Authors: Leslie Becker-Phelps
Tags: #Nonfiction, #Psychology, #Relationships, #Anxiety, #Love
INSECURE IN LOVE
“I’ve always been fascinated by attachment theory, which does a wonderful job of explaining how pivotal early events color all of life. Leslie Becker-Phelps helps us understand how ‘anxious attachment’ plays itself out in our current relationships—and what we do can to heal from that substantial early wound. Highly recommended!”
Eric Maisel, PhD
, author of
The Van Gogh Blues
“Drawing on the latest scientific research but written in an entertaining and accessible manner, this book will help you understand why you’re insecure in your relationships. It will also help you heal, so that you can have healthier relationships with others, and perhaps more importantly, with yourself.”
Kristin Neff, PhD
, author of
and associate professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas
“This is a wonderfully user-friendly handbook on healthy relating, both with others and with ourselves. Leslie Becker-Phelps mentors us in such a clear—and encouraging—way. She shows us how we can open ourselves to others while tending our own boundaries so that real love can happen.”
, author of
How to Be an Adult in Love
Insecure in Love
provides a step-by-step guide for overcoming the psychological hurdles that prevent so many people from finding and creating lasting and satisfying relationships. Becker-Phelps provides easy-to-use assessment tools and exercises that will help readers identify faulty ways of thinking and behaving, understand their childhood context, increase their self-compassion, and form loving and secure attachments going forward.”
Guy Winch, PhD
, author of
Emotional First Aid
The Squeaky Wheel
“A wonderfully readable synthesis of attachment theory, mindfulness, and cutting-edge approaches to developing self-awareness. This is illustrated throughout with practical advice and vivid stories told by a wise and caring therapist, who is a recognized expert on cultivating successful relationships.”
Diane Handlin, PhD
, founder and executive director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Center, NJ
“Leslie Becker-Phelps explains how early attachments can create obstacles to healthy and secure connections in adult romantic relationships.
Insecure in Love
provides the self-knowledge and the tools necessary to overcome these obstacles and get you closer to feeling secure, happy, and loved in your relationships. Highly recommended for anyone who feels anxious and insecure in a relationship.”
Michelle Skeen, PsyD
, author of
The Critical Partner
and host of
on KCAA 1050-AM
“You are worthy of love, genuine happiness, and intimacy—and
Insecure in Love
will help you to finally know it. Encouraging, understanding, and supportive every step of the way, Leslie Becker-Phelps guides you through a transformational journey of self-discovery as you break through your barriers to love and experience true change and healing.
“If you’re single, you’ll discover how to choose a partner who is truly available for a connected, supportive, nurturing relationship—someone who accepts and loves you for you. If you’re in a relationship, you will gain insight into your partner’s behavior and motivation and discover how to create a loving connection in which you both feel truly valued and cared for.
“Filled with relevant, real-life examples and powerful exercises,
Insecure in Love
will help you leave your self-criticism and sabotaging behaviors behind and develop true self-compassion. No matter how much you’ve struggled in the past, you will finally understand how to create happy, healthy relationships and experience true, lasting love.”
, authors of
The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships
It is rare that an author can take such a deep and meaningful subject and present it in a helpful, caring, and hopeful manner. Those who are suffering from anxiety disorders that have undermined past relationships will find her suggestions and exercises easy to understand and potentially very successful.”
Randi Gunther, PhD
, author of
“Motivated by her professional interest in humans and attachment theory, Dr. Becker-Phelps has developed a solid resource for men and women to improve their lives and their relationships.
Insecure in Love
is a clear and comprehensive guide for self-understanding and self-compassion in which readers are encouraged to explore themselves and complete step-by-step exercises. The end result will be greater understanding of your relationships and a healthier, more secure self!”
Kathryn Cortese, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
, co-owner and president of
Gürze-Salucore Eating Disorders Resource Catalogue
“Insecure in Love
is engaging, practical, and comprehensive all at the same time. It takes the latest theories of love and provides a useful roadmap for why couples struggle to maintain closeness. Becker-Phelps gets to the heart of the challenge and describes what individuals need to address about themselves, as well as what couples can work on together, in order to recreate a meaningful connection between two people.”
Daniel Goldberg, PhD
, director at the New Jersey Couples Training Program in the Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of New Jersey
Copyright © 2014 by Leslie Becker-Phelps
New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
5674 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609
All Rights Reserved
Acquired by Melissa Kirk; Cover design by Amy Shoup; Edited by Ken Knabb; Text design by Tracy Marie Carlson
Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Insecure in love : how anxious attachment can make you feel jealous, needy, and worried and what you can do about it / Leslie Becker-Phelps.
Summary: “Almost everyone has felt jealous or insecure in a romantic relationship at some point in their lives. But people who constantly feel these emotions may suffer from anxious attachment, a fear of abandonment often rooted in early childhood experiences. In Insecure in Love, readers will learn how to overcome attachment anxiety using compassionate self-awareness, a technique that can help them recognize negative thoughts and get to the root of their insecurities so that they can cultivate secure, healthy relationships to last a lifetime”-- Provided by publisher.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN: 978-1608828159 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1608828166 (pdf e-book)
ISBN: 978-1608828173 (epub)
1. Love. 2. Man-woman relationships. 3. Self-consciousness (Awareness) 4. Anxiety. I. Title.
The Basics of How You Connect
Four Styles of Attachment
Discovering Your Attachment Style
Proximity: Protection from Danger
Safe Haven: The Need for Comfort
Secure Base: Support for Exploring the World
Balancing Autonomy and Closeness
Managing Your Emotions
Two Ways to Earn Security and Happy Relationships
Learning to See Yourself in a Positive Light
Confirming the “You” You Know
Confirming How You See Others
Pursuit-Withdrawal: A Common Relationship Problem
Summary: Gaining Perspective
The Logic Stops Here
How Pain Motivates Change
The Need for New Experiences
The Healing Power of Compassionate Self-Awareness
Facing Your Ambivalence
Nurturing Awareness of Emotions
Transforming Your Thoughts with Greater Awareness
Final Thoughts on Self-Awareness
Compassionate Self-Awareness in a Nutshell
Set a Goal for a Healthy Relationship
What to Look for in a Partner
Panning for Gold
Spin a Supportive Web
Interdependence: Being One “Whole Half”
Keeping Your Connection Going
Accentuate the Positive
On Being Grateful
It Takes Work to Tango
Asking for Support
Talking Through Conflicts
The Gift of Forgiveness
There are innumerable people to thank for helping shape the ideas I’ve laid out in this book. At the top of this list are those whom I’ve treated in therapy. My experience with them has very directly shaped the psychologist I am and the one I am becoming. I thank them all for opening their lives and hearts to me.
Then there are those who have more directly contributed to this book. My husband, Mark Phelps, has been a loving support, a cheerleader, and an expert editor. As a professional journalist, he is perpetually engrossed in writing articles; so from watching the two of us, our sons—Marcus and Elijah—have declared that they don’t want to be writers when they grow up.
This book, of course, would not exist in its current form without the folks at New Harbinger Publications. I appreciate their confidence in me, a first-time author, and their guidance and encouragement through the whole process. The supportive, timely, and experienced feedback from Melissa Kirk and Jess Beebe was especially helpful.
I also owe much to friends and colleagues who have been supportive. Charles Mark, Kathy Cortese, and Jennifer Brown were particularly helpful in sharing their personal thoughts and professional expertise. I owe them more than I think even they realize. In addition, Steve Glass was kind enough to share his insights, as well as his excitement about meditation, both of which I greatly appreciate.
And you lived happily ever after…
Or at least you would if only you could be more interesting or more attractive; or if you weren’t so needy; or if you could figure out what’s wrong with you that makes your relationships never work out well. Maybe you’ve been with a partner for a long time, but you struggle with feeling that your partner keeps falling short and will never fill that hole in your heart. You also suspect that
are part of the problem.
Whether single or in a relationship, many people believe that they’ll never be happy in love. They feel lonely and want companionship—not just a buddy to sit next to at a movie, but a friend, confidante, and lover to accompany them through that greatest of all adventures we call life. They often fear that their partners will bolt once they get to know “the real me.” Sometimes they feel that their partners appreciate the things they do. But this isn’t enough. After all, what if their performance falters? Then there’s the ever-present concern of whether anyone would truly be there for them if they let themselves be vulnerable by looking to that person for support, comfort, and reassurance.
If you relate to any of these struggles, then this book is for you.
As a clinical psychologist, I have treated many people with diverse variations on these themes. Over the years, they have opened their hearts and their lives to me, hoping for positive change—and I believe that most of them found it. Therapy provided them a way to discover the love they sought. It helped them to find inner healing and to choose partners who offered genuine love. With wiser choices, they created opportunities for growth and further healing. The result was that they improved their ability to enjoy and nurture happier, healthier relationships.
You, like many of my patients, may be armed with lots of information, expert advice, or a “proven formula” for success in relationships. It might come from family and friends, self-help books and articles, or even from your therapist. You might have tried to meet Mr. or Ms. Right by socializing more, dating regularly, or honing your online profile. If you’re already in a relationship, you might have practiced assertiveness and effective communication skills, as well as reminding yourself that you are worthy of love. But still, you struggle with feeling lonely and unlovable, or chronically fearing rejection. There is a reason for this; and there is a solution.
As with almost everything else in life, you learn about relationships through experience. And since your first serious relationship began as an infant with your caretakers, that is where you began learning about relationships. I know that’s one of the clichés of psychology, but it’s also true. Your first lessons on how available and nurturing others will be when you need them, and on how lovable you yourself are, were based on the warmth, acceptance, and reassurance offered by your parents or others who took care of you. During the early months and years of your life, you developed a certain style of connecting with—and attaching to—others.
Though you may not have been aware of this style until adolescence or adulthood (or maybe it’s still unclear), your current style is probably fundamentally the same as what was nurtured in childhood. If your early experiences left you questioning your sense of being worthy of love, fearful of being rejected, or with an unquenchable thirst for reassurance, then you probably still feel this way. It could also be that painful experiences later in life intensified anxiety about relationships that previously lurked under the surface. But the basic vulnerability to this attachment-related anxiety probably developed in childhood.
It’s important to understand that attachment-related anxiety does not have to be in response to any obviously abusive or harmful parenting; in fact, it most often is not. Many people with attachment-related anxiety come from very loving homes. Unfortunately, their parents’ own struggles or difficult or traumatic circumstances interfered with their being able to parent effectively, even when they truly loved their children.
You might wonder,
Why would my attachment-related anxiety stubbornly stay with me through life?
To answer this, think about the practically infinite number of interactions you had with your parents or other caretakers during your childhood, day after day, year after year. (Really, stop and think about it.) These interactions—though not all of equal weight—implicitly teach you how others are likely to respond to you, and how worthy you are of being loved. Their messages layer one upon the other and fuse together, becoming part of the very fiber of your being. So, understandably, it’s not easy to change—not easy, but
One important lesson that I’ve learned in doing therapy is that creating change is a bit like gardening. Just as a gardener doesn’t reach into a seed and pull out a plant, a therapist doesn’t reach into people and
them change. Rather, therapists provide people with what they need to grow. I listen to people, share my perceptions about them and their situation, offer compassion, and provide guidance. In response, they (hopefully) learn to see themselves differently; respond to themselves in new, more positive ways; feel encouraged to risk change (the unknown is always at least a little scary); and learn to be different. But all of this must happen at its own pace; it can be encouraged, but it cannot be forced.
One crucial element in nurturing personal growth is developing greater self-awareness. This includes being aware of your thoughts; acknowledging and consciously experiencing your emotions; and understanding what makes you tick. These tasks can be difficult, especially when you are facing unpleasant or conflicting aspects of yourself. However, they give you a better appreciation for your struggles. Such self-awareness frequently helps people feel a greater sense of well-being and, by itself, often facilitates change—such as reducing attachment-related anxiety and nurturing healthier relationships.
As important as self-awareness is, it’s equally important to recognize that it occurs in the context of your relationship with yourself. And many people are too hard on themselves. Just as you would attend to a hurt child by being nurturing, it is extremely helpful to approach yourself in a compassionate manner.
Together, self-awareness and a positive relation to yourself create a powerful force, a combination I call
. Blended properly, they are like Miracle-Gro for the soul. Approaching your relationship struggles from this perspective is what this book is about.
Insecure in Love
explains, in easy-to-understand language, how your relationship struggles first formed; what about this process makes change so hard; and how those difficulties can be overcome so that you can enjoy a secure, lasting love.
While the main thrust of this book is to help you understand what you can do to find happiness in an intimate relationship, the ideas that I present can also help you to understand your partner better. Sometimes a window into your partner’s world is exactly what you need to relate to him or her more compassionately, which in turn can help you to nurture a healthier relationship.
Insecure in Love
is divided into four parts. The first, “The Bedrock of All Relationships,” helps you to understand your relationship struggles in the context of attachment theory. The second part, “Discover Your Potential: Being Worthy of Love,” opens the door to change by helping you to identify obstacles to nurturing happy relationships. The third part, “Compassionate Self-Awareness: The Antidote to Relationship Anxiety,” explains how you can develop a more secure intimate relationship with compassionate self-awareness, which is essentially being aware of your experiences while also relating to them in an accepting and compassionate manner. The fourth part, “Lighting Up Your Love Life,” offers suggestions for how—with a foundation of compassionate self-awareness—you can choose a good partner and nurture a happy, healthy relationship.
Although you can read this book cover-to-cover to get an overview, I have written it as a sort of guidebook. You might even consider it a guide for a very specific kind of gardening. Remember, growth will unfold at its own pace. Your job is to enable and encourage it with fertile soil and essential nutrients. To make the most of
Insecure in Love
, read it slowly. Underline or highlight ideas you connect with. Make notes in the margins. Reread sections as necessary, perhaps even pausing in a given section to work on applying it to your life before moving on. Also, give yourself time to engage with the exercises, rather than just trying to “get them done.” I strongly suggest that you keep a journal to respond to the exercises, expand on your insights, and reflect on them later. Because the chapters build on each other, I sometimes refer to exercises in previous chapters and ask you to revisit them in completing new ones.
Both my clinical practice and the research I cite are based primarily on heterosexual individuals and couples from Western cultures, so this book applies best to them. If you are from a different culture or have a different sexual orientation, you may find that you experience struggles that are beyond the scope of this book. In this case, you will still find the information on attachment styles and on developing compassionate self-awareness to be helpful, but you might want to supplement it with other relevant sources.
Finally, you will notice that throughout this book I use many examples from therapy sessions. To maintain the complete confidentiality of my patients, each example is a composite of different people and the names are fictitious.