So today, I was thinking about how I share some similarities with my dog (technically Justin’s and my dog).

At times, she is anxious and insecure. She can be needy and desires a lot of attention. She can sometimes be so focused on her own underserved needs that she is ignorant to how she makes others feel and unintentionally bothers/harms others (like stepping on the other pets or whacking them with her tail). She doesn’t realize that the way she seeks out attention and affection actually makes it more difficult for us to give it (because she does so in an overwhelming and occasionally intrusive way).

So Justin and I have both been working on training her. She’s young, but not a puppy. When we first brought her home, she wasn’t even potty-trained, and that took a while to teach her. I am very proud of her and us for her training in that regard. The neediness for attention and affection has been one training point that has been more of a struggle. I’ve admittedly not done enough research into it as early as I could have, and tried to wing it…poorly. I wish I had thought to look up what I have today, sooner.

Regardless, as I was going to let her outside into the backyard, I was watching her as she stood looking up at me completely absorbed and hopeful. Meanwhile, our newest kitten was beneath her and as Cindy shifted to follow my every move, she ended up stepping on the new kitten and it was clear that she didn’t even think twice about it. She didn’t realize and she didn’t modify her behavior at all. And I have met and seen plenty of dogs that are more aware of their surroundings, so I know it’s an area that she can improve in.

And I’m concerned. I’m concerned because I don’t want her to be so blind to her surroundings that the other pets keep getting hurt or frightened. I’m concerned because I don’t want her to feel this way. I want to do what’s right and figure out how to fill her needs and take care of her. I want to be a good pet parent. And I’m concerned because this way of living is not sustainable for any of us. She’s scaring off the pets and they’re each hiding from her to varying degrees. She’s overwhelming both Justin and me. And she’s clearly not perfectly happy if she wants for more.

And as I was thinking about this behavior, I was drawing these parallels with my own romantic relationships. I’m not trying to air dirty laundry, but I thought it was interesting and worth discussing openly, should it help someone else. Here’s why.

Not everyone is in therapy. Some people can’t afford it. Some people aren’t aware of the options that are available to them. The whole matter is often overwhelming and intimidating.

And self-therapy is very real.

I remember when I was younger and someone told me or I heard/read that people may think they’re getting better on their own but they aren’t / can’t really without professional help. Which I’m calling bullshit on.

  1. Therapy isn’t a garanteed way to help you.
    1. You could have a shit therapist. No matter the type of job; there will always be some people, somewhere, filling the role, who suck at their work.
    2. You could put 0 effort into it. Therapy is only as valuable as what you put into. Growth isn’t passive. You could fail to show up. You could refuse to really think through the questions or comments your therapists asks/makes. You could be too close-minded to entertain that you might be wrong.
  2. You could have an epiphany / some event occur that changes your mind. You can be forced by circumstance to grow.
  3. You could realize / know that you need to grow or at least have room for growth and actively explore your thought processes and seek out alternative perspectives and practices that challenge and change how you think / act.

*This is in no way minimizing the importance and power of therapy. I highly encourage everyone to see a therapist because it can be the most efficient and effective way to work through intra and interpersonal issues. I am only saying that there ARE others things you can do to supplement or make the most of a period without therapy. [I.E. journaling (especially with good prompts), trying to challenge your own beliefs/argue with yourself, reading books around your areas of struggle, discussing the issues with ChatGPT/Gemini]*

Getting back to Cindy, I was thinking about our parallels and… dogs don’t sit in therapy, so how do you train a dog to be less insecure and anxious? A lot of the same practices or concepts that are used to train dogs can be applied to humans. Like prioritizing rewards over punishments because rewards are more effective.

So I used Gemini, since I’m trialing it and comparing to ChatGPT, and asked how you train a dog to be less insecure and anxious, and it came back with a lot of really great feedback and ideas.

Initially, I texted Justin about 20 times with the different ideas, sharing what we can do and how I got to this point. Then I re-read it through the rose-tinted lens of my own romantic relationships to consider how the same practices could help me to live a happier life.

So here are my takeaways:

Unrelated to Cindy, but adding to preface the rest:

  • a LARGE part of success in relationships (of all kinds) is effective communication
    • establishing boundaries
    • establishing needs
    • establishing expectations
    • providing context / background for understanding
  • While I don’t introduce myself to dates like “Hi, I’m Kassie and I have an anxious attachment style”; I am a very open / honest / transparent / forthcoming person, so I do establish it relatively early on when dating someone — usually after I’ve realized this person is pretty cool and I’m catching feelings. I believe it’s valuable because it’s directly related to our needs and conveys a lot very efficiently. And by the point that I let someone know this, they’ve demonstrated enough of an interest in me that I know they are invested / intrigued and at least open to considering my needs.
  • All of these are things that can be communicated as needs or desires (depending on how crucial) OR they are things that someone can elect to try to do as the partner of someone with an insecure attachment style. These are not things that you can try to force upon your partner. No one can ever demand that someone else does something for them. They can only establish that it is what they need. At that point, if their partner cannot meet their needs; it is up to them to accept that and find someone who is more compatible and able to meet their needs. The only thing we can control is ourselves.

Related to Cindy:

  • Someone with an anxious and insecure attachment style benefits from consistency. Backtesting this checks out. I get insecure and require reassurance when I notice shifts, because they trigger concern over what caused the shift. There’s also power in knowing when I can expect things because then I can ‘write off’ the time when I shouldn’t expect anything. A lot of the issues with an anxious attachment revolve around ‘things that raise the person’s concerns about a lack of interest from their partner’.
    • Good Morning & Good Night Texts
      Personally, I really love good morning and good night text messages. I feel like many women (and men) do… why wouldn’t you? And from my discussions with others this seems to be true. They go a long way, for me especially. There’s something very powerful even in knowing that someone is thinking of you twice a day and makes a point to check in.
    • Regular Date Nights
      I haven’t had much of an issue with inconsistent meetups in the past. Normally, it’s, overall, more about remaining in touch in general. A lot of the concerns with anxious attachment revolve around the implications and alternative meanings we give to things. A lack of dates could raise concern over a lack of enthusiasm to see the person. For me, I’m usually at ease with extended separation so long as I still feel connected.
  • Rewarding / reassuring time is 10x more powerful than passive interaction. Giving someone twice the effort / focus, benefits them tenfold. Being with them in a way that is more in-tune with what they need, dramatically reduces how long / often they need you for. Adding praise / physical touch / treats / sentiment to an otherwise typical interaction makes it so much more fulfilling and pays off more. Kind of like a power nap or using yoga nidra to improve how rested you are. I also recently watched this video / keynote that spoke about how usually people only really need 8 minutes of someone being there for them in the way they need it for them to feel better.
    • I explain the concept, describe what helps me most (mostly praise and pet names), and establish that if I ever ask for 8 minutes (“Do you have 8 minutes?”), then it means I need some reassurance / quality interaction.
  • Better expectation setting.
  • Don’t scold or shame as it will reinforce the concerns that the individual has. This is a tricky thing to navigate.
    • A part of the vicious cycle of severe insecurity/relationship-anxiety is that, at its worst, it pushes the person’s partner away and that reinforces the insecurities/anxiety the person has. It has proven to them, through that result, that they have a valid reason to be concerned about losing their partner’s interest. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their insecurity can breed more insecurity (even about the trait of insecurity itself).
    • If you are the partner of someone anxious/insecure, try your best to use positive reinforcement and praise when your partner demonstrates confidence and security and avoid, if you can, demonstrating exasperation or anxiety or distaste when they are anxious. They don’t want to be like that, but some unfortunate part of their life has made them that way.
    • If you intend to break up with someone who is anxious, from my experience here are the elements that help most, that are often missing:
      • Establish the needs / boundaries that can’t be met which are leading you to break up.
      • Remind them of their value without giving false hope. Ending on a positive note reminds them that it isn’t about them as a person or their actions as a failure, but about compatibility (even if it’s compatibility at that time in your lives).
      • Clarify what level of post-breakup contact you are comfortable with BUT allow them space to grieve the loss of being able to see things through.

I will argue that the one thing that I think works differently (between Cindy and I) is gradual increases in separation (responsivity or time together), because as a human who reads a bit more into things, I could see that as a loss of interest, depending. This one is highly dependant though. I have been in relationships where I become secure and no longer need the same level of contact, and I’ve been in relationships where contact started to reduce before I felt secure. (I still have yet to identify what cultivates that feeling of security… That will be a very rewarding epiphany, if reached. For a while, I thought it was a vague time frame around 2 – 3 weeks, but there has to be more to it. I’ll definitely write about it once I know.)

And this is not to say that these are the only things you should do to work through your own insecurity / support an insecure parter. This is just one bit of experience that led to some possibilities and tactics you can use. Especially useful if you are dating someone and want to consider how to navigate it better. Though you could consider how to apply the ideas to other relationship types too.

Anyways, I hope you found something helpful in there.

With love,

Kassie

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