From the moment we are born, every relationship we have plays a role in our emotional development. Each one can impact on us and could contribute in some way to our unique and individual identity.
What is Attachment Theory?
Attachment theory was initially developed in the 1950s by John Bowlby but has since grown through the insights and involvement of others. The theory of attachment focuses on relationships or emotional bonds between people. This includes not only romantic relationships but those between mother and child too. The mother-child relationship is particularly important as this is where our early learnings about relationship begin. It has the potential to offer us a hugely valuable insight into how we are in relationship with others. Without realising it, this early learning can then also inform how we expect others to behave, what we believe we can get from them and much more.
Where Do Attachment Issues Begin?
For the majority of us, the relationship we have with a primary care-giver, usually our mother, is our first long-lasting and trusting relationship. Sometimes however, for a variety of reasons, this may not be the case. Separation, trauma or neglect could all mean that this first potential relationship does not get sufficient nurturing or attention. This is not always within the control of the parents either, for example if a baby is very unwell and needs to be looked after in a special environment.
For whatever reason, there may be uncertainty, mistrust and fear giving our early experiences and relationships a shaky start. Our experience of a safe, secure and healthy attachment could disrupted and we may experience unpredictability or even negativity from early care-givers. As babies and young children we are learning that adults cannot be trusted and can be unreliable. As a result we may develop an insecure attachment style.
It is important to acknowledge that there are other factors which influence our attachment style, not just those very early relationships. Differences in temperament, cultural expectations or critical infant medical conditions could potentially also affect attachment style.
Attachment Issues in Adulthood
Attachment issues are a spectrum of severity and unresolved childhood attachment issues could result in a number of challenges for an adult. These focus primarily on an inability to form secure emotional bonds with others. Behavioural and emotional issues affecting their development and mental well-being may also be experienced.
An adult with attachment issues may find relationships challenging. They may avoid intimacy and shun the support of others in times of need. In relationship they may be jealous, possessive, paranoid, insecure, anxious or impulsive. They might find commitment difficult, anger quickly or want to have control in a relationship. Addictive behaviours may also be a factor. Alternatively, they may be “clingy” or “needy” in relationships, constantly requiring the attention and validation of others when in relationship. Different styles come under different insecure attachment styles.
When sufficiently severe, attachment issues may meet criteria for an attachment disorder.
Psychotherapy for Attachment Issues
The good news is that everyone has the capacity to change. If the way you are in relationship is no longer working for you, you can change and re-learn healthier ways of being.
Psychotherapy can be incredibly useful for anyone experiencing attachment issues. It can be a time and space in which you can explore the nature of your attachment issues and deepen your understanding and awareness of your personal experiences. Together we also have the chance to support you in forming corrective experiences of positive attachments and building healthy relationships.
Get in touch to arrange an initial no-obligation assessment.