A new theory of attachment

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Do you find yourself feeling disconnected, alone and unfulfilled while every cell of your body is craving deeper connection?

I do. It feels like an unquenchable thirst. I want to feel so deeply connected to the people in my life, and yet I struggle to make it happen. It’s hard for me to create intimate relationships; sometimes, I don’t know what to say, other times I know what I want to say, but am too afraid to speak up. Most of the time, I’m so busy that I just don’t make time to drop in.

I want heart-centered conversations.

I want hugs.

I want someone to listen to me without giving advice.

I want to listen fully with my whole presence so someone feels completely seen and heard by me.

I want a mix of painful tears and joyful laughs.

I want real, authentic talks that cut through the bullshit and get straight to the truth.

I want to see into someone’s soul.

I want them to see into mine.

And I want it all the time.

Why?

Am I the only one who wants this?

Sometimes, I feel all alone in my craving for connection. My husband doesn’t want it all the time. My family resists it. Most people I know avoid this level of intimacy.

Is it that I am a rare breed? Or have we been conditioned to be superficial? And if we’ve been conditioned to keep it on the surface, is it because of a deep underlying wound of disconnection?

In the book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson shares a scientific study called the Strange Situation where a researcher invites a mother and child into an unfamiliar room. After a few minutes, the mother leaves the child alone with the researcher who tries to offer comfort if needed. The mother comes back after three minutes. They repeat this once more.

Guess what happened?

The majority of children got upset but then calmed themselves. They usually had warmer, more responsive mothers. The others who were less resilient were anxious and aggressive or detached and distant when their mother came back. Those mothers were generally colder and dismissive.

This is part of what’s called Attachment Theory: that babies and children need more connection and contact to become emotionally healthy adults.

To take this further, research was done to document adult attachment between spouses. “The overall conclusion was that a sense of secure connection between romantic partners is key in positive loving relationships and a huge source of strength for the individuals in that relationship.”

In addition, when we have a secure connection where we feel comfortable with closeness and confident about depending on a loved one,

  • it’s easier for us to ask for support and receive it in return.
  • we understand and like ourselves more.
  • we are more open to new information and are more curious.
  • we are more independent because our need for connection is being met.

And finally, research from the University of Chicago showed that loneliness raises blood pressure to the point where the risk of heart attack and stroke is doubled. And research from the University of Michigan found that emotional isolation is a more dangerous health risk than smoking or high blood pressure.

So it makes sense why we want connection and yet have no idea how to create it for ourselves. Many of us were raised with emotionally detached parents, not because they were trying to hurt us, but because they didn’t know any other way of being. We have been raised in a society where emotional vulnerability is looked down on as a weakness. In the 1950s, this Attachment Theory was thoroughly rejected in favor of “rational distance” as the proper way to raise an independent child.

I started leading circles as a result of this craving, and through being in circle, I learned how to open up, be vulnerable, and create connection. I am now extending that work into my more intimate relationships with husband, family and closest friends where is can sometimes be more difficult when there is not a safe container set up for this level of intimacy.

If you are desiring deeper connection in your life, there are three things I recommend doing:

Join a circle. The best place to start practicing and building the muscle to go deeper is in a safe container that is designed for this type of connection. Circle is the perfect place to develop closer bonds of intimacy and learn skills to bring it into your family and friendships.

Nurture your inner child. This may sound vague, but your little girl who may have been emotionally abandoned is crying out for that connection. When you connect with her inside of you, you start to understand the need and be able to effectively ask for it. Simply closing your eyes and imagining her in front of you and then having a conversation with her is a great start. Or writing to her with your dominant hand and having her respond with your other hand works.

Get Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with your romantic partner. My husband and I just started working with an EFT therapist to uplevel our relationship. While we considered our marriage “good”, we are shooting for excellence; and within a month, it has worked miracles in our closeness. I believe all couples will benefit from this work, even if their relationship is doing well. This is the work of Sue Johnson who I mentioned earlier in this article. You can find a trained EFT therapist at http://eft.ca.

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