It is encouraging to know that all is not lost if we were raised in environments in which secure attachment simply was not possible. For about 50% of adults, there is “continuos secure attachment”, meaning that early childhood emotional needs were met sufficiently enough to produce secure attachment which continues on into adulthood. However, for the remainder of us, it is possible to progress beyond the dysfunctional, insecure attachment styles that were formed in early childhood. We can acquire a healthier, more secure attachment style in adulthood, also known as “earned-secure” attachment.
“Earned-secure” individuals are defined as those who acknowledge that they experienced dysfunctional parenting experiences in childhood, but as adults are able to describe these memories in an accurate, coherent, and contained manner. An essential first step to becoming more securely attached is for insecure adults to recognize and accept that negative attachment experiences in childhood affect them in present day relationships. This points to the necessity of facing ones denial of childhood trauma or idealization of early childhood caregivers who either overtly or inadvertently failed to meet ones emotional needs.
This process of self-exploration also requires that insecurely attached adults gain an understanding of how current relationship perceptions and experiences are linked to their attachment histories. Those with insecure attachment styles must reconsider and reconceptualize their current expectations and biases in close relationships that are ingrained after years of existing in insecure attachment patterns.
Finally, research emphasizes the importance of direct experience in the attachment change process. Specifically, individuals must learn and practice support-seeking, conflict resolution, and emotional regulation skills. David Richo’s book How to be an Adult in Relationships is a wonderful manual for exploring ways to facilitate earned-secure attachment. Psychotherapy can also provide a safe environment for insecurely attached individuals to identify and analyze their relationship patterns, acquire and practice effective communication skills, and ultimately, learn to form and maintain healthier and happier relationships with both self and other.
A slight change to the frequency of blog posts is coming down the pike. As we go into the Holiday season, posts will dial back to every other week. I look forward to re-connecting two weeks from now. Until then, Peace.