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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

Dealing with someone with Coercive/Anxious Attachment

To begin I want to explain that Coercive Attachment is the name given to Anxious Attachment in the Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment and it is used to describe the 8 attachment strategies used by someone with Coercive Attachment to get their attachment needs met. This can range from disarming behaviour to punishing and protest behaviour, feigned helplessness and even in its extreme form, narcissism.

My work involves working with people who are primarily using Avoidant attachment strategies, simply because that is what I have used myself before developing a more secure and balanced way of being and I have greater understanding of their difficulties, especially if they have a coercive strategist in their life.

Like Coercive, there are 8 Avoidant attachment strategies ranging from false positive affect (acting like there is nothing wrong), inhibiting emotions (hiding your negative feelings from others), being a people pleaser, compulsive caregiver, compulsively compliant and on the extreme end being promiscuous, abusive by being socially withdrawn or unreliable, and struggling with self-concept and a sense of self.

Type A avoidant and Type C coercive often end up in relationship together because Type A parents often produce Type C children and vice versa, which means we are drawn to the strategy that is familiar to us, which is the one our parents used when we were growing up. Type As often struggle to understand and feel safe with Type Cs and Types Cs often worry that Type As will abandon them because they find it hard to read the Type A's emotions.

A type C goes through a cycle of behaviours in an attempt to get their attachment needs met and this involves, comfort seeking, anger, fear and then back to comfort seeking again. What they are trying to do is feel safe and protect themselves from danger but when they get close to a type A and that person withdraws they feel sacred of abandonment and will engage in protest behviours such as criticism or stonewalling, gaslighting or withdrawing themselves to punish the other person. After that they will become apologetic and seek to pull you close again by being disarming and charming.

If you are type A this can be hard to understand, mostly because you don't recognise that you are hiding your emotions or being emotionally unavailable. When you go away to deal with your anger the other person can feel ashamed for displaying their's. Type As are often people pleasers and so they don't always pay attention to what the other person actually needs which can cause them to feel like a child or to lose their independence or feel invisible.

The solution is to learn to display your emotions in a healthy way, to really pay attention to what the other person needs by asking questions, being consistent and open about your plans and motives and having clear boundaries around how your relationship works. What you must request from the other person is trust and that when they display their emotions they express a clear need as to what they want from you, otherwise you will go into people pleaing mode and trigger them all over again.

If you work together to build a strong and healthy relationship then you can both start moving towards an earned Balanced attachment strategy and both of you will start to feel safer in your relationship together. One important thing to remember is, there is a difference between someone who displays narcissistic behaviours and someone who is a narcissist. A big red flag is the ability of the other person to take responsiblity for their behaviour and their willingness to work on the relationship and change. If they expect you to do the changing and they do nothing then you either walk away or if you can't then you need help in dealing with a narcissist and how to maintain very strong boundaries with them.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in working with me, get in touch.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


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