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We are all born with an inherent need for attachment. We want to feel secure and need to have trust that we are taken care of when needed. As babies we show behavior that stimulates closeness, protection and care. And we usually get all this. But sometimes, along the way, things take a wrong turn. As it did with me.

A subconscious process

I don’t feel secure about who I am and I do not have a lot of confidence about myself or trust in the world. This experiences and feelings that come with those, have created a certain behavior. Behavior that maybe is no longer useful or needed. But has become this automatic, largely subconscious, process.


Our behavior is subconscious for about 80 percent. Like riding a bicycle. We do not have to think about it anymore. We just ride it.  There are a lot of other behaviors that are subconscious. And that’s mostly a good thing, otherwise we could not function. But there are also negative subconscious behaviors that hold you back or make you unhappy. For me, the thing that went wrong in the attachment process and the behavior it caused, is buried in this 80 percent.

But how do I get to this subconscious behavior? And, more important, how do I change it or get rid of it?


For me it is really helpful to understand things. Understanding is no automatic cure, but it’s a start. A start to try to change something and get help.

I faced a lot of rejection in my life. Rejection that concerned my hypersensitivity and my emotions. I felt misunderstood by my family and probably was. The home environment that I needed to feel safe, was not safe for me. Later on I got bullied at school. Another rejection and another place that was not safe. At home I hid in my room and for the outside world I tried to play a part. A part that was me, but only part of me, only positive things. I did everything I could not to be a burden and to excel positively. Beneath this mask I fought an internal war against negative emotions, stress, depression and self-hatred. Sometimes those feelings surfaced. At home I got angry or really sad. Desperate really. I fought against myself or anybody near me.

The outside world could sometimes see me explode too, but I usually tried to flee or avoid it. I stayed away, did not show up and was not reachable. When I was done with rage, pain and fighting, the emptiness followed. Silence. I was exhausted and needed rest. And then, history would repeat.

Changing behavior

When you want to change subconscious behavior, you’ll have to consciously work on it. To be able to do that, you should be aware that there are 4 elements of behavior: a stimulus or trigger, a thought, behavior and the result. Let me explain this with an example.

For me a good, but also complicated example, is love. Feeling and wanting love is a trigger for me. As well my own feelings as those of another person. The thought is that I want to keep that love. I do not want to lose it. I believe that I can only be loved and keep it if I am not a burden and a very lovable and admirable person. My behavior as a result is trying to stay lovable. Result is that I suppress negative emotions that I feel about things. Because that is not wanted.

A downward spiral

This is the start of a downward spiral, because of suppressing feelings I will get angry or over emotional about things that are not the problem. I cannot hide these emotions and for another person they will be out of the blue and or not fitting the situation. Because I cannot hide, I get more scared of losing love and being rejected. Emotions and avoidance get worse, I cannot be myself anymore and stress and exhaustion take over. Until I can’t take no more and everything in my life comes to a hold, to rest.

Looking for patterns

These patterns are too complicated and too big to easily change. But I can see and understand the trigger, the thought, behavior and the result. And when you can do that, you can start small. For example by noticing your behavior. When I see myself getting extremely angry with myself or ‘overreacting’ to something, I can give myself the chance to notice it. And to stop and think where this might come from. When I can recognize that I have fallen prey to a subconscious process again, I can, as a next step, try to change something about it. Like forgiving myself and try to stop the anger. Goal is of course to work your way to the trigger and change that, and so, change the result. But that’s a big one and takes time.

It’s a long road

To change behavior you need to have patience. And help or support from others. These processes are so tough. Sometimes you really need somebody else’s perspective or analysis. They can help you see that you are showing behavior that is no longer helping you. I still see a psychiatrist and that is good for me. He gives me a secure place and sees me as I am. I do not feel judged. And I feel patience.
This is not something I will grow out of. This is hard work. And sometimes I don’t know if I want to go on. I’m so tired at times. And that’s how it is. Two steps forward, one back. But I also know that I feel a lot of good things too and have wonderful memories. That I have come far already.

I want to create more inner peace. More acceptance about who I am and being who I am (safety). And trust that I can reach that goal. I want myself to have that, I whisper.

Share this post! If this post was insightful for you, share it with your loved ones so that they can better understand what you are going through.
Deel dit artikel! Als dit artikel voor jou inzichtelijk was, deel het dan met je omgeving - laten we het samen hebben over mentale gezondheid.


NiceDay Writer. Organizational and work psychologist. I love nature, traveling and photography. I like to move and exercise, especially tennis, pilates / yoga and walking. With my story I am committed to more openness about mental health and I want to reduce stigmas around these topics. You can find me on Instagram: I am one Movement and backpackingbouwke and on Twitter: @iambouwke

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