What we Experienced in Our Earliest Relationships Affects Our Adult Relationships
As human beings, connection is a basic need. Initially, we learn to connect with our caregivers, as we need them to survive, physically and emotionally. We need support to regulate our emotions because we are not able to do it on our own. For instance, we need our parents to show us how to soothe ourselves. Therefore, we learn how to interact with others, communicate our needs and manage our emotions with our primary caregivers and replicate this model as adults in our relationships. We carry certain patterns with us.
Our attachment style has an impact on the following areas:
• Our perception and beliefs about relationships, intimacy and closeness
• The way we deal with conflict
• How we communicate our needs
There are four attachment styles:
Secure: People with secure attachment feel comfortable with intimacy and communicate their needs and feelings effectively. They appreciate time alone and navigate emotions on their own. This happens when the adult had a caregiver who was truly there for them. For instance, the caregiver showed up during difficult moments and provided the child with different ways to tolerate the stress. The secure adult is able to navigate uncomfortable emotions on their own and allows others space to do that as well.
Avoidant: People with an avoidant style focus on maintaining their independence in their relationships. They want closeness, however this makes them feel uncomfortable so they tend to keep distance from others. An avoidant style will lead to lack of openness. This occurs when the person had a caregiver who was disconnected physically and/or emotionally. Therefore, it will be challenging to connect with their own emotional world and relate with others.
Anxious: Someone with an anxious style will need closeness and intimacy within the relationship, however they will experience hypervigilance and sensitivity to small fluctuations in their partner’s moods and actions, which leads to conflicts and regret. As a child, the anxious person saw how their caregiver put their own needs first when they needed affection and love. The relationship between them was characterised by inconsistency and unpredictability. The child learnt to put other people’s needs first to feel loved and safe. They need to make sure others are okay so they can feel safe.
Disorganized: We tend to see this attachment style in people who experienced trauma during their childhood, due to neglect or abuse from their caregiver. The child experiences contradiction, as they don't feel safe when the caregiver is abusive, but they can´t escape from this relationship, as they need their caregiver to survive. This push-pull dynamic leads to an adulthood where it is hard to distinguish between danger and safety within relationships. People with a disorganized attachment find it difficult to know if a relationship is a safe place to connect and may find it challenging to regulate their emotions when experiencing contradictory feelings.
Healing journey: Reparenting process
When I mention reparenting, I am talking about a healing journey in which we give ourselves what we didn´t receive as a child. We need to be there for our inner child and meet the needs that were not met during our childhood. Here are some key parts of this journey:
-Awareness and compassion
We need to recognise that we come from a place of lack of awareness or knowledge. We were not taught how to navigate our own emotions. Perhaps our parents couldn't give this to themselves, so they were not able to be there for us. As adults, we have the responsibility to provide these things to ourselves. Treating ourselves with loving kindness is essential.
The capacity to establish habits and boundaries. Creating a daily routine is crucial.
It is essential that we think about what our boundaries are and maintain them.
Making sure that we get enough sleep and meet our nutrition needs. Movement is also crucial. Daily acts of self-care, such as reading a book or taking a bath, allow us time for ourselves.
We need to seek and create relationships based on mutual respect and trust, so we can be vulnerable and show up within safe relationships. We need to recognise red flags and end unhealthy relationships. We also need to create a healthy relationship with ourselves, by connecting with ourselves, enjoying time alone and cultivating self-care.
Meditation and breathwork are key in order to connect our mind and body, so we can regulate the physiological responses that may arise in difficult situations.