‘Attachment’ has different definitions for different people. It all depends on the experiences of our childhood days. Once we have identified the category we fall under, the realisation of the experiences that led to this nature will rise to the surface for us.
Have you stumbled out of a long term relationship because in your opinion, your partner was ‘insecure’, ‘over-possessive’ or sometimes ‘absolutely indifferent’ to you? How often has the interplay between the preference for intimacy in a bond or independence in lifestyle killed the butterflies that fluttered in love inside your tummy? In just 24 years of life, I have stumbled across many a heartbroken souls who shared how their ‘loyalty’, ‘possessiveness’, ‘determination’ and ‘blind faith’ (all that we had listed as the ‘building blocks’ of a relationship) snowballed into relationship dysfunctions for them. We, (my wine fueled friends and I) held onto the faith of finding a life-altering love for too long, until one day when I stumbled on the truth of varied ‘Attachment Types’ of the unpredictable Homo sapiens and realised how the man of my dreams could be unfortunately and obliviously ‘Insecurely Attached’ by nature.
“Please don’t shut me out, please don’t slam the door. You don’t have to keep your distance anymore,” whined little Anna as Elsa left her little sister bawling her eyes out on the doorstep. As the dramatic scene of Walt Disney’s fantasy film ‘Frozen’ flashed on my television screen, my baby sister whispered to me, “But why is Elsa so afraid to confess the truth to her own sister?” A few scenes later Anna was in the arms of the prince she recently met at the coronation event and had decided to marry him. When her interest of marriage was revealed to Anna, she said, “How can you marry a man you just met?” And to that my dancing-in-turbulent-emotion baby sister said, “Elsa didn’t care, why does she now?” It’s startling how ‘emotional appeal’ moves some of us. The movie melted down the walls of so many hearts (regardless of age) as the protagonists dragged the audience from the dank corners of ‘attachment’ to a sunlit happily-ever-after. Hidden beneath the freezing layers of eternal winter, wise-cracking humour and catchy songs, was the depiction of a stumbling block in a relationship, a natural trait developed in humans from our childhood experiences known as ‘insecure attachment’ or ‘ambivalent attachment’.
It was a dull Sunday afternoon and I was arguing with the little fairy inside my head, to drag my lazy bum to the kitchen and cook or to order in, when my phone rang and a friend on the other side notified me of her ill health. I rushed to the hospital to stand beside her as the doctor tormented her with all kinds of needles. To my utter disappointment, her cranky and judgmental boyfriend hovered around our heads complaining about every little thing that went wrong. As he continued to unleash the contents (his complaints) of the boiling vessel (his head) over my sobbing ill friend, another witness to the annoying situation, repeatedly questioned me, why is she tied to his apron strings? Why not break free? For all those who have faced a similar situation and wondered how to talk sense to people who are never willing to give up, the ‘attachment theory’ in psychology identifies your close ones as ‘Anxiously Attached’ people. Their kind fears rejection and abandonment. Their constant craving for attachment is often misunderstood as an ‘attention seeking quality’ and tends to drive everyone away from them. The determination to pursue a relationship and ‘fix’ the broken pieces often leads to the pieces piercing their own hearts.
It was one of those no nonsense days at work when my colleague walked into the canteen and pulled the chair placed right beside the one I almost vacated. “I was about to jump out of here, strict deadlines,” I said. “Sit,” she pointed towards the chair. I failed to resist her sad eyes. “What is bothering you?” I purred. One of her eye brows shot up as she said, “Your favourite jij (bro-in-law) is getting on my nerves these days. He complains all day about how I fail to express my feelings for him. Well Hello! I am the Client Servicing maniac around here, I communicate and coordinate for a living, and of course I know how to express what I need.” With a non-biased tone, I said to her, “Have you met yourself? You sleep, eat and walk around with a strong wall around you. You maintain emotional distance with people. He definitely doesn’t want that from the woman he wishes to tie the knot with.” Her satin black shirt’s left collar drenched in spilled coffee as she burned a hole on the bridge of my nose with her uncomfortable stare, “Who said anything about marriage?” I shifted uncomfortably at the realisation of how her partner (a good friend who recently shared with me his plans of proposing to her) had already made some serious plans about the future while she is still strolling somewhere far behind him in their relationship. One might wonder why they aren’t on the same page. While one is convinced on spending their life together, the other is still struggling to express her emotions clearly. The answer is again quite simple. My dear colleague exemplifies the traits of ‘Avoidant Attachment’. She is never comfortable with the idea of emotional closeness or dependence and has created a decided ‘limit’ or ‘boundary wall’.
Spotting the Difference
If you are still wondering what Anna and Elsa from the movie ‘Frozen’ have anything to do with the anxious-avoidant dynamic of relationships, here’s the deep rooted truth that might make it easier for you to differentiate and understand the insecurities of your closed ones. Elsa is a perfect paragon of ‘Avoidant Attachment’. She was constantly reminded to ‘conceal, don’t feel’ as a child. When mixed emotions were hurled on her, she panicked and ran away.
- People who are ‘Avoidant Attached’ in nature adopt self defense strategies and withdraw from involving deeply for the fear of hurting themselves.
- They are left in disbelief when you choose them as your first priority.
- A nauseatingly intimate relationship is a fairy tale for them.
- They deal with loss and separation by focusing on some other factor like obsessing on achieving perfection in a particular field.
- They also easily tune out of deep conversations and use the tool of ‘repression’ to handle their emotions.
On the other hand, Elsa’s little sister (Anna) is the purest form of ‘Anxious Attachment’. The sudden death of her parents and a lonely childhood left her desperate for true love and care. Tired of dealing with the fear of being alone, she immediately agrees to marry a man in a day and pursues Elsa till the very end, unwilling to give up on her no matter what.
- An Anxiously Attached person invests all the energy and faith on a close relationship and seeks reassurance from it. They tend to sit back and wait for the other person to make the first move when things fall apart but freak out when the other person does not make up for it.
- Owing to the amount of efforts they are willing to put for the relationship, they expect the same from you.
- The absence of ‘prioritizing’ and ‘genuine efforts’ in the relationship makes them sad and distant, often leading them to believe that you are not as ‘caring’ and ‘loving’ as they deserve.
- This kind, generally finds solace in pampering arms and loves to be at the top of the priority list of their close ones.
- The ‘Anxiously Attached’ kinds are also constantly seeking for adventures in their relationship.
- They love the idea of struggling through the highs and lows together. It serves as the perfect example of irrevocable love for them.
If your heartstrings are tied to an insecurely attached person, do not worry; there are solutions for every problem in life. In fact, psychologists have concluded ‘a long-term relationship of an insecurely attached individual with a securely attached person’ as the best pathway to deal with one’s insecure demons. Dr. San Siegel, Professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine says, “One of the ways of ‘making sense’ of the experiences that have left an impact on your partner’s character is to help them write a coherent narrative that enables you to understand how their childhood experiences are still affecting them. Your determination to be his/her ‘safe haven’ can help them rewire their brain and look at problems from a ‘we’ perspective.” Confiding in a therapist within the walls of their clinic can also help to sweep away the clouds one has been carrying over their heads since their childhood and look at life in a new light. If you are willing to fight tooth and nail for your relationship, your partner might run out of reasons to be ‘insecure’ about and ‘love’ could be the magic romantics write about.