Betrayed by a friend? Read this.

When betrayal enters into a friendship, it can transform a source of great joy into a source of immense pain. Maybe a friend told a secret they swore up and down to keep confidential. Maybe they sided with someone who has acted abusively towards you. Or maybe in a heated moment, they deliberately pushed a painful button that they knew would hurt you the most.

Regardless of what the infraction looks like, the bottom line is that you no longer feel you can trust your friend. You no longer have that easy feeling of safety with them – whether that safety was emotional, mental, or physical.

Being betrayed by a friend is an experience many of us have or will encounter in life. In this week’s post, I will share three stages for healing from a friend’s betrayal.

#1: Get Safe

When a betrayal occurs, the feeling of safety and trust are often compromised. As with a trauma, you need to take a step back and get safe again. This could look like removing yourself from the conversation, blocking or removing the person from your social media, setting boundaries, staying away from the person in real life, or anything else that helps you fell safe.

Getting safe is not about being “mean” or “getting back” at your friend. It’s about taking care of yourself. It’s extremely important to practice your self-soothing skills and give yourself all the time you need time to reset from the experience. You will know when you are ready to move on to stage two, which is:

#2: Process What Happened

Once you have established safety for yourself, you’ll want to process the events and your feelings about them. You could talk to an objective person about what happened (I would avoid talking to mutual friends as this could lead to more issues), discuss your feelings with a professional therapist or counselor, or reflect on your own by writing in a journal.

During the processing stage, you may find it useful to examine the friendship as a whole. Be honest with yourself about trends and repeated behaviors within the friendship by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Was this betrayal a one-off event, or part of a pattern? Have there been other hurtful behaviors over time?
  • Does this friendship have the consistent hallmarks of a healthy relationship? Read about what these are here.
  • If I’m being honest with myself, how do I feel in this friendship most of the time?
  • How do I contribute to the problem? This is not about victim-blaming or taking responsibility for other people’s actions, but recognizing that friendships are a dynamic between two people and being willing to own your part. For example: do you contribute to an unhealthy dynamic by not communicating when something bothers you, expecting your friend to read your mind, or being passive aggressive? You can’t control anyone but yourself, so it’s important to reflect on how your own actions could be improved for the benefit of all your relationships.

#3: Move Forward

Moving forward will look different for every person and scenario, and there is no universal right or wrong way to proceed. The most important thing to keep in mind is that YOU get to choose what will work best for you. Your friend may want you to forget about the incident and just move on. Or maybe they recognize how much their behavior hurt you, have apologized, and are attempting to understand your point of view (even if it’s hard to hear). Regardless of what they want, don’t feel pressured to do something you’re not ready for, or be in a friendship you no longer feel is right for you. Keep the focus on yourself and your needs.

If you have done the emotional work and come to the conclusion that the healthiest option is to move on from the friendship, you have every right to make that choice. Even though it hurts tremendously now, take this experience as a lesson for what you don’t want in your friendships.

If you are considering giving your friend another chance, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

  • If you tell them how their actions made you feel, will your friend be able to accept and listen, or will they get defensive, gaslight, or turn the blame on you? If they want to deny that they acted in a way that caused you pain, are they a safe person to have in your inner circle?
  • If they apologized, do you feel in your gut that they are truly sorry? In her book The Power of Apology, therapist Beverly Engel outlines The Three R’s of a genuine apology: Regret (empathy for what you are feeling, acknowledging that their actions caused you pain), Responsibility (not making excuses or blaming others for their actions), and Remedy (expressing that they are willing to take action to make things right and repair the damage, including not repeating the harmful behavior).
  • If you go back to being friends, are you willing to risk your friend betraying or otherwise harming you again? How will you respond if this happens?
  • Are you staying in the friendship because you’re afraid of starting over or being alone? What would change if these fears were no longer a concern?
  • Are they rushing you to “get over it” and let them off the hook for their actions? If so, how does this make you feel?
  • Are you hoping that your friend will change, or can you accept them as-is?

I want to end by saying that you are worthy of the kinds of friendships you desire. Don’t let one, two, or a hundred bad experiences with the wrong people turn you off from finding the right ones.

What’s YOUR friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

10 ways to cope with college rejection

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

It’s almost April and we all know what that means: thousands of young people across America are hearing back from the colleges they applied to months earlier. This was a record year for college applications (global pandemic, anyone?) and while many college applicants will receive acceptance letters, even more will rejection letters.

Being told “no” is simply a part of life, but college rejection represents the first big rejection many young adults experience. And I’ve witnessed the ensuing emotional devastation firsthand. I remember the day the graduating senior class at my high school received their answers from the UCs (Universities of California). They had all gotten acceptance or rejection letters via email, during school hours. I remember walking through the hallway, seeing half the senior class sprinting and skipping with joy, while the other half were sprawled out on the floor in tears, heads buried into their backpacks.

That mental image has stayed with me for years, and for a long time, I have wanted to write a blog post on how to cope when you didn’t get into the college you wanted. Here are ten ways to cope with the sting of the big answer being “no.”

Give yourself time to feel your feelings. It will take some time. Let yourself feel disappointed, sad, heartbroken, rejected. What you resist persists, so if you don’t face/feel the feelings, you won’t be able to process them. Write in a journal. Vent or cry to a friend or family member. Throw the tantrum on the kitchen floor. Do what you need to do (stay legal of course!). Then, when you know it’s time, pick yourself up and begin again.

Nip the negative self-talk in the bud. Let me be the first person to say it: You’re not a “loser” and there’s nothing wrong with you. If you’re personalizing the rejection (“This means I’m unlovable/stupid/I did something wrong”), comparing yourself unfairly to others (“Leah got into XYZ university because she’s so much better than me”), engaging in black and white thinking or jumping to conclusions (“I simply won’t be happy at any other school”) (“If I don’t go to XZY university, I’ll never be the person I want to be”), thought records can help you interrupt and challenge these distorted thoughts. Read my post explaining how to use thought records and get a free thought record template emailed to you here.

Familiarize yourself with stories about people who didn’t get what they wanted…and it turned out to be just fine. Or better. Like the Rolling Stones song goes: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find you get what you need.” Steven Spielberg got rejected from USC film school, and we all know how his film career turned out in the end….without them. (They brought him back for a honorary doctorate years later!) Walt Disney’s first animation company in Kansas City went bankrupt, but if it hadn’t, maybe he never would have started over in Los Angeles and became a huge success. Sometimes I thank the heavens for the things I thought I wanted that I didn’t get. With time and perspective, I usually end up feeling that I dodged bullets that I either didn’t see or didn’t want to see at the time. The same could be the case for you.

Remember who you are. “I know that no matter where I go, I’ll still be me. I’ll still do well. I’ll still be awesome.” These words were spoken to me by an eighth grader I worked with who was applying to private high schools. Her parents were freaked out about the possibility of her not getting in to any of them and having to go to the local public school, but she sat there in confidence that no matter what happened, she was still going to succeed, because that’s the kind of person she is. Take inventory of your unique strengths and and remind yourself that no matter what , you have what it takes to do well and be happy. The college you end up attending won’t make or break your entire life. It doesn’t have that kind of power over you. Only you have that power. Chances are you’ve already overcome some form(s) of adversity in your life, and maybe you’ve also had some pretty amazing triumphs. Remember your power. Remember who are you are.

Appeal (with care). If you want to appeal the decision to the admissions department, go ahead and do so, but with a reasonable amount of caution. You know yourself best. Is appealing going to put you in the space of keeping all your eggs in one basket, or can you appeal while being realistic about your chances while warming up to other possible options in the meantime? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for advocating for oneself. As a psychologist, however, I can also see how choosing the appeal process might result in a repeat of what you’ve just been through emotionally. In addition, it could end up stalling your grieving/acceptance process. We’re only human after all, and humans tend to attach to specific (desired) outcomes. Be honest with yourself, and weigh if appealing is worth the emotional tab you might have to pay later on.

Identify what you liked about your top choice(s) and see if you can create or find it someplace else. “What did you like about them?” is a question I ask clients in therapy when they experience romantic rejection/break ups, and it applies to the college application process as well! What specifically did you want out of that college? Was it the name/prestige? Getting to live in a big city (or a tiny farm town)? Was it the parties, the Greek life, or their amazing Art History program? Like I said, be honest and get as specific as you can. Now ask yourself: “Can I find this elsewhere?” With a tiny bit of flexibility, the answer could be yes. After all, as I talk about in my new book on college students and mental health, colleges are businesses that know all about supply and demand.

Dealing with rejection is preparation for life. Use this moment to build the muscle. We envy people who seem to get everything they want exactly when they want it, but they don’t get to build the skill of bouncing back from failure and rejection, which is the key to succeeding in life. I used to take rejection really, really hard. In fact, I believe it kept me from going after things I wanted when I was younger. Nowadays, I get rejected for something I want nearly every week, but I’m happier because I’m chasing the things that matter to me. I still feel discouraged from time to time, but the feeling moves through me a lot more quickly. Being able to bounce back from rejection is a life skill. This is the perfect time to practice it.

Give yourself credit for trying. In life, having the guts to show up and try are what matters. To quote Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Or, as Lana Del Rey puts it:

Keep perspective. If you just got rejected from college, I’m assuming you are most likely on the younger side. I know this feels like a huge deal and in some ways it is! But trust me: you have so much time ahead of you. Remember when you were, say, in fifth grade a kid in your class made fun of your nose? You probably felt like it was the end of the world. Maybe there was an adult in your life at the time who said: “Listen, in five years you aren’t even going to remember this kid’s last name.” I work with middle schoolers and one truth I’ve found about being that age is that everything feels like the BIGGEST DEAL EVER (TM). But it’s not. Keep in mind that with time, this rejection is not going to feel like as big of a deal as it does today.

Here’s a secret: A lot of people don’t care where you went to college. Of course, certain names do carry prestige and matter to some people, but in my adult life experience, where you go to college doesn’t actually matter all that much. I’ve learned that if a potential employer or graduate school likes you (your personality, your ability to get along with others, your work ethic, your work, etc.) the fact that you also went to a “good school” is just icing on the cake. And think of it this way: Would you really want an employer who is so status-obsessed that they only care that you have a fancy degree from some fancy school and not at all about who you are and what you bring to the table beyond that? Sure, a big name might open some doors, but are those the only kind of doors you’ll ever care about walking through?

***

At the end of the day, I know you will get through this. It will be hard and painful for awhile, but your life will go on and you will adapt. Maybe you’ll even be happier than you ever thought you could be. Maybe not. But, like relationships, things tend to go much more smoothly when the desire from both parties is equal and mutual. You deserve to go to a college that can’t wait for you to set foot on their campus, who has been waiting for an applicant just like you.

Hey, current and soon-to-be college students! Check out my new book After the Acceptance Letter: Seven Healthy Mindsets for Emotional Wellness in College. It’s all about how to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing during the college years. It’s a quick read with fun stories and interactive exercises – perfect for those of you who realize that good mental health is a hallmark of feeling great, inside and out.

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Seven Ways to Cope When You Have No Friends in Quarantine

Photo credit: @80svintagecomics (Instagram)

Lockdown. Quarantine. Stay-At-Home. Social-Distancing. Self-isolation.

Whatever you call it, we’ve now been doing it for a year. For some of us, the pandemic has provided time alone we didn’t realize we’d been craving. For others, it’s felt like a social prison sentence. Regardless of your introversion/extroversion levels, many have reported increased feelings of loneliness during the pandemic.

This sense of loneliness can be exacerbated by the feeling or thought that you have no friends. But what does “no friends” really mean? Maybe you had a solid friendship group before the pandemic and now you hardly ever talk to anyone in it. Perhaps you felt lonely even before the pandemic hit. Maybe you have a couple friends, but the pandemic has blocked you from from expanding your circle. Or perhaps it’s just you at the moment. It can look different for each person.

The “end” of the pandemic may be somewhere on the horizon, but it’s not over yet. If you’re feeling lonely and lacking in friends, this blog is for you. Read on for seven ways to cope when you have no friends in quarantine.

Limit Self-Blame: Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a ton of friends right now. We all go through seasons of life in which we feel lonely, and it isn’t a reflection on your worth or likability. When you start to notice self-criticism, blame, or other negative thought patterns, try interrupting the cycle by completing a thought record. And remember: “To everything, there is a season.” Accept if not embrace this season for what it is. It won’t last forever.

Join an Online Community: I know, I know, it’s on Zoom and you’re sick and tired of Zoom (or Skype, Facetime, Google Meet, etc.), but hear me out: Would engaging with others (albeit on a Zoom or phone call) for half an hour bring more to your life than spending two hours on TikTok (or whatever you currently do to pass the time)? If the answer is yes, consider switching up how you spend your time. Ask yourself what enriches you, and what is simply a distraction or habit?

For support and social interaction, consider joining an online group that meets on Zoom. Many support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Al-Anon have adjusted to holding meetings online. Or enroll in an online course at your local community college (choose a subject that will be fun and not more work/stress). Therapy clinics like Eddins Counseling Group offer a ton of great online therapy groups. Whether you you join a class, support group, or something else, you will learn something and meet other people who are likely searching for human connection, just like you.

Unplug from Social Media & Other Mental Energy Pits: Now more than ever we need to be mindful of how much screen time we’re ingesting. If you’re in school or work from home, chances are you are on your screen several hours a day (and likely suffering from Zoom burnout). Try to be intentional about how you use your screen time. Start by noticing how scrolling for a prolonged period of time makes you feel, during and afterwards. Remember: you only have so many hours in a day. Spend it doing something that makes you feel better, not worse.

Reach Out to People to Check In: People are feeling lonely, afraid, and the overall impact of living under a pandemic for a year. At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was reaching out to each other, checking in to ask: “Hey, are you okay?” Just because it isn’t March 2020 anymore doesn’t meant people have fully adjusted to the new normal or are feeling great about it. Challenge yourself to reach out to someone once a week. This can be anybody: an old classmate, coworker, neighbor who moved away, teacher, cousin. You can say: “Hi (Their Name)! I was remembering (insert memory that involves them) and wondering how you are doing.” It may seem small, but you never know how a small exchange could impact another person…or you.

Become Your Own Best Friend: Sometimes when we’re alone, it’s an opportunity to learn to love and care for ourselves. Imagine a best friend. What would you want them to say to you if you told them you felt like you have no friends? Would they say “I’m coming right over!” and show up at your door a half hour later for a Johnny Depp movie marathon? Would they tell you to cry as much as you need to and listen with patience and compassion? Would they tell you to meet them for sushi at your favorite spot? Decide what a good friend would do in this situation and then…do it for yourself. Be your own good company. Sometimes you need to give yourself the thing you want so desperately for someone else to give you.

Do Some *Safe* Volunteer Work: The past year has been full of twists and turns. We can speculate, but the truth is we don’t know with 100 percent certainty what the next year will bring in terms of day-to-day life. Depending on how safe you feel (be honest with yourself about what your limitations are), consider taking on some volunteer or community service work (while using safety practices of course!). Maybe you want to volunteer at a vaccination site, talk to senior citizens, or care for animals at a shelter. Doing something for others has a way of getting you out of your own head and into the world around you. You might meet some cool people in the process. At the very least, it will get you out of the house for a good cause.

Talk to Someone Trained in Talking to People: Talking to someone about how you’re feeling can be healing. Check out some of the online therapy platforms like BetterHelp or TalkSpace. Open Path Collective can connect you with a therapist at a reduced rate ($30 per hour). There are also free peer support resources, like 7 cups. If you’re feeling suicidal or having thoughts of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. They’re available 24/7/365.

Whoever you are and whatever your situation, know that you are not the only person who feels lonely or that they aren’t exactly “killing it” in the friendship department at the moment. It’s okay to be where you are now. You are loveable. And you have the ability to be a great friend – to yourself and to others.

What Kind of Friend are YOU? Take the Quiz & Find Out!

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This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Get a life! 19 things to do instead of staring at a screen

THE QUARANTINE EDITION!

Don’t be like this person.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

As a mental health clinician, I am a huge proponent of living a screen-limited life. Too much screen time has been linked to anxiety and depression in teens, and I can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who readily admits that they are addicted to their phones. Screens are not inherently bad, but our relationship to them can become compulsive and unhealthy.

Unfortunately, being stuck inside all day makes it all too easy to spend our entire lives staring at a screen. Stop for a moment and think about how much of today day you spent in front of a screen, whether it was the computer, TV, phone, tablet or something else.

If we want to live a screen-limited life, we need to be intentional about cutting screen time, otherwise, we’ll find ourselves right back at square one. Having a go-to list of alternative behaviors can help interrupt learned behavior and break the screen-addiction cycle.

Here are seventeen quarantine-compliant things to do instead of staring at a screen:

Beading: Make some necklaces or bracelets or door beads or any kind of jewelry or decorations you want. Don’t have a bead store in your town? My my local bead store does free shipping over $35!

Play board games: Dig up your old faves like Candyland, Crossfire or Tales of the Crystals . Thrift stores sell used board games for a few dollars each. Or make up your own original board game and bring it to life using cardboard, markers and other items around the house.

Make a birdhouse out of a milk carton: Or any other kind of material you want. Fill it with birdseed and set it outside. Watch for birds. They’re everywhere.

Make something with clay: Use Sculpey or make your own clay: 1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, ¾ cup of water. (Thanks, Learning4Kids.)

Practice a musical instrument: If you don’t play yet, noodle around with a fun and easy instrument like the harmonica, ukelele or a Casio keyboard. Make noises. Make up songs.

Create a collage: Dig up some old magazines (or newspapers or flyers or books), go through the pages and rip out whatever you instantly connect with. (Don’t think, just rip.) Cut out the parts you want and make a picture, or decorate an object like a box or a piece of furniture.

Take a walk: Gawk at the splendor of the natural world. Explore a street you’ve never been on before. People-watch.

Move Your Furniture: Rearrange your living space. Put the sofa on the opposite side of the room. Make the bed face the window instead of the door. Switch up the energy in your home.

Revamp Your Workspace: Clear your workspace, wipe off all the dust and cat/dog/Yeti fur. Return only half of the items that were there before to the desk (or fewer). Bring in one new object that makes you smile.

Write longhand: Writing doesn’t have to be typed to be sacred or important. Remember writing by hand in school? Get a pen and journal about your day or your crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. Write an old fashioned letter to a friend. They’ll be psyched to receive something real in a digital world.

Get a jump start on your most epic Halloween costume yet: Create an original costume with nothing but the materials you have at home and your innate costume-making skills. You may surprise yourself with the results.

Coloring books: Ha! I bet you thought I’d recommend adult coloring books, just like everyone else and their mom! (If you like adult coloring books, please continue to enjoy them.) My special twist on this is: make your own coloring books. Draw some pictures by hand on a blank piece of paper. Make it as simple or intricate as you want. Then color it. (Or have someone else color it. Or not.)

Read: A (literal) book. Many libraries have curbside pickup during Covid-19, so all you have to do is put a hold on your items and pick them up once they’ve been collected. If you don’t want to use the internet to reserve your books, you can always call and talk to a real person.

Call a friend and catch up: Forget Zoom, Facetime and Skype. Hearing another person’s voice on the other end of a phone is sacred in its own way.

Organize your closet: By color, season, practicality, you name it. Set up some outfits for your fall wardrobe. The autumn equinox was just yesterday (September 22), so hop to it!

Meditate: It’s 2020, you knew I’d suggest this. You don’t need an app, a video or a livestreamed sermon to meditate. Sit with both feet on the floor. Close or open your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, going in and out. When your mind wanders to other things, bring your attention back to your breath. Congratulations, you’ve meditated.

Play with hair wax: You’re not living your best quarantine life until you’ve got the hair to prove it.

Learn a new dish: Use an actual cookbook. Maybe one you picked up at your local library?

Mess around with makeup: Practice a look you haven’t tried out in real life. Paint your face any way you want. Go crazy. Make up your own rules. Just for fun.

In creating this list, I realized that almost all of the items could involve the use of screens if desired: YouTube tutorials, online instructions, digital books, meditation apps, Zoom, Pinterest, and so on. This is part of why being intentional about performing these activities in a screen-limited (or even screen-absent) manner before jumping in is so important. For many of us, it has simply become a reflex to reach for Google or our phones to complete our daily activities. But remember that not so long ago we lived in an age where we didn’t have any of these things…and we were just fine.

Now it’s time for you to share your suggestions with me. What are your favorite, non-screen-related activities? How do you feel when you spend a little less of your day staring at a screen?

You Can Choose Who You Want to Be Friends With (Yes, Really.)

When determining whether to pursue a romantic relationship, people often tend towards vigilance, looking out for signs of “red flags,” “settling” and indicators of incompatibility or “deal breakers.” When it comes to friendship, however, many of us take a much more relaxed approach.

We know it’s important to choose our friends wisely. My grandmother always instructed me: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” The motivational speaker Jim Rohn said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And then there’s the well-known Japanese proverb: “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” The truth is, the company we keep shapes who we are, what we feel, believe, and the choices we make.

But sometimes we lose track of the idea that we can choose who we want to be friends with, just as we can choose to with whom to pursue a romantic relationship.

If you are looking to bring more intention to your friendships, it may be helpful to approach making friends like dating. This can include:

  • knowing what you want in a friendship beforehand and the kind of friend you are
  • practicing being a good friend to yourself (i.e. loving yourself) first and foremost
  • taking the time to get to know a new person and using this time to assess whether you even want to pursue a friendship with them (and whether they really want a friendship with you, as well)
  • being willing to keep looking and move on if you determine that you and another person aren’t a good “match”

It’s important to remember that, as with dating and partnerships, we can have standards. We don’t have to participate in any given friendship or relationship that comes our way…

…even if the other party wants us to.

…even if we’re lonely.

…and even if the other person “looks great on paper.”

Your feelings and needs matter.

You can choose who you want to be friends with.

(Yes, really.)

What Kind of Friend are YOU? Take the Quiz & Find Out!

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This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Secure Attachment in Friendships

Photo by Alicia Jones on Unsplash

There are four relationship attachment styles:

Anxious, Avoidant, Fearful, and Secure.

In my last three posts, I discussed how anxious, avoidant, and fearful attachment styles can show up in the context of friendship.

In today’s post, I’ll discuss the secure attachment style in friendship.

Secure Attachment & Friendship:

Secure friends are comfortable being emotionally intimate and conveying interest and affection, but are also comfortable being independent and self-reliant. They conduct their interpersonal relationships with healthy boundaries.

How Does a Secure Attachment Develop?

The concept of attachment styles comes from Attachment Theory, originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Attachment Theory examines the relationship between a child and their parent or primary caregiver, and explains how a child’s attachment to their parent or caregiver impacts the child’s behavior in other relationships in life, such as with partners or friends.

A person may develop a secure attachment style if during childhood they experienced their parent or primary caregivers as consistently available to provide soothing and comfort when needed, balanced with support and freedom to explore and master their environment.

In the case of secure attachment, the parent/caregiver was neither overly-enmeshed or dependent on the child, nor were they frightening or inconsistently available (physically, emotionally, or otherwise). Instead, a person with secure attachment experienced the confidence and security that comes from knowing that they have a consistent, caring and supportive caregiver to whom they could turn for comfort and encouragement when needed, and who also gave them the freedom to explore and build confidence in terms of their own relationship to the world.

A securely attached person tends to view both themselves and others in a positive and competent light. They feel that they can get their needs met and are not easily threatened by the demands of relationships or other major areas of life.

A securely attached individual will usually be able to quickly discern whether a person or prospective relationship lacks the fundamentals of healthy relating (such as care, trust, respect, consistency), and will likely choose not to invest their time and energy if these fundamentals are not present.

In a relationship, a securely attached person will not allow their friend or partner to consume or dominate their lives; they are comfortable with a healthy balance of intimacy and independence.

If you identify as securely attached, here are some tips for staying on a secure path:

  • Remember that just because you are able to get along with many different types of people doesn’t mean you are obligated to be everyone’s friend. If you are not happy in a friendship, especially after having tried to make things work, it is okay to step back.
  • If you start to feel jealous, distrusting, worried, reluctant to express your honest feelings, or notice yourself holding back or playing games in a friendship, take this as a big red flag that this might not be a healthy friendship for you.
  • If you experience or have experienced the loss of a friendship, remind yourself that your belief system isn’t to blame, and focus on taking extra good care of yourself while you heal.

Do you have personal experience with a secure attachment style in friendships or other relationships? Feel free to share in the comments.

What’s YOUR friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

Sources:

Levine, A. & Heller, R. Attached (2010). New York, NY: Penguin.

“How to Cultivate a Secure Attachment With Your Child” by Diana Divecha: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_cultivate_a_secure_attachment_with_your_child

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Fearful Attachment in Friendships

Julia Roberts as a bride with a fearful attachment style in Runaway Bride.

There are four relationship attachment styles:

Anxious, Avoidant, Fearful, and Secure.

In my last two posts, I discussed anxious attachment and avoidant attachment styles in friendship.

In today’s post, I’ll discuss the fearful attachment style and how it show up within the context of friendship.

Fearful Attachment in Friendship:

Have you ever been told you “send mixed signals”, are “hot and cold” or that you behave in ways that others find confusing?

Friends with a fearful attachment style yearn for quality relationships, but fear them at the same time. They understand the value of relationships, but also feel threatened by interpersonal closeness, perceiving it as unsafe.

In short, having a fearful attachment style means that you want relationships with people, but are also afraid of relationships with people.

This type of attachment style makes it difficult for people to get close to the fearfully attached person, even if closeness is something they consciously desire.

How Does a Fearful Attachment Develop?

The concept of attachment styles comes from Attachment Theory, originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Attachment Theory examines the relationship between a child and their parent or primary caregiver, and explains how a child’s attachment to their parent or caregiver impacts the child’s behavior in other relationships in life, such as with partners or friends.

A person may develop a fearful attachment relationship style if they experienced fear caused by the outside environment (as is to be expected) and sought soothing or comfort from a parent who themselves responded in a manner that also produced fear in the child.

The parent in question may have yelled at, abused, or otherwise frightened the child seeking soothing, making the parent – the needed source of comfort and reassurance – as scary if not scarier than the original fear-producing stimulus.

As a result, a fearfully attached child has nowhere to turn: they cannot escape the fears produced by their environment, and they cannot depend on their caregiver to soothe them. In fact, the parent’s frightening response to the child’s need for soothing may in fact exacerbate the child’s fears and anxieties. With nowhere else to turn, however, the child in this scenario may attempt again and again to seek comfort from their frightening parent, trapping them in a painful cycle of anxiety and unmet needs.

A fearfully attached person tends to view both themselves and others negatively. They may consciously desire and seek out close relationships, but become overwhelmed and uncomfortable when those relationships start to become a reality. At this point, they may push others away, fearing, on some primal level, for their safety. They tend to be on edge at all times, waiting for threats in the relationship to surface or for “the other shoe to drop.” Others may perceive their behavior as “hot and cold” ” and express confusion when the person who initially pursued closeness with them suddenly withdraws, rejects and needs space.

If this sounds familiar, and you are ready to work on shifting your fearful attachment style, here are some suggestions for next steps:

  • Get honest with yourself about your needs in a friendship. Try to accept these needs and yourself with compassion and non-judgement.
  • Use mindfulness to recognize your tendency to view yourself negatively. Use thought records to challenge these negative views of yourself.
  • Similarly, use mindfulness and thought records to recognize and challenge your tendency to interpret others’ behavior negatively. Unless your friends provide you with concrete evidence to the contrary, practice assuming that have positive intentions.
  • Make a list of the things you like and love about yourself. Remind yourself on a consistent basis of the reasons why someone would want you as their friend.
  • Learn how to recognize when someone is safe a safe person to be vulnerable with. This infographic provides some basic tips.
  • Additionally, learn how to recognize when someone may NOT be a safe person to be vulnerable with. This article provides some of the signs to look out for.
  • Explore what healthy activities help you self-soothe when you’re emotionally triggered. Here is a list with some self-soothing activity suggestions. It is important to practice these self-care activities when you aren’t triggered, so you can more easily access them when you are triggered.
  • Try to focus on mutual collaboration and meeting each other’s needs in your friendships. Reflect on how you can give support to your friends, and how you would like to receive support from them.
  • When you feel a relationship getting closer and start to experience the desire to pull away, name this impulse as an expected part of your pattern in interpersonal relationships, and challenge yourself to sit with the discomfort of increasing closeness instead of immediately acting on it by withdrawing from the relationship.

Do you have personal experience with a fearful attachment style in friendships or other relationships? Feel free to share in the comments.

In my next post, I will discuss the secure attachment style and how it manifests in friendships.

What’s YOUR friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

Sources:

Levine, A. & Heller, R. Attached (2010). New York, NY: Penguin.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-freedom-change/201505/come-here-go-away-the-dynamics-fearful-attachment

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Avoidant Attachment in Friendship

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

There are four relationship attachment styles:

Anxious, Avoidant, Fearful, and Secure

In my last post, I wrote about anxious attachment in friendship. This week, I’ll discuss the avoidant attachment style and how it manifests within the context of friendship.

Avoidant Attachment in Friendship:

Have you ever been told you have “a wall up” been called “aloof” or “a lone wolf”?

Avoidant friends are very independent, self-reliant, and generally uncomfortable getting close to others. They tend to lead more with logic than their emotions, and may complain that their friends are “needy” or “clingy” when trying to get closer to them. 

This type of friendship attachment style can make it difficult for people to get close to you, causing you to lose or sabotage friendships that might otherwise have brought enjoyment and connection to both parties. Others may interpret your behavior as rejecting, discarding, or taking their friendship for granted.

How Does an Avoidant Attachment Develop?

The concept of attachment styles comes from Attachment Theory, a psychological theory originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby that examines the relationship between a child and their parent or primary caregiver, and explains how a child’s attachment to their parent or caregiver impacts the child’s behavior in other relationships in life, such as partnership or friendship.

A person may develop an avoidant attachment relationship style if their parent or caregiver struggled themselves to cope with or tolerate their child’s emotional needs and responded by closing themselves off emotionally from their child.

The parent in question may have ignored, shamed, rejected or otherwise communicated strong negative messages to their child when they showed emotions or expressed a desire for connection, given them too much space for independence and self-reliance, or failed to comfort and reassure the child when they experienced distress or fear.

As a result, the child tends to hide or suppress their need for relationships, often appearing outwardly independent. They have learned to rely primarily if not only on themselves for reassurance and emotional regulation, to repress their emotions and avoid reaching out for healthy interpersonal connections. In fact, they may actively work to avoid close relationships, due to the core belief that they don’t or shouldn’t need others.

If this sounds familiar, and you are ready to work on changing your avoidant attachment style, here are some suggestions for next steps:

  • Don’t completely lose your independent style, but try to focus more on mutual collaboration in your friendships. Reflect on how you can give support to your friends, and how you would like to receive support from them.
  • Recognize and challenge your tendency to interpret others’ behavior negatively. Unless your friends give you concrete evidence to the contrary, assume that they have positive intentions.
  • Remind yourself on a regular basis about why you chose your friends. What positive qualities drew you to them? Why are you grateful for them? It may feel easier to abandon ship when your desires to withdraw set in, but try to recognize this as part of the pattern your’re trying to break. Stay the course and give yourself time to learn about the advantages of secure friendships.
  • Practice mindfulness to help yourself recognize when the impulse to distance or avoid is getting activated. A great place to start is with mindfulness mediation. You can also practice mindfulness to help yourself identify when the inner voice that tells you to pull away or jumps to negative conclusions about closeness with others is speaking. Complete thought records to challenge these thoughts.
  • When people give you feedback that suggests that they feel can’t get close to you, try to listen with compassion for yourself and for them instead of putting up walls, engaging in toxic amounts of self-blame, or withdrawing further.

Do you have personal experience with an avoidant attachment style in friendships or other relationships? Feel free to share in the comments.

In my next post, I will discuss the fearful attachment style and how it manifests in friendships.

What’s YOUR friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

Sources:

Levine, A. & Heller, R. Attached (2010). New York, NY: Penguin.

https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/avoidant-attachment#what-does-it-look-like

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Anxious Attachment in Friendship

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

There are four relationship attachment styles: Anxious, Avoidant, Fearful, and Secure.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to discuss the four different attachment styles, starting with Anxious attachment, and discuss how each attachment style manifests, specifically within the context of friendship.

Anxious Attachment in Friendship:

Have you ever been told that you are “needy”, “suffocating”, “clingy” or “controlling” as a friend?

Anxious friends feel a stronger need for emotional intimacy in their friendships. If you have an anxious attachment style, you may require regular reassurance from friends that they care about you, aren’t mad at you, and won’t close the door on you. You may also find yourself feeling jealous or threatened by a friend developing a new interest, or starting another friendship or relationship.

This type of friendship attachment style can create internal and interpersonal problems, as behaviors stemming from your insecurities about relationships can be interpreted by others as controlling or overly demanding.

How Does an Anxious Attachment Develop?

The concept of attachment styles comes from Attachment Theory, a psychological theory originated by psychoanalyst John Bowlby that examines the relationship between a child and their parent or primary caregiver, and explains how a child’s attachment to their parent or caregiver impacts the child’s behavior in other relationships in life, such as partnership or friendship.

A person may develop an anxious attachment relationship style if their caregiver or parent struggled to maintain healthy boundaries within the parent-child relationship.

A parent may have been overly-enmeshed with their child, not giving them enough room to develop their own identities apart from the parent. We sometimes see this in the form of helicopter parenting, a parent attempting to live vicariously through their child, or depending too much emotionally on a child for their own comfort and self-regulation.

As a result, the child comes to associate relationships later on in life with high amounts of enmeshment, finding that they need copious amounts of reassurance and communication. They may even feel panicked or despair when they perceive rejection from a friend or other relationship partner.

If this sounds familiar, and you are ready to work on changing your anxious attachment style, here are some suggestions for next steps:

  • Make an honest list of your needs in a friendship. Try to accept and not judge yourself for having these needs.
  • Reflect on whether existing and/or new friends can realistically meet your needs. If not, acknowledge that this may simply by a matter of friendship incompatibility, and not a reflection on you or your self-worth.
  • Speaking of self-worth, people with anxious attachment styles may have a tendency to experience feelings of insecurity, or engage in a lot of self-criticism and/or self-blame. Use mindfulness to recognize when your critical inner voice is speaking to you, and complete thought records to challenge these automatic negative thoughts.
  • Create a self-soothing practice. As alluded to above, anxious attachment styles in relationships can stem from a parent not having the skills and tools to cope with their own separation anxiety. If this is a pattern that has been passed down, you can be the one to break the chain by learning skills to soothe, calm and comfort yourself. A great place to start is with mindfulness mediation.
  • Give “calm” friendships a chance. The lack of drama and/or high emotions might feel boring to you at first, but stay the course and give yourself time to learn about the advantages of secure, consistent friendships.

Do you have personal experience with an anxious attachment style in friendships or other relationships? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Next week, I will discuss avoidant attachment style and how it manifests in friendships.

What’s YOUR friendship attachment style? Take the quiz and find out!

Source: Levine, A. & Heller, R. Attached (2010). New York, NY: Penguin.

Website Privacy Policy I Website Terms & Conditions I Website Disclaimer
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

Have You Connected With Someone Today?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as you may know, my hometown has been ordered to shelter-in-place until at least April 7. We’re the first in the country to do this.

I’m not going to lie. This is a scary and uncertain time. Over the past week, I’ve observed (and experienced) intense fear, sadness and grief. I’ve also observed (and experienced) amazing optimism, patience, kindness, strength and generosity in myself and others.

In addition, I’m seeing that people are figuring out different ways to be together, apart. 

For example:

  • Over the past few days, I have talked to friends and family members I haven’t spoken with or seen in months.
  • People in Italy are singing with each other from their balconies
  • I’ve engaged (while six feet apart, of course) with people I’ve encountered outside my home. We’ve listened to one another. We’ve laughed together. We’ve shared hopes, opinions, advice and fears. 
  • My local exercise studio has put their classes online so we can still work out together, from home.
  • My best friend and I started sending short videos back and forth on the app Marco Polo (which honestly I didn’t know existed before yesterday), seeing who can make the other person laugh harder.

Although we’ve all been told to practice social distancing, it doesn’t mean we have to be disconnected from one another. 

In fact, this is an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to figure out what real connection means to each of us, and to learn how to bring this connection into our lives when it matters most. 

How do you like to feel connected? Do you like to reach out to your loved ones, or do you prefer that someone to reach out to you? Do you like a little conversation followed by a break and some solitude, or chatting continuously throughout the day? Do you want to talk about what’s going on, or do you want to stick to the non-virus topics for the time being? Ask for what you need, and ask other people what they need. Be honest. Meet somewhere in between.

Whatever it looks like, take some time today to seek out a connection. Just one. Your friends, your family, your coworkers, your neighbors…you never know who might be feeling really scared or alone, who might desperately need to connect with someone but for whatever reason feel that they can’t.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and need to talk to someone right now, reach out to Crisis Text Line. Volunteers are available 24/7 to listen and help, for free.

Like the virus itself, we’re not taking these social distancing precautions just to protect ourselves, but to protect each other. Because we’re a community, and the success of a community relies on everyone working together. Even when we’re apart.

PS: If you like meditation and want a free guided mediation for anxious thoughts emailed to you, click here for one I made several months ago. It’s free.