This post was updated on Jan 31, 2021
Do you struggle to find and maintain healthy relationships? Do the same issues come up in different relationships, again and again? Do you find yourself attracted to the “wrong” type of person?
The good news is there is a reason for it. Whether you’re able to create a healthy relationship or not relates to how positively you bond or attach to others. This is known as attachment.
In this article, you can discover enlightening information from a seasoned relationship coach about how childhood attachment shapes our relationships. Read on.
How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationships
The first attachment we experienced was with the relationship between ourselves and our primary caregivers (parents, guardians). This first relationship dictates how we bond with others.
If you attach securely in your first five years of life, then you will develop a strong foundation for positive attachment with others. If not, then you may have a childhood attachment wound that impacts your current relationships.
And if you do have attachment wounds or specific survival patterns that get triggered, then you’re going to struggle to form healthy attachments until you understand where the behavior comes from. And, can apply a change process.
Although, becoming more aware does not lead to perfection. It will allow you to be aware of unwanted behaviors and help you to stop these patterns more regularly.
If you were abandoned or neglected, when someone abandons you, you are going to feel like you are in what we call an Abandonment Storm. It is intense and the painful feelings are swerving your soul like a hurricane.
Think about weather – Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 miles per hour (mph) are called tropical depressions. This is how folks who had secure attachments with caregivers feel when they go through a break-up. It’s a tropical depression. When a storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane – that’s what those of you with deep attachment wounds feel.
I had a mentor who helped me learn to go into the storm and ride it out and not hurt myself more in the process. If you have felt this pain, you get exactly what I am saying. It is so much more than the break-up.
Understand Your Story Through The Lens Of Attachment
Just because you didn’t have a positive foundation in your first five years, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop healthy attachment now.
The first step is to understand your story through the lens of attachment.
For example, if a child grows up watching their parents go through a painful divorce, and those parents can’t put their own differences aside and parent that child with the same values, the child’s experience influences their view of attachment.
That child then typically learns two ways of being relational in two different homes, which is a struggle. This generally leads to the child having an internal struggle and then becoming ambivalent in their own relationships in the future.
On the other hand, a child who grew up feeling controlled by their parents, most likely will resist trust intimacy because they were so smothered. They won’t feel like they can breathe in primary relationships as an adult.
They will want to avoid intimacy and uncomfortable situations in their relationships because they feel that connecting to others means losing their voice and not being seen for who they are.
The Effects Of Poor Attachment In Later Life
For many individuals who grew up in a controlling environment, they may process their feelings by turning to experiences to take them out of their feelings when things get too intense. Experiences like food, sex, work, drugs or exercise. Something that they can control and use to avoid intimacy. At times, these experiences can turn into addictions.
And, if a child grew up experiencing neglect or abandonment, then they may attach anxiously, as they crave connection. The longing to connect is fueled by the desire to be attached to someone. The recipient of this attachment will feel completely overwhelmed and the love often is never enough. They may also engage in high-risk behavior when they feel uncomfortable in a relationship or when they feel the threat of neglect or abandonment.
Regardless of your childhood pain or trauma, you can learn to have healthy attachments and healthy relationships.
What Is A Secure Attachment?
People who have healthy attachments can apply good rational thinking, a high level of emotional intelligence, and take healthy actions in their relationships. Again, it is not about perfection all of the time – people do have fights, disagreement, etc.
People who have a healthy attachment don’t feel the need to defend, run away, or question everything in their relationship. Instead, they feel secure and their approach – even in the most challenging times – is understood and acknowledged. The approach matters, and when languaged and done in a healthy way, that is secure. Secure and trusting of self to be able to show up and be in what we at PIVOT call the Healthy Adult.
How To Develop A Healthy Attachment Style
When you can correlate your relationship issues with your survival patterns or attachment styles, then you can take the first step to make a change for the better.
When you know which wound is being triggered and why then you can use that awareness to change how you respond.
For example, I now know that when I feel like I’m losing someone, I start to feel scared and anxious. In the past, I dealt with this by avoiding my feelings. I would quickly find a new relationship; go shopping or create drama.
However, by reacting in this way, I only numbed my painful feelings. It didn’t help me process or deal with the issue in my relationship.
The break-through for me came when I recognized why I did these behaviors and saw that these actions weren’t helping me. You need to develop a practice – just like a yoga or meditation practice that one needs to apply when activated that makes the difference. This is where PIVOT can help.
Steps To Building Healthy Attachments
The steps I follow when my wound is activated has helped me have healthy attachments. I don’t always get it right. And, as mentioned above, it is a practice.
When your wound gets activated it’s critical to recognize that the pain you’re feeling is usually an accumulation of many moments in your life that triggered similar pain. Taking care of yourself in the moment by understanding which developmental part of yourself is getting activated is crucial – PIVOT Survival Patterns. You may need to breathe deeply. You will need to release the emotions with someone safe. You may need a massage. Possibly a walk or a boxing class.
- Social awareness:
Understand who you are surrounding yourself with and how to protect and care for yourself – the PIVOT Circle Boundaries. It is paramount to helping you become secure within yourself while the pain subsides. If you are activated and you engage in people, places, and things that are harmful to you, you will most likely wound yourself, repeatedly. Your own family may be a trigger for you. If so, cancel appointments and dates until you are more stable. You really can wound yourself over and over without even being conscious of what is adding more pain to your wound.
You then can execute courses of action required to deal with your situation and attach securely to self and others – in real time.
By taking these steps, you will be able to feel, manage, and tolerate your feelings.
The result? You will learn how to attach securely and repair and restore yourself in a timely manner. This means you’ll know what’s happening in the moment, instead of being held hostage by your past wounds. You’ll be aware of your feelings; know why you feel that way and be able to change your behavior.
Reach Out To A Relationship Coach Online & Overcome Childhood Wounds
If you can think, feel and do in a healthy and congruent way – then you can attach to others in a healthy way. The good news is that no matter what childhood experiences you’ve had, you can create healthy intimate relationships.
If you want help to heal from unsupportive attachments and create relational alignment and freedom, PIVOT is here for you. Our carefully designed online individual coaching and comprehensive relationship workshops and retreats can help you escape emotional numbness and center yourself. Reach out to us today!