Vulnerability can be one of the most challenging things to share with another human being. Yet it is the essence of what we all crave. Most people, deep down, long for more than surface-based relationships. We ache for a sense of trust and deep connection with another human being.
Unfortunately, many of us weren’t taught how to forge true connection, so we spend our lives in a vast wasteland of shallow interactions and meaningless conversations.
Gnothi Seauton. Know Thyself. As they say, it all starts within. We must seek to understand ourselves, and learn why we are the way we are, if we wish to unpeel all of our patterns and learned behaviors that don’t belong to us. Once we begin to walk the path of self-knowledge, we take the first crucial step towards our ability to form deep and meaningful relationships with others.
Attachment theory is an incredibly valuable tool to support the process of peering within. It gives us a lens through which to view our unconscious dynamics with others.
Developed by psychologist Mary Ainsworth and psychiatrist John Bowlby in the 1950’s, attachment theory has helped many people to forge a deeper understanding of their interpersonal relationship dynamics.
Subsequent books have been written, modernizing our understanding of the data, including a popular staple, “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep - Love” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.
The premise of the theory is that our parental dynamics within the first few years of life imprint emotions upon our young, impressionable subconscious minds. These lead to the development of patterns and personality tendencies that affect the way we relate to all other human beings, throughout our childhood and adult years.
Some people are aloof and unattached in their interpersonal relationships. Others are clingy and needy. If people from opposite polarities try to forge connection, they can find themselves in an endless push-pull of unmet needs.
All of us are functioning, on some level, by using coping mechanisms we developed as young children, influenced by our interactions with our parents. In order to learn how to be most sensitive to our current partners, it can help to have a mutual understanding of our underlying natures, and to explore each others’ beliefs, backgrounds, and subconscious tendencies.
In this way, we can learn to see the world through another person’s eyes, and learn coping mechanisms to be sensitive to their wounds and emotions.
The Tell Me More App offers an interactive intimacy-building gaming experience that invites deep inquiry into the inner realms of your loved ones’ human experience.
By asking meaningful questions, and investigating each other with unique, provocative, heartfelt questions, you can learn how to be sensitive to any pitfalls that might arise in your intimate dynamic. Most importantly, you can forge a connection that goes far beyond the surface.
The app includes thought-provoking questions that expose a person’s layered personality aspects. It invokes questions about life experiences, childhood, values, opinions, and approaches to love and career.
Using tools like this to bond with others and stimulate meaningful conversation, can help us to let down our walls and truly experience what it means to connect with another. When armed with an awareness of each of your individual attachment tendencies, you and your partner can gain a full, compassionate picture of the person you love.
Our formative years are fundamental to our sense of identity as we grow and evolve. In those years we formed the foundation of all our future personality quirks and ways of relating to other humans.
There are some core issues that show up in people’s lives thanks to their upbringing.
1. CLOSENESS: their willingness to allow a partner close to them, or their ability to get close to another person.
2. DEPENDENCE: their neediness around validation from a partner, or their need to be constantly in contact
3. ANXIETY: a person’s underlying fear that they will be abandoned by their partner
Other key dimensions of attachment style include a person’s ability to navigate conflict and find resolution in the midst of challenge, their skills at communicating their emotional needs to their partner, and their ability to understand another person’s needs.
Once you understand what category your unconscious behaviors are falling under, you can begin to learn methods for shifting your reactions, and becoming the master of your own dominion.
SECURE ATTACHMENT (AUTONOMOUS)
In the case of a securely attached adult, it is likely that they had reliable parents, who showed up with love, and provided a stable environment for their children. Their childhood environment likely had an overarching sense of safety, love, communication, freedom and healthy conflict resolution.
The child who is a product of this type of familiar structure will feel valued, seen, and known. It will likely feel safe and comforted, in a protective family environment.
People who come from a stable childhood background, and have secure attachment styles, have certain attributes in common.
1. They tend to seek out long term relationships
2. They find ease and comfort within connection to their partner.
3. They tend to have low levels of anxiety and avoidance
4. They tend to feel trust, understanding, emotional closeness, and acceptance of their partner.
5. They tend to use sex as a means to express love and connection with their partner
Our attachment style is said to start developing within the first 18 months of life. How parents or guardians cared for children in their first 5 years plays a crucial role in their emotional development.
As newborn babies, our brains are completely malleable and impressionable. We develop our foundational relationship to life during this unconscious phase of life before we even have any memories or sense of self or identity.
Babies build their neural wiring in relation to the experiences they have with their parents, which establishes the subconscious foundation of all subsequent adult behavioral patterns.
If you are a baby, and your parents leave you crying and screaming in your crib, you won’t consciously understand what’s happening, but your newly forming brain will begin to see the world anxiously, never sure of whether your needs will be met, whether your mother will return, or whether you are about to be abandoned.
Thus, without understanding why, consciously, as an adult, you may find yourself always feeling insecure and anxious in relationships, longing for safety and comfort, but afraid of being abandoned.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, if a baby has a mother who always responds to its cries, and immediately meets its needs for hunger, that baby’s brain will establish neural networks that are wired for security and safety.
No parent is going to be perfect, but a parent who responds reliably to their child’s needs and instills a sense of self-confidence in their child, will help their offspring to develop a secure attachment style.
ANXIOUS ATTACHMENT (PREOCCUPIED)
Anxious attachment is a common experience. It can lead to feelings of jealousy, not-enough-ness, fear of abandonment, and insecurity. This may stem from experiences of childhood trauma or abuse.
It can affect a person’s mental health and social behavior, as well as their ability to form healthy adult relationships. In their relationship dynamics, adults who fall under the anxious attachment umbrella will often exhibit certain tendencies.
1. They may use sex for approval, seeking the feeling of being desired or accepted.
2. They often have low self-esteem, and poor self image. This leads to them seeking outside of themselves endlessly for validation.
3. They tend to fall in love easily
4. They have trouble with boundaries, and surrender their sense of self in order to please others.
5. They often cannot see their own beauty.
6. They may also have more of a tendency to cheat, as a means of preemptively protecting themselves from abandonment or hurt.
The anxious attachment style can often lead to a person self-sabotaging an otherwise wonderful relationship, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where they will drive away their partners, because of their neurotic paranoia.
AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT (DISMISSIVE)
A person who has avoidant tendencies may lock themselves away in a shell of self-protection, which makes it hard for them to form meaningful relationships.
Here are some key traits to look out for, if you are wondering if you or your loved ones might have developed this coping strategy for human connection.
1. They may tend to have more casual, emotionless sex.
2. They tend to fear intimacy, and are less likely to fall in love.
3. They may be driven to create relationship more based on their ego than on heartfelt connection.
4. Since physical or psychological closeness can make them uncomfortable, they may not actually enjoy foreplay or sex.
5. Their motivations for having sex may be related to stress-relief, impressing peers, or manipulation of a partner.
One thing is for sure, the concept of intimacy and love may put the avoidant person into a panic. They may do whatever they need to do to keep others at a distance, even if that means remaining aloof, cold, and detached from human connection.
DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT (FEARFUL / AVOIDANT)
A person with a disorganized attachment style may swing between the polarities of avoidant and anxious behavioral patterns. They long for connection with others, but may be full of mistrust that leads them to have a push-pull dynamic with the people they try to be close to.
1. They are anxious about their partner’s commitment levels.
2. They feel anxiety around the subject of intimacy and have trouble trusting.
3. They may be haunted by memories of prior traumas.
4. They may be argumentative and rageful, unable to resolve conflict, or abusive.
5. They may recreate old patterns of dysfunctional relationships.
6. They may be narcissistic and antisocial.
7. They may dissociate from emotional pain and suffer from depression, PTSD.
8. They may feel unworthy of love and more likely to have a sex addiction.
This attachment style may end up in relationship, and find themselves playing a submissive role, due to their self esteem issues around self value.
If we can identify these toxic false beliefs, we can begin to intentionally counteract their effect on our personal lives.
Most people are hybrids, containing elements of more than one attachment style. By being honest with themselves and their partners about their personality tendencies, however, they can begin to find solutions to resolve their undesired personality attributes, and bring balance to their interpersonal experiences.
Fortunately, there are tools available to help us build compassion and understanding around our complex human experiences. Download Tell Me More App, and experiment with the intimacy and vulnerability that comes from truly seeing through your partner’s eyes.
Using this tool, and an awareness of your attachment styles, you’ll find yourself reaching new depths of understanding and connection. This will inevitably enhance your life experience in many dimensions.
Get out there and start connecting!