“When we have secure attachment, we have confidence in ourselves and others. This allows us to enjoy quality time together, as well as quality time apart.”
This is an important theory that can give you insight into how you respond in relationships. We should have a healthy balance of interdependence, so that we can both take the initiative to meet some of our own needs, and also reach out to our relationships to have needs met. Unfortunately, this security can get damaged very early in life when we try to attach to our parents and find a roadblock. When that happens we often develop an attachment style of hanging on for dear life (anxious attachment), resisting intimacy (avoidant attachment), or being hot and cold in relationships, both leaning in and pulling away (sometimes referred to as ambivalent or disorganized attachment).
We don’t necessarily have a fixed attachment style for life but can grow and adapt depending on the circumstances. When I was young, I had an angry parent and a passive aggressive parent. Having said that, they weren’t bad people, but just weren’t able to communicate love and safety in the way I needed. Because I felt unloved by my parents, I didn’t attach to them very well emotionally. I also was bullied in my youth and got a lot of messages about being different or weird. As a result, I hid my true self, only spending time with others who were ‘different’ or didn’t fit the mold either. In a sense, I was avoidant – not wanting to risk the pain of real intimacy, because any real feelings I expressed in my home were met with rejection and misunderstanding. However, when I finally decided to give vulnerability a shot, I flipped to anxious and/ or ambivalent attachment. I would sometimes put up walls or boundaries, but I couldn’t let go of the connection that filled my longing.
Just like it took years to get past the barrier of shunned emotion and avoidant attachment, it also took years to work through the insane loyalty of anxious attachment. And of course, in order to be healthy in our relationships, we also have to have another person who is willing to work on their attachment issues with us, or who are already securely attached. Even if our parents were not safe havens, we can find new supports as an adult who can become that safety net for us.