Up until the age of two, our brain is growing at a furious rate. The neurons are connecting, and the brain is being wired, literally. In the relationship with our primary caregiver (usually the mother), we are being wired for connection. As children, we depend on this person for food, love, understanding and survival, so we adapt our behaviour to suit the situation we are experiencing in that relationship to stay alive, fed and loved.
If the mother was not available or inconsistent in their availability or even abusive, the attachment bond created is called ‘insecure’. Researchers have identified three distinct insecure styles:
- Ambivalent/anxious – develops clingy and insecure traits as an adult
- Avoidant – develops intimacy issues and can be ‘cold’ as an adult
- Disorganised – this is a combination of the two above – flips between being clingy and distancing. Often the result of trauma in the relationship with the mother.
This first relational ‘imprint’ continues into adulthood. We have unconscious expectations that the person we are in an adult intimate relationship with will behave the same way our mother did. So, if she was unavailable and cold, we will expect that our partner won’t meet our needs, and there is no point in sharing. We may want to be intimate but have no experience of what that feels and looks like from the inside.
If you read through the list and feel that you fall into one of the three insecurely attached groups and have felt the pain of that attachment style over and over again in your intimate relationships, in your friendships and at work, know that you CAN help yourself.
You CAN go back and rewire that original attachment to create profound shifts and healing in your adult life. I have seen it happen again and again in therapy, so have hope.
Which style do you resonate with? I’m secure with a side dish of anxious.