"Want to know how enlightened you are? Spend time with your family." I don't know who it was that said this quote but I heard it once on mindfulness retreat in reference to the inner work required to have successful and fulfilling relationships. I am using it today partly because family are your original relationship making template and this time of year we all get practice and improve on it. Truth is no matter who we spend time with provided they are being respectful and authentic, eventually after sometime they will reflect our challenges, strengths and provide us with growth opportunities.
I recently did a body work with a client on relationships and asked her to research books and explore this topic in her home reading. The more energy you invest in learning something new the better you get at it. So she came back to the next session and told me about the book she just read Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find and keep love.
The science behind the book is not new to me, attachment theory and mindfulness are closely connected and in my counselling studies attachment theory is one of the most widely respected and used relationship approaches. John Bowlby began developing the attachment theory in the 1930s as a way to explain the blueprint we all form in our original relationship, which is usually with our mother but it can be any carer. It seeks to explain how we orient in relation to all other people and even objects of our attention in adulthood.
Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).
Attachment is well established early on in the first year of life and is a result of the how well the mother responds to the child's immediate needs. Attachment styles are broken up into 4 basic styles and researchers discovered them by briefly separating children from their caregivers and then reuniting them. Quite often you might have one dominant style but can also have a secondary style and styles exist on a continuum.
What are the 4 attachment styles?
Secure attachment: When a child is distressed upon separation but warmly welcomes the parent back through eye contact and affection.
Anxious resistance: When a child is frightened by separation and continues to be anxious after the care giver returns.
Avoidant Attachment: When the child is fairly calm when the parent leaves and does not embrace their return.
(The book discussed the top 3 but there is a forth)
Disorganised attachment: Ambivalent and strange behaviour when the parent returns, approaching and then turning away which may be the result of childhood trauma.
Attachment styles can teach us a lot about ourselves and our significant others and help us be more connected which is common ground for all relationships. Humans are built for social connection, it's in our DNA and it helps us survive, evolve and thrive. While the earliest years of life lay down the foundation neural pathways in our brain we also know we can develop new pathways and change our thinking. Our culture might tell us "we are enough" or we must be emotionally self-sufficient but the truth is we are not designed to be individualistic.
I went to buy this book for a friend today and it is sold out. But it apparently provides a road map from dating, to building stronger and more fulfilling connections with the people you love. You may like to check out the quiz to discover your attachment style and order the book if you can get your hands on a copy. May you have a 2020 that brings new love and connection.