What is attachment?
It has been seen that we all come into the world with an innate predisposition to bond with our primary caregiver figure, it is necessary for our survival and development. This is the basis of attachment or addiction, a theory first developed by John Bowlby. Attachment refers to the bond that is established between a baby and its primary caregivers and that provides the baby with safety and regulation of internal states. Some functions that we will develop in adulthood, begin in the early years and are explained through attachment. Firstly, we have to look at what causes this order by delving into the root cause of it.
Some attachment functions are:
- It helps develop and consolidate the baby’s brain and is so important for survival and development in humans (and other species) that it is above other biological needs.
- Through attachment, we human beings know the world and feel security and coherence both about ourselves and about what surrounds us.
- Attachment is so innate that when a baby is separated from its attachment figure, the brain activates a whole set of emotions and behaviors to seek closeness and safety in meaningful people. This explains why children have anxiety when separated from their parents and why they only calm down when they return.
- Attachment will influence how we will be as adults, the concepts we will create, the security we will have in us and in other people, and how we link with important figures (children, couples)
- If in childhood attachment has been mainly anxious, we adults will seek or flee from a significant other (especially the couple), having fear, anxiety, or anger if it moves away or moving away before to avoid abandonment.
- Attachment will largely depend on the capacity for internal (emotional) regulation.
- It depends on the attachment that we create a solid and structured vision of ourselves.
If there are difficulties in primary relationships or in the safety of the baby, so-called attachment traumas can develop.
Types Of Attachment
Depending on the experiences the person has in childhood, these are some types of attachment that we can find:
- Evasive or avoidable style: it develops in front of people who are not very present or sensitive to the child’s needs. An example would be the child who cries inconsolably and gets no response from his caregiver.Child ends up calming down by exhaustion but learns that he cannot trust or depend on anyone.
They are often children who seem calm in the face of separations from their attachment figures, but studies have shown that these children actually feel great anxiety, although they do not externalize it. If we look at it from a more evolutionary angle, this kind of attachment would also develop when we grow up in a very dangerous environment, where the chances of survival are difficult. In these contexts, it is most likely that close ties are not created since the person would have the feeling of being able to lose them.
- Anxious or ambivalent style: they are often children who grow up with attachment figures more attentive to their own needs than to the needs of the child. These children create very strong responses, as the adult responds in a variable way. They tend to hyper-vigilance and need to stay close to attachment figures constantly, as they cannot internalize if it is available or if on the contrary, it will disappear.
- Safe style: when, on the contrary, the people who must protect and care for the child are consistent, children develop an attachment where they learn to regulate themselves and feel that others are reliable people and the world is a safe place. But this may be unadaptive if the environment where the adult future will have to live is dangerous.
What are the attachment disorders?
It is important to understand that attachment is not a pathological thing but is an adaptive response to the different contexts and people we have had in our childhood and resurfacing in adulthood with different profiles of people.
Attachment disorders arise when the child has to respond to traumatic situations or when his or her attachment figures are inconsistent, for example when his or her caregivers do not respond to the child’s emotional or physical needs, as is the case in cases of neglect or when the person who must provide security and affection is the same person who produces fear, such as in situations of abuse.
At the moment attachment is built as a source of trauma or as a disorganization of the attachment response, that is, as other types of attachment do not serve to establish a link with the significant person, the child develops pathological visions and behaviors (stands still, seeks contact but at the same time is afraid, rejects the caregiver but yearns for it, etc.), This is called disorganized attachment which is seen by some authors as a fourth classification of the type of attachment and others however specify it as disorganization in attachment when the other strategies do not work.
How Do Attachment Traumas Affect Adult Life?
Attachment, as defined at the beginning, conditions the way we see ourselves, interpret others and the world and how we relate, especially with important figures such as the couple or children.
If you want to know how attachment affects our choices and relationships in adulthood, go on with this article.
It must be borne in mind that attachment, although important, is not a classification of personality and that people are much more than an attachment, so there will be other variables that affect us in our personal development: experiences, environment, genetics, society, culture, etc.
Apart from this, it must be remembered that children establish different types of attachment with different people, with a cold parent they can develop an avoidable attachment and at the same time have a secure attachment with a warm, welcoming and respectful mother, which offers comfort while leaving the child freedom of exploration. This being clarified, some consequences that are affected by attachment disorders are:
- The inability of the person to self-calm and self-regulate
- Emotional dependence
- Avoidance of close ties
- Fear of abandonment
- World view as dangerous or too safe
- Distorted view of others: as aggressors, as manipulators, as dangerous or with bad intentions
- Self-vision as insecure, incapable, inadequate, bad, victim, dangerous, aggressor…
- Protest behaviors: crying, screaming, assaulting, begging… especially at times when they feel the bond can be broken or in danger.
- Bringing couples to limits, testing them, constantly seeking their approval or verifying that they want them (especially in ambivalent attachments), actively avoiding them or feeling trapped in close ties (avoidable attachments).
- Do not solve duels properly
- Do not tolerate frustration or certain bodily sensations.
- Get emotionally attached to certain types of person, even though they may be toxic or harmful to one.
- Venturing into dangerous or harmful experiences
- Disorganization of the personality and concept of the self
- Personality disorders have also been associated with early attachment traumas.
- Low capacity for mentalization (thinking about oneself, others, or relationships that are established), taking their thoughts as true, thinking more motives than actually exist, accepting the behavior as proof of something, etc.
On the other hand, it was also concluded that certain types of depression seemed to derive or be influenced by insecure attachments in childhood, always taking into account the multicausal of depression (there is usually no single cause to explain or maintain it). The relationship found in the studies would be as follows:
- The anxious-ambivalent attachment would be more related to a type of depression called dependent. it dominates the fear of the loss of the love of the other, the need to re-establish the bond with the other and the need for reliable relationships. When lost it is generatedthe anger, guilt, anxiety.
- The anxiety-aversive attachment would be more related to a type of depression called introjective or high self-critical, where the person would tend to constantly seek and struggle to have a positive self-image and a tendency to search for perfection which, as is to be expected, can hardly be achieved.
Treatment Of Attachment Disorders
Treatment for attachment disorders is based on helping the person create safer and more beneficial bonds, changing certain beliefs or mental schemes that he or she has deemed valid, helping him or her to link in a healthier way and re-learn to interpret reality.
The therapist will work from different angles and strategies such as relational psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy or in cases of severe trauma, EMDR, which has been seen as a very effective technique for this type of disorder. Other strategies, such as the Therapy Based on the Mind or the Transfer Based, can help you repair the attachment, especially in serious cases such as personality disorders. In any case, the psychologist will help the person to live from a safer place, repairing the damage of attachment that currently causes him to suffer.