Security Blanket Part 2 l December 2013
We’re thirsty — and so we say, “I need a drink.” We’re hungry and we say, “I want something to eat.” But when it comes to our essential need for secure attachment, we’re tongue-tied about saying, “I’m feeling insecure and need reassurance.”
As we examined last month, breakthroughs in neuroscience have taught us that along with the fundamental human needs for water, food, and air, we homo sapiens — adults as well as children — have a fundamental need for secure attachment. In other words, feeling safely and securely connected to a special person in our lives is not just for babies.
Imagine if we could never say “I’m thirsty” or “I’m hungry”; imagine how helpless we’d feel. That’s what it’s like when we’re unable to express our insecurity during those inevitable moments — they happen in all relationships — when something shakes our secure foundation. It’s a true and unsettling moment of vulnerability. But most of us over a lifetime have learned to hide vulnerability, especially the vulnerability of feeling insecure with our partner. Many of us mistakenly regard vulnerability as a weakness, a sign that we’re not tough enough or independent enough, or maybe we’re “too needy.” So we do the absolute opposite of what leads to a stronger and healthier relationship: we cover up insecurity and fear, hiding it from the person who most needs to hear it, who is in the best position to offer what we need to receive: comfort and reassurance. (Words of reassurance might include: You’re the most important person to me, or It’s you who I love and care most about, or My feelings for you are as strong as ever.)
Until we adjust our thinking to recognize that it’s perfectly natural to feel fear and insecurity when a secure sense of attachment is threatened — when a spouse walks or looks away before the conversation is over, or slow dances too closely with an attractive family friend, or spends hours playing electronic games while begging off the walks we used to take after dinner — until we learn that exposing vulnerability is a true act of courage, we’re going to have a hard time saying what should be said: “I’m feeling insecure and would like some reassurance.”