Our adult relationships can take on many of the same features that characterized our earliest attachment relationships with our primary caregivers. Our current experiences are filtered through these “lenses,” and the past becomes recreated in our present. In this article, I’ll discuss the different styles of attachment we can develop, how our core attachment styles give rise to the variety of problems we experience as adults, and how our problematic attachment styles may be modified to make changes that last.
Attachment theory has enormous implications for our understanding of relationships and the variety of psychological problems we can encounter. Attachment theory was pioneered by John Bowlby. Bowlby was a British psychoanalyst during the 1930s who worked in a home for delinquent boys with difficulties forming close emotional bonds with others. Bowlby noted that each child came from a home marked by chaos, neglect, and emotional deprivation. As a result of his investigations, Bowlby concluded that the need for a close, emotionally supportive relationship with a primary caregiver is a basic human need on par with the need for food, water, and shelter . This is the foundation of attachment theory. In this article, I’ll consider several questions related to attachment including: What is attachment? How does it develop? And how does our attachment history continue to impact our adult relationships?
We often continue to do what we don’t want to do. We try to make changes but eventually seem to repeat the same mistakes despite our best efforts to change. Freud theorized that if we do things that we consciously do not want to do, then the motivation for many of our choices must be unconscious . This thought inspired a monumental shift in the way we think about our problems and ourselves. A new way of understanding the mind emerged – one that could begin accounting for our experiences of ourselves as divided in purpose and motivation. According to Freud, we are divided in motivation because of important unconscious dynamics that make sense when understood within the larger context of our lives. We may both love someone while simultaneously despising them as a result of a dynamic interplay between conscious and unconscious motivations. Although much thought has occurred since Freud, he remains essentially correct about the dynamic interplay between conscious and unconscious processes in much of our mental life (for a neurobiological perspective on the operation of unconscious processes in various brain functions and development, see The Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel ). So what are unconscious dynamics?