to a stranger, learn a musical instrument, learn something about a really hard subject, volunteer in your community, go salsa dancing, build a bookshelf, write a poem. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after whatever it is you’re doing and use those emotions to guide your future behavior.

And know that it’s not always “good” feelings that will motivate you, too. Sometimes I’m frustrated and really fucking annoyed that I can’t quite say exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I’m anxious that what I’m writing won’t resonate with people. But for whatever reason, these feelings often only make me want to write more. I love the challenge of wrestling with something that’s just a little bit out of my reach.

Recognize Emotions in Others to Create Healthier Relationships

Everything we’ve covered so far deals with handling and directing emotions within yourself. But the whole point of developing emotional intelligence should ultimately be to foster healthier relationships in your life.

And healthy relationships—romantic relationships, familial relationships, friendships, whatever—begin with recognition and respect of one another’s emotional needs.

You do this by connecting and empathizing with others.16 By both listening to others and sharing yourself honestly with others—that is, through vulnerability.

Emotional intelligence - healthy relationships

To empathize with someone doesn’t necessarily mean to completely understand them, but rather to accept them as they are, even when you don’t understand them. You learn to value their existence and treat them as their own end rather than a means for something else. You acknowledge their pain as your pain—as our collective pain.

Relationships are where emotional rubber hits the proverbial pavement. They get us out of our heads and into the world around us. They make us realize we’re a part of something much larger and much more complex than just ourselves.

And relationships are, ultimately, the way we define our values.

Infuse Your Emotions With Values

When Daniel Goleman’s book came out in the 90s, “emotional intelligence” became the big buzzword in psychology. CEOs and managers read workbooks and went to retreats on emotional intelligence to motivate their workforces. Therapists tried to instill more emotional awareness in their clients to help them get a handle on their lives. Parents were admonished to cultivate emotional intelligence in their children with the aim of preparing them for a changing, emotionally-oriented world.17

A lot of this sort of thinking misses the point, however. And that is that emotional intelligence is meaningless without orienting your values.

You might have the most emotionally intelligent CEO on the planet, but if she’s using her skills to motivate her employees to sell products made by exploiting poor people or destroying the planet, how is being emotionally intelligent a virtue here?

A father might teach his son the tenets of emotional intelligence, but without also teaching him the values of honesty and respect, he could turn into a ruthless, lying little prick—but an emotionally intelligent one!

Conmen are highly emotionally intelligent. They understand emotions quite well, both in themselves and especially in others. But they end up using that information to manipulate people for their own personal gain. They value themselves above all else and at the expense of all others. And things get ugly when you value little outside of yourself.18

Lisa Nowak, for all of her brilliance and expertise, couldn’t handle her own emotions and valued the wrong things. Therefore, she let her emotions drive her off the proverbial cliff, going from outer space to incarcerated space.

Ultimately, we’re always choosing what we value, whether we know it or not. And our emotions will carry out those values through motivating our behavior in some way.

So in order to live the life you truly want to live, you have to first be clear about what you truly value because that’s where your emotional energy will be directed.

And knowing what you truly value—not just what you say you value—is probably the most emotionally intelligent skill you can develop.

Footnotes

  1. The framework for “emotional intelligence” was first presented in this seminal 1990 paper by the same name.
  2. Some psychologists say that EQ is more important than IQ, like Daniel Goleman in his seminal 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Matters More than IQ. I take issue with this view because EQ is incredibly difficult to measure, unlike IQ, plus it’s far easier to change, which is why we’re all here. For more on the difficulties of measuring EQ, see: Maul, A. (2012). The Validity of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) as a Measure of Emotional Intelligence. Emotion Review, 4, 394–402.
  3. Petrides, K. V., Frederickson, N., & Furnham, A. (2004). The role of trait emotional intelligence in academic performance and deviant behavior at school. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(2), 277–293.
  4. Romanelli, F., Cain, J., & Smith, K. M. (2006). Emotional Intelligence as a Predictor of Academic and/or Professional Success. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 70(3).
  5. McFarland, R. G., Rode, J. C., & Shervani, T. A. (2016). A contingency model of emotional intelligence in professional selling. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(1), 108–118.
  6. Carmeli, A. (2003). The relationship between emotional intelligence and work attitudes, behavior and outcomes: An examination among senior managers. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 18(8), 788–813.
  7. Bouzguenda, K. (2018). Emotional intelligence and financial decision making: Are we talking about a paradigmatic shift or a change in practices? Research in International Business and Finance, 44, 273–284.
  8. Engelberg, E., & Sjöberg, L. (2006). Money Attitudes and Emotional Intelligence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(8), 2027–2047.
  9. Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., Rhodes, E., & Wendorf, G. (2001). Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Relations. The Journal of Social Psychology, 141(4), 523–536.
  10. Palmer, B., Donaldson, C., & Stough, C. (2002). Emotional intelligence and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 33(7), 1091–1100.
  11. Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., Bhullar, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2007). A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between emotional intelligence and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(6), 921–933.
  12. Tsaousis, I., & Nikolaou, I. (2005). Exploring the relationship of emotional intelligence with physical and psychological health functioning. Stress and Health, 21(2), 77–86.
  13. Gendolla, G. H. E. (2000). On the Impact of Mood on Behavior: An Integrative Theory and a Review. Review of General Psychology, 4(4), 378–408.
  14. Bagozzi, R.P., Baumgartner, H., Pieters, R. & Zeelenberg, M. (2000). The role of emotions in goal-directed behavior. In S. Ratneshwar, D. G. Mick & C. Huffman (Eds.), The Why of Consumption (pp. 36–58). Routledge Publishing.
  15. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi coined the term “flow” to describe this state. He also wrote a book about it.
  16. The effect of empathy has been documented in both everyday and romantic relationships.
  17. Curiously, it’s almost always about kids’ future as adults and rarely about helping them to just be kids.
  18. I wrote another article about how Hitler was actually an incredibly motivated man who understood emotions better than the vast majority of people, but he obviously had terrible values. Of course, some people misconstrued that and called me a Nazi because… this is the internet. And when you think about it, the internet is basically just a reflection of our collective emotional unintelligence—or immaturity—at the moment. But I digress.

I think posts about self-improvement are great who agrees?

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Pandemic life has taught many of us to appreciate moments in life that might otherwise pass us by. I’ve been trying to pause and take note of how I feel at the end of the day, often as I walk in the park or one of my nearby neighborhoods.

With that in mind, here’s a tip inspired by The Art of Stopping Time, a book by Pedram Shojai: whenever you visit a place that’s new to you, consider the sense that you might never be there again.

Just imagine: this might be it! Your one and only opportunity in a lifetime to visit this particular place. How might this realization make you feel?

What, you say you aren’t traveling much now? That’s okay.

This “new place” could be anywhere: a part of the woods you’ve never seen on your next nature hike, for example, or even a street in your neighborhood you’ve never driven down before. The point is to create awareness and appreciation.

I wish I’d had this concept in mind many years ago when I was traveling to several new countries every month. Looking back now, I can remember dozens of highlights that might fit the category of “never returning.”

In Somaliland, I rode several hours in a crowded minibus, listening to people chatter away. We stopped for food (goat stew! I’m a vegetarian, but it was interesting to observe) and drank from a shared bottle of Coca-Cola. Those were the days…

In Bosnia, a totally different part of the world, I traveled overland (this time on a full-sized bus) from Sarajevo to Herceg Novi. The city itself was magical. It felt like one of those “Land Before Time” moments.

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As interesting as those experiences were, I don’t know if I’ll ever repeat them. In fact, almost certainly I won’t. Even when I return to traveling more often, Montenegro and Somaliland aren’t that easy to jet off to.

Not only that, even though I can remember dozens of highlights from my adventures, I’m sure there are hundreds—thousands even—that I’ve forgotten or simply don’t come to mind when I think about this concept.

That’s why it’s good to consider the concept while you’re in a new place. It might help you remember it later, but even if not, you’ll have the moment of appreciation while you’re there.

Oh, and I like thinking about this idea for travel, but technically I suppose you could apply it to anything, even not something related to being in a particular place.

Whatever you’re doing or experiencing today, you might never do or experience it again. Let it sink in and consider how it feels.

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Image: Ender

Anything about this is so important

Have you ever thought about whether you have a strong inner foundation that helps to guide your life choices? When I say foundation, I mean the inner structure that helps you live your life with less stress and overwhelm.

Having a strong inner foundation is an important part of intentional living because it helps you make decisions that shape your future for the better. If your foundation isn’t solid, you might feel like life is constantly knocking you down just when things seem to be getting back on track.

Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Even if you already have a sturdy inner foundation, that doesn’t mean it can’t sway from side to side sometimes. Our strength is constantly tested by the pressures of the world, and it can take a lot of effort to stay upright.

With a strong inner foundation, you‘ll be better able to hand the winds of change. You can grow more when you’re in a secure space and rooted in what you need and want. In this post, I’m exploring the idea of creating an inner foundation so you can stay grounded and reduce the stress of daily life.

Foundation is what keeps you grounded


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

There’s a lot of pressure in our daily lives (put on us by others and ourselves), which means we need a sense of structure to help us stay strong. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and unable to make any real changes in your life, it may be that you need to work on building your inner foundation.

Your foundation is whatever you need it to be. Imagine your foundation at the very core of your being. Your foundation keeps you grounded and plants you where you are as you make tiny steps to nourish yourself and prioritize your own needs.

Without a solid foundation to build your life upon, it’s easy to bend and break under pressure. Sometimes it’s necessary to bend a little, but you don’t want to break.

Think of your inner foundation in terms of what supports you and gives you strength. You can build your inner foundation upon your:

  • Mindset: the quality of your thoughts
  • Values: what’s important to you
  • Habits: daily routines that keep you grounded
  • Strengths: the things you’re naturally good at
  • Relationships: people who make you feel secure and supported

If you’re constantly trying to make changes in your life but nothing seems to stick, consider first whether you have the foundation necessary to support you.

“Building your foundation isn’t a one-time event. Habits will slip and you will need to rebuild them periodically. Your goals may change, forcing you to change your foundation to suit them. But if you’ve spent the time investing in a foundation initially, these changes are maintenance, not a complete reconstruction.”

Scott H. Young

Building a solid foundation in life


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your own foundation in life:

Mindset

  • What thoughts do you need to believe about yourself to feel supported?
  • How can you be more mindful of your own feelings and behaviors?
  • How can you focus on the current moment more than the past/future?

Values

  • What do you value in friendships and relationships? (e.g. a sense of humor, empathy, willingness to challenge you when necessary)
  • What do you value in your work? (e.g. flexibility, reliable co-workers, independence)
  • What are the top 3 values you want to uphold in your own life? (think about how you want others to describe you)

Habits

  • What are your current daily habits?
  • Are your habits self-supporting or self-defeating?
  • What habits would help make your life feel more balanced? (here are some examples)

Strengths

  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • How do these strengths help support you in life?
  • How can you make better use of your strengths in your daily life?

Relationships

  • What makes you feel most supported in a relationship/friendship?
  • Who are the people in your life who make you feel grounded?
  • Are there any relationships you need to let go of to feel more stable?

Ultimately, a strong inner foundation is what keeps you balanced, stable, and secure. Come back to this concept whenever you notice yourself feeling unsteady.

Related Post: 5 Steps To A More Balanced Life


What could you achieve if you prioritized inner stability and security?

I hope this post has encouraged you to become mindful of your own foundation. Think of how you can use your thoughts, values, habits, strengths, and relationships to keep you grounded and reduce the pressure of daily life.

If you want to explore this topic further, check out this post about how to build a vision for your future.

The post How To Build A Strong Inner Foundation For Your Life appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

loving the page

If you’ve ever putzed around the internet, looking for why your relationships might all be screwed up (and screwed up in the same ways, I might add), then you’ve probably come across Attachment Theory.

Attachment Theory is an area of psychology that describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans. It begins as children with our attachment to our parents. The nature of this attachment, and how well it’s fostered and cared for, will then influence the nature of our attachment to romantic partners later in our life.1

Attachment theory began in the 1950s and has since amassed a small mountain of research behind it. Two researchers, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, found that the nature in which infants get their needs met by their parents significantly contributes to their “attachment strategy” throughout their lives.2

Your attachment style doesn’t explain everything about your relationships, but it probably explains a great deal of why your close relationships have succeeded/failed in the manner they did, why you’re attracted to the people you are attracted to, and the nature of the relationship problems that come up again and again for you.

The Four Styles of Attachment

According to psychologists, there are four attachment strategies adults can adopt: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.3

Secure Attachment Style

People with secure attachment strategies are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent, and display a healthy level of self-confidence. They’re able to correctly prioritize their relationships within their life and tend to draw clear boundaries and stick to them.

Secure attachment types obviously make the best romantic partners, family members, and even friends. They’re capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain, but are also capable of being loyal and sacrificing when necessary. They have little issue trusting people they’re close to and are trustworthy themselves.

Secure types comfortably form intimate relationships not only with partners, but also with friends. They have no trouble revealing themselves to and occasionally relying on others when the situation calls for it. And they are excellent caregivers.4

According to research, over 50% of the population are secure attachment types.5

Meet Secure Sarah

  • I find it easy to get emotionally close to my partner.
  • When I show my feelings for my partner, I know that they feel the same about me.
  • I know that my partner will be there when I need them.
  • I want to have my partner with me when I am upset.
  • I don’t worry about my partner leaving me.

Anxious Attachment Style

Attachment Theory: Anxious type

Anxious attachment types are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They’ll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Anxious types have trouble trusting people, even if they’re close to them, yet excessively rely on others for their emotional needs and to resolve their problems. Their behavior can be irrational, sporadic, and overly-emotional. They’re the ones complaining that everyone of the opposite sex are cold and heartless. And probably bursting into tears while doing so.

This is the girl who calls you 36 times in one night wondering why you didn’t call her back—let’s call her Anna. Or the guy who follows his girlfriend to work to make sure she’s not flirting with any other men.

Women are more likely to be anxious types than men,6 but it’s okay, there’s still plenty of insecurity to go around.

Meet Anxious Anna

  • My partner is reluctant to get as emotionally close as I would like.
  • When I tell my partner my troubles, I feel like they don’t really care.
  • I find it hard to forgive my partner when they let me down.
  • I often worry that my partner doesn’t love me.
  • I fear that our relationship will end.

Avoidant Attachment Style

Avoidant attachment types are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They’re commitment-phobes and experts at rationalizing their way out of any intimate situation. They regularly complain about feeling “crowded” or “suffocated” when people try to get close to them. They are often paranoid that others want to control them or box them in.

Attachment Theory: Avoidant type

In every relationship, they always have an exit strategy. Always. Avoidants often construct their lifestyle in such a way to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact.

In surveys, avoidant types score uniquely high on self-confidence and uniquely low on emotional expressiveness and warmth. They not only reveal themselves far less to their partner and friends, but also tend not to rely on others, even when they should. They score lower than other types as caregivers, meaning they’re not to be relied upon when in a pickle.7

It’s a sad fact that relationships tend to be controlled by those who care least. Therefore, avoidants tend to be the ones in control in both friendships and romantic relationships, as they are almost always willing to leave. This is opposed to anxious types, who let themselves be controlled in both.8

This is the guy—we’ll call him Alex—who works 80 hours a week and gets annoyed when women he dates want to see him more than once on the weekend. Or the girl who dates dozens of guys over the course of years but tells them all she doesn’t want “anything serious” and inevitably ends up ditching them when she gets tired of them.

Men are more likely than women to be avoidant types,9 but as always, there’s plenty of neuroses to go around.

Meet Avoidant Alex

  • I prefer to keep to myself when I’m around my partner.
  • I don’t talk to my partner about my feelings.
  • I don’t give my partner the chance to let me down.
  • I don’t want to be around my partner if I’m feeling upset.
  • I wouldn’t care if my partner left me.

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style

Anxious-avoidant attachment types (also known as the “fearful or disorganized type”) bring together the worst of both worlds. Anxious-avoidants are not only afraid of intimacy and commitment, but they distrust and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Anxious-avoidants often spend much of their time alone and miserable, or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.

Anxious-avoidants are low in confidence and less likely to express emotions, preferring to suppress them.10 However, they can have intense emotional outbursts when under stress.11 They also don’t tend to seek help when in need due to a distrust of others. This sucks because they are also incapable of sorting through their own issues.12

Anxious-avoidants really get the worst of both worlds. They avoid intimacy not because they prefer to be alone like avoidants. Rather, they avoid intimacy because they are so terrified of its potential to hurt them.13

According to studies, only a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.14).

Meet Anxious-avoidant Aaron

  • I want to get emotionally close to my partner, but I worry about them hurting my feelings.
  • I want to feel close to my partner, but I also don’t trust them to want to be close to me.
  • I can’t live without my partner, even though being with them isn’t working.

As with most psychological profiling, these types aren’t monolithic qualities, but scalar in nature and somewhat independent.

For instance, according to the book Attached by Amir Levie and Rachel Heller, I scored about 75% on the secure scale, 90% on the avoidant scale, and 10% on the anxious scale. And my guess is that 3-5 years ago, the secure would have been lower and the anxious would have been higher, although my avoidant has always been solidly maxed out (as any of my ex-girlfriends will tell you).

The point is, you can exhibit tendencies of more than one strategy depending on the situation and at different frequencies. Although, everyone has one dominant strategy. So Secure Sarah will still exhibit some avoidant or anxious behaviors, Anxious Anna and Avoidant Alex will sometimes exhibit secure behaviors, etc. It’s not all or nothing. But Anxious-avoidant Aaron will score high on both anxious and avoidant types and low on the secure scale.

How Attachment Styles Are Formed

Like I said previously, our attachment styles as adults are influenced by how we related to our parents (or one parent/primary caregiver) as young children. As helpless little babies, this is our first and most important relationship of our lives, so it naturally sets the “blueprint” for how we perceive all relationships as we mature.15

We use this relationship blueprint as we age into late childhood and adolescence, when we typically start to form important relationships outside of our immediate relationship with our parent(s). Our peer group takes on a larger role in our lives as we continue to learn how to relate to others. These experiences further influence our attachment style as we eventually become romantically involved with others, which, in turn, also influence our attachment style.16

So while your early experiences with your parent(s) do have a considerable influence on how you relate to others, it’s not the only factor that determines your attachment style (though it’s a big one) and your attachment style can change over time (more on this later).

Generally, though, secure attachment types regularly have their needs met as infants. They grew up feeling competent among their peers, but were also comfortable with their shortcomings to a degree. As a result, they exhibit healthy, strong boundaries as adults, can communicate their needs well in their relationships, and aren’t afraid to leave a bad one if they think they need to.

Anxious types, on the other hand, receive love and care with unpredictable sufficiency as infants. Growing up, they have positive views of their peers, but negative views of themselves. Their romantic relationships are often overly idealized and they rely too heavily on them for self-esteem. Hence the 36 calls in one night when you don’t pick up your phone.

Avoidants like Alex would have got only some of their needs met as infants, while the rest were neglected (for instance, Alex might have gotten fed regularly, but wasn’t held enough). So Alex grows up holding a negative view of others but a positive view of himself. He hasn’t depended too much on his romantic relationships for his needs and feels like he doesn’t need others for emotional support.

Anxious-avoidant Aaron, though, would have had an abusive or terribly negligent childhood. He grew up having a hard time relating to his peers. So as an adult, he seeks both intimacy and independence in romantic interactions, sometimes simultaneously, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t really go well.

Adult Attachment Styles and Relationship Configurations

Different attachment types tend to configure themselves into intimate relationships in predictable ways. Secure types are capable of dating (or handling, depending on your perspective) both anxious and avoidant types. They’re comfortable enough with themselves to give anxious types all of the reassurance they need and to give avoidant types the space they need without feeling threatened themselves.

Anxious and avoidants frequently end up in relationships with one another more often than they end up in relationships with their own types.17 That may seem counter-intuitive, but there’s order behind the madness. Avoidant types are so good at putting others off that oftentimes it’s only the anxious types who are willing to stick around and put in the extra effort to get them to open up.

For instance, Avoidant Alex may be able to successfully shirk Secure Sarah’s pushes for increased intimacy. After which, Secure Sarah will accept the rejection and move on. But Anxious Anna will only become more determined by a man who pushes her away. She’ll resort to calling him for weeks or months on end until he finally caves and commits to her. This gives Avoidant Alex the reassurance he needs that he can behave independently and Anxious Anna will wait around for him.

Often these relationships produce some degree of dysfunctional equilibrium as they fall into a pattern of chaser-chasee, which are both roles the anxious and avoidant types need in order to feel comfortable with intimacy.

Attachment Theory: Anxious-avoidant

Anxious-avoidants only date each other or the least secure of the anxious types or avoidant types. These relationships are very messy, if not downright abusive or negligent.

What all of this adds up to, which is the same conclusion I propose in my book, is that in relationships, insecurity finds insecurity and security finds security, even if those insecurities don’t always look the same.18 To put it bluntly, to everyone who has emailed me over the years complaining that all of the people they meet are insecure, or have trust issues, or are needy and manipulative… well, let’s just say I have some bad news for you.

What’s Your Attachment Style?

If you don’t have an idea of what your attachment style is yet and want to take a test, you can take this one. It’s a great resource that will give you an idea of your attachment style across different relationships—parents, friends, romantic partners.

I also really like it because you can track how various aspects of your attachment strategy change over time.

If you don’t want to take the test (takes maybe 10 minutes), the gist of it is this: if you’re consistently avoiding commitment, avoiding your romantic partners, shutting them out, or not sharing things with them, then you’re probably pretty avoidant.

If you’re constantly worrying about your partners, feel like they don’t like you as much as you like them, want to see them 24/7, need constant reassurance from them, then you’re probably anxious.

If you’re comfortable dating people, being intimate with them and are able to draw clear boundaries in your relationships, but also don’t mind being alone, then you’re probably secure.

Note, however, that there are some individual differences in how strongly we might identify with each attachment style. For example, you might be securely attached in most areas but have some anxious or avoidant tendencies in other situations.

That said, most people typically have a predominant attachment style they tend to fall back on in their close relationships.

Can Your Attachment Style Change?

The good news is that your attachment style can change over time—although it’s slow and difficult.

Research shows that an anxious or avoidant who enters a long-term relationship with a secure can be “raised up” to the level of the secure over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, an anxious or avoidant is also capable of “bringing down” a secure to their level of insecurity if they’re not careful.19

Also, extreme negative life events, such as divorce, death of child, serious accident, etc., can cause a secure attachment type to fall into a more insecure attachment type.20

For instance, anonymous man may be more or less secure, get married to Anxious Anna, bring her up to a more secure level, but when they run into money trouble she falls back to her anxious level, cheats on him and then divorces him for all of his money, sending him into a tailspin of avoidance. Anonymous goes on to ignore intimacy and pump-and-dump women for the next 10 years, afraid to become intimate with any of them.

If you’re beginning to think that anxious and/or avoidant behavior corresponds to the fake alpha syndrome and other insecure behavior I describe in men in my book, then you’re correct. Our attachment styles are intimately connected with our confidence in ourselves and others.

Psychologists Bartholomew and Horowitz have hypothesized a model showing that one’s attachment strategy corresponds to the degree of positive/negative self-image, and the positive/negative image of others.21

Attachment Theory: The four types of attachment

Secures exhibit both positive self-images and positive perceptions of others. Anxious types exhibit negative self-images, but positive perceptions of others (hence their needy behavior).

Avoidants exhibit positive self-images and negative perceptions of others (hence their arrogance and fear of commitment), and anxious-avoidants exhibit negative perceptions of just about everything and everyone (hence their inability to function in relationships).

Using this model as a roadmap, one can begin to navigate oneself to a more secure attachment type.

Anxious types can work on developing themselves, creating healthy boundaries and fostering a healthy self-image. Instead of constantly looking for “the one” who will magically solve all their problems (and then calling them 36 times in one night), they can look for things that will make them a better, healthier person both in body and mind.

One of my most common pieces of dating advice is for men to find something they’re passionate about and good at and make that a focal point of their life rather than women. Needless to say, the same goes for women as well.

Once they’re content with who they are, anxious types can then work to become more aware of their tendency to seek partners that reaffirm their negative self-image.22

Remember what I said about insecurity finding insecurity? Anxious types will do well to break out of that cycle and surround themselves with people, friends and lovers alike, who lift them up, rather than knock them down. And to deepen those relationships. The positive emotional experiences they get from healthy relationships, especially profound ones like with a spouse, will re-shape their view of the world, reduce their anxieties, and help mold them into more secure types.23

Avoidant types can work on opening themselves up to others, and enrich their relationships through sharing themselves more. Research shows that simply not avoiding relationships can help avoidants move away from their avoidant tendency.24 And similar to anxious types, avoidants should stop seeking to reaffirm their view of the world with every single person they meet—not everyone is untrustworthy or clingy.

Another one of my most common pieces of advice to people is that it’s your responsibility to find something great in everyone you meet. It’s not their responsibility to show you. Become curious. Stop being judgmental.

For the unlucky few who find themselves both anxious and avoidant, they can follow the advice for both types above. Focus on getting to know themselves, their fears and insecurities, embrace them, and learn to work with them, rather than against them. A few simple tools to help them do this are journaling and meditation. Professional therapy can also be effective.25

And of course, some of you may be reading this and thinking, “I like being alone and being able to sleep with whoever I want. I wouldn’t change a thing.” And it’s true—many people lead happy, successful lives as avoidant or anxious types. Some even have successful long-term relationships as an anxious or avoidant.

But research shows secures are consistently more happy and feel more supported,26 are less likely to become depressed,27 are healthier,28 retain more stable relationships, and become more successful29 than the other types.

And I can tell you from my personal experience, I’ve felt myself drift out of a strong avoidant (and slightly anxious) attachment type to a more secure attachment type over the past six years of working on myself in this area. And I can unequivocally say that I’m happier and more fulfilled in my relationships and with the women I date now than I ever was back then.

I wouldn’t trade it back for anything.

Footnotes

  1. Collins, N. L., & Read, S. J. (1990). Adult attachment, working models, and relationship quality in dating couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(4), 644–663.
  2. Ainsworth, M. S., & Bowlby, J. (1991). An ethological approach to personality development. American Psychologist, 46(4), 333.
  3. Bartholomew, K., Kwong, M. J., & Hart, S. D. (2001). Attachment. In Handbook of personality disorders: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 196–230). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
  4. See this study for how “Secures” score in an interview across 15 personality aspects. Those not mentioned here include: balance of control in romantic relationships and friendships, crying frequency, and warmth.
  5. Mickelson, K. D., Kessler, R. C., & Shaver, P. R. (1997). Adult attachment in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(5), 1092.
  6. Ciocca, G., Zauri, S., Limoncin, E., Mollaioli, D., D’Antuono, L., Carosa, E., Nimbi, F. M., Simonelli, C., Balercia, G., Reisman, Y., & Jannini, E. A. (2019). Attachment Style, Sexual Orientation, and Biological Sex in their Relationships With Gender Role. Sexual Medicine, 8(1), 76–83.
  7. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226–244.
  8. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226–244.
  9. Ciocca, G., Zauri, S., Limoncin, E., Mollaioli, D., D’Antuono, L., Carosa, E., Nimbi, F. M., Simonelli, C., Balercia, G., Reisman, Y., & Jannini, E. A. (2019). Attachment Style, Sexual Orientation, and Biological Sex in their Relationships With Gender Role. Sexual Medicine, 8(1), 76–83.
  10. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226–244.
  11. Shaver, P. R., & Mikulincer, M. (2002). Attachment-related psychodynamics. Attachment & Human Development, 4(2), 133–161.
  12. Maunder, R., & Hunter, J. (2012). A Prototype-Based Model of Adult Attachment for Clinicians. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 40, 549–573.
  13. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226–244.
  14. Caspers, K. M., Yucuis, R., Troutman, B., & Spinks, R. (2006). Attachment as an organizer of behavior: implications for substance abuse problems and willingness to seek treatment. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 1(1), 32.
  15. Chris Fraley, R. (2002). Attachment Stability From Infancy to Adulthood: Meta-Analysis and Dynamic Modeling of Developmental Mechanisms. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(2), 123–151.
  16. Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Hazan, C. (1994). Attachment styles and close relationships: A four-year prospective study. Personal Relationships, 1(2), 123–142.
  17. Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Davis, K. E. (1994). Attachment style, gender, and relationship stability: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(3), 502–512.
  18. Vicary, A. M., & Fraley, R. C. (2007). Choose Your Own Adventure: Attachment Dynamics in a Simulated Relationship. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(9), 1279–1291.
  19. Arriaga, X. B., Kumashiro, M., Simpson, J. A., & Overall, N. C. (2018). Revising Working Models Across Time: Relationship Situations That Enhance Attachment Security. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 22(1), 71–96.
  20. Davila, J., Burge, D., & Hammen, C. (1997). Why does attachment style change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(4), 826–838.
  21. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226.
  22. Collins, N. L., & Read, S. J. (1990). Adult attachment, working models, and relationship quality in dating couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(4), 644–663.
  23. Epstein, S. (1980). Self-concept: A review and the proposal of an integrated theory of personality. In E. Staub (Ed.), Personality: Basic issues and current research. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  24. This longitudinal study finds that avoidants who initiate new relationships during the study are less likely to remain avoidant than those who do not.
  25. Research shows that compelling emotional experiences that result from a strong professional relationship with a therapist (not a romantic one, mind you) could help change one’s existing model of the world.
  26. Ognibene, T. C., & Collins, N. L. (1998). Adult attachment styles, perceived social support and coping strategies. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15(3), 323–345.
  27. Roberts, J. E., Gotlib, I. H., & Kassel, J. D. (1996). Adult attachment security and symptoms of depression: The mediating roles of dysfunctional attitudes and low self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(2), 310–320.
  28. Feeney, J. A. (2000). Implications of attachment style for patterns of health and illness. Child: Care, Health & Development, 26(4), 277–288.
  29. Blustein, D. L., Prezioso, M. S., & Schultheiss, D. P. (1995). Attachment Theory and Career Development: Current Status and Future Directions. The Counseling Psychologist, 23(3), 416–432.

Thanks big method fan here

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Pandemic life has taught many of us to appreciate moments in life that might otherwise pass us by. I’ve been trying to pause and take note of how I feel at the end of the day, often as I walk in the park or one of my nearby neighborhoods.

With that in mind, here’s a tip inspired by The Art of Stopping Time, a book by Pedram Shojai: whenever you visit a place that’s new to you, consider the sense that you might never be there again.

Just imagine: this might be it! Your one and only opportunity in a lifetime to visit this particular place. How might this realization make you feel?

What, you say you aren’t traveling much now? That’s okay.

This “new place” could be anywhere: a part of the woods you’ve never seen on your next nature hike, for example, or even a street in your neighborhood you’ve never driven down before. The point is to create awareness and appreciation.

I wish I’d had this concept in mind many years ago when I was traveling to several new countries every month. Looking back now, I can remember dozens of highlights that might fit the category of “never returning.”

In Somaliland, I rode several hours in a crowded minibus, listening to people chatter away. We stopped for food (goat stew! I’m a vegetarian, but it was interesting to observe) and drank from a shared bottle of Coca-Cola. Those were the days…

In Bosnia, a totally different part of the world, I traveled overland (this time on a full-sized bus) from Sarajevo to Herceg Novi. The city itself was magical. It felt like one of those “Land Before Time” moments.

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As interesting as those experiences were, I don’t know if I’ll ever repeat them. In fact, almost certainly I won’t. Even when I return to traveling more often, Montenegro and Somaliland aren’t that easy to jet off to.

Not only that, even though I can remember dozens of highlights from my adventures, I’m sure there are hundreds—thousands even—that I’ve forgotten or simply don’t come to mind when I think about this concept.

That’s why it’s good to consider the concept while you’re in a new place. It might help you remember it later, but even if not, you’ll have the moment of appreciation while you’re there.

Oh, and I like thinking about this idea for travel, but technically I suppose you could apply it to anything, even not something related to being in a particular place.

Whatever you’re doing or experiencing today, you might never do or experience it again. Let it sink in and consider how it feels.

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Image: Ender