What exactly do we mean when we talk about human-bonding? What causes affinity and animosity? Why are some people harsh? Some people mellow; some are grave and some are shrewd and shallow. The answer to this conundrum lies in the Theory of Attachment, proposed by a prominent psychologist named Jon Bowlby in the 1950’s, who came up with an evolutionary theory, expounding the concept of human attachment and the ways in which it affects the way we perceive things.
The theory says that infants are biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others which will help them grow and survive. Hence, it becomes a necessity for mankind to make bonds in order to exchange ideas and feel a sense of belonging in social groups. It is an undeniable fact that parents play an indispensable role in moulding the manner we approach others. It frames the attachment style which later on determines the pattern of our behavior as an adult.
Another psychologist named Mary Ainsworth, scrutinized this theory and identified four human attachment styles: (i) Secure (ii) Avoidant (dismissive) (iii) Anxious (preoccupied) (iv) Disorganized (Fearful-avoidant). As matter of fact, these styles are sorely affected by the childhood experiences and the trauma affiliated with it. It regulates our subconscious in an intricate way that remains at the back of our head until the day of our demise.
This article is going to lay emphasis on how these styles permute the way we act and react in a certain scenario.
(i) SECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE: People with this style share a strong and secure familial relationship that makes them assertive amid social situations. They are feisty and never hesitate in seeking guidance. They are certain of the fact that their needs and necessities will be met and whenever they are needy, they make it known within their family and friend circle and are assured of reciprocation. With such an optimistic and laid back attitude, they are more likely to sustain their relationship in future because their childhood memories are sweet, lovable and healthy. In their case, love and trust comes easily and such people are down to earth and easy to deal with. It makes them competent in pulling off tasks assigned to them. Such people possess a strong sense of discernment and when a discord or “rupture” occurs in their relationships, they are liable to engage with the conflict or misunderstanding and ultimately repair it, rather than running away from it. Thus, they don’t run the risk of getting depressed and are capable of dealing with stress in a positive manner.
(ii) ANXIOUS (PREOCCUPIED): Generally, people falling under this category are said to be clingy and unsure about their emotions. They perpetually think that they require someone to complete them to make their life purposeful. They have an overwhelming fear of abandonment and they persistently ponder that they will be deserted by the people they love. They are always seeking validation from others due to low self esteem and are constantly looking for someone to boost their morale. Their anxiety takes over their mind completely. Their disposition is a product of their parents’ sullenness who are emotionally unavailable for them. Dearth of a secure relationship with the primary caregiver makes them reticent and hence, they find it hard to make close friends and even if they do so, they are inhibited and are always looking for reinforcement. They are accustomed to thinking highly of others and are skeptical about their own deftness. Such people develop a passive aggressive behavior which makes them act in an eccentric manner. They never express their resentment overtly but deal with the antipathy implicitly with a recurring thought of not being good enough.
(iii) DISORGANIZED (FEARFUL-AVOIDANT): It is the most challenging insecure style. It develops when a parent; the only source of support, becomes the source of fear. Child abuse and harsh treatment received from a caregiver highly affects a child’s psychology. Inconsistent affection is the root cause of this disorder. They prefer solitary activities and enjoy alienation and are uptight about everything. This disorder arises due to dysfunctional familial relations wherein the parent could be suffering from BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) or could be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Being sexually abused in childhood makes it difficult for the child to trust anyone whatsoever, not even their own parents. Their perception of love gets altered and they feel that love is detrimental to their health because those who love them are the ones causing them pain. In such a harrowing ambience, survival becomes the focal point of their life. They just try to survive against all the odds and expect the least from their parents. The child gets agitated when a stranger tries to comfort them or show affinity towards them. The childhood trauma makes them cold and recalcitrant and thus they don’t know how to deal with people who exhibit care and concern. An unconscious defense mechanism activates to avoid emotional pain. They have major trust issues and a strong fear of getting hurt. They are dumbstruck at times and end up hurting themselves and this self-sabotaging conduct makes it tough for them to open up. For them, human interaction means to empathise and they want to avoid connection at all costs. This apathetic attitude makes them reluctant to indulge in any productive activity. They usually fall for those who show a correspondence with their parents’ attitude and find it hard to resonate with an opposite style and feel jittery when someone tries to invade their private space.
(iv) AVOIDANT (DISMISSIVE) TYPE: As the name implies, an avoidant personality avoids being vulnerable and shuns the sense of dependency. Independence is valued more and they crave closeness yet fear intimacy. The reason being emotional childhood neglection. The erratic parental affection and attention renders a child helpless and insecure. They are persistently told to fend for themselves. This leads to reluctance in opening up about their issues even in their family circle and consequently eventuate in bottling up their insecurities, having no outlet. They tend to quell their desires and keep their emotions to themselves and are perplexed between wanting affection and concealing their emotions simultaneously and thereby end up thinking that they are better off without anyone’s support and silently grapple with their thoughts internally. When they somehow enter in a relationship, their actions baffle the other person in the wake of which that person misinterprets their demeanour. They try to keep their relationship at a shallow level and are least likely to maintain a long-term relationship. That being said, they are apparently self sufficient and are adept at handling pressure but are often emotionally unavailable for people around them for they prefer avoiding emotional connection.
Hope you all have spotted the attributes of your personality and are well acquainted with your attachment style. Not that these styles can’t be altered. You cannot expect others to change their style but certainly can change yours. Having said that, those who find it hard to restyle their attachment run the risk of developing a strained relationship with their loved ones. The least we can do is bridge the communication gap between us and our parents to make amends and maybe that will help in ameliorating the situation by giving an optimistic approach to life.
After all, our demeanour utterly depends on the equation we share with our caregivers and a healthy human bond reduces the risk of a child becoming despondent or engaging in antisocial behavior. We cannot completely fix it, but can surely try.
Ilma Mujeeb is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Varda Ahmad
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.