Secure Attachment with Self

In the book Polysecure, author Jessica Fern introduces us to the concept of HEARTS, an acronym that she uses to “encapsulate the different ingredients, skills, capacities, and ways of being required for secure functioning in multiple attachment-based partnerships.”  As I read them, I would argue these characteristics are needed as the base for any secure relationship, including the relationship you have with yourself.  


Jessica herself also goes on to share how aspects of HEARTS can help in creating a secure attachment with yourself. 

According to Jessica, HEARTS stands for:


H-Here (presence)

E-Expressed Delight


R-Rituals and Routines 

T-Turning Towards, especially after conflicts 

S-Secure Attachment with Self 


Jessica defined Secure Attachment with yourself as “being aware of your feelings and desires, as well as being able to tend to your own needs and knowing how to advocate for them in relationships.”  It is knowing how to “stand securely on your own two feet and how to be your own safe haven and secure base.”  I would say the essence in which I approach therapy is with the hope of helping to cultivate this within each of my clients. 

Jessica shares that the establishment of a secure relationship with our self is needed to fully embody healthy attachments with others.  Internal attachment healing is often needed for the HEART of secure functioning to become possible and then take root in our relationships. 


H: Being Here with Myself 

Jessica write’s “in order to create internal security, we must first inhabit our own being.”  Being able to become our own haven and secure base requires us to build the capacity to be with our self.  To be able to be present and sit and listen to whatever arises within us, our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and memories.  Through embodiment practices, we can learn how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and sensations while also learning how to let ourselves allow and enjoy positive feelings and sensations as well.  


Things to Try and Experiment with:

-Mindfulness techniques and meditation practices 

-Body awareness practices like yoga, dancing, walking, stretching


-Sitting alone with oneself


E: Expressed Delight for Myself 

Jessica states “we need to cultivate expressed delight for ourselves in order to maintain a positive sense of worth and healthy appreciation for who and how we are that is sustainable and resilient.”  This involves being kind and loving to yourself in ways that you would probably treat a friend.  Imagine making a mistake and responding to yourself with understanding and forgiveness.  Positive self-talk is not about saying things to yourself that you do not believe about yourself but instead it is being forgiving, understanding, flexible, and realistic with yourself.  I often do not talk with my clients about “positive self-talk” but instead I call it “supportive self-talk.”   


Things to Try and Experiment with:

-Take yourself on a date or pamper yourself with something that you genuinely enjoy.

-Write yourself a love letter or make a list of all the things you appreciate about yourself. 

-Start a gratitude practice and make sure to include yourself as the object of gratitude. 

-Learn and practice self-compassion, particularly through parts work. 

-Let yourself laugh and seek out humor. 


A: Attuning to Yourself 

Jessica writes that “attunement is at the heart of secure attachment.”  Self-attunement is the inner inquiry into what you are feeling, needing, thinking, and experiencing.  This helps us understand and know ourselves better which can improve our ability to self-regulate and soothe our own physiological and emotional states.  When we can tune in and tend to our needs from the inside first, we may still seek outward support, comfort, and guidance from others but our fundamental well-being and sense of being ok are not dependent on it.  

Different types of insecure attachment styles require different areas of growth when it comes to self-attunement.  Individuals who identify as preoccupied or anxiously attached often need to focus on strengthening their own sense of self.  This can be done by identifying your own personal values, needs, desires, interests, likes, and dislikes.  This also involves exploring your own personal boundary needs, simply what is ok with you and what is not, which helps with learning how to stay inside yourself while connecting to others and becoming aware of when you engage in self-abandonment.  Building awareness to when you mentally are trying to get inside someone else’s head such as thoughts like “What are they thinking?  Do they like me?  I wonder if they think I am dumb.  Are they judging me?  What are they going to think or say?”  Once you have awareness of these thoughts, that is the perfect time to practice pausing and tuning in and asking yourself “what am I feeling in this moment?  What are my needs in this moment?  How can I care for myself right now?”    

Individuals who identify as dismissive or avoidantly attached often need to begin challenging negative narratives they hold related to needing others, receiving help, and having needs.  Avoidantly attach people can benefit from practicing, with safe people, taking risks of revealing and sharing more of themselves so that people can get a glimpse of their internal world.  This also means letting other people impact how they feel.  These individuals also can benefit from learning how to articulate their thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Individuals who identify as fearful-avoidant or disorganized attached often can benefit from all of the above as well as focus on building an internal sense of safety including having a bodily felt sense that you are safe and that you can relax, even if it is just with yourself at first.  This attachment style can at times normalize abusive and unhealthy ways of relating so learnings ways to explicitly distinguish what is healthy and unhealthy relating can be helpful as well. 


Things to Try and Experiment with:

-Spend quiet time by yourself.

-Practice mindfulness or breath-based exercises to help you tune into your body, heart, and mind.

-Try self-compassion meditations.

-Experiment with journaling.

-Learn self-empathy practices that help you to identify what you’re feeling and need and give yourself what you need as best you can.

-Figure out what kind of sensory input such as sights, smells, sounds, touches, or tastes that are calming to you for when you are needing some self-support.

-Develop a relationship with your inner nurturer and, if needed, work with a professional to support you in this process.


R: Rituals and Routines for Secure Self

Rituals and routines that are supportive in self-care are essential in building a secure relationship with self.  Jessica shares that “secure attachment with self includes knowing your inner rhythms (biological, emotional, and mental) and figuring out what routines and daily rituals best support you to be in alignment with your own needs and pacing.”  Jessica shares that when focusing on establishing a more secure relationship with yourself, one of the most influential routines we can implement is what she refers to as “self-alignment practices.”  Self-alignment practices focus on connecting with the parts or aspects of ourselves we might refer to as our “better self” or “higher self” or what Jessica refers to as her “secure self” or “aligned self.”  She writes “this is the part of my that is aligned with my better skills, values, and morals.”  When we actively engage with ourselves in this way, we are rewiring ourselves to resonate more easily with a self that is more peaceful, joyful, loving, and accepting.  This helps in building this construct until that is who we eventually become.       


Things to Try and Experiment with:

-If you could design your ideal day or week based on your natural rhythms of sleeping, eating, resting, connecting or having sex, what would that look like?  Experiment with adjusting some of your day or week to better accommodate these preferences. 

-Imagine your ideal day or week that includes self-care activities and rituals that support you in secure functioning with yourself.  Start to add some of these routines to your daily or weekly activities, even if you start with something as small as five minutes a day. 

-Check out Dr. Daniel P. Brown’s Ideal Parent Figure exercise ( which can support you in rewiring your past and feeling more secure in the present. 

-Define your “Secure Self.”  What does this part of you look like?  How does this part of you behave?  What values and principles guide this part of you?  Explore different techniques to support you in aligning with your more secure self. 


T: Turing Towards Yourself After Inner Conflict and Doing Trigger Management

T is all about turning toward or repairing with ourselves which is essential in secure attachment with self and others.  Jessica writes “how we treat ourselves when we have made a mistake, when there is an internal battle between different parts of ourselves, or when we have fallen short of our own standards, ethics, or expectations, is imperative in building a strong inner secure foundation.”  Mistakes and triggers can become amazing opportunities to strengthen and deepen our relationship with ourselves.  Understanding and inquiring into your triggers and voice of your inner critic instead of reacting from them can be a powerful way to heal past pain and transform outdated beliefs or stories that you might still be stuck in.  When the inner critic is getting loud, it helps to reduce the impact of this harshness by learning how to translate this part’s message.  We can do this by engaging in an internal dialog with this part of ourselves, asking it why it is so persistent.  Often, we will find that it is trying to protect us from harm, from looking bad, from being dislikes, or from failing in some way.  The irony is that while this part has positive intentions, its methods of self-judgement, “shoulding,” and self-scolding are counterproductive to this cause.  However, when we can identify the positive and protective intention, we can gain the power to translate its intention.   


Things to Try and Experiment with:

-When your inner critic arises, try engaging that part of you in dialogue instead of just believing it.  Ask what it wants for you and if it is trying to protect you in any way.  You can do this verbally, internally, or in writing.  Keep engaging with this part of yourself until you get a positive intention that it is holding for you.  Once you have this positive intention, you can then experiment with translating the inner critic any time it arises again.

-Practice self-soothing and calming your arousal. 

-Seek support through books, programs, or working with a professional to work with your inner critic and to manage your triggers. 

-Mindful deep belly breathing is an effective way to decreased heightened arousal and return your body to a state of regulation when you feel triggered, anxious, or out of control.  Learning managing your triggers is your responsibility is huge. 

-Experiment with cognitive reappraisal or cognitive reframing techniques to reinterpret a situation and change your emotional response to it.  For example, when you find yourself triggered and whatever your usual narrative is when you are triggered starts to swirl in your mind such as “no one care about me,” “I’m not important,” “I’m not good enough,” ect.  Instead of continuing with that thought process, take a moment to pause and reflect on “what else could be true right now?”  Even if your brain keeps going back to the triggered narrative, this still helps your brain start to see there are other possibilities instead of the same pathway you have frequently traveled in making sense of situations.   

-Check out Deirdre Fay’s workbook “Becoming Safely Embodied: A Skills-Based Approach to Working with Trauma and Dissociation.” 

-Check out Bonnie Weiss and Jay Earley’s book “Freedom from Your Inner Critic: A Self-Therapy Approach.” 


This blog was heavily inspired by the book “Polyseure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy” Chapter 9: The S In Hearts- Secure Attachment with Self by Jessica Fern.

Blog by Malinda King, MA, LPCC
Photo by YEŞ via Pexels