Emotional First Aid:

5 Strategies for Insecure

Emotional hygiene is a key component for our overall well-being. Just as we include physical hygiene in our daily self-care routine - taking care of our physical state and addressing somatic injuries - we should also pay attention to our emotional state and the situations that harm our mental health.

Emotional First Aid:

5 Strategies for Insecure

Emotional hygiene is a key component for our overall well-being. Just as we include physical hygiene in our daily self-care routine - taking care of our physical state and addressing somatic injuries - we should also pay attention to our emotional state and the situations that harm our mental health.

In the previous article of this Emotional Hygiene series – inspired by Guy Winch – we talked about what emotional hygiene means, why it is neglected in modern day society, and how the lack thereof can cause tremendous harm to our well-being.

Taking into account the personal and relational issues that insecure attachers typically go through, we have built this series around:

  • Why emotional hygiene is especially important for insecure attachers
  • How emotional hygiene might differ for insecure attachers
  • What strategies insecure attachers can implement to form healthy and sustainable emotional hygiene habits

In the previous blog post, we outlined 5 main themes that insecure attachment revolves around: Rejection, Rumination, Loneliness, Low Self-Esteem, and Emotional Trauma. These themes will be especially important for your emotional hygiene practice if you struggle with attachment insecurity.

Therefore, this article will demonstrate 5 strategies that might help insecure attachers combat these emotional wounds and sustain better psychological health.

If you do not know your attachment style yet, make sure you take our FREE quiz, as understanding your attachment style can help you make the best of this series.

1. Challenge Critical Thoughts

Whenever we feel rejected, we tend to immediately try to figure out “what went wrong.” Most of the time, the reason has nothing to do with us. Still, this doesn’t stop us from spinning into rumination on our self-perceived flaws.

For example, we may think that the person we were romantically interested in must have thought we weren’t attractive enough; or a potential employer didn’t hire us, because we clearly weren’t sufficiently intelligent.

We’re inclined to debate our self-worth in our minds until it chips away, bit by bit.

For this reason, we need to challenge this negative inner narrative before it becomes ingrained and part of our go-to manner of thinking. The following steps may help:

Step 1: Get a pen and paper and make a list of all the critical or negative thoughts you have about yourself in the direct aftermath of a rejection.

Step 2: Once you have done so, look for evidence to the contrary of these critical thoughts.

For example, if you blame your intellect for why you didn’t get a promotion, you could list your past academic or professional achievements. Make as many counter-arguments to your critical thoughts as you can.

Step 3: Write down these counter-arguments and implement them in your inner narrative whenever you start to think critically about yourself after a rejection.

In time and with practice, they will become your automatic approach to how you think about yourself.

2. Combat Loneliness Through Positive

Feeling socially isolated can cause us to become self-fulfilling prophecies. This means that we tend to act in guarded, self-protective ways, which reduces opportunities for socializing.

So, to combat loneliness, you first need to stop acting in ways that push others away.

Step 1: Pay attention to the pessimistic thoughts that pop into your head whenever the opportunity to socialize pops up.

For example, if you’re invited to a party, you might convince yourself that you’ll have a terrible time through thoughts such as: “No one will speak to me. I’ll end up embarrassing myself and having a terrible time.”

Step 2: Fight the pessimistic thought by actively implementing pleasant scenarios that are both realistic and practical.

For instance, in the party example, we could practice thinking: “People at the party are there to have a good time, so they’ll probably be really friendly to me. I’ll likely have a great time and maybe even meet new people.”

Step 3: Imagine successful outcomes of socializing.

This can help you alter your mindset and take advantage of important social events when they arise. Hence, breaking the cycle of negative thoughts and subsequent actions.

3. Break the Cycle of Rumination

Although it’s natural to go over distressing events in our minds until we feel better about them, continuing to do so after considerable time has passed can be highly damaging to emotional well-being. Therefore, it’s important to break the rumination cycle. To do so, try the following strategy:

Step 1: Flip the perspective.

When we ruminate, we tend to regard an upsetting event from a first-person perspective. Doing so causes us to feel re-immersed in the event and feel its pain all over again.

On the other hand, research has shown that if we try to look at the event from a third-person (outsider) perspective, we allow ourselves emotional distance from it. This means that we see what happened from a more objective perspective and reconstruct our understanding of it as a result. The outcome of doing so often allows a sense of insight and closure.

Furthermore, reflecting on why an upsetting event happened – rather than how – provides us even more emotional space.

Step 2: Use your imagination.

To achieve a new perspective on an upsetting event, find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Bring up a picture of the event in your mind.

Zoom out from the event to imagine yourself in the picture. Once you have done so, zoom out even further so that you can observe it from even more distance.

Now, allow the events to unfold as though you are merely an audience member. You have no impact on the scenes as they happen; you just watch and listen.

Repeat this exercise as often as necessary and whenever you feel like the cycle of rumination is starting.

4. Practice Self-Compassion to Counter Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can cause us to become more vulnerable to psychological distress, dismissive of our positive elements, and resistant to praise.

What’s more, during times of stress or perceived rejection, those of us with poor self-esteem are particularly self-punishing – we blame ourselves for mistakes and failures in the most punitive ways. We may even call ourselves “losers,” “failures,” or “unlovable” on a repeating loop in our heads.

For these reasons, in order to prevent low-self esteem from creating deeper emotional wounds, we need to practice self-compassion in how we speak to ourselves. Doing so is typically highly challenging for someone with low self-esteem; therefore, it’s essential to accept that we need empathy more than we do chastisement.

For best results, it’s important to complete the following self-compassion activity three times.

Each time, try to think of an occasion from your past when you were particularly hard on yourself. Include an event from your recent history at least one of these times.

Try to leave a day between completing each exercise, as this helps to make the practice of self-compassion more concrete.

Self-compassion practice:

Step 1: Choose an event where you were self-critical, harsh, or felt bad about yourself afterward. Write down what happened in detail.

Step 2: Imagine that the same thing happened to a close friend or family member who responds negatively to it in the way that you did. Recount the details of the event from their perspective and how they feel as it happens and in the aftermath.

Step 3: Seeing someone you love in emotional distress is likely upsetting for you. Write a letter to them with the purpose of helping them to feel better about themselves. Make sure they understand that they deserve kindness, support, and understanding – they are worthy of love and compassion.

Step 4: After you have done so, repeat step one – but this time, apply the same compassion and understanding to yourself as you did in your letter to your friend. Try to be objective about the event, and avoid judgment or negative interpretations.

5. Address Trauma by Going with Your Gut

Trauma looks and feels different for everyone who has gone through it. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” method of healing it.

Step 1: Figure out what you need.

Some people will feel the need to talk about the events that traumatized them, while others might find themselves retraumatized by doing so. Instead, the latter may find a more internal approach such as meditation, relaxation, or engaging in enjoyable activities to be a more effective healing method.

Step 2: Don’t wait too long before you initiate healing.

We can’t just let a trauma wound fester and continue to impact our well-being – the trick here is to go with your natural inclinations instead of fighting against them.

Regardless of whether you feel comfortable talking to a trusted friend or loved one about your experiences, or whether your natural inclination is to process your feelings internally – go with your gut. But remember: the most effective treatment for anyone who has experienced trauma is time.

Step 3: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

However, having said as much – for many people who have experienced trauma – the most advisable treatment approach is usually therapy.

Emotional First Aid: Take-Home Message

The emotional first aid strategies we discussed in this piece are merely an introduction to how to start taking care of your emotional hygiene. For an overview of the topic, check out out first article in our Emotional Hygiene series: “Emotional Hygiene: 5 Psychological Wounds Insecure Attachers Should Watch Out for.”

For more information about how to be your own emotional hygiene practitioner, we encourage you to learn more about Guy Winch’s emotional hygiene techniques.

And as a last note: we care very much about the mental health of every single individual who visits The Attachment Project.

For this reason, if self-led strategies aren’t working for you, or else your emotional wounds are too profound and resistant to change – then it’s important for you to consult a medical or mental health professional.

Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and Loss: Volume 1 Attachment. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books.

Winch, G. (2014). Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. Plume Books.

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