212: Does your attachment style impact your relationships?

212: Does your attachment style impact your relationships?

Welcome to this episode of our short daily podcast - A Slice of Therapy.

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With Alun Parry https://liverpoolpsychotherapy.co.uk

Autogenerated Transcript

00:01
you’re listening to a slice of therapy
00:03
with me alun parry
00:06
[Music]
00:11
so in this episode i’m going to look at
00:12
different kind of
00:14
attachment styles that people have in
00:17
relationships
00:19
and you might even be able to spot
00:20
yourself in there as well
00:22
and how these attachment styles can
00:25
actually create
00:27
patterns i suppose between partners
00:30
and so the three attachment styles that
00:32
i’m going to look at in this episode
00:35
are people who are anxiously attached
00:39
people whose attachment style is
00:41
avoidant
00:43
and people whose attachment style is
00:46
secure
00:48
so what i mean by an attachment style is
00:50
how people
00:51
relate to each other in intimate
00:54
relationships
00:57
so i said the first one we cover is
00:59
anxious and then avoidance and then
01:00
secure so let’s start with anxious
01:04
when nasa sends rocket ships out into
01:08
space
01:11
there’s a thing like a little device
01:15
which is called a liquid oxygen
01:17
sensor because the astronauts up there
01:20
depend upon
01:22
a kind of oxygen called liquid oxygen
01:24
now this
01:25
sensor has to basically
01:29
be super sensitive it has to
01:33
be able to read even the slightest
01:37
problem or difficulty and in fact
01:41
on a recent proposed launch of one of
01:45
these rocket ships
01:47
it was the fact that the liquid oxygen
01:49
sensor
01:50
just very sensitively reported something
01:53
out
01:54
the whole thing had to be delayed
01:59
and so you can imagine if this liquid
02:00
oxygen sensor wasn’t
02:02
extremely sensitive it would be a
02:04
problem
02:06
well in relationships the person who has
02:10
an anxious attachment style is very much
02:13
like
02:14
that liquid oxygen sensor but what
02:17
they’re sensing
02:18
is the dynamic of the relationship
02:23
what they’re fearful of is
02:26
the relationship ending that’s where the
02:28
anxiety comes from
02:29
the worry about rejection
02:34
and so they’re very very sensitive to
02:36
any kind of signs of trouble any signs
02:38
of distance
02:40
between the partners and they’ll pick up
02:43
on it very very quickly
02:45
so in some ways it’s kind of a
02:47
superpower
02:49
and what will happen is that you know if
02:51
you’re the partner of someone who is
02:53
anxiously attached
02:55
then you’re very very important to them
02:58
which is why they’re so sensitive to
03:00
these changes
03:01
in the mood music and
03:06
when things go wrong
03:09
what they’re liable to do is that their
03:11
response is to get
03:13
very kind of they’ll move into a fight
03:15
or flight sort of state in the sense
03:17
that
03:18
the energy will be high they’ll they
03:20
will be very activated they will
03:22
be trying to do things they’ll be trying
03:24
to take actions to try and solve this
03:27
problem that their very sensitive sensor
03:30
has managed to perceive and so they’ll
03:33
be reaching out and taking action and
03:35
moving towards their partners in an
03:38
attempt to try and rectify this awful
03:40
thing that’s happening
03:41
that is causing them so much anxiety
03:45
even when their partner doesn’t want
03:46
that even when it’s the last thing their
03:48
partner wants is to have
03:50
the anxiously attached person reaching
03:52
out in fact
03:54
sometimes even especially because as
03:56
their partner steps back
03:59
and withdraws somewhat the anxiously
04:02
attached person of course
04:04
gets even more anxious until activates
04:07
even more
04:08
and reaches out more and gets bigger and
04:10
bigger and bigger
04:11
in an attempt to try and
04:15
make things right again
04:18
you know i had a friend who had
04:21
a young daughter and they had a tortoise
04:24
and sometimes the tortoises would go
04:27
into its shell
04:29
and when the tortoise went into its
04:31
shell
04:33
my friend’s daughter would seek to get
04:35
the tortoise out
04:37
and so she would knock on the shell or
04:39
she’d pick the tortoise up
04:40
and she’d gel hey mr tortoise come on
04:43
out
04:44
and of course picking up the shell and
04:46
knocking on it or shouting in hey mr
04:48
tortoise come on out
04:50
was obviously the last thing that was
04:52
going to get the tortoise to come on out
04:55
and that’s a good description really of
04:58
what happens when a partner withdrawals
05:01
that the anxious person will then
05:03
get very very motivated to do something
05:06
to bring the tortoise back out again
05:10
so that’s the anxiously attached person
05:12
let’s move on to the avoidant
05:15
now can you imagine going dancing in the
05:18
time of covid
05:19
can you imagine going socially distance
05:22
dancing where every time you step
05:25
towards your partner they stepped away
05:28
well that kind of socially distanced
05:31
dancing
05:33
is a good description
05:36
of what it’s like for somebody with a
05:39
more avoidant
05:41
attachment style now an avoidance
05:43
attachment style just basically means
05:46
that you feel unsafe when your partner
05:49
gets close
05:50
and if your partner gets too close then
05:52
it feels like you have to back away
05:54
like your socially distanced dancing
05:58
and so you can imagine the dance
05:59
involved here
06:01
when anxious and avoidant people get
06:03
together
06:04
and there’s a bit of a problem because
06:07
every time the avoiding person
06:09
steps away to try and reclaim some
06:11
distance and some space
06:13
it triggers those sensitive sensors of
06:15
the anxious partner
06:17
and so they move forward and then every
06:19
time they move forward the avoiding
06:20
person moves back
06:23
and the avoiding person there
06:26
is not feeling safe with the level of
06:28
closeness and so they feel overwhelmed
06:31
but the anxious person as we just saw is
06:33
not feeling safe
06:35
with the level of distance and so you’ll
06:38
often find
06:40
as anxious people are avoiding people
06:42
enter relationships with each other that
06:44
this dance plays out
06:46
where it brings out in both of them
06:50
a real sense of unsafety and so that can
06:53
be
06:54
a very common dance the therapists will
06:56
see
06:57
in terms of relationship counselling
07:01
so we’ve seen anxious and we’ve seen
07:03
avoidance attachment styles so let’s
07:05
move on to the final one
07:07
which is secure
07:10
someone who is securely attached
07:14
now in my local park there’s a very
07:18
big oak tree and it’s been there for
07:22
i think about a thousand years
07:25
and it’s been there so long that
07:29
you know elders of the town used to have
07:31
their town meetings under this tree
07:33
apparently and
07:37
this tree has stood there for the test
07:40
of time
07:42
even through all the storms the batter
07:46
around it the oak tree just stands
07:50
steadfast and calm
07:53
and as an analogy of a securely attached
07:57
person that’s a really good one because
08:00
the thing about a securely attached
08:02
person
08:03
is that they stay calm in conflict
08:06
and what they assume is that love is
08:09
going to carry on
08:11
that there might be a problem now but it
08:13
doesn’t mean that they’re not loved by
08:14
the other person
08:15
it doesn’t mean that the relationship is
08:17
going to end which is often of course
08:19
what an anxiously attached person fears
08:22
they feel a real confidence that even
08:24
though there’s a problem now it’ll get
08:26
worked out and everything will be okay
08:27
in a moment
08:28
and so they’re able to stand there and
08:30
withstand the storm
08:33
now what the
08:36
relationship psychologists with their
08:38
surveys and studies
08:40
have come to understand is that the most
08:43
satisfying relationships
08:46
involve at least one of these secure
08:49
people
08:51
now interestingly it doesn’t actually
08:54
matter whether
08:56
it’s two secure people together or
08:58
whether the secure person
09:00
is with one of the other attachment
09:02
styles as long as there is one
09:04
in the mix then those relationships
09:09
are just as satisfying
09:12
so you don’t need two oak trees
09:15
because the oak tree can handle the
09:17
storms only need the one
09:20
and so these oak trees these secure
09:22
people they tend to have longer lasting
09:24
relationships as a result
09:26
and in fact john gottman the famous
09:28
relationship uh psychologist
09:30
his team noticed that in terms of their
09:33
data
09:34
that a key decider for a healthy long
09:36
relationship
09:38
is where you’re capable of being calm
09:42
during a conflict and that’s a very very
09:44
good description
09:46
of those who are securely attached
09:50
and so what we’ve looked at here are
09:52
three different
09:53
attachment styles and
09:57
probably just on listening you’ll be
09:58
able to notice which one tends to be
10:01
yourself
10:02
now these attachment styles can actually
10:04
change through life so they’re not
10:06
fixed which is a a big bonus as we’ll
10:09
notice in a second so we’ve
10:10
seen three different attachment styles
10:14
we’ve seen the anxious attachment style
10:17
where the person feels unsafe when there
10:20
is a distance between themselves and the
10:22
partner
10:22
and so will become quite agitated and
10:25
big in order to try and
10:27
build a bridge across that distance
10:29
we’ve seen the avoidance style
10:31
the socially distanced dancers who
10:34
are trying to maintain some distance
10:36
because when things are too close
10:38
that feels unsafe for them and then
10:41
we’ve seen the securely attached people
10:43
about half the population and
10:46
they’re these oak trees and if there’s
10:50
even just one oak tree within a
10:52
relationship
10:53
those relationships are the ones that
10:56
are reported as being
10:58
the most satisfying
11:02
and so in order to have a good
11:04
relationship in order to be
11:06
within one of those most satisfying
11:08
relationships there’s two ways to get to
11:10
that
11:12
one of those ways is to be with somebody
11:15
who’s secure and the other way
11:18
is to become somebody who is
11:22
secure and so when i said earlier on
11:26
that these attachment styles are not
11:28
fixed
11:30
you know this is just a map really this
11:32
is just a way of
11:33
thinking about this in a way that might
11:35
be helpful but these attachment styles
11:37
are certainly not fixed and that’s
11:39
important because it means that if you
11:42
notice that you’re
11:44
anxious in relationships or if you
11:46
notice that you’re
11:48
avoidant in relationships
11:52
then what that basically means is that
11:54
you’re currently feeling kind of unsafe
11:58
within relationships
12:01
but the good news is that it’s not fixed
12:05
and it can be changed and so you too
12:08
can become one of those securely
12:11
attached
12:12
people and that’s a big part of what the
12:15
work of therapy does
12:17
i guess that if you notice that you’re
12:19
having
12:20
relationship issues then you might want
12:22
to check in
12:23
whether you are one of those
12:26
relationship styles really attachment
12:29
styles
12:30
which are either anxious or avoidant and
12:32
if you
12:33
are then you have two routes to a good
12:35
relationship
12:37
either get yourself with an oak tree
12:40
or become an oak tree and that latter
12:43
one
12:44
is a big part of what can be achieved
12:47
in therapy so i hope this has been
12:51
useful to you and i hope these
12:55
ideas have been meaningful and you’ve
12:57
been able to kind of locate yourself and
13:00
hopefully it’s helped in terms of any
13:02
problems that might come up for you
13:04
so please do share it with somebody else
13:06
if so and if you’d like to work with me
13:08
directly
13:09
one to one then you can do i’m alun
13:11
parry you’ll find out more at liverpool
13:13
psychotherapy dot co dot uk
13:16
and of course i work online so you don’t
13:18
have to be local and subscribe to the
13:20
podcast because it’s completely free and
13:22
it means you’ll never
13:23
miss an episode again so thanks very
13:26
much for listening
13:27
and i’ll be back tomorrow with another
13:29
one

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