Previous readers will remember John Bowlby’s & Marry Ainsworth’s Attachment Theory as it affects loving relationships:
- Secure Attachment
- Anxious Preoccupied Attachment.
- Dismissive Avoidant Attachment
- Fearful Avoidant Attachment
Fortunately, there are fellow mental health authorities who furnish us with the good news that we don’t have to remain trapped within the confines of the defensive attachment strategies we developed early in life. There are many experiences throughout life that provide opportunities for personal growth and change. Although your patterns of attachment were formed in infancy and persist throughout your life, it is possible to develop an “Earned Secure Attachment” at any age.
One essential way to do this is by making sense of your story. According to Dr. Dan Siegel, attachment research demonstrates that “the best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to his parents as children, but rather how his parents made sense of those childhood experiences.” The key to “making sense” of your life experiences is to write a coherent narrative, which helps you understand how your childhood experiences are still affecting you in your life today. Drs. Dan Siegel and Lisa Firestone have developed the process of creating that coherent narrative to help you to build healthier, more secure attachments and strengthen your own personal sense of emotional resilience. When you create a coherent narrative, you actually rewire your brain to cultivate more security within yourself and your relationships.
Steps that people, either single or in a couple, can initiate on their own:
- List the positive traits you are looking for in a potential partner, if you are single. These personal qualities are likely to be characteristic of a securely attached person.
- Reveal any feelings of anger or hostility you might have toward your partner rather than withdrawing or creating distance in your relationship or allowing your angry feelings to build up.
- Journaling: Identify the critical inner voices toward yourself and your partner by recording these negative thoughts (write them in the second person on the left-hand side of a page. Challenge these voices by recording more congenial and rational views of you and your partner on the right side of the page.
- Drop defensive attachment strategies such as indifference and aloofness, and attitudes of vanity and superiority that are fostered by the critical inner voice.
- Face the fact that when someone [your partner] sees you as unique and desirable, you will experience positive feelings of personal worth as well as painful feelings of sadness, particularly as you two get closer. Do not react by pulling away; just “hang in there;” you will begin to gradually see yourself in a more positive light than you did as a child, and will eventually feel more comfortable with closeness and intimacy.
- Be vulnerable; try to honestly disclose your fears of separation and potential loss to your partner.
- Move toward increased interaction with other people: don’t become isolated even as a couple. Extend your circle of family and friends who are open and honest with you to provide better reality-testing of how you and your partner relate to each other.
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