Love and Distance
Making sense of our attachment styles
There is so much complicated information out there about attachment styles. Secure, anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and then all of the subdivisions and smaller boxes. Categories and quizzes to help us nail down exactly what we are.
But in reality, that level of detail is only useful for a researcher splitting data, it’s just not helpful for us humans trying to feel safe in connection.
Honestly, we’re a mix of all of them. Our animal bodies are constantly judging the distance at which we feel safest. We might have a prominent type, but all of us have a little bit of everything, and depending on the situation, different people and different situations bring different styles to the surface. Like little coping strategies. Sometimes it’s secure, sometimes it’s anxious or avoidant, sometimes it’s disorganized.
Because it all comes down to this: How safe do I feel in connection with others? We have a primal need to attach. We have a primal need to keep ourselves safe. Attachment is distance mixed with safety. Which looks like this:
If you step back, can I feel safe in the distance? (Will I be abandoned?)
If you step forward, can I feel safe in the distance? (Will I be consumed?)
It’s a dance.
Attachment heals, becomes more secure, when our bodies believe it’s safe to have and communicate needs and preferences. When we feel safe to disagree with others, when we feel safe to be misunderstood, when we feel safe to feel connected and safe in asking for space.
And learning to tolerate love and closeness is just as complicated as learning to endure the pain of distance.
Be gentle with yourself in all of it.
I love Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s work around attachment. If you’re looking for a quiz, this is a good one. It gives you results in a pie chart. I’ve even taken it a few times over the years to track my own shifts in attachment. Enjoy!