I want you to know it’s possible for you too. And how I did it.
Clueless and desperate for a man
As a young woman in my twenties, on the outside, I was a striking, attractive, confident, adventurous, successful, intelligent and loving person.
I just had absolutely no luck attracting the kind of men I found interesting or in fact, attracting any men at all.
I wanted to find a loving relationship with a wonderful partner, (in fact, frankly, any half decent boyfriend would have been enough).
I often felt totally invisible, and when I was with a man who was showing interest, I was often kept at arms length and confused about what was happening, if anything.
He would send mixed messages. I’d be feeling let down and not treated well.
And even with him behaving like that, I’d still be there, wondering why it wouldn’t go anywhere and being desperate for his attention and wanting for more… communication, presence, closeness, intimacy. Wondering why he wouldn’t call or want to see me again.
It wasn’t unusual from this hungry place, that I would hand myself to guys on a platter, and wonder why I wasn’t receiving the kind of love, attention and commitment I knew deep down I deserved.
On the flip side, looking back, there were actually quite a few good guys hanging around and showing interest. In the earlier days, my Mum would go crazy trying to tell me and get that through to me, yet I would dismiss her as not knowing what she was talking about, because I just could not see it, acknowledge it, and certainly could not receive it.
As time went on, I was pursued by a few guys who really did their best to woo me. Good guys. Yet, all I could feel was disgust! I’d feel repulsed by them even.
When I did get in to a relationship, I would often end up feeling very anxious, and insecure.
I could never feel enough physical and emotional closeness, and I’d be considered needy and emotional.
I would sometimes see a side of myself come out that would totally freak me out as I could escalate in to this irrational and frankly, sometimes ’bat shit crazy’ psycho woman! This behaviour would drive him away, and attract his mean judgements and accusations of my neediness.
The pain of breaking up would be made even worse because I’d be convinced… I’d never find another relationship… ever.
This was a total utter mis-match to how I saw myself; as an intelligent, self-aware woman working on herself; communicative and relatively sane.
Here’s the really crazy part. When I did attract a kind, loving, generous man who wanted to commit to me and share his life with me, (I shared my life with my first real boyfriend, in my mid-thirties, on and off for six years) even though logically I knew this was great ‘on paper,’ I would often get anxious if he wanted a commitment!
I’d feel all wrong about actually committing to him, feel trapped and scared, need my distance, and obsess about all of the other options I’d be giving up.
So, put all of this together, with one night stands, half-baked dates, a few weeks, or a few months of liaisons, and extremely long ‘droughts’ between guys, and it was the way of my romantic history.
I was so totally and utterly confused and feeling pretty f up.
I was telling myself awful things inside
I’d been doing a lot of work on myself; personal development, learning, exploring about how I had the power to create my life the wayI wanted it, how to take responsibility, and learning ‘law of attraction’ and visualisation.
I could not understand why I could not create what I wanted!
It was not for a lack of effort. It took me a long time to unravel the mystery.
My first step was awareness.
I began to notice what was going on for me on the INSIDE.
Firstly, there was the self-talk.
I still remember first noticing this when I was nineteen years old, talking to a really cute guy at the university bar one night.
“He’s only talking to me until he can find the first excuse to get away from me”.
I thought to myself.
I also remember a super hot yoga teacher when I was in my thirties, he would greet me so enthusiastically, and kiss me hello at the check-in desk!! Yet, all I could tell myself inside was…
“There’s absolutely no way such a guy could ever be in to me. Why is he being so flirty with me?”.
I’d feel embarrassed and hot-cheeked about receiving that kind of attention from a man.
When I remember back to these moments, I can also remember how I felt in my body.
My stomach was tight, I felt anxious in my chest with an elevated heart rate and felt hot on my face with discomfort, at receiving any kind of attention from a man that I found attractive.
When the moment was over, I would feel a wave of relief wash over me, mixed with deep, deep regret about my inadequacy and unattractiveness.
My inner voice would go crazy, wondering “what is wrong with me?”
Am I too fat? Too loud? Too masculine? Too self-centred?
I’d read books and twist myself hoping to try and ‘be’ the woman I was supposed to be to be attractive to a man.
I’d lament and wonder why my friends and other women I saw could easily glide in to flirty, friendly behaviour and ultimately, great potential relationships so quickly, while I was still standing on the sidelines, confused, feeling fucked-up, lonely, and pretty sexually frustrated while I was at it.
More Self Help Anyone?
Throughout all of this, I was working on myself.
Since my late twenties, I’d spent tens of thousands of dollars… in the pursuit of feeling confident and able to create my life the way I heard was possible.
Yet, really, at the very centre of all this seeking was the desire for a loving relationship.
And it felt like I’d done everything.
I’d travelled all over the world and worked with incredible teachers. I’d done seminars on finances, health, energy, creativity, I’d trained as a yoga instructor, master NLP practitioner and life coach, Soul Coach, past life regression, I’d done native American sweat lodges and sat around a fire listening to stories of a medicine man. I’ve had sessions with psychics, energy healers, personality profilers, reiki practitioners, coaches, passion life creators, psychologists… you name it…
… I’d even cast witchy love spells with my girlfriends by the light of the full moon.
I carried this intensely energetic and passionate devotion to personal growth throughout all of my thirties with total, utter faith it would make my life better… that I would FEEL better inside.
Yet I was still alone and confused.
I just didn’t get it!
If there’s one thing I want the world to know, it’s that affirmations the way you were taught, do not work.
If I heard one more person tell me…
“Janine, you have to love yourself first”
I was going to SCREAM!
“HOW DO I DO THAT?!” I would internally wail.
Saying, “I love myself” in the mirror a hundred times a day for three months (yes I did that once, every day) didn’t work.
It actually made me feel worse about myself as my inner voice saying, “No, you DON’T” was louder, felt much more true, was more aggressive and intensely critical.
Online dating and finding out just how anxious I was inside
Fast forward to my forties, and in my first foray in to online dating, I’d managed to ‘attract’ a whirlwind online romance with a handsome and sexy man from the USA, David.
We were sharing intimately and intensely, for hours every day, and I had fallen pretty hard.
This joyful, sexy and connected liaison went on for a couple of months. I was so happy to feel so connected with a man who was so hot, and in to me.
And then, totally out of the blue one day, he broke it off.
I couldn’t stop crying.
I felt anxiety and physically in pain it was so intense.
I was a basket case. It made absolutely no logical sense, given how far away we had been from each other. I mean, we hadn’t even met in the flesh!!
This familiar old pattern of mine was becoming very tiresome, uncomfortable and increasingly unacceptable to me.
It just did not match the woman I felt I really was. “Why do I keep creating this?” I wondered. “How do I change it?”
A day later I was given a book about secure attachment and it changed my WHOLE F#%KING WORLD… but more about that later.
I tucked that piece of information in to the back of my brain, recovered from David, and continued on out in to my life, more the wiser, and ever hopeful of finding my man.
At 44 my second serious relationship attempt crashed and burned
Months later, I met Mark* and I was very clear he had to demonstrate secure attachment if I was going to get in to a relationship with him.
We had a beautiful whirlwind romance, and through an interesting turn of events, I quite quickly moved from my home in Tasmania to Melbourne with him. Then, almost a year later, I followed him to Amsterdam.
There were some really lovely periods, but on the whole, we turned it in to a disaster. The pressure of moving to the other side of the world amplified cracks in our relationship that were just irreconcilable.
I turned in to a deeply insecure, uncertain, victimy wreck, crying every day and lost in myself.
He turned in to a judgmental, mean, cold and distant f$%k.
We were fighting loudly three times a week and couldn’t fix it. We both would feel so bad, find the care and love again for a little while and give it another go, but then we would end up fighting again. We both knew it had to be over and admitted it.
A week before moving out, I had my first ever panic attack.
I had never known that kind of feeling in my body and it scared me.
Two Big Aha’s
Well, as with any good story, there has to be a big ‘aha’ moment.
Well, in my case there were two.
The first one had come the day after my online-only romance, David, broke it off with me.
My dear childhood friend Sonja, knowing my plight, handed me a book with a seriousness that was not to be ignored, “READ THIS!”
I saw in big red letters: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find?—?And Keep?—?Love?—?by Amir Levine & Rachel S. F. Heller.
Whilst waiting for Sonja at the hospital I cried my way through the first chapter and beyond. I couldn’t tear myself away. It was like this book was reading my very own story, to me.
How could this book know me so well? How could it explain my thoughts, feelings and relationship experiences so precisely?
I was very clearly, demonstrating insecure (and when it came to David, and many before him, anxious) attachment.
Textbook case. Black and white. Researched and documented over and over again in numerous and ever-growing research, since as early as the 1950s.
Talk about a relief! It explained to me why the physical and emotional pain I was experiencing from my online break up was so real and even logical, (even from a man on the other side of the planet who I’d never physically met).
This was a revelation.
The book went on to explain that; in order to have a happy relationship, at least one of the partners has to be ‘securely’ attached (i.e. it’s natural to them that they depend on one another, exchange love, commitment and intimacy, and that they would likely have developed this deep experience of secure attachment in their infancy).
So, the game was, find myself a securely attached partner.
I know that is where my head had been when I chose Mark. It wasn’t until the end of the relationship that I remembered the Attachment Book from three years before and once again it whacked me over the head so intensely as I read about my anxiously attached (activating) behaviours.
So, if I knew all that, how did I wind up with Mark?
That’s when the second piece of the puzzle fell in to place.
On my never ending quest to learn more about myself, I went along to a two-hour demonstration of a very powerful emotional transformation technique. It was led by Pam Wright and it was called FasterEFT. I watched her help a woman volunteer from the audience transform a very old emotional wound right in front of my eyes. I was very impressed.
Yet, it was what happened at the end that LET ME SEE;
I NEEDED TO RECONSTRUCT MY LIFE FROM THE INSIDE.
Pam invited us all to go inside ourselves and find a happy memory… “Go back to a time when you felt completely loved, safe and secure,” she instructed.
I sat there in my seat, with full and focused intention to participate, wracking my brain to find a time that I genuinely felt like that.
I searched and searched, yet I could not come up with a SINGLE moment in my whole life where I could reflect and genuinely feel completely loved, safe and secure in my mind and my body.
I WAS TOTALLY, UTTERLY GOB-SMACKED.
I feel the need to tell you, that I had a Mum who loved me very much and was very demonstrative. I also had a brother and sisters with whom I was close. Overall, we had a loving family and LOGICALLY, I knew I was loved, safe and secure.
There were, however, numerous early experiences in my life that had left this lasting and deeply ingrained feeling of insecurity and a lack of love and safety in my physical and emotional body.
I thought to myself “No wonder I’ve been struggling for so long. I’ve been doing all this work, understanding my patterns, changing my thinking, and trying new behaviours.
Yet really, at the heart of it, I have this deep feeling of unworthiness, unlovability, lack of security and lack of safety.”
I mean, that was BIG, the fundamental core of my identity. It all made sense now. It certainly explained the source of my insecure relationship attachment!
I did not know how it FELT to be secure, on the inside.
It helped me get to the core of the issue, and most importantly, see what had to happen to be able to change, and THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO CHANGE!
I walked straight up to Pam at the end of the program and said, “Book Me In” and within a week I was sitting in front of her doing my first one-on-one session.
A whole new (inner) world
Working with Pam and learning the technique to use with myself, I started going through the process of transforming these limiting beliefs and experiences inside of me that were so negative and had created that unloveable identity and limiting points of view about my world.
We literally changed my childhood memories
That is a whole story in itself, yet, this process let me transform what I knew to be true inside inside, and subsequently, how I felt about myself. Instead of the awful negative self-view, I transformed so that I truly knew how to feel, loved, valued, safe and secure.
I had embarked upon the single most deeply transformative and successful journey for healing my mental and emotional self, in my life!
It took time. I set about the journey with a great desire to shift my inner being, beliefs, and core identity. Each session, things would transform quickly and forever, and big and deeply felt shifts, would take place quickly. Yet, things would emerge over time, and it took a lot of hours, both by myself and with practitioners to transform the decades of programming and internal references about myself and my life, that I had built up. All along side, transforming the people I was attracting in my life, and the quality of outside experiences I was having along the way.
Doing this inner transformational work changing my memories and emotions, has become an every day part of creating a healthy life, just like going to the gym or my yoga studio.
It’s just that this work is my emotional gym.
I also decided I needed to learn how to do this with others, so that I could share the same revelatory transformations as I had experienced. I became a practitioner and began working with clients.
The attachment work had faded in to the background as I focused more on the inner work with EFT and re-imprinting/changing childhood memories.
Then, one day, it clunked me over the head.
“OMG I’m helping people “Go Secure”!”
This deep inner transformational work is helping people develop secure attachment!
My secure transformation in the words of my avoidant ex
So, no doubt you are wondering … “Well Janine, where’s your securely attached relationship and is there a happily ever after?!”
Five years after meeting David from Alaska, going through that heartache, discovering Attachment Theory and then doing all the inner transformational work, David and I reconnected. Me in Amsterdam and him in Alaska.
I’m going to have to let David tell you this part of the story, in his words.
When I met Janine five years ago, she was like many of the women I had experienced in my past. I was attracting her and she was under my spell.
That was the only way I had practiced relationship up to that time really. I was looking for a woman that loved me, desired me and got value from being with me.
Looking back, I can see that I would test Janine’s attraction to me, as I would pull away slightly to see her reaction. I could tell she was hooked. That was my sign that I was valued.
Paradoxically, it was her needy reaction that caused me to pull away more and more often.
I can see now through the lens of Attachment Theory, that was my avoidance behaviour.
When she would want to advance the relationship that is when I would pull away. There was the difference with Janine, because unlike many of the relationships I had experienced before, I felt a responsibility for our situation.
I felt I was leading her on and so I broke it off.
Because of our deep connection and sharing so many things in common, we stayed in sporadic contact in the coming years. However, I was not considering her as a potential mate. I knew that Janine had found a man and had moved to Amsterdam with him. I assumed she had the one she was looking for.
I was surprised when we talked and I discovered they had called it off. I never imagined her to be someone who would be capable of calling it quits.
We began to talk more often in the following year and she shared with me the emotional freedom technique and inner transformation work she was doing, and spoke to me about a book she had read concerning attachment styles.
She said it made our situation make compete and total sense, and so I read the book.
I was shocked at how much of my attachment style was avoidant.
At the same time I was noticing changes in Janine’s mannerism when it came to relationship.
She was no longer looking to be loved or finding someone to love. She wanted to be in an equal, secure partnership.
We began to talk almost every day and planned to meet one another in person. She was contemplating leaving Amsterdam, and as a friend, I had suggested that she could come and hang out with me here in Alaska and come and go as she pleased. I was quickly set right when she made it clear that she would expect my full attention whilst she visited.
This was impressive, as it woke me up to the new person she had become.She was not settling for crumbs but wanted a fully present interaction.
I was attracted to this secure woman.
Over the ensuing month, and talking several times a day (as we had when we first met)
I came to be certain that Janine had made some extraordinary changes in how she viewed relationship and from where she drew her value.
In this reflection I was able to transform my picture of attachment and see the lasting, solid joy of secure relationship with her.
I was no longer getting the feeling that her sense of value would be dependent on me, (so I was not feeling suffocated and triggered with avoidant behaviour as I had been in the past)
The new Janine was displaying a strong sense of who she was and shared with me how some of the aspects of our early relationship were no longer agreeable to her. I was surprised to find out that she had only previously agreed to those because she feared that if she didn’t, she would no longer be exciting and desirable to me.
I was impressed that she chose to make her true wishes known at the risk of losing my interest.
She was honouring her own desires.
It was of no matter to me because I was enjoying the person she had changed into and realising that I would not have been attracted to this new person had I not been aware of my own avoidant patterns and set them aside, so that I could have what I really wanted; and that was a partner.”
OK, it’s me, Janine again. That was such a beautiful reflection from David, that let me see myself and how I have changed.
I went to visit David in Alaska and the time we spent was one of the most fun, connected, and harmonious times of my life. He took the most amazing care of me and showed me his beautiful home. Yet, when it came down to it, the distance and practicalities just weren’t going to work.
The amazing thing was, even though it was painful to let go of the relationship, I had a resilience I’d never had before. I went out in to the world, and my life, and just found a place inside, living my life, just being me with or without a relationship.
David had held a mirror for me to show me the woman I had become, and it felt great.
A happy secure beginning
I’m absolutely sure too that it was this experience that paved the way for me to find my beautiful love, Sjoerd.
Never before have I felt the love, and deep safety and security of such a beautiful relationship. He showers me with deep masculine loving presence and attention. Shares all of himself with me and his life. Loves me no matter what, and our communication is just clear, consistent, honest and connected.
And it only keeps getting stronger.
This is the most connected, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual experience of relationship I have ever had.
I am free to be completely myself, with all of the spectrum of my emotion, and vulnerability, as is he.
There is a lot of fun, laughter, sharing of ideas, honesty, trust, exploration and love.
The thing that is most interesting to me, is that, on the few days when we wobble, I don’t have the freak out anxiety attacks that I had become so accustomed to previously in relationship.
That feeling of vulnerability is totally gone.
What I feel instead is a grounded-ness in myself, trusting we are in it together, trusting that I can choose and accept a man who is worthy of my attention.
I always have a choice.
I can communicate what I want, and listen to what he wants and do the things that make each other happy. It feels incredibly secure.
I feel happy, loved and supported in the relationship, and he does too.
I think I’ve discovered the way it’s meant to be!
If you have felt the deep disappointment, heart-ache and confusion caused by insecure relationship attachment sytles, I hope my story gives you the insight, sense of possibility, and clear pathway for going secure. I assure you, it is possible for you to feel the deep contentment of feeling loved, safe and secure, in your physical and emotional body, and in any or all of the important relationships in your life… most importantly, the relationship with yourself.
Here’s to your loving, secure and happy onward journey.
*I changed the name of my ex for his privacy.