The drive to emotionally attach to another person is a powerful one and is fundamental to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Attachment theory is based on the work of John Bowlby who identified the absolute need for children to receive physical and emotional comfort, and connection. Even in the animal world, Harlow’s work has identified similar attachment needs for ‘contact comfort’ in primates.
Further support for attachment theory was provided by Mary Ainsworth in her famous “Strange Situation” research studies that demonstrated 4 different attachment styles in young children when children were placed in a situation in which they were briefly separated from, and then reunited with, their caregivers. A child’s given attachment style (secure, insecure) has also been found to be influenced by the attachment style of the caregiver.
It is now widely accepted that our need for attachment to significant others is hard-wired into our systems and endures throughout the lifespan. That is, adults also have significant needs for attachment in relationships. Whether child or adult, when basic attachment needs for closeness and comfort are unmet, it is difficult to soothe ourselves and to feel secure within our relationships with others. This has negative impacts on our general wellbeing, including our physical/emotional health, and longevity. It is important to note that one’s attachment style can change over time. When we feel secure in our relationships, the benefits are tremendous: we feel at ease with closeness, are better at both giving and receiving support, experience more satisfying relationships, experience greater resiliency (particularly from stress), and feel empowered and more confident in handling situations.
At Chrysalis, our therapists can assist in addressing attachment-related difficulties and in helping individuals find new ways of managing themselves within their relationships.
Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. (1998). By R. Karen. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Hold Me Tight. (2008). By S. Johnson. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. (2010). By D. Siegel. New York, NY: Bantam Books.