Do you want to know how to bring about change in your life?
Start by looking at yourself and determining your “attachment styles.”
There is a body of work in the field of psychology known as Attachment Theory. In this short post I’m not going to provide all the history behind this theory, I’ll just tell you that it’s extremely well researched and grounded.
The theory explains that people develop one of four attachment styles during the first seven to eighteen months of life. The four patterns are:
Secure — A secure attachment develops as a result of having parents or primary caregivers who are responsive and consistent to the needs of their children. As a result of developing a secure attachment, a child grows up to be more secure and adaptive to changing circumstances.
Avoidant — An avoidant attachment develops as a result of having parents or primary caregivers who are rejecting and distant when dealing with their children. As a result of developing an avoidant attachment, a child grows up to be rather independent and has a hard time forming a healthy “we” with another person.
Ambivalent — An ambivalent attachment develops as a result of having parents or primary caregivers who are inconsistent or intrusive when dealing with their children. As a result of developing an ambivalent attachment, the child grows up having a tendency to cling to people close to them.
Disorganized — A disorganized attachment develops as a result of having parents or primary caregivers who are frightening and confusing when dealing with their children. Typically, these parents are living with unresolved trauma of their own. As a result of developing a disorganized attachment, the child grows up having a tendency to move both toward and away from people with whom they try to be close.
Those of us who grew up with a secure attachment are very fortunate. We will have an easier time forming healthy intimate relationships with other people. Those of us who grew up with one of the three other attachment styles, need to do three things.
1) We need to recognize our attachment styles and accept that this is part of our history. If we deny this part of ourselves, we can’t address this part of ourselves.
2) We need to go against our historical patterns, demonstrating to ourselves that our history is not our fate—and it doesn’t have to be.
3) We need to find a new way to talk about ourselves—to share our personal narrative. I have written about this in another post, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about narratives in this post. But, the key is to recognize that our attachment styles show up as a particular kind of narrative. By changing our narrative, we can alter our attachment patterns.
If you have an avoidant attachment pattern your narrative is very likely be dismissive, of both self and others. If you are consciously aware of this tendency, you can help yourself by making an effort not to be dismissive, of self or others.
If you have an ambivalent attachment pattern your narrative is very likely to be preoccupied—meaning that your past intrudes into your present. If you are aware of this, you can help yourself by making an effort not to be so preoccupied—always taking about yourself and your history. Try to stay more in the present, being consistent and responsive to what’s happening now.
If you have a disorganized attachment pattern your narrative is very likely to sound traumatic, talking about things from the past that are unresolved. If you are aware of this, you can help yourself by making an effort to soothe yourself, calm yourself, and stay present.
Of course, sometimes we don’t see our own patterns and that’s one reason why working with a trained therapist can be helpful. But, with just the little bit of information I’ve shared in this post, see if you can identify what you think is your attachment style and then see if you can go against your historical behavior patterns, and talk about yourself in a new, more intentional way.