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11 Practical Tips for Building Secure Attachments and Healing from Trauma in Relationships

Updated: Mar 14

Understanding attachment theory helps us make the important first step of the trauma-informed paradigm shift. Once we make the shift, we can set our sights on healing in our relationships.

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Whether you’re here because you have an insecure attachment style or you want to know how you can support someone with an insecure attachment style, you’ve come to the right place.

These practical tips for building secure relationships can help you and those you care about—whether they’re your family members, friends, or coworkers.

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1. Share how you feel.

Vulnerability is essential for healthy relationships, whether at home or work. However, when you have trauma, vulnerability can feel life-threatening.

Overcoming that fear and sharing your honest feelings can help you escape trauma brain—and it can improve you relationships.

When we open up and share our honest feelings, we also open the door for others to share how they feel with us. This creates a deeper sense of being known and establishes emotional safety.

Trauma-informed tip: Sharing how you feel isn't a tip reserved for romantic relationships. Talking about our feelings at work also builds stronger teams!

A group of five people sit in a circle in a professional setting, one woman appears to be talking while the others listen intently

2. Become a better active listener.

Active listening is a skill that can be built—and it’s also a skill that most of us were never taught. Active listening involves engaging several parts of our brains that shut off when we’re stuck in a trauma response, which means intentional listening becomes a great tool for getting out of trauma brain!

Intentional and active listening will also help you develop more secure relationships with people in your life, because you will become able to really hear what it is that they’re saying. When you listen to what’s really being said, you can become more in tune with nuance, stop overthinking, and start responding rather than reacting.

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3. Notice when you’re stuck in a trauma response.

Insecurity in relationships often shows up in our behavior when we’re having a trauma response. We might say things that we didn’t mean or act in hurtful ways—both of which damage our relationships and contribute to a greater sense of insecurity.

One of the best things you can do for your relationships is to notice when you’re stuck in a trauma response and practice escaping the reenactments in your life.

Becoming more in tune with yourself when you're slipping into (or totally stuck in) trauma brain also helps you increase your self-awareness.

A person looking angry or upset, gazing directly at the viewer

4. Notice when their trauma brain is activated.

In addition to keeping your own behavior in check, understanding the common signs of trauma can help you identify when someone else is in active trauma. These signs are often small, but there are several tools that can help you, including the JADE acronym and the trauma triangle.

When someone else is in active trauma, you can help them by establishing safety and resisting getting triggered yourself.

A couple sits at the table together, looking at a document while sharing breakfast

5. Create safety in the relationship.

Safety is one of the most important concepts in trauma-informed care. Trauma happens when we don't have safety, and we heal trauma by grounding ourselves in a sense of safety.

Safety looks different for everyone: and for every relationship. What you need to feel safe with your boss probably looks different than what you need to feel safe with your partner. And that's normal!

Establishing safety is one of the fundamental skills I teach in training, and it's a skill that takes time to develop.

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6. Ask and answer powerful questions.

Powerful questions are an essential tool for self-exploration, and the more we discover ourselves, the more able we are to work on our relationships.

When you're with other people, you can have productive and meaningful conversations that bring you closer together by asking powerful questions. And, when you're alone, you can reflect on your answers to powerful questions, which will serve you in your relationships down the road.

There are countless powerful questions you can come up with, and these are some of my favorites!

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7. Set and respect boundaries.

Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships. When we say "no" (and respect others' "no's"), we accomplish several trauma-informed goals. First, we establish that it's safe to say no.

Second, we reinforce the idea that our relationships are not conditional. If I ask for a favor, you say no, and we're still friends, then it's clear that I'm not only your friend because of the favors you do for me. This understanding strengthens relationships, and it can heal trauma.

Setting and respecting boundaries also empowers us and others to make decisions about our time and what we accept into our lives. This allows us to slow down and resist overwhelm, which is why boundary-setting at work is especially important.

Two people share a hug. Their faces look as if they are struggling emotionally and grateful for the support

8. Apologize and forgive.

All great relationships have conflict. And all relationships experience ruptures. The key to a healthy and long-lasting relationship, whether romantic, platonic, or professional, is the repair work that follows a rupture.

This repair work involves several of the tips already listed, including active listening and talking about your feelings. It also includes apologies and forgiveness.

For those of us with trauma, forgiveness can be a really difficult concept to grasp. It takes time, and if you're struggling, remember to give yourself grace.

Usually, as we learn to forgive, we also get better at apologizing, and vice versa.

A group of smiling friends celebrates together with sparklers

9. Celebrate your achievements together.

Yes. Strong and healthy relationships dive into the tough stuff: the hurt of ruptures in the past and the present, worries about the future, and other difficult emotions. And, strong relationships also take time to celebrate the wins.

Those of us with trauma often discount the positive; and in today's hustle culture, we tend to finish a project and move onto the next one with little to no break in between.

Trauma-informed change teaches us that we need to slow down. When we slow down and celebrate achievements with those in our life, we build stronger relationships and heal our trauma in small ways. Over time, those small shifts create big changes!

A small group of people talking, with only one person in focus

10. Be fully present when you’re together.

Trauma takes us out of the present and pulls us into fight-flight-freeze mode. Some of us are in trauma brain more often than not. The result is that our brains are focused on survival: we get defensive or argumentative, we feel panicked or rushed, we run away and avoid, or we agree even when we don't want to.

The more you practice regulating your body and mind, the easier it becomes to get out of your trauma brain and access your thinking brain (where your executive functioning lives).

When we're stuck in trauma brain, we destroy instead of build. We hurt instead of heal. That's why focusing on being fully present in your relationships will strengthen them.

Two people sitting together working on a project

11. Embrace your differences.

In a lot of relationships, I see people express their desire to be understood and accepted by pushing those close to them to conform. When there are differing interests, perspectives, or experiences, people often resort to denial, bullying, or surprise, inadvertently causing the other person to be ostracized.

As an outsider with a trauma-informed background, these moments are clear to me. But, for most people, these little moments of teasing, taunting, or disbelief feel normal.

Notice the next time you or someone you know expresses surprise (or even outrage) that someone has a different perspective—you might find it’s more common than you realized!

Difference is a part of life, and our differences are what make our communities and teams stronger. Instead of seeing differences as something that takes away from your relationships, reframe your differences as strengths.

Final Thoughts: Building Relationships is Healing from Trauma

Building relationships and healing trauma are not separate tasks to check off a personal development checklist. Both are ongoing processes that we commit to for our entire lives.

Being trauma informed is a way of living that informs how we see and move through the world, and every small step we take in our relationships is an important one on our journey to heal.

To learn more about building strong relationships and communities, be sure to check out our other blogs on relationship building! Which tip on this list resonated with you the most? Share your thoughts below!


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