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Our earliest attachment imprints define how we relate to ourselves, the world, and those around us.
The human experience in its totality is a relational dance. How we relate to ourselves, to our families, to money, to our careers, to our partners, to our children, and to all the aspects that are important to us, will also define the quality of our lives.
How we relate to one thing is often how we relate to all things. It is this dance of polarity and if we have learned the basic steps and how to hold ourselves gracefully the dance becomes light, fun, and fulfilling. On the other hand, if we have no blueprint, if we have never received any lessons, we will probably struggle. Stumbling to find the right dance partner, mixing up our steps, and being too much in our minds instead of enjoying the present experience.
Life and relationships are the same. They are a dance. And unfortunately, most of us have never received a blueprint to navigate them. Most of us did not have a good representation of healthy love at home. We were not shown how to regulate our nervous systems, how to choose partners who are good for us, how to navigate conflict, or how to use our relationships as a catalyst for growth and expanding consciousness.
This is why attachment theory is so important and acts as a foundational piece for our healing journeys. If you are to focus on only one personal development area, I think this will make the biggest impact in all areas of your life.
Here is a bit of background info, for those who might not be familiar with attachment theory:
Attachment theory is a psychological model that describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans. It was first proposed by John Bowlby in the 1950s and suggests that the quality of attachment an individual forms during childhood shapes their behavior in relationships throughout life.
Attachment theory can act as a blueprint to help us understand why we relate the ways we do, and it can be foundational in our quest to create deeper and more fulfilling relationships.
I believe it is the cornerstone of our personal development and healing journeys, as relationships define the quality of our lives, both personally and professionally. Even the longest study on happiness by Harvard University found that the people who are happiest, live the longest, and have the highest levels of well-being are those who have strong, connected relationships.
So if you are looking for health, happiness, love, and a successful career, understanding your attachment style, the childhood wounding that contributed to this, and how to heal, is, I believe, one of the most important pieces of our personal development journeys.
There are four attachment styles, including:
1. Secure attachment: characterized by a positive view of self and others, trust, and comfort in close relationships.
2. Anxious (anxious-preoccupied) attachment: characterized by a strong desire for close relationships, but insecurity and anxiety about being rejected or abandoned.
3. Avoidant (dismissive-avoidant) attachment: characterized by a desire for independence and self-reliance, with a tendency to suppress emotions and avoid close relationships.
4. Disorganized (fearful-avoidant) attachment: characterized by a fear of intimacy and abandonment, resulting in conflicting desires for closeness and distance in relationships.
The good news is that our attachment styles are not permanent and can change over time based on experiences, personal growth, and healing.
So how does one start to heal?
When addressing insecure attachment with my clients and helping them become more secure I always start with helping them reconnecting with Self.
Trauma is essentially an incident that disrupts our nervous system’s ability to cope and as a result we disconnect from ourselves and the present moment.
Trauma creates disconnection from self, so as you can imagine, reestablishing this connection is the first step to healing our early attachment wounds (and actually healing any trauma). I guide my clients toward reconnecting with body, mind, and heart (spirit).
Below I will outline three simple ways so we can start reconnecting with our body (this will also help with nervous system regulation).
Here are three simple ways we can start to do this:
1. Body Scan. Do a simple body scan meditation 5-10 minutes. Notice how your body feels, if any emotions are coming up, or if there is any tension. Practice being in your body.
2. Pendulation Technique. When difficult emotions arise, try to initially sit with the discomfort. Label what you are feeling and allow yourself to be with whatever is coming up, i.e. “I feel anxious, I can sense tension in my chest.” Then shift your attention to an area in the body that feels calm, safe, and regulated. Focus on that area (i.e. your feet) then shift your awareness to the area that feels tense (i.e. your chest). Then go back to the “calm” area and then back to the “tense” area. Do that for a couple of rounds. As you continue to pendulate, notice how the distress changes and how you can actually anchor into safety in your body. (This is a technique by Dr. Peter Levine from Somatic Experiencing.)
3. Qi-Gong, Yoga, or other rhythmic practices. There are certain practices like qi-gong or yoga that help us stay present and reconnect with our bodies and ourselves. Most rhythmic activities have a strong healing effect on trauma. I personally love Qi-Gong and you can find some fantastic 10-minute routines on YouTube!
Tell me, if you could magically shift one thing today from your anxious or avoidant attachment tendencies, what would it be?