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Anxious Attachment in Relationships with Jennifer Nurick, MA

Picture of podcast cover art with Christa Biegler and Jennifer Nurick: Episode 341 Anxious Attachment in Relationships with Jennifer Nurick, MA

This week on The Less Stressed Life Podcast, Jennifer Nurick joins me. In this episode we dive into insecure attachment styles, what they are, and some examples. We talk about how to help support your children to form secure attachments and we deep dive into anxious attachments. Tune in for healthy relationship tips!


  • When people end up in couples therapy, what dynamic is usually present?
  • What might it look like if I'm anxiously attached?
  • It takes 2 years for adults to form secure attachments
  • How do you help support your children and secure attachment?
  • What is the avoidance pattern?

Jennifer Nurick (Jen) specializes in healing anxious attachment, attachment injuries and childhood trauma. She is a licensed Clinical Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Energetic Healer, author and host of the Psychotherapy Central podcast. She is the founder and voice of Psychotherapy Central and a Director of the International Energetic Healing Association. She has been working in the healing space for over 20 years, combining spiritual and somatic (body-based) psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems (parts work) and EMDR therapy. She offers transformational courses to help individuals and couples heal trauma and build secure long-term relationships.

Check out Jen's new book: Heal Your Anxious Attachment

Podcast: Psychotherapy Central

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[00:00:00] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Do they have my back? Are they on my team? When I reach out for them, are they consistently there in the way that I need them to be? In relationship, we're constantly very subtly asking those, what happens when we're in conflict? How does my partner handle that? How do I handle that? How are we negotiating that relational distance?

[00:00:20] Jennifer Nurick, MA: It's a two year process.

[00:00:22] Christa Biegler, RD: Stress is the inflammation that robs us of life, energy, and happiness. Our typical solutions for gut health and hormone balance have let a lot of us down. We're over medicated and underserved. At The Less Stressed Life, we're a community of health savvy women exploring solutions outside of our traditional Western medicine toolbox and training to raise the bar and change our stories.

[00:00:48] Christa Biegler, RD: Each week, our hope is that you leave our sessions inspired to learn, grow, and share these stories to raise the bar in your life and home.

[00:01:05] Christa Biegler, RD: All right, today on The Less Stressed Life, I have Jennifer Nurick, who specializes in healing anxious attachment injuries, and childhood trauma. She is a licensed clinical psychotherapist, counselor, energetic healer, and author and host of the Psychotherapy Central podcast. She is the founder and voice of Psychotherapy Central and a director of the International Energetic Healing Association.

[00:01:25] Christa Biegler, RD: She's been working in the healing space for over 20 years, combining spiritual and somatic Which are body based psychotherapy, internal family systems, parts work, and EMDR therapy. She offers transformational courses to help individuals and couples heal trauma and build secure long term relationships.

[00:01:42] Christa Biegler, RD: Welcome to the show. Jen, 

[00:01:44] Jennifer Nurick, MA: thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it. 

[00:01:47] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. So I love this topic of attachment styles. I know we're going to go really specific today into a particular attachment style, but something interesting. I thought about you when I was reading your bio was that you started as a counselor and then you assembled quite a toolbox.

[00:02:05] Christa Biegler, RD: Will you tell me why that happened? Why did you get in some of these other energetic and somatic based modalities after you I assume going to school for counseling. 

[00:02:15] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I first went to university and studied political science, interestingly because it had a lot of development studies. There was a lot of, I was really interested in inequity.

[00:02:27] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I grew up in housing commission, council estate. There was a lot of poverty around me and I. I got a an assisted place of scholarship into a private school. And so I grew up from the age of 12 straddling these two socioeconomic groups, living over here, but then socializing over here.

[00:02:49] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And then I think when we went to university, I was looking at. Not only in equity within the UK, because that's where I'm originally from, but also globally. And so I really wanted to help. And I was really curious about, could I help? What could I do? And so actually, initially, I studied politics.

[00:03:05] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And it was later on in life that when I arrived in Australia with my partner. Because of the, I came in as a de facto, I wasn't able to work, but I was allowed to study. So I just started studying things that I was interested in. And I started to study kinesiology which is muscle testing.

[00:03:25] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And that. Actually blew my mind. Like I had never experienced anything where you could test a muscle on your body. And if I'm, weak, if I didn't have enough iron in my body, my muscle would go weak and, and if I had enough, it would stay strong. Yeah that, I just thought that was crazy.

[00:03:41] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I actually trained in kinesiology and from there I trained in energetic and spiritual healing. I was. Connected with and working with a couple of really amazing healers in Australia. Training energetic and spiritual healers in Australia, so they could become certified and insured. And I'm still very involved in that community.

[00:04:04] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And then it was from there. I went into psychotherapy and then I did a master's in counseling and applied psychotherapy. So I was already, I've already, by that point being seeing clients one on one for about 10 years and had a lot of opportunity to do some of my own work. So I met somatic work, interestingly in a meditation component of the energetic and spiritual healing course.

[00:04:26] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And. It was a two hour class. The lecturer taught us this practice called focusing. It's a seven step practice that anyone can search up online. If you type in focusing thematic practice, you can just pull up the seven steps. It's in my book as well. And I remember going home and a little bit of ovulation cramping.

[00:04:48] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And I thought, I'm going to try that thing I've just learned. So I sat quietly and I went into my room space with my mind and I just dialogued with that space and I gave it a voice and it shared the really unsafe and other things that were happening in there and I allowed it to be heard.

[00:05:08] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And I sat with it and almost energetically held its hand and sat with it. And then I thought, okay, I should go make dinner now. And then I went off to make dinner, and then I suddenly thought, hang on, Jane, does it feel any different? And I checked back in again, and the cramping and the pain was completely gone.

[00:05:26] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And that was another one of those, huh. And I'd had really bad period pain as a teenager, but from when my cycle started to about 14, 15 very heavy very painful. And the only way that my parents knew to do anything about that was to take a Panadol. So I would take a tablet, it would work almost dot on two hours, and then the pain would just come back.

[00:05:53] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So it wasn't dealing with the pain. It was just, Suppressing the, making the pain go away again, just blew my mind. And that was my introduction to somatic psychotherapy. And that modality particularly was created by someone called Eugene Jenlin. His work is quite dense. He's a philosopher, very academic.

[00:06:12] Jennifer Nurick, MA: But if anyone's interested, there's a. And why is it for now? She's written some more things that are much more for the layman, but they've been that works in chapter two or three of my book. So you can read about it there. So it's it was seeping in through the energetic work and also through the energetic work I was doing what's called parts work.

[00:06:30] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So in a child, in a parent, in an adult, so transactional analysis model. But it's based, most of you would have heard of it as in a child and reparenting. And I also found that really helpful and that sort of officially would be a psychotherapy model. So to me, although they're two separate trainings, I don't see them as two separate worlds, but I don't know how you find it through your practice, but my view is very much kind of the body, the mind, and the spirit, and that they're not separate, that they're kind much more connected way we might study them in the West, 

[00:07:07] Christa Biegler, RD: right? I agree with you. I think it's the way you study them and then you're taught to practice them, right? You're taught to practice them one way. And I do see more, I believe, intermingling of this, but I think this is where with traditional education around counseling, I don't think somatics are always a part of it now.

[00:07:28] Christa Biegler, RD: I'm not speaking as a person who's trained in counseling. This is just my view of the people I know, but as I look through some of the menu items that psychotherapy practices now have, they seem much more expanded than they once did, which is what all of our professions should be doing is expanding to.

[00:07:48] Christa Biegler, RD: Encompass multiple modalities that support one another and feed into one another. And yours was a roundabout way. I made the assumption that you were educated in counseling first, you were following what felt good to you and what you knew. And you said something interesting.

[00:08:07] Christa Biegler, RD: That you grew up one way, and then you went to school to try to change it from a very systematic systemic or political approach. And now I think you're probably making a difference in the world and for those that maybe you see mirroring or you understand the experiences that some of these people have had.

[00:08:30] Christa Biegler, RD: And You're approaching that in your work now is what I'm making an assumption. I'm piecing this together, like maybe that life comes full circle usually for most of us. so I'd love to hear a little bit about how some of your past informs how you got into attachment work.

[00:08:45] Jennifer Nurick, MA: The attachment piece for me is, there's a focus, Bowlby's primary research around attachment is really focused on the relationship between the mother and the child. At the moment, it's being expanded out into what is also the broader environment. Because if you have a mother who's very caring and loving and attuned to you, But she's not safe.

[00:09:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Maybe she's in a domestic violence situation or the environment that she's living in isn't safe. There's her nervous system. We were going to touch on her nervous systems likely to be in a hyper arousal. So that kind of fight or flight state, which, appropriately because he's not safe or in more of a hyper aroused state where it's gone into that kind of shutdown.

[00:09:28] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And we can even enter depression and hopelessness in that space. So environmentally. And the other people living in the home also impact the attachment system. The attachment system is really about How do I safely connect with another person and how much relational space do I want?

[00:09:49] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So for me it really kicked off my the the anxious attachment in my own system. So we're all on a spectrum with attachment. We'll all be more or less secure if we are 50 percent of the population secure, 50 percent of the population insecure, insecure gets divided into three categories, avoidant, anxious, disorganized.

[00:10:12] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Disorganized is about 3 percent of the population and the other two are split about half of the 50%. I went into relationship with somebody who was more on the avoidant end of the spectrum and I would be more on the anxious end of the spectrum anyway. So when we were together, I found that I wanted to be significantly closer than he wanted to be.

[00:10:39] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So his comfortable relational space was here. My comfortable relational space was there and people with a secure attachment, their comfortable relational space might be somewhere in the middle. And so there's this kind of negotiation, especially in the early phase of the relationship and you often see that with people struggling in dating, really it's a.

[00:10:58] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Kind of a battle for the space. How much space are we going to have? And when we find a resting place, a little place to dance, because whenever we've got a two people in a relationship, it's always going to be unstable in some way. It's always going to be moving. Can we find range where we both feel safe and comfortable and connected?

[00:11:20] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I had other complications in my relationship with this partner because. His family were from, he was from a quite a strict religious background and so they were not happy about the match. And so that also played into it because rather than meet him being with me, he stood in the middle of that.

[00:11:45] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. 

[00:11:46] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. Okay. I want to make sure I understand the attachment theories because. This is your language, a language you understand very well. 

[00:11:54] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah, 

[00:11:55] Jennifer Nurick, MA: please ask. 

[00:11:55] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah, so you talked about there's secure attachment and out of insecure attachment, there's avoidance, disorganized and anxious.

[00:12:03] Christa Biegler, RD: Can you speak to, are there subsections of secure attachment?

[00:12:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: No, 

[00:12:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: it's just one group where the attachment system is functioning as it should. There's a sense of when I reach out that another person will be there. There's also an inner sense of that I'm worthy and I can do things. And predominantly come through the early childhood experiences.

[00:12:28] Christa Biegler, RD: And You mentioned this earlier, but I didn't catch it fully. You were referencing someone's research between mother and child. And you're saying that primarily that experience between mother and child maybe forms the attachment style for that child. Correct. That they carry on. Okay. 

[00:12:47] Christa Biegler, RD: And so let's talk about. These insecure attachment styles, identifying them and what people can do, or maybe you brought something up offline. That's interesting and very relevant to your story as well.

[00:12:59] Christa Biegler, RD: Which is, when people end up in couples therapy, what dynamic is usually present. 

[00:13:05] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. Great question. So about 90 percent of couples who go to a couple therapy is an anxious and avoidant dynamic. And there's often a cycle at play in that dynamic where something will happen. So let's say I go on holiday and my husband is.

[00:13:26] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I'm picturing we're going to have this amazing weekend. He's going to take a break from work. I'm taking a break from work. And suddenly I'm sat with the kids. We're about to go out for a walk and he's hiding up in the bedroom, answering emails and doing work. And I walk in and I say, what are you doing?

[00:13:44] Jennifer Nurick, MA: We've agreed that we're not going to be working and you're fighting up here. And so I come into that elevated, my nervous system's already in fight or flight, that kind of hyper. And so then his response, what do you think his response is? 

[00:13:58] Christa Biegler, RD: Defensive. 

[00:14:00] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Absolutely. So he gets, he has a defensive part that comes forward.

[00:14:05] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I'm literally five minutes. You're always on it. Me. So then that's he's defensive. And so that creates more relational space. So what initially I'm wanting is I'm wanting connection. I'm wanting to be closer, but the way I've gone about it has caused the defensive part to come up and he stepped away.

[00:14:25] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Now I feel that more distance. And so then I escalate, right? It's called a protest behavior, right? So I protest more. And again, Sue Johnson, who is credited modality in couple therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy, he calls it the pursuer withdrawer dynamic. So I pursue again, I escalate the protesting, but gets even more.

[00:14:49] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And then what do you think he does?

[00:14:52] Christa Biegler, RD: He just withdraws more. He withdraws more. 

[00:14:57] Jennifer Nurick, MA: That's it. And so then he stands down his laptop. Oh, I can never get anything right. I'm just going to go and go out to the shops or whatever I'm going to do. And so then as the anxiously attached person, I haven't got what I want.

[00:15:12] Jennifer Nurick, MA: He hasn't got what he wants. And the holiday is, maybe we're not speaking now for the next five hours. And so that is a cycle. And in the book, I teach different ways of how the person with the more anxious style can. Start differently because we know that the way that you start a conversation, I was going to say conflict, but a tricky conversation or something I'm not happy about.

[00:15:37] Jennifer Nurick, MA: first line of what you say has a massive impact, huge, 70 percent that's Gottman research. So if I go into that space and I say to my partner, so rather than expressing anger, which is what I did in the first instance, if I go in and I say,

[00:15:55] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I've got this really like sad feeling because like we said that we weren't going to work and feel sad and then I have this like fantasy that you don't want to be with me and the kids and makes me feel nauseous in my stomach. So when I went to do that, I have to dip down into my feeling underneath the angry and underneath the angry I've touched on sad and then I'm expressing sad and sad.

[00:16:24] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Usually what happens then, when we're able to express the deeper, more core attachment need. I've said, I'm sad and I really want to be connected to you. Then he might have a chance to say, Oh, you know what? I didn't want to answer emails, but I got an email from the bosses, boss, and I just had to, but come sit with me and hold my hand while I finish the email.

[00:16:47] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And then let's go for a walk and we'll go to the coffee shop. So there's a whole different potential there. Once you're aware of the cycles that you're in relationally. 

[00:16:58] Christa Biegler, RD: Very interesting. And that's what we're going to dig into a little bit more now, right? Is okay. So if you are anxiously attached, what are a couple of ways someone might know if they're anxiously attached you brought it up already, but just a couple of ways someone might say, okay I'm starting to see that avoid an attachment.

[00:17:15] Christa Biegler, RD: What might it look like if I'm anxiously attached? 

[00:17:19] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. 

[00:17:19] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So a lot of people will be confused because they'll say, I'm not like that with my friends. So often it will show up mostly in the intimate relationship. It's when we try to form that secure attachment with one person.

[00:17:34] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And just for the listeners to know, it takes two years to form a secure attachment. And we know that from the research. Yeah. Yeah. Which is quite big. But necessary because we need to know there's lots of of little things that happen in that time where we establish the safety of the other person. Do they have my back?

[00:17:56] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Are they on my team? When I reach out for them, are they consistently there in the way that I need them to be? In relationship, we're constantly, very subtly asking those. What happens when we're in conflict? How does my partner handle that? How do I handle that? How are we negotiating that, that relational distance?

[00:18:15] Jennifer Nurick, MA: It's a two year process. So when we're anxiously attached, the things that we'll notice are, I'll talk about it being fairly extreme so that you can get a strong sense of it. When it's extreme, there's often a hypervigilance that goes with it. So we can be very hypervigilant to very subtle things like I might say Oh, I had a terrible day at work today.

[00:18:39] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And then I'm, I want to debrief. And then I might see my partner look away and look at their phone. And I might feel a pang of, he's not listening. He's not interested. He doesn't care about me. And that can be triggering from childhood stuff. So often when we have the, when we have the anxious attachment, it's coming from somewhere.

[00:19:01] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So there's been experiences like that in the past. And when we set, when I say the word trigger, I'm meaning there's something happening in the present. That has the same creates the same feeling in me as multiple experiences or one big experience in my past. So when that thing happens, I feel the same intense feelings and often the thing that will happen in the present might be a volume here.

[00:19:30] Jennifer Nurick, MA: But my response to it is a volume here because of all that pain that's associated with that thing with not being seen, not being attuned to. With anxious attachment. If I feel my partner let's say something else happens. We're out together. He bumps into an ex girlfriend. They're chatting.

[00:19:47] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I go over and can't really join in the conversation. And then I start to feel jealous. And then I might decide, okay I'm just going to leave. And so then I might leave, and then I might send a text, and then I might send another text. So these are protest behaviors. I'm going to leave, that's a protest.

[00:20:04] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I'm sending all these texts, that's a protest. And there can often be a lot of shame associated with that behavior, but there's a feeling of I can't not do it, I have to. And it feels like you're pushing me out, but when you hear it standing back, it's obvious that it's pushing the other person away.

[00:20:24] Jennifer Nurick, MA: But when you're in it, the primary core driver is actually to reconnect because you're wanting the other person to come forward. I'm hurting, come and get me. 

[00:20:37] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. Sometimes when you start to learn about all of these things, it feels like there's never an end to the work that could be done. So when I hear this as a wife or a parent and I think of, Oh my goodness, how do you make sure I'm just going to digress for a moment because instantly as we, as I learn about these things and how they take shape, then I think as a parent, how do you help support your children and secure attachment?

[00:21:02] Christa Biegler, RD: And some of that. comes through with things you've described, but I think I need to hear it from you anyway. 

[00:21:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I love that question. Yeah. And it's something I've always got on my mind as well with being a mom too. I've got a the moment there, 13 and 14, girl and a boy, but it's the principle of. Enough. So it's a, I think that there's research about kind of 50 percent if they reach out for you, and 50 percent of the time you're there, you're attuned, you get down to their level.

[00:21:34] Jennifer Nurick, MA: What's happened, sweetheart? Because as a parent, there's always going to be times where you can't just drop everything because it's, it They need you for a moment or they're struggling to cut their food. And there's a healthy amount of letting them struggle and letting them have their own experiences and letting them care for themselves if they're hurt, that there's an element of that.

[00:21:54] Jennifer Nurick, MA: But then as a parent, you might recognize, as I say, when you're attuned to your child, you know when they're okay to take care of themselves, but you also know when it's escalated to a point where they actually need, they need. Some help they need an adult to come in and support them. So it's about that they have enough of that adult support enough of the time that they feel secure in themselves that I'm worthy of someone attending to me that somebody from somewhere parent teacher someone who cares about them steps forward when they're in distress and then when they're in real distress that there's someone there for them and someone really holding 

[00:22:35] Jennifer Nurick, MA: space.

[00:22:36] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. That's so simple and helpful to say, because I think that's the worry of every parent is you cannot always drop everything plus, how someone else perceives a situation is going to be, two people can be in the same situation and perceive it completely differently.

[00:22:51] Christa Biegler, RD: For one person, it might be the worst thing and for one person, it might be the best thing. And there's a lot of nuance there, but if we can just cut it down the middle and say, if at least 50 percent of the time there feel like their needs are really being met, that they're being given attention to, that you're being attuned to them, then you're in the right direction, which is just lovely.

[00:23:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Exactly. Yeah. And it's not about the things, it's really about the emotional attunement. You know what it's like. It's that moment where you can see your child sometimes from the end of the garden and one child's asking to do something and you just see a look on their face and you know exactly what they're thinking that's attunement and you just, you know when they need you.

[00:23:28] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. Intuition to an extent. Would you say when you talk about taking two years to form secure attachments. As adult, I don't know if this is just universally or adults or everyone would you say that the same principle that you just shared around children applies in, for example, relationships?

[00:23:53] Christa Biegler, RD: Or what are some of the steps to form secure attachments in relationship?

[00:23:57] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I think there were a few questions in there. Please help me to, if I missed any, I think the first question was about does it transfer over and from childhood to adulthood? The attachment system is different. It's not a two year process with children because, with babies, they have to, they literally attach, don't they?

[00:24:16] Jennifer Nurick, MA: We call it, they attach your breast or they literally attach to you. And that attachment process can happen equally. If a baby's bottle fed, just in case people are listening and thinking, Oh, maybe it didn't happen. 

[00:24:27] Christa Biegler, RD: I instantly 

[00:24:28] Christa Biegler, RD: was actually wondering that. So thanks for answering. 

[00:24:33] Jennifer Nurick, MA: No, absolutely.

[00:24:34] Jennifer Nurick, MA: The attachment will still happen, even when the baby's bottle fed and, it's the smell of the mother, it's the, from an energetic perspective, it's that kind of that heart opening and the, oh, that moment when you go in and you're, you've got a headache cause you've only slept for two hours and your eyes are blurred and then, but then you see their little face looking at you and it's that, it's the smell, it's the heartbeat, it's the, it's all of that, so yeah.

[00:25:00] Jennifer Nurick, MA: For infants, babies, toddlers, children, different, but as adults they've done research where they were looking at where do people go when they're distressed? Do they, are they going to their family? Are they going to their friends? And they found that it takes about two years for the person we're going to when distressed to really make a shift fully over to the primary person, the person we're in relationship with.

[00:25:27] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And it's really clearly, I remember seeing it as done in sort of three stage block charts. Why does not PI dag, but it's a very clear trend. Amongst a whole lot of different people, two year process. So it's a two year process for adults with a new person. But the actual attachment system is quite similar really to the childhood one.

[00:25:48] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Like the core questions being asked are really similar. Are you there for me when I need you? Am I important to you? Do you love me? Am I important? They're really the core questions. 

[00:26:02] Christa Biegler, RD: Those are great questions. Am I important to you? Are you there for me? Do you love me? So to reiterate with children, it's a malleable timeframe with attachment from instant to.

[00:26:15] Christa Biegler, RD: Longer probably depending on how much older they get. So very malleable with a new person. It's a two year attachment situation to be developed. 

[00:26:27] Christa Biegler, RD: So we talked a little bit about identifying if you're an anxious attachment style. Which can be a little bit of that hyper vigilance. We talked about that protest that happens a bit there.

[00:26:39] Christa Biegler, RD: So I always think the 1st step to addressing anything is the awareness, which we've now handled concepts of the awareness here today. We talked about the 4 attachment styles, the 3 insecure types, the 1 secure type we talked about. We gave that very lovely example of you being an anxious attachment with unvoidant attachment and some examples there.

[00:26:59] Christa Biegler, RD: We talked a bit about children and how they're impacted very well. So if we're thinking about relationships specifically, I always I've been thinking a lot about how relationships are with everything are Big piece of stress for people. And to your point with your stories and examples, so I don't know.

[00:27:21] Christa Biegler, RD: I think there's room for reiteration because this is new learning. So as you. me, it's a lot of new learning, but as I move this around in my brain to understand it well, let's talk about how someone who might be, for example, anxiously attached, which you are very familiar with, might navigate a relationship and you've given some examples already, but might navigate a relationship for Let's just say more success.

[00:27:48] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I wonder, would it be helpful to just speak a little bit about the avoidance pattern?

[00:27:54] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah, sure. Of course. 

[00:27:55] Jennifer Nurick, MA: People can understand that a little bit. 

[00:27:58] Christa Biegler, RD: And if we're going to talk about that, can you also mention what the disorganized pattern is? I know you said it was 3 percent of people, but we haven't really given any lip service to what that is.

[00:28:06] Christa Biegler, RD: And it's not obvious to me by the name. 

[00:28:10] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. Yeah. Great. 

[00:28:13] Jennifer Nurick, MA: With the avoidant type. So whenever we have an insecure style, there has been this kind of reaching out of the child and there hasn't been a reaching back enough of the time or in the way that we needed it. Two reactions to that are one, I become anxious and I follow the caregiver around, which can also happen if I'm in an unsafe environment.

[00:28:37] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Or if I'm ill and the parent is overprotective, then I get the sense of the world's not safe. My nervous system needs to be in hyper arousal all the time. The other option is that I give up reaching. I just go, okay, so I need to make my own sandwiches. And there's no point in me telling anybody that I need the toilet or that I'm upset because clearly everybody is.

[00:29:01] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Not capable of being with me for different reasons. It could be people working a lot. It could be depression. Who knows what's going on and lots of different reasons. It could also be that the parents have quite an avoidant attachment style themselves. What's really happening in that system is that there's quite a big, I call it a blocking part or a numbing parts that those are the words that my clients often use.

[00:29:26] Jennifer Nurick, MA: That kind of will come over. So when they feel that kind of attacking thing that happens, they'll have this often a part that kind of feels like I've done something wrong again. And in order to keep the relation to maintain the relationship, I need to just shut everything down and I need to back away.

[00:29:48] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So it's not obvious. When the avoidant people pull that in their way, they're actually trying to maintain the relationship as well. It's just, they feel like, Ooh, she's angry. I've got to get back. And she feels Oh, he's moving back. I've got to get closer. And so they're both trying to maintain the relationship.

[00:30:06] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And I think that's a really important part for people to understand what's actually happening with the avoidance system. Okay. So disorganized. Disorganized is when there's been childhood trauma, and that's when the caregiver is sometimes a source of food and nourishment and care and is sometimes dangerous.

[00:30:31] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So there is this compulsion to be close to them to survive, bearing in mind that any child probably under six or seven, if they're left alone, is going to die. So we have a very strong human attachment system that drives us to attach to our carers. So I'm driven to attach. But then being close to this person is sometimes really dangerous and so I have to pull right back.

[00:30:53] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And again, I would expand that to a bit into the environment that they're in as well. So that's what happens with the attachment system. And so then as adults, when we try to get close to people, there's this often a really big rush into the relationship. Oh, it's amazing. It's just so amazing to be connected.

[00:31:11] Jennifer Nurick, MA: It can feel really euphoric is a really good word. And then something will happen and it, I need to get away from that person as fast as I can and it's painful and awful, and then it's resolved and it's back. And it can be a very difficult situation for both people. So my top tip with that style, because there's a lot of trauma to be unpacked, is if possible, go and do some therapeutic work.

[00:31:38] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Go and see a trauma therapist. Someone trained in maybe EMDR and internal family systems and there's other modalities. Thematic experiencing is good with trauma and start to do some of that historical trauma work, which will help some of that reactivity shift. 

[00:31:57] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Is that helpful? 

[00:31:58] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. Very helpful.

[00:31:59] Christa Biegler, RD: And of course, probably the listener, as I am the listener to you right now, had these examples popping into my brain and all kinds of. Not really necessarily stereotypes, but just commonly where I see that type of relationship play out certain types of situations and what happens and maybe why that happened.

[00:32:18] Christa Biegler, RD: I'm going to elaborate. So I'm not being cryptic. So I have had friends in relationship and I have my dad and my sister are military, but I've had friends in relationship with people in the military who are stationed overseas. And sometimes the early relationship can be fast and furious and be on and off like that.

[00:32:37] Christa Biegler, RD: And the second piece of that, when I think about attachment styles being developed, something I didn't know, but I actually was more light was shed on it recently when my dad was telling me why he went into the military. Was because some people go into the military full time because they feel like that's maybe their only option in their family where they don't have resources or there's poverty or whatever.

[00:33:00] Christa Biegler, RD: Certainly that's not everyone, but that can be a significant demographic. And so that would make sense as a possibility on how that attachment style could form. And it was just something that popped into my brain. So it was a over typing, but I don't know. As an expert, I don't know if you see that.

[00:33:19] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah, I've worked with people in the military and have in the past, and I definitely see a pattern where I grew up in a war zone. And so for me surviving in a war zone, I know how to do that. So going to Afghanistan, going to Iran, doing that kind of work is that's nothing new because my nervous system is used to being hypervigilant.

[00:33:42] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I'm used to expecting attack from any side. So some of what when people come out of the military with PTSD, some of that really is CPTSD, they've already got childhood trauma, complex trauma. That's what means, complex trauma, childhood trauma sitting there that's been unprocessed. And then, so then when the similar events happen, but in a different.

[00:34:08] Jennifer Nurick, MA: storyline because they're in the military, it's then invasive memories come through. So often there's two spots to work on. There's the actual trauma that happened in the military and there's the trauma that happened in childhood. But yeah, I hear it a lot. I grew up in a war zone, being, sometimes some people being out there is no different or sometimes even better than it was at home.

[00:34:30] Christa Biegler, RD: Yeah. When you describe it that way, I think that's advanced self awareness, to be honest. I don't know if, the, some of the people I know wouldn't be able to maybe put their finger on the fact that, oh yeah, I was growing up in a war zone. I think something I, Used to say that was similar but not so much was that, Oh, I wanted a really big family because I enjoyed the chaos of the big family.

[00:34:52] Christa Biegler, RD: And then I started experiencing that and realizing, Oh, this is actually quite challenging. It's because the chaos of that situation became the norm. And what became the challenge was what did it look like to have calm that felt uncomfortable. And so it's just interesting. I find all of this language, the linguistics of all of this, just helpful in us.

[00:35:16] Christa Biegler, RD: It doesn't have to be our identity. I don't know if you disagree, but I don't think we have to necessarily say I'm anxious attachment. So this is just my identity forever. I think it's just a helpful thing to help understand oneself, right? So you can move towards secure attachment.

[00:35:31] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Absolutely. 

[00:35:32] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And I'm so glad that you've said that. Absolutely. And we know, again, from quite a bit of research that attachment styles can change over time through different things. Some can be organic. Some can be through being in relationship with someone who's very, he's quite secure. The tendency is when we have one of the insecure styles that we tend to pair up with someone else with one of the insecure styles, unfortunately.

[00:35:56] Jennifer Nurick, MA: But sometimes, so there are different ways, but one, one of the ways is to do conscious work with it, but it can absolutely change. And like you just said, it's a lens to understand behavior that I know really helped me because when I really read about it, I thought, ah, okay, that makes so much sense.

[00:36:13] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Okay. I get that. And then I could start to do something about it. 

[00:36:16] Christa Biegler, RD: So we've covered a lot around attachment and to be honest, it was a wonderful interview and I could just conclude there, but there was one last thing that's been bothering me and I have you here. So I'm going to ask you this because I see it coming up in practice and I'll give you an example that I used to tell people don't put me in front of the food.

[00:36:37] Christa Biegler, RD: I won't be able to quit eating it. And to me, that was a self regulation thing. It's a pattern that even though that's not necessarily an area I focus on, it's an awareness of, wow, there's a self regulation issue. Can you speak to self regulation for a bit?

[00:36:55] Christa Biegler, RD: Probably one of the most underrated nutrients I use in practice is potassium. Low potassium can be a huge factor in energy, relapsing gut issues, thyroid function, and even regulating blood pressure. Now your blood test for potassium will look normal most of the time, otherwise you'd feel faint and maybe like you're going to pass out.

[00:37:13] Christa Biegler, RD: But your tissue levels of potassium will decline With an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol big picture. I find it's just really hard for humans to get enough food based potassium in their diet, unless they live in a tropical place. And I'm usually recommending my clients get at least 4, 000 milligrams of food based potassium per day.

[00:37:33] Christa Biegler, RD: That's why I really commonly recommend Jigsaw's Pickleball Cocktail to help my clients. It's one of the only electrolyte products on the market with a hefty dose of potassium at 800 mg per scoop, when most electrolyte products only have about 200 mg. Making it really hard to reach those high doses of food based potassium I recommend per day.

[00:37:56] Christa Biegler, RD: Plus, it's automatically the best choice if my client is dealing with swelling, which can be related to imbalances of sodium and potassium in the tissue. I'm a potassium evangelist, and Jigsaw's Pickleball Cocktail is one of my most used tools of the trade. You can get a discount on any of jigsaw's amazing products, including [email protected] with the code less stressed.

[00:38:19] Christa Biegler, RD: 10. That's three S's, less stressed, 10. 

[00:38:24] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Okay. So for me, there's two ways to approach that. And my way that I would go with first is really that there is a part of me that can't not eat it. It's a part of, it's not all of me. Some great work that was done with eating disorders was done by Richard Schwartz. He's the founder of internal family systems, great book called no bad parts.

[00:38:49] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And he was working with people with eating disorders and they would, they started saying things like there's this part of me knows that if I don't eat that I will die because I know logically. That if I don't eat, I will end up in hospital and eventually I'll die. But then there's this other part of me that is falling and will not let me eat anything other than butternut and broccoli or whatever it is.

[00:39:15] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And so Richard Schwartz kind of went, okay I wonder what it would be like if we could actually talk to these different warring internal parts and we could get to know them. So that's exactly, he found that you could talk to them. And he started to find that. So let's say I have an eating disorder and I'm really struggling with the part that is not letting me eat and is controlling everything.

[00:39:39] Jennifer Nurick, MA: When I turn towards that part, often it will say something like if I don't do that, then she'll cut herself and this cutting part might come forward. Or if I don't do that, then something else will happen. So it's actually working really hard in some way to try and protect me. 

[00:40:00] Christa Biegler, RD: As usual, how the body works.

[00:40:03] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. 

[00:40:03] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. So all of our paths, the angry part that, you know, and then they're all working to protect us. So my curiosity, when you've got the plate of food in front would be the path of self that come up, the voices in the head that we might be one part that says we have to eat the whole thing.

[00:40:20] Jennifer Nurick, MA: There's no choice. There might be dad's voice that says, Oh you're a bit big. You need to be a bit smaller. So often we'll have a few voices as we sit looking at the plate of food and whichever is the loudest voice is the one that will win. But that's something that can totally be worked with through something like internal family systems.

[00:40:40] Christa Biegler, RD: I have so many more questions, but I'll keep them under wraps. When I was thinking when I personally experienced that, it felt unconscious, which I don't know if that's relevant or not. I think maybe that's just the layer over the top of whatever the voice is sometimes. I'm not sure, consciousness has been an area of major interest for me this year, right?

[00:40:59] Christa Biegler, RD: I find that what we don't realize is the part keeping us held back. So it's our lack of awareness around a particular thing that keeps us stuck in some pattern. 

[00:41:10] Jennifer Nurick, MA: And who knows if everyone has a different connection with food, like some kids, even pre verbal, they might've just been fed bread.

[00:41:17] Jennifer Nurick, MA: In order to keep them quiet, because if they cried, the neighbors complained, or who knows, right? I think that there's A lot of stuff tied up with food and it's so poor to our survival. It's almost like the attachment thing, right? Like attachment to food and 

[00:41:33] Jennifer Nurick, MA: survival. 

[00:41:33] Christa Biegler, RD: This is all very interesting to me because I think some topics around food have nothing to do with food.

[00:41:38] Christa Biegler, RD: So I'm in an area of food, which I'm, I don't really work with disordered eating other than sometimes I have clients who've had to have that history. But generally it's a real curiosity to me, how disordered eating happens, which of course, there's not one way, but it's, when you bring up the internal family systems and the no bad parts with Richard sports, it makes me.

[00:42:02] Christa Biegler, RD: I'm just very curious about all these pieces that fit together. Like, where do we see these things pop up and what kind of things? Oh, Jen, we had a great chat today about attachment style. Will you tell us a little bit about why you published a book recently about this topic?

[00:42:22] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Quite a big Instagram following. And I was getting a lot of questions about anxious attachment specifically. And I had a lot of questions coming through and a lot of my clients were saying, Jen, is there a good book? And so I went through a whole lot of books that are on attachment. And a lot of them are they've got the words attachment and then they said how to heal it.

[00:42:43] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Nine chapters of the book were all about attachment theory, what it is, and then there'd be like one skinny chapter on what to do. And the essence of what to do mostly would say, go see a therapist. 

[00:42:54] Christa Biegler, RD: And 

[00:42:54] Christa Biegler, RD: that's the problem. 

[00:42:55] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. A lot of people would come forward to see a therapist. And there are things that you can do.

[00:43:01] Jennifer Nurick, MA: I think that there's a reticence amongst academics in actually saying that this is the way you can start working with it because a lot of it connected to childhood trauma. But I was you know what, there are things that people can do and I'm happy to put them in a book. And so I did, I've recorded 20 sort of practices that go with it as well.

[00:43:23] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So it's a mini course in the first half of the book. So my book is like, The first half of chapter one is about what is anxious attachment. I don't even really go through the others too much. And the rest of the book is all tools, techniques, practical, applicable ways to start to form secure attachment.

[00:43:44] Jennifer Nurick, MA: First half of the book is about forming inner secure attachment, but getting to know your path. Some somatic work, some top down works are working with the mind and some spiritual practices as well. That's the first part of the book. So that's all about my connection with me. How do I help those parts who reach out for someone else start to reach towards me now that I'm an adult and I can take care of those parts.

[00:44:09] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So of course, as a child, they reached out, but those young parts are still reaching out. How do I help those young parts see me and reach for me? That's the first part of the book. And then the second part of the book is okay. I'm in relationship and I'm finding it really tricky and Jen, what is the cycle I'm going through and what are some techniques that I can use to help myself in this relationship answers some things to do as a partnership as well as some chapters that the other person can read through so that they can have more understanding about.

[00:44:38] Jennifer Nurick, MA: What you're going through if you have, if you resonate with anxious attachment and they can see maybe some of their behaviors, if they're more avoidant or yeah. So there's a bit of both in the second part of the book, but it's more relational work in the second 

[00:44:50] Jennifer Nurick, MA: part. 

[00:44:51] Christa Biegler, RD: The first part of the book about the child reaching out, would that also be considering just considered reparenting work?

[00:44:59] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah. 

[00:44:59] Christa Biegler, RD: So do the tools you use to heal your attachment apply to all attachment styles with some nuance or is there another, or are the other two books coming in upcoming years on healing your avoidance and disorganized attachment styles? 

[00:45:16] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yeah, 

[00:45:16] Jennifer Nurick, MA: it's a great question with avoidant attachment with the other two, there would obviously be a slightly different framework and a slightly different, there would be slightly different stages.

[00:45:26] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I've had a heap of people ask me, am I going to write one on avoidant attachment? And I might, I've got a week in a form. So I might sit with that and maybe that will come. But both of the other insecure styles could still buy the book and still get a lot from it from the different exercises and the process.

[00:45:43] Jennifer Nurick, MA: So I would say still buy the one that's there anyway and go through it. But yeah, it would be nice to have one specifically for the other two, but it's a process. Have you 

[00:45:52] Jennifer Nurick, MA: written a book? 

[00:45:53] Christa Biegler, RD: Yes, I did. It was more, that's a whole story in itself. More cookbook. I know books are a, they're like a baby.

[00:46:02] Jennifer Nurick, MA: that's yeah, and it's a pretty, it's a big project, so I just just birthed 

[00:46:05] Jennifer Nurick, MA: this one. 

[00:46:06] Christa Biegler, RD: Exactly. And I think the question is relevant because even if someone doesn't think they're anxious attachment, the book can still relate to them. That's the point. Jen, where can people find you online?

[00:46:17] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yep. They can find me online psychotherapy. central on Instagram, psychotherapy central podcast, YouTube website psychotherapy central dot health. I have a team of therapists. who do very similar work to me, specifically around attachment using internal family systems. And then each has got a slightly different flavor.

[00:46:38] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Some do more breath work. Some do more spiritual work. Some do more psychotherapeutic psychology work. So you can read through and see what your flavor is. That's the book. Available at all major bookstores. Yeah. 

[00:46:51] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Amazon. 

[00:46:51] Christa Biegler, RD: And it says the book is called Heal Your Anxious Attachment.

[00:46:55] Christa Biegler, RD: As we've said, just came out February. 

[00:46:58] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Yes. Yeah. 

[00:46:59] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Very exciting. But it's really is. It's a mini course. And it's not something just to do once you can really do it. The practices over and over again. And there's worksheets to print out as well. When I was talking about dipping through the presented emotions, the core emotions worksheets that can help you with all of that and help your partner too.

[00:47:20] Christa Biegler, RD: Perfect. Thanks so much for coming on today. 

[00:47:23] Jennifer Nurick, MA: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed your questions and enjoyed this chat. Thank you. 

[00:47:27] Christa Biegler, RD: Yes, I did too. I enjoyed your answers. Thank you so much. 

[00:47:30] Christa Biegler, RD: Sharing and reviewing this podcast is the best way to help us succeed with our mission to help integrate the best of East and West and empower you to raise the bar on your health story. Just go to review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life. That's review this podcast. com forward slash less stressed life.

[00:47:51] Christa Biegler, RD: And you'll be taken directly to a page where you can insert your review and hit post.

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