Attachment Theory

As human beings, we are born with an attachment system, which, according to Bowlby’s attachment theory, has the purpose of ensuring security and intimacy with the people we are attached to. (Bowlby, J,1988). The attachment system is determined during childhood by the caring relationships we experienced, and as such we have unconsciously integrated expectations in our relations to other people, which are based on the past responses of our parents. As adults, we carry around an inner representation of our interaction with our parents, which contributes to how we relate to partners, friends and children, and also affects our experience of our own feelings, thoughts and self-worth. We feel more or less secure in close relationships, or we have different strategies for feeling something or reacting to something when we feel threatened or alone. In these situations, the old working models for relating with our parents are reawakened, activating a set of inner expectations. (ibid.)

Human strategies for self-protection can be very different in terms of attachment. Therefore, in a relationship, it is important to look at how we understand or misunderstand each other’s signals, needs and unconscious communication, and to learn how we best can reassure each other. When conflicts arise in a relationship, it is often to do with attachment systems, and security can be re-established through understanding what is in fact being communicated and recognizing each other’s needs.

Because our attachment system also affects how we think of ourselves and others, it is important to work with our attachment style in relation to others. For example, we may hesitate to enter a relationship for fear of being hurt, and therefore we may miss valuable positive experiences.