PRACTICE: My Community Visualization

Reassurance is important for all of us, but especially for those of us who are ambivalently attached. Keep this in mind if you have an important person in your life who lives with the ambivalent adaptation. Reassurance and staying in regular contact—through email, texts, or phone calls—calms an over-activated attachment system like nothing else. This doesn’t mean that you have to constantly reassure your ambivalent partner for the rest of your life. When an ambivalent person feels reassured, they experience more stability—primarily by getting to experience object permanence and object constancy in a way they were unable to in childhood. This allows them to relax in the direction of secure attachment, which benefits everyone in the relational field. Ambivalents obviously want a relationship, and generally speaking, it is easier for them to maintain one, especially with a secure partner who is willing to be consistent and reassuring.

Try the following simple practice to offer deep reassurance to yourself:

EXERCISE: My Consistent and Predictable People

Start by grounding yourself in a comfortable spot. Feel your feet as you press them into the floor and pay attention to all the sensations that arise as you sit in your chair. Drop into your seat, relax, and let the chair support you. You don’t have to do anything else—the floor supports your feet, and the chair keeps you upright. Relax into these sensations for a couple of minutes.
Now scan your relationship history for people who’ve had a significant influence on you—family, friends, mentors, or teachers. Pay particular attention to anyone who’s been there for you over the years in a reliable way. I’m not talking about people who have been perfect, just those who have been somewhat reliable. Find someone with whom you feel a level of trust, even if you haven’t heard from them in years. This is a person that as soon as you see their face or hear their voice, you feel a sense of undisturbed connection—you know this person supports you and always will. You never have to try to be more than what you are with this person. They’re present for you, they love you, and they believe in you.

If you haven’t had people in your life fill this role particularly well, start with what you have and choose the one who comes closest. Alternatively, you can design the ideal consistent and reliable person to use in this exercise. Or if you know several people who fit this description, start with just one of them. You can add more along the way if you’d like.

How do you feel when you imagine this person? What happens in your body? Notice any signs of relaxation or regulation. Maybe you feel a bit warmer than you did before, or perhaps you are breathing more deeply and evenly. What do your shoulders feel like? Note any changes around your heart and in the muscles of your face. Pay close attention to which part of your body relaxes the most. The attachment system is held in the body, so we want to note what happens here. You can also pay attention to anything that comes up emotionally. Maybe it’s a love for this person, or perhaps you feel safe and contained, or maybe you note a sweet sadness. As best you can, feel all aspects of what it’s like to be in the presence of this consistent, reliable, loving person.
This exercise may bring up memories of a person you’ve lost. If so, give yourself time to grieve—and realize that grieving shows that you have the capacity to love and connect deeply.

After you finish this exercise, write a few notes about who came up in this practice and what happened as you imagined that person. Describe what occurred in your internal movie. Maybe you felt different responses to people as you scanned through your relationships. In the future, try this exercise with someone else in mind and see what comes up for you.

This is an excerpt from The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships (Sounds True, 2019) by Diane Poole Heller PhD. Posted with permission.