What is attachment style, and how does it show up in your relationships? Jessica Baum, LMHC talks about how to work through our attachment wounds to create better intimate relationships.
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This is Joy & Claire Episode 129: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationships
Episode Date: June 2, 2022
Transcription Completed: July 31, 2022
Audio Length: 54:21 minutes
Joy: Hey guys. This is Joy and Claire. Welcome to another episode of This is Joy and Claire. This week, Claire is out. Her kiddos are sick. Claire is sick. But we wanted to provide a very special guest this week. Wrapping up Mental Health Month – actually, this episode is going to go out on June 2. But it’s okay. It’s right on the tail end of Mental Health Month. Very excited to welcome Jessica Baum to the show. Hi, Jessica.
Jessica: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Joy: Thank you so much for being here. I was very excited when you were pitched to us as a guest because my life is mental health. Has been for 20 years. And it’s rare, for whatever reason – I think it’s just a very isolated world as a therapist. You don’t just go on podcasts all the time. It’s a tricky thing to do to talk about mental health without it getting into client privilege. I’m so excited to talk to you. You have a book coming out. You have a business. You have a coaching business. Give the listeners a quick rundown of who you are and what you do.
Jessica: Okay. So I’m Jessica Baum. I’m a psychotherapist. I do have a coaching business with a team of therapists. We really specialize in trauma and relationships and helping people work through either their interpersonal problems in their relationships or how their childhood trauma or how their core wounds are showing up repeatedly in their relationship and getting really conscious with their partner or single. On repairing that and healing that so that they don’t have to keep repeating the same patterns in their life.
Joy: So what kind of prompted you to do this work? I think I heard you on another episode of a podcast talking about how you wrote the book that you kind of wish you had.
Jessica: What pulled me into psychotherapy was my own journey with depression and anxiety. But what prompted me to write the book. I thought I was a codependent. I was reading every single book in my 20’s on codependency and nothing was really explaining what was happening in my body. The sensations in my body, the nervous system. It wasn’t until I really understood attachment theory and the nervous system and how relationships activate everything for your core wounds to surface and made sense of my experiences and a lot of my behaviors. And then I was seeing it in my practice in couple’s counseling. I was seeing it in unconscious bonds being made, and I was helping people unpack these. I was just like, I’ve got to get some of this out into the world so that people understand what’s really going on inside of them and what’s happening inside their relationships.
Joy: You made me think about when I was in my 20’s how you’re trying so hard to “figure out what’s wrong with you” when there is so much more to that than just one thing that’s wrong with you. Can you explain – and I shouldn’t say “wrong.” But the things that we’re trying to work through. Can you explain a little bit to the listeners about attachment theory and what that means?
Jessica: Sure. So attachment theory is at the root of a lot of things. When you’re a baby and you are with your primary care givers, the way in which your mother relates to you – but it’s called coregulation. You’re one energetic unit with your mother, and you’re kind of in a dance. She’s attending to your needs and attuning to you. If you have a mom who is good enough and attunes to you and is there, you can develop a more secure base within. That means when your mom isn’t there one day, you feel secure. But if you have a mom who has a lot of stress in her life or doesn’t have the emotional IQ or is going through something, she’s not as available to you and doesn’t attune to you, your nervous system is primed to think that maybe you won’t get your needs met. That’s definitely where an anxious person goes. Or they’ll be inconsistent with you. You might get your needs met, and then you feel like the ball is going to drop inside your system all the time. Or an avoidant person is someone who didn’t get their needs met at all and just sort of gives up on relationships and doesn’t place a lot of value on them and has a hard time being vulnerable and coregulating. So an anxious person can struggle with self-regulating because they didn’t get a lot of co-regulation. And an avoidant person learns only to self-regulate because they didn’t get a lot of co-regulation. So the goal is to really understand where you fall and work within your individual needs and work with them and understand them so that you can build some more security with them. And that’s a process.
Joy: When people are learning about themselves to say, “I think this might be a fit for me,” is it always that they have to go to therapy to talk through this? Or what do you suggest people do to connect with what they are personally going through?
Jessica: I think that if you’re having an idea that you have some co-dependency or you have abandonment wound, you don’t have to go to therapy, but you need to build secure relationships. So that when these things come up, you have safe people to go to that can help hold them. It’s not always about fixing. Sometimes it’s just knowing that people are there for you when you’re in a more anxious state and having that support system there. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a therapist, although a therapist might help connect it to deeper things in your life and therefore integrate more of your experience and build what we call neuroplasticity and expand your window of tolerance. So therapist, a coach, someone who is nonjudgmental, warm, consistent, and reliable. You want a few of those people in your life, and your nervous system will start to recognize, okay, I have some safe people to depend on. So when I get anxious, the first thing I can do is start to depend on dependable people.
Joy: Yeah. Like, “It’s going to be okay.” I always talk to clients about soothing. Of how you just need to be soothed. I’m assuming that kind of ties into when you’re a baby or the attachment of being soothed or not soothed and how that shows up for you is people who will self-sooth or they’ll turn to alcohol or drugs or whatever kind of addiction because they are trying to self-sooth. Talk a little bit about how you see that tying into the work.
Jessica: Yeah, sure. So when you’re born, you’re not born with a parasympathetic nervous system. So you have a sympathetic nervous system intact, but your parasympathetic is not fully developed. That’s the part of your system that kind of calms you down. Your mother or primary care giver is the stand in for your self-soother. So she is not able to self-sooth you. You don’t build the circuitry for self-soothing. You can’t self-regulate. That’s essentially one of the major hallmarks of someone who struggles with anxious attachment. Because your mom wasn’t able to attune and sooth you, you didn’t build that narrow wiring inside. So you can’t just go out and self-sooth. You actually need health co-regulation to create self-regulation. That happens first. So if that’s you and you struggle, by being co-regulated or being really held and attuned by a therapist or someone who really knows how to be with you, when that happens enough, that’s when you actually build the neuroplasticity to start to self-sooth.
Joy: So when you say “co-regulating,” you’re meaning that there is another person with you to help guide you through those emotions. When you’re a baby, it’s rocking, maybe patting on the back. It’s rubbing the arm. Whatever it is that’s that very calming presence. Is that what that is?
Jessica: Yeah. I love those examples. Those are really great. But it also really comes down to the nervous system. So when you have someone whose nervous system – we call it in ventral state. It’s an open state. You can’t fake this state, right? If someone is in a safe state and is present with you, they’ll have a calmer voice. They’ll be more attentive. They will be more soothing because they’re soothed. Your system recognizes that, and their system can help your system down-regulate. Their system is helping you regulate your own system.
Joy: Yeah, kind of a mirroring of sorts.
Jessica: Yeah. Or joining.
Joy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s so fascinating. I have a million questions, but I’m trying to stay on track with my questions. So first question. I kind of guess what the audience is going to ask. Is this the only way to get that soothing, that regulating, that co-regulating, is it from a mother? Can it be from any caregiver?
Jessica: Anybody, yeah. Anybody who is genuinely, authentically there for you and can provide that safety in their system.
Joy: That stability, that safety. Okay. And then what would you say some examples of how it starts to show up as people get older? Does it show up as a child? Does it show up as a teenager? Does it show up as an adult? When would people start to recognize this might be lacking in their life?
Jessica: When they can’t regulate. Maybe they are reaching out for substance, when they are overdependent on their romantic partner to self-regulate. Or when they have a hard time calming themselves down. If they feel perpetually anxious or that the shoe is going to drop. Low self-esteem is a common indicator that the sense of self isn’t really very secure. So it could show up at any point in your life. A lot of children you can notice it earlier on. But it definitely shows up in your romantic relationships because the way in which you adapted or these strategies that happened when you were little get replayed in your adult life unconsciously because they are nervous system responses. So when you are in a romantic relationship, you tend to track the other person you attend to. Sometimes be a pleaser. You can abandon yourself. There is a lot of what I call selfless behaviors in order to stay in connection. Because we’re all wired to be in connection. It’s our biological imperative to stay in connection. However you adapted when you were small are going to be the same strategies that you use as an adult. The behaviors might be different, but the strategies get laid down really early.
Joy: It’s so interesting. You hear about people who are like, “I’m never going to be like my parents” or “I’m not going to do this,” “I’m not going to do that.” And I’m not saying this as all across the board it’s bad. But sometimes we do look at our caregivers and we’re like, “I’m not going to repeat this behavior.” “I’m not going to repeat this angry behavior,” whatever. And you kind of end up doing it. Is it a similar thing where you have that template, that inner workings, that connection that you can’t just automatically think your way out of it. You have to work through it a little more intensely, maybe through therapy?
Jessica: I like that question a lot. I talk about this in the book. We internalize our parents, whether we like it or not. We take them kn. Their essence becomes part of us. If it’s a secure parent, it’s a safe voice, it’s a safe feeling. If it’s an anxious parent or an absent parent, you bring that in. And that’s when you’re coregulating or you’re picking people to heal with now, you start internalizing them. You start to replace – I call it your “inner community,” but you start to internalize healthier people. So you can think, okay, maybe I don’t have the words for myself right now, but what would so-and-so say to me right now? How would it feel to be next to them. And you kind of rebuild what you didn’t get. You just build that inner security with the right people now. Think of it, you have to go back, and you have to reexperience things early on a healthier way now so you can reshape your brain essentially.
Joy: That makes a lot of sense. I think a lot about – this is going sound so silly, but it’s the only example that comes to mind – when you watch it in real time. I love reality shows. I love reality shows. I’ll watch some of these, I don’t know, Love is Blind or Married at First Sight – where if you haven’t watched it, listeners, basically they are paired up and it’s almost like you can see as a therapist, I’m watching this from a behavioral lens. Oh my gosh, I can see the attachment stuff come out right ton screen. Where at first, it’s that honeymoon phase. Everything is blissful and happy. Everyone is like, “Oh my gosh, it’s the best person in the world.” The second they start connecting on a more intimate level and the emotions go deeper, all this stuff comes out. They start arguing. “Real life” sets in. Would you say that’s kind of an example – a silly one, of course. But an example of how attachment styles will happen. Once you start mixing it up with a partner, it’s not always going to be hearts and towers. Claire and I talk about this a lot. We try to be very real about our own partnerships because we never want people to fall into the fairytale Instagram land where everything is like, “Oh my gosh, look at my best friend that I live with. We have the most blissful relationship.” That’s not how it is. One of my previous therapists said to me, which I love, is no one shows up naked to the party. We’ve all got something. We all carry something to the party. We’ve all got our crap that we have to show up to. Would you say that that is kind of an example of how people would see it maybe start to show up more intensely? I think romantic partnerships tend to present it a little more strongly, like in your face.
Jessica: No, I think you’re dead on. I think when you really study the neuroscience and the evolution of relationships, what we’re presented, what it should look like is a set up. People don’t understand that when you start in a relationship, you start as your best self. Your best self shows up. And then as you get closer to intimacy, either the fear of intimacy or the fear of abandonment can show up, and then the strategies around that show up. That’s common with the anxious avoidant dance that people may be or maybe not be familiar. One person is scared of being intimate, and the other person is scared of being abandoned. So people run closer, while the other one distances themselves, and there will be all these strategies. You don’t really know what the dance is until the fear and the core wounds start getting touched. And then you can start to see, here’s where the work is. If you can do the work and you get vulnerable and conscious about what’s really going on, there is a beautiful path to healing your own stuff and evolving as a couple. But it’s hard. It’s not easy.
Joy: It’s so hard.
Jessica: Sometimes you need help around that.
Joy: It’s so hard. I’ve talked about this for the past forever years that we’ve been doing this, how it took me a good five years to settle into being married. Meaning I was all over the place. I was probably anxiously attached. But talk about your book. I’m noticing the title, Anxiously Attached. What is that? What does that look like a little bit more? What is the book about? Can you walk us through a little bit of that piece?
Jessica: Yeah. The book is about healing anxious attachment. I go through what that really is, how you’ve adapted. I also talk a lot about avoidant attachment because it’s the other side of the same coin. I find that anxious people always want to understand that. I think if you’re anxious, you’re going to pick up on any avoidant protector. So I kind of walk the reader through really understanding how they adapted, locating their core wounds. Then I have some somatic practices. So for those that are listening, it’s kind of like going into your body, starting to release some of those sensations, starting to be more in bodied. Then the third part of the book is about how to apply that to your current or future relationships. It’s a three-park book. First, you’re kind of identifying and learning about yourself. Then you’re doing the inner work. Then you’re taking some of that and you’re learning, how do I love differently from this new perspective in the third part of the book? I’m really excited because I’m an imago therapist. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.
Joy: I am. Talk a little bit about that for people who aren’t familiar.
Jessica: So “imago” means image. I kind of talk about this in chapter two, but we can be attracted to partners who have positive and negative qualities of our primary caregiver. This happens on an unconscious level. Sometimes the people we are attracted to have the same level of wounding as us. So we don’t even know it. We could go in a room, and maybe you grew up in an alcoholic family. There is a thousand suitors, and you pick a suitor that is definitely an alcoholic. There is a [UNSURE 00:16:27.22] telly, there is an unknowing, there is an image that we’re drawn to certain people for certain reasons. Sometimes it’s because it feels familiar. It doesn’t always have to be trauma, but there is a familiarity. So we’re going to gravitate towards people, and then we’re going to come together, and then our work is going to show up. The person who maybe was wonderful is going to now present some of our biggest fears and concerns. The question is then, can both people get more conscious about what’s going on inside. It’s kind of annoying that this information is not out there to the general public. I think so many people leave relationships without really giving it a chance or riding it out or getting the right support or truly understanding what’s going on for them. There’s a lot of fear, and it’s in our culture to go back online and date, or just try again. Your patterns stay with you.
Joy: I was just going to say that. You just repeat the same patterns over and over.
Jessica: There are perhaps safer relationships in terms of more forgiving relationships, but you’re still going to repeat them. So the hope is that you can get conscious with whomever you are, even right now before you move on to the next. Or maybe you evolve in this relationship and use it as a catalyst as your own growth, and your partner decides to grow too with you.
Joy: How important is it that the partners are on the same page? Because sometimes one partner is doing more work than the other. That can also be very confusing for people. “I’m doing my growth, and this person isn’t doing their growth.”
Jessica: It’s a tricky question. Because someone who is anxious will line up for work all day long, and sometimes that is anxiety-driven. So sometimes someone who is anxious is being with the uncertainty and being with the abandonment and letting things settle, and that’s actually where the work is. Being held in that –
Joy: I relate with that so much.
Jessica: I do too. I totally do. It’s frustrating trying to get someone who is more avoidant to go to therapy. I can say a lot about that. The hope is that there is enough space for that person to get vulnerable too. Both things are happening. Every dynamic is different. But if you do your own work, there is a system there. It’s going to shift. So the only thing you have control over is yourself and doing your own work in hopes you change the system. That’s a really important thing for an anxious person because we want to control the other person, and we think if they fix it then we’ll be okay. And the truth is, it would be nice if they were on board doing the work with us the way we want it done. But sometimes our work is to let go and realize that might not be the work for them. Or maybe they will do the work when we finally let go and deal with some of the abandonment and the energy shifts.
Joy: Yes. That’s another important piece too. I hear a lot of people asking questions to us. “How do I get my partner to do this?” “How do I get my partner to do that?” Lose weight, go to therapy, what have you. And I always say, “You can’t.” You can’t get anybody to do anything. What you can do is do the best work on yourself. I think that does give you a different lens when you’re even talking to your partner or your friends or whomever.
Jessica: It’s definitely empowering.
Joy: Yes, it’s empowering. I was recently talking to a client about this. She had a really big breakthrough last week. She’s like, “I can completely see how I’m talking to my partner differently this week just from that one thing.” And that may shift enough to where you can land on a plateau for a while and just hang out there and work on some things on your own and not just completely jump ship. So it doesn’t always have to be your partner is in the same exact place all the time.
Jessica: Yeah. An anxious attachment, another name for it is ambivalent. What that really means is, I am not comfortable in the unknown. So I have to either be running towards or running away if things get uncomfortable. I think it’s really hard for us to sit in uncertainty and to not know and to not be all in or all out. But kind of be in that space of being with ourselves and the unknown and letting the relationship unfold and not always knowing the exact outcome of everything. There’s a lot of support that’s needed in that space.
Joy: What do you tell clients when people are just afraid to get into a relationship because they want the guarantee that it’s going to work out? People who are even just afraid of starting a relationship. That beginning anxiety of, “I want it to work out so bad.”
Jessica: I hear you. You’re not alone in that. It’s scary to be vulnerable. There’s no certainty. But I hear that this person has been hurt deeply before, so I hope they are supported around that. I hope that if you’re anxious, you go slow when it comes to intimacy. I think the slower you go with support and the better it is. You should be vulnerable at a slow pace so that it’s happening on both sides, and you can just pace yourself a little. If it’s going too fast or you need to pull back or you need to have a supportive friend be a mirror for you. So just go slow. Simplify it. You’re not walking down the aisle if it’s your first date. You’re just meeting another soul. You’re finding if you even like them. I find that anxious people are trying sometimes to make it so the other person likes them. They forget to realize that they get to pick this person too. It shifts the energy when you start to think, “I’m interviewing this person too, and I can take my time with this interview.”
Joy: That is such a good point. I talk to people a lot too who are really shape shifting to be someone to make the other person like them. Whether they are aware of it or not, that’s really dangerous because you’re completely ignoring your own sense of self to get someone to like you, to validate you, whatever that may be. I’m glad you brought that up because a lot of people do that, and I don’t think they realize it.
Jessica: Yeah, and it’s actually a brilliant strategy that they probably used when they were young. The problem is, they never really are sensing into – I had a client once who was doing that a lot. I was talking about this guy that she was dating. I said to her, “If he showed up in my office door right now with a thousand roses and said he wanted to be with you, how would you feel?” She was like, “I don’t even know if I would pick him. You’re so busy about if he would pick you and the fear of rejection is so [UNSURE 00:22:59.25] basey in you that you haven’t even taken the energy yet to see if you would actually pick him. You really have to flip this around and say, would I pick this person or is the fear of rejection or the need to be chosen driving my behavior?
Joy: Oh my gosh, the fear of rejection or the need to be chosen. I feel like everyone listening hit the brakes when they were driving, like, “Oh my gosh, that’s me.” A lot of people can relate to that because we live in a culture, we want to be chosen. Would you agree, or how do you feel about, kind of how you go throughout life and whether or not you have a tolerance for rejection plays a big role in your life?
Jessica: Well, I mean, I think we go throughout our life unconsciously avoiding certain feelings. So people pleasers, feeling scared of rejection. There are feelings that come up when we feel like we are letting people down or when we are getting rejected that are awful. I think the more you can be with that and the origins of that and understand that and unpack that and build your self-esteem up around that and make sense of that, the less you care. You always hear about it. When people get into their 30’s and then their 40’s and their 50’s, they just start to not give a… you know?
Jessica: I think you get to a point where you just become more and more yourself and less and less concerned about what other people think. The more you can be your authentic self, the more you realize that the people who are meant for you find you and you will be with them. And the people who don’t jive with you, you won’t care so much. Just let them go. Let them go.
Joy: And it takes a lot of pausing and kind of unplugging sometimes to really evaluate those relationships and take space. I always advise people to take space. Because if you’re in it, you really can’t see what’s happening and I think it’s really important too.
Jessica: Yeah. I think there’s also a lot of projection that can go around. And remember, projection we don’t do consciously. So someone can hurt us and then we can think differently about them. But it’s really, what is the hurt that’s coming up inside of us? So kind of looking at your relationships of, what are they bringing up inside of you? What are they awakening inside of me for me to start getting curious? Because that’s where the catalyst of healing happens.
Joy: As you can tell, I’m a very emotional person. I’m having all these very visceral reactions. So talk about the wounds. Talk a little bit about wounds. And maybe that goes into the nervous system, because I do want to talk some about that, how that impacts our relationships.
Jessica: Yeah. That was an important part for me too. I talk a lot about implicit memories verses explicit. For those of you listening, we have memories that we think of as a movie, and then we have memories that are sensation. Because we are not formed with a fully developed hippocampus, so we store a lot of sensations in our body. The way in which we start to come out in the world and the way we interact, we start to get a felt sense of us. So if there is a lot going on, we can start to feel like something is wrong with us. A baby will turn inward. And then as you are developing, if your parents aren’t letting your sad part show up or your angry parts or if they’re not curious and they’re not seeing all of you, you start to develop these core wounds around, “I’m not enough” or “I’m unlovable” or “I will always be left.” And they are really sensations. They’re in your body actually. They’re not even in your head. Your head is just bringing this narrative up. They are usually a felt sense in your body. People don’t realize that they are felt in your heart brain and your belly brain. Those are very powerful places where a lot of these sensations are sending information up to your brain, and your brain is making up a story in your head. So you can have a core wound of, “I’m always going to be left,” or “My expectation is the connection is going to be broken.” And that can be so entrenched in your story and in your narrative and in your body that you almost recreate it, or you look for a sign of it and then you follow that monkey trail down because you’re so scared of it. I think of a core wound more as a felt sensation that you attach to story too. And you did that to survive. You did that as a way to make sense of your world early on. It’s just unfortunately it drives a lot of your behaviors in the here and now. It’s good to get conscious of those implicit or subconscious core wounds.
Joy: What are your thoughts around the mind-body connection and how you internalize it – I’m trained in EMDR as well. I think you’re an EMDR therapist. So how we internalize those wounds and that trauma and how it shows up, whether we are aware of it or not. The mind-body connection. Talk about that in your practice.
Jessica: 80% of the information is being sent from your body up to your brain. So something is going on and you sense danger, your body is responding before your brain is. 20% is sent back down. We’re moving in a direction where we know that you can’t think your way out of things. You have to actually tune into different centers of your body in a more somatic way. So tuning in to your heart center and tuning into your gut. Being with your body. And your body sensation is actually where the wisdom is. The language of the trauma is sensation. If you think about it, all the really hard moments of your life, there might have been thoughts attached, but the sensation is really what’s powerful. Those are the stored things that are stored in your body. They are happening in the here and now, and your brain is making sense of them or trying to make sense of them in the here and now. But usually they are thematic, and usually they are tied to a core wound or that kind of thing. When I work with clients, I don’t just work with what they are thinking about. I work on connecting that into their body. I don’t use EMDR as much anymore, but more just somatic practices. I’m more about being with the sensation versus the narrative.
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Jessica: That’s like the perfect example because that happens to us so many times and we don’t even realize it. It comes up here and there. Your body is basically saying that was scary before. That could be scary again. So I am going to warn you so we can prevent yourself from experiencing it. And that’s exactly what happens in relationships. This person is looking at their phone or they didn’t text me back. They must not care. I’m warning you. I’m already trying to protect you from abandonment. And the sensation can be really big, and that might not even be what’s going on. But you’re primed to fear that. You’re trying to protect yourself, actually. All of these are protectors. You’re trying to protect yourself from abandonment. Ironically, the protectors lead to more abandonment.
Joy: [sigh] Talk about that. Can you talk a little more about that?
Jessica: So with anxious people, they want to be close, and they want to be in connection. Which there is absolutely nothing wrong with being in connection. But if they feel left, they can get angry, which is normal. They can text excessively. They’ll think about their partners a lot. They’ll vent a lot, which is actually an obsessive quality to keep that energy close. They’ll do a lot of things to stay in connection, whether they are positive or negative, because they are scared to death of the abandonment wound. All of this happens on an unconscious level too, and there is no shame or judgement. So many people, myself included, do this all the time. I think once you start to realize I’m avoiding my biggest fear. Can I bring my biggest fear and some of my pain to someone to help me sort through it so I’m not having all these strategies to avoid it and I can be a little bit free of some of these behaviors. Or if I’m doing some of these behaviors, I can be more conscious and compassionate with myself that I’m doing these behaviors.
Joy: Right. And it’s more than a knowing. Because Lord almighty, we could read a million self-help books. But it’s the feeling yourself through it that sucks. It’s the hardest part.
Jessica: It sucks. People are like, “I want to heal.” I’m like, do you realize that healing is being with the parts of you – it’s hard work. It’s not loving life.
Joy: No, it’s not loving life. I heard someone talking the other day like, “Just choose fear or love.” I get that, that whole premise of everything you do is based out of fear or love. All of these things sound great. They sound great. But the actual work is in the feeling and in the muddiness and in the icky and in the actual going into the war of your emotions and being like, I’ve got to this with this. I’ve got to sit with the unknowing. I’ve got to face the fear of this person I’m dating never texting me back, and I just have to be okay with that. Are you kidding me? That is hard work. And I have to feel that. I want listeners to really think about that. You can listen to self-help podcasts all day. You can listen to this discussion and internalize it in your brain, but actually internalizing it in your heart is a completely different thing. And we acknowledge that. We witness this in people’s journeys every single day when they are doing the work.
Jessica: I love that. You’re so real. I can feel you, and I can tell that you’ve done the work. I’ve done the work. We’re always in the work. It is hard work. We hear you, if you’re listening. This isn’t easy stuff. It’s not like some people have it more figured out than others. If you’re doing the work, it means that you have the right support around you and you’re in it, and we get it.
Joy: I’m going to speak for you, but I’m pretty sure you would agree. We are not in this perfect enlightened state where we’ve figured it out.
Jessica: No, not at all. It’s actually being in a state where you don’t have much figured out, but you know you have the support there if things get scary.
Joy: Yes. Yes, you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people. You do have that ability to be like, this is horrible. I’m scared out of my mind, but I’m not going to run the other way.
Joy: And I know that the ickiness is part of it. And it’s like as much as I wish that I could take all of that away, it’s just a part of life. And I like to explain it to my clients where I’m like, every emotion is part of the rainbow. We’ve got to appreciate all of it. I see your awesome rainbow bookshelf by the way. She has the best rainbow bookshelf organized. It’s helping my Virgo self sooth. It’s amazing. Every single thing, we can’t always be striving for positivity. What the heck is that? Such an aversion to the toxic positivity stuff too.
Jessica: You are music to my ear. So I wrote the book. And if it was as easy as choosing, we would only be choosing love. But I think you can be ware and start to understand your adaptations. I think in that awareness with the right support, your ability to be with more of yourself expands. In that, it’s healing. But spiritual bypassing makes me cringe. When people make you feel like they have it all figured out and they’re blissful all the time. I’m a little weary of that. Even the “high vibes only,” I’m like, what do we do on our shitty days? Aren’t we allowed somewhere on our low days? Come on. We all go through so much stuff. I think being more honest about that and about relationships, like you said. That gives people permission to be in them more, not to think that there’s something wrong with them.
Joy: And that we shouldn’t always be striving for that blissful state. That’s so unrealistic.
Jessica: No. You need to be where you’re at and have support and allow more of yourself to surface. That is the spiritual process, is to letting things surface if you can and not judging yourself, kind of learning about how you adapted. Developing self-compassion.
Joy: I am very visual. So when I describe things to clients sometimes, I’m like, “Just bear with me. This might be a really weird example.” But I envision it kind of like someone just sitting. The emotion is there in front of them, or the bad feeling or whatever it is. And they are just in a field and its space. And they’re like, “We’re just going to hang out here, okay.” There’s nothing around. Almost like safe place in EMDR. But it’s like even your bad emotion or negative emotion, the fearful thing. You have to sit there with it. It can’t touch you. You’re going to be okay. But you do have to coexist. That’s what I envision when I hear you talk about this work.
Jessica: Absolutely. That is dead on. If you can’t coexist with it alone, that’s when you pull in a resource. I talk about internal resources. So if you can’t be in that big feeling alone, that’s where someone externally can be with you, present with you, to help you. And then eventually you can pull that person in as an internal resource. So if it’s too big and it’s too scary and you know that, go to someone who can hold that with you. And then your capacity to hold it within you will expand.
Joy: Like a therapist or a trusted friend?
Jessica: Yeah. It has to be someone kind, nurturing, who is not trying to fix you.
Jessica: We live in a society where everyone wants to fix. Do this. Do that. Blah blah blah, right. But someone who is actually just going to be with you. It’s in the being, the holding that actually is the releasing and giving you the capacity. You know those friends you call and you vent, and they’re like, “Just dump him.” Or do this or do that. That’s not the type of holding I’m saying. And maybe you can tell your friend, I’m not looking for advice. I just want you to validate that this is hard for me or just listen to me or tell me what you hear. But I don’t want to change anything. I just want to feel heard in this moment.
Joy: I want to bring it into my field. My safety field.
Joy: So we can hang out here together.
Joy: Is it the Rumi quote? There’s a field, I’ll meet you there… what is it? It’s going to drive me nuts. I’ve got to look it up here. Oh, there it is. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” I feel like we need to have that quote just be with our emotions, our wounds, our everything.
Jessica: It’s so deep.
Joy: If Claire was here, she’d make fun of me so much. She’s the opposite of me in the best possible way. She keeps my feet on the ground a little bit where she’ll be like, “Joy, come back down.”
Jessica: You and I could go –
Joy: We’d be off in the clouds. She’d be like, “Hello?” But I also want to say – you touched on this, and then I want to wrap up a little bit more about your book. But you were mentioning the fixing thing. One of my pet peeves that I really hope – we never want to bash people, but we always want to educate listeners about being an educated consumer. So when I see influencers or people out there who are hanging a shingle and saying, “I can help you fix your body issues,” “I can help you fix your whatever issues,” relationship issues, it really rubs me the wrong way. Because most of the time, it’s kind of a “I’ve got the miracle cure.” And I don’t think that’s the right approach. Perhaps it’s not everybody, but when I see that, I get a little skeptical where my Spidey senses come up. This person doesn’t have a quick fix for you. Life is not a quick fix diet, crash courses in how to reach enlightenment. Nothing is a quick fix. The way to go through this is that really hard tunnel of like, “I’m going in.”
Jessica: I agree with you. I remember at one point, I was like, “I’ve got to go on a spiritual retreat,” and I’ve got to do this. And I remember one of my friends like, “Jess, you could be spiritual today right here. Why don’t you start your spiritual practice tomorrow morning?” Yeah, oh my God, you’re right. I don’t need to go to Tulum to be spiritual. This is years ago. But yeah, you can start right where you are. And right where you are is where all the work is. There’s no final destination but being where you are and allowing that support to come in. That’s the big piece of it that’s in my book for anxious people. Healing doesn’t happen alone. Healing happens in healing relationships. So pulling in the right support. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. And a lot of therapists want to fix. But it has to be someone – I’m spiritual. If you call it in, they will come. But someone who can hold that nonjudgmental space for you and be there for you and help you navigate some of this. Because you don’t have to do any of this alone. It’s not meant to be alone.
Joy: No. And I love what you said, just about how this is not something that is an easy, “do this and you get that.” You can start now. You don’t need that really expensive retreat. I was that person too. I read so many books just kind of hoping to feel okay. And the other thing is, you have to be patient. Do you agree? You have to be patient. When I was in my 20’s, even into my 30’s, now I’m 44 – I don’t think I could have gotten the answer. It does need time. We want it right now. We want to be that… I used to have that idea that I was going to reach happiness at 30 or something, whatever crap.
Jessica: Aw, man.
Joy: You never reach that. You’re constantly evolving. I think that’s just a really important reminder.
Jessica: My 20’s were hell, but you think, oh by this age I’ll have it a little more figured out. And then life throws you another curve ball. You’re like, no, it’s an evolution constantly. I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s actually been an amazing evolution. But it’s not easy. There is no fix. You’re right. There is no fix. It’s a being with, staying curious, allowing the right support to come in, and letting it evolve. I think anxious people want to fix and patience is our hardest thing. Especially when it comes to our partners. We’ll be the first one to go in and do and try and blah, blah, blah. We spend so much energy on our side. It’s actually the pulling back and being patient and allowing that another person to show up that is where our work is. I’m not saying that’s where their work is. I’m saying that’s where our work is.
Joy: I remember I read a lot of Abraham Hicks in my 20’s. One of the tools where I was like, I got to be enlightened. I’ve got to get this perfect – that’s when The Secret blew up and everyone thought that that was the answer to life. But I will never forget – and this has stuck with me. I listened to tons of their talks – was you get to be with a partner, and I love the approach of you should never say – and listeners, I’m not saying this is my true belief, but this resonated with me. I just think it’s a cute way to say it. You should never say “to death do us part, forever and ever.” Just “I like you pretty good, let’s see how this goes.” Instead of this forever and ever and ever, let’s go into relationships being like, I like you pretty good, let’s see how this goes. And also that we should never come at something and say, “You change so I can feel better.” That’s another one that has really stuck with me.
Jessica: Yeah. And I think for anxious people, it’s a hard concept because the feeling of loss and abandonment is so big in them. So the fantasy of forever is their ultimate antidote. So it’s a really hard concept to put the fantasy down that this is forever.
Joy: True, very true.
Jessica: Putting the fantasy down, that’s part of the book. But when you let go of that, you can really be with your partner even more, day to day, in the moment, and trust the unfolding of it. It’s a more intimate way to be, but it’s scarier to live in that way and really allowing yourself to not buy into any absolute and just trusting that you and your partner will evolve together or not.
Joy: Or not. I would imagine the anxious attached feels like you’re standing atop a cliff looking down and butterflies constantly. That’s probably how it feels when you’re going into those emotions of, “I’m really, really scared. This is very scary. I don’t want to fall.”
Jessica: Yeah, I think that’s how they start initially. When you build the internal and external support, your partner actually becomes a part of that. Even when they let you down, if you feel they inherently have your best interests at heart. I think you start to realize that you are more supported than you realize because you’re letting that support in and internalizing it. I think in the beginning, it is really scary. And listen, life can be scary until you learn that in the uncertainty is where the magic happens. That’s easy said, and it’s something that you have to walk in every day, and it’s not so easily done. You’re not alone. It is where the magic happens. It is where the intimacy of life happens. It’s being in the present moment and not knowing always how it is going to unfold.
Joy: Because guess what? We’re all there. We’re all there. Not one of us is exempt from that. We all have to live with the unknowing. I want to say one more thing, and then I promise we’ll wrap up. But when you were talking too about developing and really growing within yourself and how to work through the emotions, I also think about the patience piece when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s or wherever you are in life. If you think back, listeners, to your 20-year-old self. And if you’re in your 30’s or 40’s, this will probably be more applicable. But you think of your 20-year-old self and the experience you had is limited. It truly does take patience that every moment, interaction, friendship, relationship that you have expands your world and expands your ability to put this into practice in a different way. My 20-year-old self was so different, so limited on my views. And I chose to put myself in situations that really expanded. I followed that. I was brave. I did scary things that developed me in ways where I never thought I would, and that gave me that 20/20 vision where I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m so glad I grew in that way. You’re not going to ever using these tools and this growth in the same way. So you’re not going to ever be using these tools and this growth in the same way because you’re truly not the same person. That’s something else to think about is I know it’s hard. I know we want to just have those answers right away. But it does take time. So why not just set that down and live in the present. Okay.
Jessica: Yeah, you are deep.
Joy: I’m sweating.
Jessica: I normally don’t meet that many people that can go as deep as me. But yeah, I think it’s hard to set that down and be in the present. I think, again, if you can do that, the gifts are really there. It’s better than running and running and running. And again, that’s just a fear response.
Joy: Yeah. So final question and then we can wrap up and tell listeners where they can buy your book, where they can find you. How to become yourself, your full self and where can people – people love a starting point. What is something people can do today to start that process or even just explore this process? What would that look like?
Jessica: I have this exercise in my book. It’s called adopting your full self.
Joy: Oh awesome. I love exercises.
Jessica: Yeah, pulling some photos from childhood and looking at the traits of yourself that maybe you don’t like or despise. For me, I was a heavier 13-year-old or whatever. Starting to sit with those photos and starting to adopt and accept the parts of yourself that you don’t like and realize that those parts are there for a reason. It’s in the acceptance. It’s kind of like shadow work of, it’s okay. It’s okay that you were dorky. It’s okay that you were this. It’s okay that you were shy. It’s okay that you are not a good reader. All those parts of you are okay. If you can start to be more okay with what you perceived or learned from society that wasn’t okay. But if you can try to accept those parts in you. I use this example. I have this picture of myself when I was 13. Before I did a lot of my work, I would look at it and I would see so much shame. I was like, oh my God, this chunky 13-year-old. I was the last one to develop in my class, and my best friend could have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And I looked at the photo and I wanted to just look away. The more and more work that I did on myself, now I look at her and I just want to hug her. I love her so much. She’s allowed to be there. She’s allowed to show up. I don’t have to hide from her or shove her down anywhere. So I think if you can go to those parts and realize where did your life become contingent? Where did you have to shove yourself down? Where did you learn this wasn’t an okay part to have or an okay feeling to have? Start to embrace it and explore it. Eventually you’ll want to run and hug it, rather than shy away from. And that takes work.
Joy: Yeah. I’m just envisioning, oh man, I bet a lot of people are tearing up over that. Giving your younger self that love or examining the pain that you went through because I think that’s really, really hard. It’s hard. Okay. Well this was beyond lovely for me to have this conversation with you. We can start our own podcast. I love the work that you’re doing, not only as a therapist but just as a human in the world wanting to help people. I think that’s amazing what you’re doing. Tell our listeners where they can find your book. And if they want to follow you on social media or your website.
Jessica: I think we gave you a link for pre-order. There’s some free stuff that you might want to throw in there. But you can find my book on Amazon. Anxiously Attached: Becoming More Secure in Life and Love. Beselffull.com is my website. There’s a pre-order page, so if you put your information there, you get some meditations and a free course on dating. And then my Instagram is @jessicabaumlmhc. That’s licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). You can find me on there. Sign up for my newsletter and stay connected. I usually send a letter out once or twice a month with some valuable information on relationships.
Joy: We will link all of that in our podcast notes as well. I can’t wait for this episode to come out because I know everyone is going to be messaging us. We’ll make sure all of your links are on there. Now, you’re licensed in the state of Florida, but you also do a coaching business. Is there anything people need to know if they want to work with you specifically?
Jessica: I’m not really taking new clients at this moment. But I have five therapists on my team. We work as a team, as a system, so I’m involved in every case and sometimes I’ll take a new client on. But I work with every client that we take. But my caseload has been pretty full for a while. So I might be taking clients on over the summer. But if you do want to work with me, everyone on my team is trained in attachment theory and does similar work and is trained in imago. We work as a team, so you can come to me, and I’ll be part of that. Or maybe get me if my caseload goes down a little bit.
Joy: If they’re lucky. Okay. I understand that too, and you have to set boundaries for yourself because that’s important for therapists. So listeners, thanks again for tuning in this week to This is Joy and Claire. You can find us at thisisjoyandclaire.com. We are on social media, Instagram @joyandclaire_. Check out our new website because we just did a rebrand, and it’s really, really cute. Thank you guys again. We’ll talk to you next week.