Your early attachment to your primary caregivers (particularly mom) is one of the important elements setting the stage for your emotional and relationship health as an adult. Your past truly does matter as the quality of your attachment to your parents/primary caregivers often directly relates to how you “do” relationships as an adult and how you feel about yourself. If you were one of the lucky ones who grew up with a nurturing, positive, connected and resonating experience with your most important early relationships, the chances are you experience benefits in life that you may have never considered.
Consider a “secure attachment” as an excellent first start in life. Imagine the brain and physiology of a newborn as a lump of clay, waiting to be molded. The first “moldings” occur in the interactions with the most important people in the universe to a vulnerable baby, your mom initially but very soon after your dad or other primary caregivers. If the stage is set for a secure attachment, there exists a sensitivity of care during infancy and toddler-hood.
Your earliest and most crucial relationships can color the lens of your perception of relationship to self and the world. Consider the “glass half full” vs “glass half empty” analogy. Another way to look at it is this: Children tend to make a determination of their inherent value based on the messages they receive, either indirectly or directly. John Bowlby, who did extensive research on infant attachment described it as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” Infants without a secure connection can become children, teens and finally adults who question themselves, others and the world around them
There’s a lot written on the deficits associated with having less than a “secure attachment.” This makes some sense considering these “deficits” are often at the root of people’s distress, emotionally and relationally. This time, let’s shine the light on the benefits of a secure attachment. As you read on, consider yourself and people you know.
People who had a secure attachment often have a positive self concept. They feel at ease internally, coming from a place of, “everything will be alright.” More than likely they received and internalized supporting messages around this from the start. They often are effective at regulating their emotions, better able to stay within their emotional “window of tolerance” and not be so physiologically aroused they are overwhelmed by their feelings. Those who had a secure attachment often make positive assumptions about others. They have a higher level of inherent trust and benefit of the doubt that people can be relied upon. This makes sense if you consider their primary relationships are their first experiences in relating to others. These early messages play a significant role in the “molding” of the clay of the infant’s world view. According to Dr. Cesar Alfonso, MD, secure attachment plays a role in the engagement in altruistic or pro-social behavior such as gratitude, appreciation, caring, comforting, safekeeping and even volunteering. The infant observed empathy and enjoyment of care-taking of them – by their mother or primary caretakers – so they internalized this behavior.
Clearly, there are a lot of benefits of a secure attachment. However, if you do not resonate with the benefits and possibly fit in other attachment categories or a combination (anxious, avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized) it doesn’t mean you cannot heal from your attachment wounds. Thelatest research in neurosciencehas confirmed that your brain can rewire across the lifespan – and fears/worries you’ve carried to this point can be greatly reduced. Psychotherapy or somatic therapies are two possible access routes to look at and work through your situation. Also, if you get into a relationship with someone who is “secure,” you have an excellent chance of healing through that relationship as well. In fact, connecting with someone such as this would be a sign you are ready to grow and change!
If you had a secure attachment during your earliest years, consider yourself very fortunate. You received an invaluable, life changing gift.
If unsure of your attachment style, a clue can often be found in how you navigate your intimate adult relationships. See the article, Relationship Roadblocks? Consider Your Attachment Style for a mini self-assessment.