Tag Archives: Attachment theory

Attachment theory and adult relationships


attachment theory

Attachment theory and adult relationships

The style of care we receive as infants and children sets up our attachment type for our adult relationships. Attachment theory looks at three types of attachment: anxious, ambivalent and secure. The way our primary care giver treated us teaches us about human interaction. Is the world a safe place? Do we get our needs met consistently? How is it for us when our caregiver leaves us alone?

Secure Attachment as an infant (50% of population)

If our care giver consistently met our needs, picked us up when we cried and helped us feel safe we are more likely to develop a secure attachment and go on to have fairly stable adult relationships built on a strong stable foundation.

Anxious Avoidant Attachment as an infant(25%)

Parents of children with an avoidant/anxious attachment tend to be emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to them a good deal of the time. They disregard or ignore their children’s needs, and can be especially rejecting when their child is hurt or sick. They frequently rationalize their lack of response by saying they are trying not to spoil the child with “too much” affection or attention. These parents also discourage crying and encourage premature independence in their children.

In response, the avoidant/anxiously attached child learns early in life to suppress the natural desire to seek out a parent for comfort when frightened, distressed, or in pain.

Anxious Ambivalent Attachment as an infant(20%)

When parents or caregivers interact with their children in ways that are inconsistent and unpredictable, the children develop ambivalent/anxious attachment patterns. Attachmentresearchers describe the behavior of these adults, noting how at times they are nurturing, attuned and respond effectively to their child’s distress, while at other times they are intrusive, insensitive or emotionally unavailable. For example, they can be neglectful and then later try to make up for it by being overindulgent. When parents vacillate between two very different responses, their children become confused and distrustful, not knowing what kind of treatment to expect

The poet Philip Larkin was not the first or the last to notice that parents, “they fuck you up.”  How you are as a parent makes a huge difference in the neural development of your child for the first four or five years. While John Bowlby is known as the father of attachment, a prodigiously smart psychologist who worked briefly as his researcher, Mary Salter Ainsworth, is the one who brought his theory to life. In 1954, Ainsworth’s husband got a job in Uganda and she accompanied him, determined to set up a research project testing her and Bowlby’s budding theory with real people. After a year of observing Ganda mothers and babies, she noticed that the babies who cried the least had the most attentive mothers. And she saw how “maternal attunement” to babies’ cues seemed to determine these patterns.

Four Adult Attachment Styles

Secure Attachment (low avoidance, low anxiety): If you relate positively to others and yourself, you probably have a secure attachment style. Securely attached people are generally happy in their relationships, feeling that they and others are sensitive and responsive to each other.  They sense that connection can provide comfort and relief in times of need. They also feel that they are good, loved, accepted, and competent people.

Preoccupied Attachment (low avoidance, high anxiety): If you are always worried about what others think of you and don’t really factor in your thoughts and feelings, this style of attachment most likely fits you. People with a preoccupied attachment style feel a powerful need to be close to others, and they show this by clinging. They need a lot of validation and approval. They are concerned that others don’t value them, and they also doubt their own worth in relationships. So, they often worry a lot about their relationships.

Dismissing-Avoidant Style (high avoidance, low anxiety): Although the need for connection is biologically wired in people, those with this style of attachment deny it. They like to see themselves as independent and self-sufficient; and they minimize the importance of relationships. To keep their relationships unimportant, they suppress or hide their feelings. They also often think of other people less positively than they think of themselves. When faced with rejection, they cope with it by distancing themselves.

Fearful-Avoidant Style (high avoidance, high anxiety): People with this style of attachment tend to think of themselves as flawed, dependent, and helpless. And, they think they aren’t worthy of loving or caring responses from their partners. As a result, they don’t trust that others see them positively, and they expect to get hurt. So, although they want to be close to others, they also fear it. Understandably, they often avoid intimacy and suppress their feelings.

Attachment Questionnaire: which style are you?

Try this link if you would like to know more about your attachment style.


We all need human connection. Understanding our attachment style can help us to feel closer to others and to find ways to counteract our negative limiting behaviours if we do have an anxious or fearful attachment style.

It is only by facing our fears (with baby steps if necessary) that we can learn to minimise fears and overcome our limiting beliefs about relationships and love.

Mandy X







Emotional detachment disorder


emotional detachment disorder

Emotional detachment disorder

There are many causes of emotional detachment disorder and it manifests differently for everyone although there are core features:

Emotional detachment disorder often forms in response to some sort of severe emotional trauma. As children, we are in an unequal relationship with adults who are powerful. If there is any type of abuse going on, a child often can’t escape and has to learn mental techniques to cope with the emotional trauma. These coping strategies often include distancing or detaching from feeling anything. It’s almost as if there is a different compartment in the brain where a person can go to shut of the unbearable emotional pain. In its most severe from – multiple personality disorder can form.

The problem with learning to detach emotionally from emotional trauma is that when we are in healthy relationships, that mistrust stays and at the slightest hint of hurt or rejection, a person with emotional  detachment disorder will withdraw and become cold and unavailable for communication and sharing of feelings. This can interfere with healthy relationships.

Symptoms of detached personality disorder

  1. An inability to express emotions
  2. A lack of emotional intelligence – unable to show empathy towards others
  3. Regularly feeling numb
  4. Displaying little emotion especially when it is appropriate to do so
  5. An inability to identify one’s own emotions
  6. Thinking in an overly logical or rational way
  7. Unsuccessful relationships due to minimal connection on an emotional level
  8. Being able to switch emotions ‘off’ at will

Feeling emotions is normal and healthy. Someone who has learned to suppress their emotions will often develop unhealthy behaviours to compensate for this suppression – such as many encounter with others sexually in a very casual manner, fear of intimacy, drugs, alcohol, gambling or other forms of ‘escape’.

Counselling is an effective way to start identifying emotions and allowing yourself to feel again. Learning to feel emotions is scary but it makes life more exhilarating. It’s like being plugged back into the electricity – there will be highs and lows but you will feel alive again, instead of feeling you are just surviving and going through the motions.

Mandy X


The Importance of your childhood


child photo

The importance of your childhood

Our childhoods leave us with a lasting impression, one that affects us throughout our lives. As infants, we are a ‘blank slate’ upon which early experiences make their mark. If our parents are kind, consistent and loving we learn that the world is a safe place to be in. If our parents are neglectful, cruel or unpredictable in their love and care, we generalise this experience and see the world as an unsafe place where others can’t be trusted. (If you want to know more about this – look up “Attachment Theory by John Bowlby).

Part of what makes us who we are is genetically determined, such as whether we are shy or outgoing but many of our attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and the world come from how our parents treated us and what we observed as children. Our childhoods leave us with a ‘story’ that colours the way we see the world. Sometimes, we deny the story exists or we see it through rose-tinted glasses but our story will begin to show us its influence through our behaviour, thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms. Sometimes, when we find ourselves acting in ways we never thought we would, it might just be your background story trying to tell you something.

If you find yourself acting out of character, looking for ways to escape your reality, there might just be an underlying issue that needs addressing.

Possible signs that show you haven’t dealt with your past adequately:

  • You regularly look for ways to escape your life – through drugs, alcohol or unhealthy excessive behaviours.
  • You have uncontrollable rage or anger that seems hard to manage.
  • You have had a pattern of unhappy/unhealthy relationships.
  • You have many secrets in your life, possibly a double life that no one knows about.
  • There is a lack of open and honest communication between family members.
  • You see the world as unsafe where others can never be trusted.

There are many possible signs that you may not have dealt with issues from your past. More often than not, residual damage will continue to influence you in later life. If you feel that you have become stuck in a cycle of self sabotage it may be time to seek the help of a professional – a counsellor or psychologist.

Getting the most out of life means taking control of past demons and laying them to rest. Dealing with the negative emotions such as guilt or resentment can take a huge weight off our shoulders and let you live a life free of unnecessary emotional baggage.

Mandy X

Ten Truths About Life


Thinking RFID

Thinking RFID (Photo credit: @boetter)


 Truths about life


1) Your upbringing will influence you for the rest of your life

Your emotional memories—of a parent you adored or feared, create pathways in the limbic part of the brain. Every time you revisit those memories, positive or negative, you reinforce the path, deepening a trench of emotional connection. Throughout life, your unconscious mind embraces any new person who reminds you of those older paths. They exert an almost irresistible pull, compelling you to make decisions that feel like choices but are actually automatic responses guided by the map of your past: It’s like a ghost road that lures in passers-by. Your adult style attachment will be influenced by the type of attachment you had with your primary caregiver. If your needs were met consistently you will tend to have a secure attachment style – the style that offers the best hope for positive healthy adult relationships.

2) You will be let down by someone close to you at least once

We will all be let down at some point. Don’t feel alone, it’s part of life. See it as a rite of passage into discovering life.


3) Happiness is a fleeting sensation

Happiness does not persist in it’s pure form for days on end. It’s a little like an orgasm. You feel it, hopefully you acknowledge it and think to yourself “I feel really happy right now” and then it fades. You can still feel content but that real happy feeling is fleeting


4) Money doesn’t automatically bring happiness

This is one we all know but perhaps need reminding about sometimes. It’s easy to think that those with money are carefree but the fact is they aren’t. It’s just the nature of their problems that change. Money doesn’t make people love you nor does it make you a wonderful person or give you a healthy attitude to life. It has its limits.


5) Uncertainty and change are certain

Being tolerant of change is uncertainty is a mental strength. As soon as you accept that change is inevitable you can get on with the task of managing it rather than resisting it. Much more useful.


6) Thoughts can create heaven or hell under the exact same circumstances

Watch your thinking – your thoughts are not fact. You cannot live a positive life with a negative mind.


7) Nasty toxic people are only projecting their inner misery


Never take an insult to heart again. Toxic people are miserable people. They are merely giving you a taster of what they feel like inside all the time..comfort yourself with this thought and be thankful that your inner world is more balanced than theirs.


8)We are conditioned to conform by school, authoritative figures, society…

Be a critical thinker and always question why you are doing something. Is it because you want to or is it because you feel obliged to?


9) Ignorant parents are the cause of a lot of trouble in the world today

Most of the troubled teens and young adults I have worked with have had awful upbringings. Their parents have been neglectful, have abused them or been poor role models, allowing their children to witness drug abuse and other horrific life realities.


10) Congruency – key to peace of mind

Always work to be “at one” with your inner self (the real vulnerable you) and the person that you present to the world. When we are true to our essential selves, peace of mind follows.


11) True fulfilment comes from thinking beyond yourself – meaning and purpose

Help others out, show kindness and give of your time and compassion. It really makes a huge difference to the meaning of life. When we are self serving, life becomes small and incestuous and ultimately unhealthy.


12) We are born equal and ‘leave’ equal

We arrive alone, a clean slate and we leave alone eventually. I use this to maintain perspective on what’s important in life. Make each day count and keep your eye on the bigger picture. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.

In many ways, we are all living parallel lives, going through similar experiences. The next time you feel alone or isolated, remember that someone, somewhere is experiencing exactly what you are. You are never really alone.

Mandy X


Enhanced by Zemanta

Love Addiction

 love addiction photo

Love addiction

Background/Theories as to why love addiction develops:

Love addiction starts to develop during childhood. According to John Bowlby’ s Attachment Theory – the earliest bonds are formed by children with their caregivers and the quality of this relationship has a tremendous impact that continues throughout life and affects adult relationships as well.
The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant’s needs  establish a sense of security in their children. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.
Mary Ainsworth expanded on this theory and described three types of attachment: secure (where the mother is consistent with care), anxious ambivalent (where the mother was inconsistent and not often available for the infant’s needs thereby teaching the child that the world is not always going to meet their needs) and finally anxious avoidant (the result of abusive or neglectful caregivers/parents).
Generally love addiction will be more likely to occur in adults who experienced either an anxious-ambivalent or an anxious-avoidant childhood.
According to some theories the type of attachment alters the way the brain develops in infancy and this in turn can affect the receptors and hormones and can lead to deficiencies in brain chemistry which in turn can lead to a predisposition to love addiction.  (The book “Why Love Matters” by Sue Gerhardt elaborates this theory if you want to know more).
The attachment bond is the term for our first interactive love relationship. The one we had with our primary caregivers as infants, usually our mothers. This mother and child attachment bond shapes an infant’s brain, profoundly influencing your self-esteem, your expectations of others, and your ability to attract and maintain successful relationships. So, the success or failure of your first attached relationship with your parent has a life-long effect on you and your relationships.
The media and the Hollywood version of love and romances perpetuates the myth. The idea that we should fall in love and it should be romantic and perfect doesn’t help the situation. People want to feel that all consuming love as it equates to happiness and high levels of dopamine. In reality, this doesn’t last anyhow and research has shown it lasts between 18-24 months (the high levels of dopamine and oxytocin).

Signs and Characteristics of Love Addiction:

  • Lack of nurturing and attention when young
  • Feeling isolated, detached from parents and family
  • Compartmentalization of relationships from other areas of life
  • Outer facade of “having it all together” to hide internal disintegration
  • Mistake intensity for intimacy (drama driven relationships)
  • Hidden Pain
  • Seek to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost
  • Afraid to trust anyone in a relationship
  • Inner rage over lack of nurturing, early abandonment
  • Depressed
  • Highly manipulative and controlling of others
  • Perceive attraction, attachment, and sex as basic human needs, on a par with food and water
  • Sense of worthlessness without a relationship or partner
  • Feelings that a relationship makes one whole, or more of a man or woman
  • Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior
  • Intense need to control self, others, circumstances
  • Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems
  • Insatiable appetite in area of difficulty (sex, love or attachment / need.)
  • Using others, sex & relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain
  • Continual questioning of values and lifestyle
  • Driven, desperate, frantic personality
  • Confusion of sexual attraction with love (“Love” at first sight.)
  • Tendency to trade sexual activity for “love” or attachment
  • Existence of a secret “double life”
  • Refusal to acknowledge existence of problem
  • Defining out-of-control behavior as normal
  • Defining “wants” as “needs”
  • Tendency to leave one relationship for another. (Inability to be without a relationship.)
  • Attempts to replace lost relationships with a new one immediately

Types of love addiction

(courtesy of author Susan Peabody. Website: http://brightertomorrow.net)
“Love addiction often appears as a way to deal with fears of abandonment. The most common type of love addiction is the Codependent Love Addict: They generally suffer from low self esteem and have a certain predictable way of thinking, feeling and behaving. Due to their insecurities and low self esteem they try desperately to hold onto people by rescuing, caretaking, passive-aggressive controlling or by accepting neglect and abuse from a partner.
They will do anything to take care of their partners in the hopes that they will not leave them.
Other types of addicts: relationship addicts (will stay even if the relationship is making them unhappy), narcissistic love addicts (use dominance, seduction and withholding to control their partners) and ambivalent love addicts: : ALAs suffer fromavoidant personality disorder. They don’t have a hard time letting go, they have a hard time moving forward.  They desperately crave love, but at the same time they are terrified of intimacy.
Torch Bearers are ALAs who obsess about someone who is unavailable. This can be done without acting out (suffering in silence) or by pursuing the person they are in love with. Some Torch Bearers are more addicted than others. This kind of addiction feeds on fantasies and illusions. It is also known as unrequited love.
Saboteurs are ALAs who destroy relationships when they start to get serious or at whatever point their fear of intimacy comes up. This can be anytime before the first date, after the first date, after sex, after the subject of commitment comes up”whenever.
Seductive Withholders are  ALAs who always come on to you when they want sex or companionship. When they become frightened, or feel unsafe, they begin withholding companionship, sex, affection anything that makes them feel anxious. If they leave the relationship when they become frightened, they are just Saboteurs. If they keep repeating the pattern of being available/unavailable, they are seductive withholders.
Romance Addicts are ALAs whoare addicted to multiple partners. Romance addicts are often confused with sex addicts. However, unlike sex addicts, who are trying to avoid bonding altogether, romance addicts bond with each of their partners to one degree or another even if the romantic liaisons are short-lived or happening simultaneously. By romance mean sexual passion and pseudo-emotional intimacy. Please note that while romance addicts bond with each of their partners to a degree, their goal (besides getting high off of romance and drama) is to avoid commitment or bonding on a deeper level with one partner.
A Note about ALAs: Not all avoidants are love addicts. If you accept your fear of intimacy and social situations, and do not get hooked on unavailable people, or just keep your social circle small and unthreatening you are not necessarily an ALA.But  if you eat your heart out over some unavailable person year after year, or sabotage one relationship after another, or have serial romantic affairs,or only feel close when you are with another avoidant, you may be an Ambivalent Love Addict.

Chemical Component:

Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain’s pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement.
The problem here is that this state and those chemicals are extremely addictive. Once you’ve received a dose, you need to get more and more otherwise you face very heavy withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression and others. This is what very often leads to are bound-relationships by feeding your addiction a new dosage of the drug you avoid the withdrawal.
In extreme cases, this can lead to a succession of relationships each few days up to few weeks in length, until each of them runs out of love, fails to produce that chemical reaction any further. How exactly is this any different from alcohol, tobacco or heroin addiction? Extreme sports? Online gaming? They all share, to bigger or lesser extent, the search for repeat of a feeling and the search for the next high.
Let’s take a few steps back. Can such physical connection, such as lust lead to lasting relationships? A relationship is a two-way street where both parties have to have a mutual interest in it for it to work. So is this chemical reaction which we call “love” mutual? The one feeling it definitely wants it to be, believes it to be. How else could they? If they didn’t, if they accepted that the other person isn’t feeling that way, that would immediately lead to realization that they’ll never be able to completely acquire their target into their life, which in turn would instantly lead to withdrawal symptoms described above.
A rather typical addict behavior, to distort and change the reality, to see what they want to see, isn’t it? It’s much easier to believe that they feel the same; bask in their presence, turn into a pink macaroni for a while, close your eyes and float in the clouds. Even if it’s for a day, a week or a month.
So we’ve established that this chemical reaction is personal, only within your own brain and is one-way. We also know it’s addictive, it’s rather draining to be in that state for long time and that the other person does not feel that way. All in all, this means that any relationship built upon this is doomed from the get-go since it’s not a two-way street. The person ‘ under the spell’  will always be at a disadvantage, in fear of losing “their precious.”
 Usual behavioral patterns for such a person in a relationship include being overly protective, paranoid, suspecting. Side-effects also often include nightmares involving their partner, usually themed around the target leaving them. This is clearly an unhealthy relationship and an unhealthy way to live.
In a rare chance where both parties would have the same chemical reaction, it would lead to a very high-energy, stormy and powerful relationship yet still filled with distrust, paranoia and suspicion because both parties would be experiencing intense emotions, but at the same time also consumed with fear of losing the other person.
Again, not healthy and in the long term very draining way to live.Notice how fear keeps coming up again and again?
So what would a normal relationship be like? A normal, healthy relationship would be built upon being comfortable around each other, trusting and relaxed; where all involved parties can be themselves without pretending or worrying what the other person might think about them. There are no ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling in such a relationship. There’s no fear either. It’s a relaxed co-existence.
Now, if you’re going to argue that that’s not love, you’re going to be right on the mark. Because you don’t want to have love in a relationship, at least not in the sense it’s usually understood as the addictive chemical imbalance in your brain. So we’re not going to call that love, we’re going to call this emotion comfort. That’s what you’re looking for.
So the last question remains. Can you go from the initial primal, physical, chemical attraction to a comfortable, relaxed co-existence? The answer is yes, however it requires that the object of the love recognizes that chemical imbalance in their partner and cares enough to help the love-sick person work out and through their problem.
Because we already know that you really don’t want your partner to become (or remain) distrustful, paranoid, fearful and suspicious.)
If we notice that, if we notice that our partner is deeply in love with us and is exhibiting those abnormal symptoms, we shouldn’t get angry at them, we shouldn’t yell at them; they really can’t help it.
Think back to when you were in that position, perhaps in an earlier relationship that didn’t last. Think what that person whom you were in love with should have done to build comfort with you, to calm your fears, to address your insecurities, to make you relaxed  and then do those things to help your partner reach that balance, relaxed state of brain-chemistry.
Only then can the relationship become normal, healthy, relaxed when comfort has been reached.
Love is an addictive chemical reaction in your brain, emotionally sharing a lot of similarities with fear. It’s a drug, an unhealthy and addictive mental state; it is very difficult to build relationships upon that, impossible without a lot of mutual cooperation.
Recognize it in yourself and in others around you; conquer it in yourself, then help others do the same.

Mandy X


“Types of love addiction” courtesy of Susan Peabody.

To view the original article please go to: Website: http://brightertomorrow.net



Photo by marc falardeau