I’m super excited to share another blog post by my wife Meg with you today about Truth Before Change. In case you missed it, her last post was about her childhood. You can read that here. Also, I introduced her to the blog that you can read here… Enjoy! – Garrett
My last blog post talked about wounds from childhood and threw around a bit of terminology. This included John Bowlby’s attachment theory.
He was a British psychiatrist who attended medical school AND did psychiatric training which included seven years of psychoanalysis – so yes, this guy wasn’t very smart apparently… You can read much more about Bowlby and his work here. At one point in his career, he partnered with a Canadian researcher, Mary Ainsworth and developed an experiment to look at the four behaviors they believed to be basic to this idea of attachment.
These behaviors included the following:
As humans, we monitor and maintain emotional and physical closeness with our beloved.
We reach out to this person when we are upset, unsure, or feeling down.
We miss this person when we are apart.
We count on this person to be there for us when we go out into the world and explore.
The experiment was called, “The Strange Situation,” and you can read all about it here. It literally revolutionized the world of psychology and generated thousands more scientific studies.
Further development of the theory led to some of the following concepts and is a basic tenet of the approach to therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) developed by Dr. Sue Johnson.
The theory proposes that we develop our attachment style early in childhood as a result of our relationships with our primary caregivers, whoever those people were for us. Obviously, this is often our moms and dads. When primary caregivers are abusive when they leave, or even when they are just emotionally unavailable, they can leave us with huge wounds, or RAW SPOTS, and this insecure attachment can play into all of our relationships moving forward. We can conceptualize four different styles of attachment: secure, anxious avoidant, ambivalent, or distant. Typically, we all may have seasons where we operate out of all four of them, but we each have a global attachment style, meaning the one that we mostly operate out of even when we are in more of a resting state, or not during a crisis of some kind.
Curious to know what style you are right now? Welp, exciting news! You can take this assessment and see your attachment style with some key people in your life and can learn a lot more. For a quick reference on how specific styles play out in relationship, this is a great snippet!
So why do we care about attachment and why does it matter what happened with my parents as a kid?
Well, it matters because it could be one of THE MAIN THINGS that affects all of your adult relationships, but particularly your relationship with your significant other. The goal is to have SECURE attachment because of the following…
When we feel generally secure, that is, we are comfortable with closeness and confident about depending on loved ones, we are better at seeking support AND better at giving it.
When we feel safely linked to our partners, we more easily roll with the hurts they will inevitably inflict, and we are less likely to be aggressively hostile when we get mad at them.
Secure connection to a loved one is empowering.
The more we can reach out to our partners, the more separate and independent we can be.
So maybe you take the assessment and are a little freaked out because your attachment style does not fall into the secure category…do not be afraid of this. The amazingly good news is that our attachment styles CAN CHANGE. Just as humans can inflict some of the most painful wounds, humans can also be the greatest agents of healing in our lives. For now, it takes the courage and boldness to face the truths about our past hurts, raw spots, and wounds. We have to recognize these truths and face their reality before we can take the steps to change, so take heart because there is always hope.