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The Science of Attachment

The emotional connection we have to those who are closest to us is called attachment. It begins in the womb and is carried out through our adult lives. The nature of caregiving we come to know early on lays the foundation of our attachment styles. The function of which is to regulate our internal sense of safety and security in order to remain connected.

A secure form of attachment develops from warm, loving and attuned relationships. On the other side of the spectrum, an insecure attachment devolves from cold, misattuned, and neglectful caregiving. Insecure attachment can either be avoidant, anxious or disorganized, a combination of both anxious and avoidant.

When attachment is secure, a felt sense of safety and acceptance is inherent so that we are able to explore from and confidently return to base, which most of us first come to know as home. On the other hand, when attachment is insecure, the signals we receive are unsafe so that we activate adaptive behaviors with the end goal of getting back that felt sense of safety. This can look like wanting to connect more at all costs - anxious, or shutting down to mitigate the loss - avoidant or both - disorganized.

Seeking proximity to a stronger, wiser other is a protective function that begins in infancy and continues into our adult life as a longing to be close to a caring and supportive other. The good news is secure attachment predicts healthy adult relationships, the other good news is adaptive behaviors activated by an insecure attachment may be modified or even terminated by processing the pain of past attachment injuries and in creating a well attuned, loving and supportive environment where everyone can thrive.

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