The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.

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Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become. Karen and Tim were unaware of how to best use their emotional bond to their advantage in the race. (Pg.21)

THE CODEPENDENCY MYTH


The codependency movement and other currently popular self-help approaches portray relationships in a way that is remarkably similar to the views held in the first half of the twentieth century about the child-parent bond (remember the “happy child” who is free of unnecessary attachments?). Today’s experts offer advice that goes something like this: Your happiness is something that should come from within and should not be dependent on your lover or mate. Your well-being is not their responsibility, and theirs is not yours. Each person needs to look after himself or herself. In addition, you should learn not to allow your inner peace to be disturbed by the person you are closest to. If your partner acts in a way that undermines your sense of security, you should be able to distance yourself from the situation emotionally, “keep the focus on yourself,” and stay on an even keel. If you can’t do that, there might be something wrong with you. You might be too enmeshed with the other person, or “codependent,” and you must learn to set better “boundaries.”
The basic premise underlying this point of view is that the ideal relationship is one between two self-sufficient people who unite in a mature, respectful way while maintaining clear boundaries. If you develop a strong dependency on your partner, you are deficient in some way and are advised to work on yourself to become more “differentiated” and develop a “greater sense of self.” The worst possible scenario is that you will end up needing your partner, which is equated with “addiction” to him or her, and addiction, we all know, is a dangerous prospect.
While the teachings of the codependency movement remain immensely helpful in dealing with family members who suffer from substance abuse (as was the initial intention), they can be misleading and even damaging when applied indiscriminately to all relationships. Karen, whom we met earlier in the televised race, has been influenced by these schools of thought. But biology tells a very different story. (Pg.25)


By the last show Tim and Karen were leading the race. They almost won the big cash prize, but at the finish line they were beaten. When they were interviewed for the season finale, they were asked if in retrospect they’d do anything differently. Karen said: “I think we lost because I was too needy. Looking back I see that my behavior was a bit much. Many times I needed Tim to hold my hand during the race. I don’t know why it was so important to me. But I’ve learned a lesson from that and I’ve decided that I don’t need to be that way anymore. Why did I need to hold his hand so much? That was silly. I should have just kept my cool without needing this gesture from him.” Tim, for his part, said very little: “The race in no way resembled real life. It was the most intense experience I have ever had. During the race we didn’t even have time to be angry with each other. We just dashed from one task to the next.”

Both Karen and Tim neglected to mention an important fact: Tim got cold feet before a joint bungee-jump challenge and almost quit the race. Despite Karen’s encouragement and reassurance that she too would be jumping with him, he just wouldn’t do it. It reached the point that he took off all his gear and started walking away. Finally, he mustered the courage to take the challenge after all. Because of that particular hesitation they lost their lead. (Pg.20)

Adult attachment theory teaches us that Karen’s basic assumption, that she can and should control her emotional needs and soothe herself in the face of stress, is simply wrong. She assumed the problem was that she is too needy. Research findings support the exact opposite. Getting attached means that our brain becomes wired to seek the support of our partner by ensuring the partner’s psychological and physical proximity. If our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until the partner does. If Karen and Tim understood this, she would not feel ashamed of needing to hold his hand during the stress of a nationally televised race. For his part, Tim would have known that the simple gesture of holding Karen’s hand could give them the extra edge they needed to win. Indeed, if he knew that by responding to her need early on, he would have had to devote less time to “putting out fires” caused by her compounded distress later—he might have been inclined to hold her hand when he noticed that she was starting to get anxious, instead of waiting until she demanded it. What’s more, if Tim had been able to accept Karen’s support more readily, he would probably have bungee jumped sooner.

Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become. Karen and Tim were unaware of how to best use their emotional bond to their advantage in the race. (Pg.21)

ATTACHMENT NEEDS: THEY’RE NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN


Bowlby always claimed that attachment is an integral part of human behavior throughout the entire lifespan. Then Mary Main discovered that adults, too, can be divided into attachment categories according to the way in which they recall their early relationship with their caregivers, which, in turn, influences their parental behavior. Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver, independently of Mary Main’s work, found that adults have distinct attachment styles in romantic settings as well. They first discovered this by publishing a “love quiz” in the Rocky Mountain News, asking volunteers to mark the one statement out of three that best described their feelings and attitudes in relationships. The three statements corresponded to the three attachment styles and read as follows:


I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. (Measure of the secure attachment style)


I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. (Measure of the avoidant attachment style)


I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person and this desire sometimes scares people away. (Measure of the anxious attachment style)


Remarkably, the results showed a similar distribution of attachment styles in adults as that found in infants: Here too most respondents fell under the “secure” category and the remaining subjects were divided between anxious and avoidant. The researchers also found that each style corresponded to very different and unique beliefs and attitudes about themselves, their partners, their relationships, and intimacy in general.

Further studies by Hazan and Shaver and others corroborated these findings. It appears that as Bowlby speculated, attachment continues to play a major role throughout our entire lifespan. The difference is that adults are capable of a higher level of abstraction, so our need for the other person’s continuous physical presence can at times be temporarily replaced by the knowledge that the person is available to us psychologically and emotionally. But the bottom line is that the need for intimate connection and the reassurance of our partner’s availability continues to play an important role throughout our lives.
Unfortunately, just as the importance of the parent-child bond was disregarded in the past, today the significance of adult attachment goes unappreciated. Among adults, the prevailing notion is still that too much dependence in a relationship is a bad thing. (Pg.25)

Origins

What we really liked about attachment theory was that they formulated it on the basis of the population at large. Unlike many other psychological frameworks that were created based on couples who come to therapy, this one drew its lessons from everyone—those who have happy relationships and those who don’t, those who never get treatment and those who actively seek it. It allowed us to learn not only what goes “wrong” in relationships but also what goes “right,” and it allowed us to find and highlight a whole group of people who are barely mentioned in most relationship books. What’s more, the theory does not label behaviors as healthy or unhealthy. None of the attachment styles is in itself seen as “pathological.” On the contrary, romantic behaviors that had previously been seen as odd or misguided now seemed understandable, predictable, even expected. You stay with someone although he’s not sure he loves you? Understandable. You say you want to leave and a few minutes later change your mind and decide that you desperately want to stay? Understandable too.
But are such behaviors effective or worthwhile? That’s a different story. People with a secure attachment style know how to communicate their own expectations and respond to their partner’s needs effectively without having to resort to protest behavior. For the rest of us, understanding is only the beginning. (Pg.15)
The theory held the promise of improving people’s intimate bonds, but its translation from the laboratory to an accessible guide—that people can apply to their own lives—didn’t exist. Believing that here lies a key to guiding people toward better relationships, we set out to learn as much as we could about the three attachment styles and the ways they interacted in everyday situations. We started interviewing people from all walks of life. We interviewed colleagues and patients, as well as laypeople of different backgrounds and ages. We wrote summaries of the relationship histories and romantic experiences they shared with us. We conducted observations of couples in action. We assessed their attachment styles by analyzing their comments, attitudes, and behaviors and at times offered specific attachment-based interventions. We developed a technique that allowed people to determine—in a relatively short time—someone else’s attachment style. We taught people how they could use their attachment instincts rather than fight them, in order to not only evade unhappy relationships but also uncover the hidden “pearls” worth cultivating—and it worked! (Pg.16)


THE SECURE, THE ANXIOUS, AND THE AVOIDANT

Adult attachment designates three main “attachment styles,” or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. (Pg.8)


PROTEST BEHAVIOR IN THE DIGITAL AGE


Armed with our new insights about the implications of attachment styles in everyday life, we started to perceive people’s actions very differently. Behaviors that we used to attribute to someone’s personality traits, or that we had previously labeled as exaggerated, could now be understood with clarity and precision through the lens of attachment. Our findings shed a new light on the difficulty Tamara experienced in letting go of a boyfriend like Greg who made her miserable. It did not necessarily come from weakness. It originated, instead, from a basic instinct to maintain contact with an attachment figure at all costs and was amplified greatly by an anxious attachment style.
Using protest behavior, such as calling several times or trying to make him feel jealous, made perfect sense when seen in this light.
(Pg.14)

A child’s attachment to her mother was seen as a by-product of the fact that she offered food and sustenance; the child learned to associate her mother with nourishment and sought her proximity as a result. Bowlby, however, observed that even infants who had all of their nutritional needs taken care of but lacked an attachment figure (such as infants raised in institutions or displaced during the Second World War) failed to develop normally. They showed stunted physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. Ainsworth’s and Bowlby’s studies made it clear that the connection between infant and caretaker was as essential for the child’s survival as food and water. (Pg.22)

Had my friend been an unattached, live and let live friend, I’d be dead. (EZM)

WE&P by EZorrilla.

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