If you have dated for a while, you’ve probably fallen head-over-heels in love at least once, and then you discovered that your partner wasn’t exactly who you thought he or she was. Maybe you were in a relationship for a few weeks or a few months. Maybe you had sex and you felt a certain level of commitment. You wanted to be loyal and you were not a quitter. Maybe you had moved in together. It wasn’t easy to end the unhealthy relationship. Read more
I’m so excited to share my eBook with you!
You’re gonna love this complimentary 20-page eBook. It’s full of vibrant color photos and educational materials to accelerate your ability to create your ideal relationship.
It’s also a preview of the virtual Conscious Dating Inner Circle for Highly Sensitive Introverts.
Several of my brightest single clients are looking for a special romantic relationship. I think it will be great fun to get them all in the same Coaching Group so they can meet and support each other.
I’m inviting other Sensitive Introverts as well.
Click the link below to read the free eBook.
–> If you want to apply for my Conscious Dating Inner Circle for Highly Sensitive Introverts., please complete the Contact Form and mention this event.
“Where would I be today without our work together? Not where I am. If only you could meet the man I have drawn to me. My husband takes my breath away with his exquisiteness. Never could I have been with such a man in such a way without all of my past and all of the work we did, you and I.” – P.B., RN
Here are a few excerpts from the eBook.
You’ll learn the pitfalls of dating in the virtual Conscious Dating Inner Circle for Highly Sensitive Introverts.
Learn how to spot the red flags and understand WHY you might have ignored them in the past. I don’t want you to repeat mistakes.
Narcissistic manipulation and abuse kills a relationship, but so does boredom according to research by Arthur and Elaine Aron. If your core needs for emotional intimacy don’t get met, you will get bored.
Sensitive Introverts tend to be too “other-centered.” We often give and give and give and don’t get our needs met enough. We’re so empathetic we can be taken advantage of. We need to focus on ourselves more. That is not selfish. It’s important to show up fully in your relationship, ask for your needs to be met, and care about your partner. I’ll help you stop losing yourself in a relationship.
Sensitive Introverts are idealistic visionaries. We often see the potential of who people can become. Sometimes we fall in love with the “potential” rather than the person. Take off your rose-colored glasses. Teach yourself to look accurately at the truth. That’s rigorous work, and you’ll probably need help doing it. I’ll help you save years of suffering.
Are you thinking about joining the Inner Circle, and you’d like a sneak peak?
Click here to fill out the Contact Form. Ask me to email the webinar recording.
Meet like-hearted Sensitive Introverts who may join the Inner Circle. Experience what’s it’s like to be in the group as participants combine their knowledge and work together to complete an exercise. They create their Ideal Relationship Vision, identify Core Values and highlight Roadblocks that could prevent success.
“As my negative emotions calmed down, my heart opened up more. I began to feel more loving toward others. All of these changes were unexpected, very soothing, and delightful. Benita is warm and caring, yet also warm and direct, and she knows many techniques that help with personal healing and empowerment.” – P.L., Writer, Seattle
20 Benefits of membership in the Conscious Dating Inner Circle for Highly Sensitive Introverts
1. Discover scientific research that tells us WHY healthy relationships are so important.
2. Create an ideal relationship vision based on your core values, your north star.
3. Spot the unconscious reasons why you ignore the red flags that get you into trouble.
4. Heal your inner child wounds that unconsciously perpetuate unhealthy patterns.
5. Identify the fears and beliefs that prevent you from creating your ideal relationship.
6. If you want to upgrade your outer world, you must first upgrade your inner world.
7. Discover how your outer relationships reflect the relationship you have with yourself.
8. Learn about your attachment style and the styles that you typically attract.
9. Explore how your family of origin experiences affect your adult relationships.
10. Be your own best friend. Stop losing yourself in a relationship.
11. Develop spiritual intimacy to shore up your secure foundation.
12. Compare obsession, relationship addiction, and codependence with healthy love.
13. Maintain healthy boundaries and develop mastery with conflict management tools.
14. Stay grounded during conflicts by regulating your emotions and nervous system.
15. Enhance your self-awareness with mindfulness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.
16. Learn inner dialogue skills to resolve internal conflicts between parts of self.
17. Discuss sexuality … your values, your desires, what is wise and what is not.
18. Become aware of when one foot is on the gas and when one foot is on the brake, and if that is helpful or not.
19. Discover why you hesitate to communicate assertively, and how to advocate for yourself tactfully.
20. Enjoy having an accountability study buddy so you can increase mastery with new skills.
If you are ready for your Ideal Romantic Relationship, join us in the Conscious Dating Inner Circle.
WHEN: 11 Mondays. October 4 – December 13, 2021 8:00-9:00pm Eastern
There is a minimum of four people in this small intimate group.
If there are 6 or more people, the time will be 7:30-9:00pm Eastern.
WHERE: Zoom video-conference from the comfort of your home.
Payment Plan: The tuition will be $587 when paid in two monthly payments of $293.50.
Payment is due upon commitment to the group via PayPal. You will receive instructions after your Discovery Call if you are a new client.
This is an intermediate level group. New clients will need an intake with me, Benita Esposito.
Most participants will have had counseling with me or another therapist or spiritual director, or participation in intensive personal growth retreats or training programs.
How to apply for the Conscious Dating Inner Circle for Highly Sensitive Introverts.
If you are a current client, email me and tell me that you want to enroll. Go ahead and make your PayPal payment to Benita@EspositoInstitute.com. You know how to do it.
If you are not a current client, please complete the Contact Page and mention the Conscious Dating Inner Circle. You’ll receive an application questionnaire within 24 hours. After you return it, we’ll schedule a Discovery Call and then have an intake session if you want to join the Inner Circle.
Stop wasting time.
“Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to run.” – Kenny Rogers
FACILITATOR: Benita A. Esposito, MA
I’m a life coach, a spiritual counselor and an ordained minister with AIWP. I earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and my bachelor’s degree is in psychology/sociology. I’ve studied with the Order of St. Luke with my dear friend Father John Rice where I learned how to combine Christian spiritual healing and psychological principles. I follow a grace-filled Christian path that honors all faiths that advocate loving God and each other. I coach adults (individuals and couples) in private sessions and in intensive retreats.
Your Authentic Life. Anything Else is a Compromise.
Parenting is one of the most important jobs on the planet. Attachment theory research reveals that when parents attune to their children well, kids grow up with a secure attachment style. They are more likely to choose nurturing romantic partners, be emotionally and physically healthier and more successful. Read more
I’d like to share a special experience that occurred in our weekly Highly Sensitive Person Resilience Group. This particular story is about hurtful ways that our group members were parented, and their desire to be better parents to their children.
People who were once strangers have bonded in this group so they feel safe to share their vulnerable feelings. We heal emotional wounds so that we can express our Authentic Selves, just the way God intended. Our hearts open as the Holy Spirit enfolds us with unconditional love. Experiencing this tender feeling of love with the group is what I cherish so much.
After brief check-ins, one person volunteers to be coached while the others learn vicariously.
In one of our sessions, a woman wanted to heal her family of origin wound that arose when her father repeatedly dismissed her feelings and her requests.
She felt rejected as a little girl, and she still feels that way as an adult.
No one else felt like she felt, or wanted the things she wanted when she was a child. Her strong-willed father made most of the decisions and her mother complied like a quiet church mouse. My client submitted to her father’s will, too, never really feeling loved by him. She didn’t have a sense of belonging in her family. This is typical of 50% of highly sensitive people. We grow up with insecure attachment styles.
Lack of secure attachment hurts whether we are a child or an adult.
We used Brainspotting and Internal Family Systems to help my client heal. Amazingly, within half an hour, she no longer felt rejected. She realized that she could include herself in family discussions instead of remaining non-assertive like her mother. She reflected, “It doesn’t make me inferior if my whole family makes a choice that I don’t like. I was out-casting myself.”
At the end of the coaching that night, another group member asked, “How can a parent say ‘no’ to a child’s request while helping the child feel cherished?”
A couple of mothers answered this question. You’ll read the first response below. I’ll share the second mom’s answer in the next blog post.
The following essay was written by a highly sensitive introvert who wishes to remain anonymous.
Like most highly sensitive people, I try to be the best parent I can be. I’m going to share my philosophy and four tips for saying “no” while helping my children feel securely attached.
My girls are ten and six years old. When it comes to declining their requests, I want them to completely embrace who they are and who they will become. This is what I do.
- My ten-year-old is a highly sensitive introvert so extra time and patience go a long way with her.
- I allow my kids to share their opinions with me. We communicate in a way that they can share respectfully, and I do the same in return. They don’t have to be angry and talk back to be heard.
- I explain everything to them in a way that shows them that when I say no, I am serving them. There is no “don’t do this because I said so.” Children learn every second of every day. They have so much they have to learn on their own in this world, so I try to explain things to them so they understand. I try not to make them guess whenever possible.
- I help my children calm their bodies and emotions. For example, when my oldest daughter is over-stimulated, she has learned to take some alone time to compose herself so she will feel better. It’s not a punishment. She has matured in her ability to listen to her body when it’s telling her to take a pause and breathe. It’s a great tool for her.
My six-year-old didn’t understand this at first. She wanted to know why ‘sissy’ wouldn’t play with her right that second. She wanted me to make her older sister play with her right then. I explained it on her grade level by giving her a situation and an emotion she could relate to. I made sure she knew her sister didn’t need a break from her, but that she needed down-time to re-center herself. Then I made suggestions for fun things to do while playing alone.
After a few times of this scenario, my younger daughter saw that her sister felt better after having time alone, and then she was ready to play again. My youngest started to pay attention to when she felt out of sorts, and now she occasionally asks for time to color or draw on her own.
I have learned to apply the same self-soothing process when my Inner Child feels harassed by my Inner Critic. My Wise Self calmly suggests that I take a few deep breaths, relax and ground myself. Operating in the zone of resilience helps me be a better parent, and as a bonus, it often eliminates emotional and physical pain.
I am so grateful that I learned these tools. I hope they help will you, too.
Contact Benita Esposito if you would like help to heal emotional wounds so you can express your Authentic Self. Ask for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted session. Choose from individual spiritual counseling and life coaching, or you might like to participate in a Highly Sensitive Person Resilience Group.
Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self. Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor.
Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.
Self-Care Learned the Hard Way
Devon, a highly sensitive man, called me for counseling at the prompting of his mother who was concerned about him. His dearest friends told him that he no longer seemed like himself. He was depressed. He was not eating properly, he had severe insomnia and he had trouble focusing on his work. Normally, Devon was an exemplary worker.
(The identity of this client was changed to preserve confidentiality. This story was posted with his permission.)
What started this downward spiral?
Devon had married a woman after a short courtship, and the marriage quickly went awry. She wanted them to marry quickly, and he agreed. Highly sensitive people want to please the people they love.
In the months following the wedding, his wife tried to take advantage of him financially. She emotionally and verbally abused him, and she deceived him. When he confronted her with her unkind behavior, she threatened to hurt him and have him killed. She threw tantrums when she didn’t get her way. When Devon suggested counseling, she refused.
Devon read books about gaslighting, emotional abuse and manipulation. He realized, “Wow, these feelings of fear, dread and pain are explained perfectly. I’m in an abusive relationship, and I am stuck. I need to break through a wall of blame, guilt, blackmail and threats to my life to find safety.”
Devon was obsessed with a woman who had badly hurt him.
He wanted counseling to resolve this internal dilemma: Part of him knew that she wasn’t good for him. Another part of him believed that marriage was a sacred commitment. He felt guilty for wanting to end the marriage.
Over time, Devon saw that his wife had no intentions of changing. He finally initiated a divorce, still feeling guilty. He believed me when I said, “God does not require us to stay in abusive relationships.” The divorce was final within a year of the wedding. Fortunately, his ex-wife broke off all contact with him.
Devon replayed the awful memories in his mind for months. He had no clue about how to resolve the emotional wounds.
Counseling Activities and Discussions
Devon read the books, Boundaries and Attached. He came to understand his own attachment style and hers. In the beginning of the marriage, he let her walk all over him because he thought that love required that of him.
Before counseling Devon thought, “I should be able to do something to fix her problems. I’m failing as a husband.”
Later in counseling he reported, “If I had read these books before, I would have never married her.”
She blamed him for being too sensitive, so he tried to be less sensitive and more understanding. He gave an inch. She took a mile. Her next fit of anger was always worse than the last. He told her that he didn’t want to live with constant anger.
Devon shared, “The more I tried to repair things, the more she pushed back. I tried everything to make her happy. Nothing worked.
“I felt like I was losing myself.
“My friends and family tried to tell me that I was being abused, but I didn’t see it. All of my focus was on making her happy. I neglected my own self-care. I wasn’t sleeping well or eating well, and couldn’t find enjoyment in anything. I can now see that these were warning signs … red flags.”
Devon also used a therapy called Brainspotting which helped heal the emotional wounds and return him to his Authentic Self. He also learned to meditate to soothe his nervous system and wrote internal dialogues to resolve his dilemma.
I asked Devon about the lessons that he learned from his year of counseling.
Devon shared these thoughts:
“When I think about creating my next relationship, I don’t feel desperate. I’m not rushing. I won’t let my boundaries be violated again. I have a high bar for a relationship. I will forgive when needed.
“I would say to the next woman in my life: I was in a bad relationship so I’m cautious. She was angry a lot, and I don’t want that. I want a healthy relationship. If a woman said ‘no’ to this request, I would see that as a yellow or orange flag.
“If someone told me the same thing today … if they had a history of bad relationships … I would be respectful. I wouldn’t demean a person for wanting safety. Most people have plenty of baggage, but it’s how they handle it that makes or breaks them. I’d be looking for answers to these questions: Did her relationship wounds make her smarter and wiser instead of avoiding her problems? Did she learn lessons? Who has she become because of it?
“If there is trouble in the relationship, if both people tried to fix the arguments, I would stay. We would allow time to cool down and discuss the conflict. Both of us would compromise and create win-win solutions. One person wouldn’t be right all the time. There would be a willingness from both sides to make things work. I remember this quote from Benita’s book:
‘You should not have to set yourself on fire to keep another person warm.’
“I think it is a good idea to require my future mate to learn relationship skills along with me. Her agreement would be a supreme green flag. I would be so proud of her.”
Devon shared the following:
“I have learned about myself and how I brought trauma into my life. I am glad for the lessons learned. I have become a better person vs. ruining my life. I have learned how to become resilient … like trees that get damaged, but the roots grow stronger around a damaged part.
“My supervisor gave me a hefty promotion and salary increase. I’ve started on my bachelor’s degree, and I have a group of friends who truly support me. My sleep has returned to normal, and I have discovered the joy of cooking healthy food.
“I owe a lot to Benita. She pointed me in the right directions. She helped me learn to meditate. She taught me about boundaries and self-worth. She taught me about attachment styles. She taught me that loving someone doesn’t mean that I should accept abuse.
“I’ll remember these lessons the rest of my life.”
~ end of story ~
Contact Benita Esposito if you would like help healing wounds from a dysfunctional relationship or if you want to improve a relationship. Complete the contact page and ask for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted session.
Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self.
Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.
Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor
“Your Authentic Life. Anything Else is a Compromise.”
If you have a romantic relationship, I pray blessings over your bond that it may blossom in joy and vitality.
If you don’t have a romantic relationship, I pray blessings over the loving relationship with yourself. It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship without this.
Here’s my Valentine’s wish for you.
I know life is not always easy. You have plenty of growing pains and challenges.
I bless you with the ability to feel how special you are, whether you are in a relationship or not. May you feel connected to your spiritual heart. I bless you with the ability to see your relationships from the highest perspective. May you feel so filled by God’s love that it’s easy to let go and forgive. May the boulders be removed from your path. May all your wounds be healed.
Remember when you were a child?
There are 35.6 million children in prekindergarten through 8th grade in the United States. Many of them will be giving Valentines to their families, classmates and teachers today. That is a wonderful tradition, don’t you think?
Take a moment and send a Valentine to your friends and family, just like you did in grade school. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Their hearts will open and so will yours.
You could write a simple message of appreciation like this:
• I love the way your eyes sparkle when you laugh.
• When you giggle like a teenager, it tickles my funny bone.
• You are such a good listener. I feel known and loved by you.
• You’re one of my best cheerleaders. Thanks for encouraging me to shoot for the stars.
• You open my eyes in gentle ways to help me see my blind spots.
• You always want the best for people. You help me stretch when I feel tempted to settle for less.
• You are a dedicated provider. Thank you for helping take care of our material needs.
Reach out to single people. They may feel lonely.
Guess how many singles there are in the U.S.?
In the last U.S. census (2016), of all the citizens who were age 18 years and older:
• 110.6 million people were unmarried.
• This group comprised 45.2 percent of all U.S. residents. 53.2% were women. 46.8% were men.
• 63.5% had never been married. Another 23.1 percent were divorced and 13.4 percent were widowed.
Think of one more person who needs your love and compassion today. Write to them.
Help the light shine even more brightly on this Valentine’s Day.
Love and blessings to you,
Benita A. Esposito
If you would like to strengthen your relationship(s) or the loving relationship with yourself, I’m here to help. I offer individual and couples spiritual counseling and life coaching in the office or via phone or videoconference from the convenience of your home. Complete the Contact Page.
Credentials for Benita A Esposito, MA
Do you have a relationship that you would like to improve? Most of us do.
How’s the quality of your romance? The relationship with your parents? Your children? Your co-workers? Your friends?
Research reveals that the quality of our loving relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness, physical health and emotional well-being.
If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, you’re more likely to develop a serious disease within four years. Also, you are likely to die four years earlier.
Emotional anguish and stress affect our bodies.
Listen to this podcast, “5 Tips for Healthy Relationships.”
NOTE: Do not download the podcast. It is a giant wav file and will take up tons of data on your computer or device.
My dear friend, Dr. Cindy Libert, interviewed me for the podcast. She is a holistic integrative medicine physician in Asheville, NC. The podcast is 23 minutes long.
Dr. John Gottman’s research found that our romantic relationships have a 93% probability of ending if we use five specific behaviors.
Ninety-nine percent of the couples who walk into my office use these five hurtful behaviors.
I’ll explain what NOT to do so you don’t unknowingly damage your relationships.
The good news is that we can change our destructive habits once we become aware of them.
Can damaged relationships be repaired?
The good news is, “yes.” Even when there’s been an affair, 73% of marriages become healthy with Gottman Couple Therapy.
If you are a highly sensitive person like I am, it’s even more important to learn this information. Why? Because unresolved conflicts hurt us even more.
If you aren’t a highly sensitive person, no worries. You will benefit from this podcast too.
Listen to the podcast, and please share it with your friends and family.
Remember, this information can be applied to any kind of relationship. If every person used these skills, we all would be much happier. That’s what I want for you.
Are you serious about getting help for your relationship?
Join us for the Valentine’s Couples Retreat.
Look for the Early Bird discount.
Click here to view the Events Calendar for updates.
Venue: Young Harris, Georgia, USA.
Overlooking the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Lake Chatuge.
Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Certified Gottman Leader
Contact me for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview to see if we are a good fit for this retreat or for private counseling sessions in-person, video-conference or phone.
This is chapter 8 of my bestselling book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self. Available on Amazon. Search for “Benita Esposito.”
Let’s look at the research on attachment styles to help us understand how to create healthy romantic relationships.
We unconsciously act the way we do in romantic relationships for a good reason. Human beings have an innate drive to form emotional bonds with people who are precious to us. We suffer when we aren’t able to create secure bonds. The need for secure attachment is part of our inherited survival strategy.
Historically, we survive better in packs than alone. Solitary confinement is one of the most devastating forms of punishment. Even though children in orphanages in war-torn countries have food, clothing and shelter, they get sick and sometimes die without adequate loving attention. That’s how important emotional attachment is to us.
Healthy relationships are the number one predictor of our ability to heal from serious disease and maintain emotional and physical health. We live four years longer when we have healthy bonded relationships. (See reference 5.)
Psychological research shows that when we’re babies, we develop one of four attachment styles based on the parenting style of our caregivers.
According to Dr. Edward Tronick’s research, the attachment style of a one-year-old predicts the attachment style of a 25-year-old. (See reference 1.)
As adults, our childhood attachment style influences all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors at an unconscious level.
Attachment styles have two categories: (1) secure and (2) insecure.
The insecure styles are divided into two sub-categories: anxious and avoidant. Some people have a third insecure style called anxious-avoidant.
1. Secure attachment style
Fifty percent of us enjoy a secure attachment style. Our parents were emotionally healthy, responsive and physically present. As children, we felt understood and cherished. We felt safe and secure. Our physical needs were met. There was no harsh discipline or emotional neglect or icy distance. Appropriate discipline was coupled with warmth and reassurance that we were loved and liked. We were given the appropriate amount of freedom to explore the world in a safe way, and encouraged to develop our unique personality. As adults, we anticipate that people will like us and we will like them. We develop healthy relationships and set appropriate boundaries for self-care.
2. Insecure Attachment Styles
2a) Anxious Attachment Style
Twenty percent of our population has an anxious attachment style. Our parents were inconsistent in meeting our emotional or physical needs. We became watchful, trying to figure out how to please our parents so they wouldn’t abandon us. As adults, we worry that our partner will leave us if there is conflict. We still try to please people. We might feel jealous.
When we don’t get our needs met, we get angry because anger is easier to feel than the loneliness of separation. This is called protest anger.
When we feel misunderstood and unloved, we become stressed. We may act in a manner that is critical, defensive or contemptuous. We’re trying to get our partner to connect with us, but inadvertently we push our partner away. We’re called “pursuers” in the language of Adult Attachment Theory.
An anxious attachment style isn’t right or wrong. Don’t beat yourself up if you have this style. The description helps us understand each other and ourselves. Pursuers often mate with avoidant styles who distance from deep emotional connection in the heat of conflict, leaving us feeling more anxious because we feel the pain of being left alone.
2b) Avoidant Attachment Style
Twenty-three percent of us have an avoidant attachment style. Our parents were emotionally or physically unavailable, neglectful or downright abusive. Scared and tense in our bodies, we became hyper-vigilant trying to intuit our parents’ unpredictable behavior. We had a big dilemma. How could we protect ourselves from parents who emotionally or physically hurt us while being dependent on them to meet our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing? Without the much-needed emotional nurturance, our bodies didn’t feel safe, and we braced ourselves for potential threats. We emotionally distanced and tried to become as self-sufficient as possible.
As adults, people with avoidant attachment styles may be independent high-achievers, driven to succeed. We hesitate to ask for help. The USA culture promotes this type of behavior.
We may experience physical pain, chronic fatigue, addictions and other diseases predictable from a lifetime of physiological hyper-arousal. We may fall into depression, or swing between anxiety and depression. Even when we want to form healthy relationships, we anticipate people won’t like us if they really know us, or we won’t like them. We guard against getting too close. We may assume people will judge us, hurt us or try to control us. We’re called “withdrawers.”
2c) Anxious/Avoidant Ambivalent Attachment Style
One percent of us have this combined style. We may jump into relationships quickly, loving the endorphin high of romance … or we may hang back for a long time trying to determine if we’re safe with a potential partner.
We’re often unconsciously attracted to a person who also has an insecure attachment style. When conflicts arise, we try hard to work it out, but if our partner doesn’t respond positively, we withdraw to protect ourselves. It’s difficult to open our hearts again, even when our partner begs us to connect, unless there’s a strong friendship already established.
The healthiest relationships contain at least one person with a secure attachment style.
When conflicts arise, the secure attachment style partner provides a stable emotional base so the other partner feels loved. To use an analogy, when the couple is dancing and the insecure partner stumbles, the secure partner is grounded and warm-hearted enough to help the other regain their balance. (See reference 4.)
Hope and Help
With individual and couples therapy, people with insecure attachment styles can learn how to repair attachment injuries, heal childhood wounding patterns, and connect in emotionally healthy ways. They can develop “earned secure attachment” so they both feel safe, understood and loved.
The science of Adult Attachment Theory is relatively new. With the development of fMRI machines, neuroscience has been able to understand the interplay between our emotions, our physiological reactions and our behaviors, and what happens to make us feel safe or scared in our relationships. (See reference 3.)
Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Attachment Styles
Let’s circle back and apply attachment theory to highly sensitive people.
Research by Dr. Elaine Aron indicates that highly sensitive children raised by parents who meet their emotional and physical needs develop secure attachment styles just like non-highly sensitive children who have healthy parent styles. (reference 8) As these highly sensitive people mature, they thrive in relationships and they reach their life goals even better than many non-highly sensitives. They are creative, conscientious, compassionate, intuitive and innovative.
However, when the emotional and physical needs of highly sensitive children are not met, they react stronger to deprivation or abuse than non-highly sensitive children.
HSP’s nervous systems respond with more hyper-arousal, like pressing their foot on the car accelerator which can result in chronic anxiety if left unchecked. Or they experience more hypo-arousal, like pressing their foot on the brake to slow down which can result in depression. Or they vacillate between the two, fluctuating between anxiety and depression.
Highly sensitive people are more prone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they experience trauma. But there is hope and help. With adept psychotherapy the effects of trauma can be healed. (See reference 6.) It’s best to seek therapy as soon as possible after a troubling incident to return the nervous system to resilience.
Highly sensitive people are no more likely to report insecure attachment styles than non-highly sensitive people.
Nothing about highly sensitivity impairs a person’s ability to form a healthy intimate relationship. Highly sensitive people are more attuned to subtle meanings of conversations, and they are able to gain more benefit from loving attention. They’re more empathetic, and better equipped to detect the unmet needs of others and fulfill those needs. They are more adept learners than non-highly sensitive people when healthy relationships skills are modeled for them in therapy. When they receive affirmation and appreciation, they thrive. (See reference 8.)
It’s challenging to form healthy bonded intimate relationships as an adult if we have an insecure attachment style. However, if we’re fortunate enough to mate with a secure attachment-style person, or we learn how to change our patterns in a course of successful psychotherapy, we can change our style to “earned secure attachment” and enjoy flourishing relationships.
This is chapter 8 of the book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self. Bestselling Author: Benita A. Esposito. Available on Amazon. Copyright 2018. The Esposito Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
Addendum: There’s a fourth type of insecure attachment style called “Dissociative Attachment Style.” You can read about it in the “Fragmented Child: Disorganized Attachment and Dissociation” article in the June 20, 2014 edition of Psychology Today. Here’s an excerpt:
“… disorganized attachment, occurs when the caregiver mistreats the child, frequently frightens the child, miscommunicates feelings, and has highly unrealistic expectations of the child (relying on the child for care).
Caregivers who act in ways that give rise to disorganized attachment may behave very inconsistently (for example, at times they are intrusive, at times they withdraw), which creates confusion for the child. The child may end up with multiple, incompatible views of the caregiver (seeing the caregiver as a source of protection and danger at the same time) and incompatible views of themselves (feeling confused about whether they are good or bad). These incompatible views are very difficult to reconcile and hard to combine into a coherent structure.”
Author’s Contact Information
If you are a highly sensitive person who wants to heal and learn how to form healthy adult relationships, contact Benita A. Esposito, MA. She is a life coach and spiritual counselor who specializes in helping highly sensitive people. Complete the Contact Page to schedule a 10-minute complimentary phone interview to see if her services are a good fit for you.
References and Resources
1. Aron, Elaine. (2001). The Highly Sensitive Person in Love. p. 92. New York, NY. Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
2. Aron, Elaine. (2001). The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You. New York, NY. Broadway Books.
3. Poole Heller, Diane. (2017). Healing Your Attachment Wounds: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships. Audiobook – Original recording by Diane Poole Heller (Narrator, Author), Sounds True, Inc. Louisville, CO.
4. Poole Heller, Diane. Attachment Style Quiz. https://dianepooleheller.com/attachment-test
5. Levine, Amir and Heller, Rachel. (2010). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. Jeremy P Tarcher/Penguin Group. New York, NY.
6. Levine, Amir and Heller, Rachel. (2018). Attachment Quiz. http://www.attachedthebook.com/compatibility-quiz/?step=1
7. Tronick, Edward. (2007). Still Face Experiment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0
8. Johnson, Sue (2013) Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships. New York: Little Brown.
9. Johnson, Sue. (2011). Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. New York: Little Brown.
10. Johnson, Sue. (2014). How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pruIGfJewhs&t=1s
11. Ornish, Dean. (1998.) Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
12. Bolby, John. (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. New York, NY. Basic Books/Hatchette Books. (John Bowlby is the father of attachment theory.)
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The Esposito Institute
PO Box 1074
Young Harris, GA 30582
168 Rogers Street
Blairsville GA 30512
Sandy Springs Office
5885 Glenridge Drive NE
Atlanta GA 30328