How we interact with and relate to others is affected by what we learn during our “attachment” phase of life.
Most of this is an unconscious dynamic, but it affects all of our relationships and our ability to bond, connect, feel safety, trust and closeness.
There are four main attachment dynamics that I will explore over time, but for purposes of a brief introduction, I will list them here as a starting place.
- Secure attachment is a healthy attachment with parents who are present, safe, protective, playful and consistent, offering a positive environment that allows for healthy relationships and bonding.
- Avoidant attachment is when there is unavailability, hostility and lack of fulfillment from caregivers. This can result in feeling that relationships and intimacy are difficult so we tend to stay on the sidelines. Perhaps even a major disconnection from relationships as a source of comfort in life. We have learned in this scenario that we are better able to meet our needs ourselves. We have learned to dismiss others and live in an isolated way, relying on ourselves.
- Ambivalent attachment is when the bonding we experience is “here today, gone tomorrow”. This leads to ongoing frustration and insecurity often resulting in feeling incapable of ever being truly loved or being loveable. This also feeds the need to focus on the other primarily and ourselves as a last thought. Since we learn to abandon ourselves, we feel only external sources of comfort and regulation will work.
- Disorganized attachment is when parents are overly fearful themselves, chaotic or terrifying. We become so frightened or confused that it creates a conflict between our two primary biological drives – the need to survive and attach vs. the need to protect oneself through survival instincts, needing to dis-attach.
Every person has at least one attachment style and many people have more than one, depending on their circumstances and experiences.
It is important to understand attachment styles in order to alter / resolve patterns that don’t serve or support us in living the lives that we want. It is absolutely possible to repair and heal early attachment wounds and have the benefits of living a securely attached life.
Moving forward we will learn more about each of these, as well as some of the more commonly paired styles, how they present and how they can be healed for the long term. For now, this is just information to consider.