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  • Attachment Theory: Understanding our Relationship Patterns

    To put things simply, our early childhood relationships with our caregivers shape the dynamics of all our relationships throughout our lives. Our relationships, in turn, have a huge effect on our mental and physical health.

    This is not to say that attachment styles are set in stone, or that people who had traumatic bonding experiences with early caregivers are doomed to be relational failures. That is not the case. We all develop patterns and ways of being throughout our lives, and though these are largely shaped by early experiences, there is always room for personal growth in order to set ourselves up for healthier relationships.

    Changing our patterns of thought and behavior can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Neuroscience has taught us a lot about the brain’s capacity for forging new connections, throughout our life. Just think of your brain as having a ton of different trails, when you choose to walk a new trail, it will be challenging at first, scrambling through the tall brush and branches, but the more times you walk this new path, the more worn and accessible it will become. The same goes for neural pathways… the more you choose a new behavior or thought to replace those thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck, the more natural these patterns will feel and the easier it will be to follow new paths to fulfilling and respectful relationships.

    It is understood that there are four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious/avoidant. Considering the diversity of human experience and the intersectionality of human identity, it is most likely that you fit into several categories. That being said, the goal is to understand our attachment style and how it helps and hinders our capacity for intimate relationships, and we can always work on relational skills that inch us closer to the secure style of attachment.

    Understanding our attachment styles can help us to heal childhood wounds and learn how to get our current relational needs met. It allows us to see the ways we may be sabotaging our relationships and learn how to communicate our needs better so that we build healthier relationships today, and in the future. 

    Sources:

    Faley, Chris (2018). Adult Attachment Theory and Research: A Brief Overview. Retrieved from: http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm

    Levine, A. & Heller, R (2012). Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help you Find and Keep Love. Penguin Publishing Group.