I have written about the types of attachment types on Which Attachment Theory Determines Your Relationship Basis?
in my writings about attachment theory which I believe to be the basis of understanding how we relate to others, I will be focusing on the 3 dysfunctional types. Our goal is to become a secure attachment person which I am now after years of bad choices. It wasn’t the men. It was me. I needed to heal from my childhood.
The dysfunctional types are Anxious/Ambivalent, Anxious/Avoidant, and Anxious/Disorganized. I will be posting about each over the next few weeks.
The long term effects of our attachment in the early years are well documented. Using the theory, researchers at Minnesota University were able to predict already at age 3, if a child would drop out of high school with 77% accuracy. In another study, undergraduates at Harvard were asked to assess how close they felt to their parents. 35 years later they were asked about their health.
91% of those who said they had a rather broken relationship with their mother, were also diagnosed with health issues, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, and alcoholism.
For those that had reported a warm relationship, the figure for poor health diagnosis was just 45%. But there is another reason why the early years deserve special attention. They are the starting place for subsequent behaviors.
A kid that feels securely attached at age 2, can make friends at kindergarten. Their worldview gets reinforced with every interaction and they develop optimism. As a result, they make good relationships at school, then at a colleague and later at work. Highly insecurely attached children can miss out on this opportunity. Psychologist John Bowlby, a pioneer in attachment theory, allegedly said, “What cannot be communicated to the mother, cannot be communicated to the self.”
In other words: those who feel insecurely attached, might not quite understand themselves. To get to know who they are and what they feel, they might have to go way back in time.
Romantic relationships are often the spheres in which we play out our past traumas. Thus, we demonstrate our learned attachment from our caregivers in these relationships as well. It is also in these relationships that we have a chance to learn about ourselves and engage differently.
One of the hardest lessons that attachment theory teaches us is that we make relationship decisions in a way that validates our understanding of love and attachment, regardless of the healthiness of our approach.
For example, attachment expert Dr. Lisa Firestone elaborates that a person with an anxious attachment style will be attracted to an avoidant personality in order to validate her or his own beliefs that “in order to get close to someone and have your needs met, you need to be with your partner all the time and get reassurance.”
At first, this might not make sense. If you think about it, however, a securely attached person would provide consistent emotional intimacy to their anxious partner, thus invalidating the anxious partner’s belief that they must constantly work for that intimacy. This wouldn’t fit the anxious partner’s mental model of love and attachment.
If unexamined, the discrepancy could cause the anxious partner to exit the relationship because of a belief that it didn’t feel “right”. Of course, what does feel right in this case, isn’t healthy.