Your early attachment to your parents or primary caregivers 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 clay begins to be formed in the interactions with the most important people to you as a vulnerable baby. How they responded to you, cuddled you, took care of you and created safety for you lends itself to your attachment style.
Your earliest and most crucial relationships color the lens of your perception of so much; relationship to self, others and the world. Children tend to make a determination of their inherent value based on the messages they receive, either indirectly or directly by these important people. 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 vulnerabilities associated with not having a secure attachment style. The challenges are often at the root of people’s distress, emotionally and relationally. Here are some of the benefits of a secure attachment.
- They often have a positive self concept. 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 as physiologically aroused they are overwhelmed by their feelings.
- They 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. For the many others who fit in other categories (anxious, avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized) or a combination of them, they can still learn how to thrive. Your brain can rewire across the lifespan which mean true change can occur, especially with different experiences. Psychotherapy or somatic therapies are two possible access routes to consider.
If you had a secure attachment during your earliest years, that’s great! You received an invaluable gift.
If you’re unsure of your attachment style, clues can often be found in how you navigate your intimate adult relationships. See Relationship Roadblocks? Consider Your Attachment Style for a mini self-assessment.1