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Loving Yourself : Attachment – Part Three
In today’s society, we are inundated with information on relationships, starting them, saving them and deciding when to end them. But the most important relationship of all is one that we hear far less about. I’m talking about the relationship we have with ourselves. Self-love might sound like egotism but in fact it is the foundation of self-esteem and has knock-on effects in areas as diverse as emotional intelligence and resilience.
In Part Two, we discussed the impacts that attachment styles have for couples and long-term adult relationships. Today, we will look at how wide-spread the effects are, even to your relationship with yourself.
Many research has reported a direct correlation between low self-esteem and people with insecure attachment styles both avoidant and anxious. Both these attachment styles are also predisposed to anxiety (avoidant) and depression (anxious). There is clear statistical evidence that therapeutic interventions based on increasing self-esteem can lead to significant positive effects across the range of anxiety, depression, self-esteem and a whole host of interpersonal issues associated with these conditions.
Understanding your attachment style when you’re single can substantially improve your chances of having the relationship you want and need next time around. Even for those with no immediate intention of re-coupling/re-partnering, there are lessons to be learned about responses to feeling accepted or rejected by those closest to us, not to mention self-perception. Just as attachment styles impact our choice of partner so too they can be seen in how we choose and interact with friends, acquaintances and even colleagues.
Before we look at the repercussions of attachment styles for adult life - a note of hope. There is a growing weight of evidence for an area called neural plasticity. For our purposes today, all you need to know about this area is that the brain has been shown to be capable of creating new patterns of behaviour, changing how the neurons in our brain will fire in response to new experiences. Even a maladaptive pattern can be unlearned as our brains rewire to be healthier and stronger. The same brain flexibility that allows patients to relearn speech and movement after a stroke allows us to adapt new patterns in memory and awareness as well as the ability to form new habits in how we related to other people and ourselves.
The new science of brain plasticity, which has only been convincingly demonstrated in the last 15 years in now revolutionising how we treat everything from serious physical injury to addiction. But neuroscience also underpins our approach to counselling and psychotherapy here at All Relationship Matters.
If you are not currently in a relationship, you have a unique opportunity to look at your attachment style and its relationship symptoms from an objective perspective. Rather than trying to repair an existing relationship or address specific problems with a partner, you have the freedom to look at your overall pattern of relating and partnering. Why did past relationships not work? Was it a less than suitable partner or just the unhelpful way of relating with the right person? Are you a serial monogamist or do you run at the first sign of commitment?
If you’re not looking to re-partner or imagine being single for the foreseeable future, the relationship with yourself becomes all the more important. How does your internal monologue go? Does the voice in your head offer you support and guidance or does it tear you down and focus on what you see as your flaws? Do you help others at the expense of you?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions or if you the answers you’ve come up with are worrying you, perhaps it’s time to do the right thing by you. This is your opportunity to look at where that voice in your head comes from. Perhaps it sounds like one of your parents; perhaps it developed in the absence of a parent. Whether you had a critical or emotionally unavailable or distant parent or one with too many competing requirements on their time, in fact whatever the reason for an unmet need in childhood, there is an opportunity now as an adult in control of their own destiny to start meeting your own emotional needs. You can unlearn as an adult pernicious lessons learned as a child.
Our model at All Relationship Matters is based on the practice of attuned therapy or Emotionally Focussed Therapy. In practice this means that by tuning in to the unmet needs from infancy, childhood and adulthood, we can help our clients to have corrective emotional experiences. These include building new habits and structures for cooperating with people and relating to one another, activating neurons and strengthening the circuits and pathways in the brain to develop healthy internal working models of other people, relationships and self-perception too.
The brain is incredibly complex and ever-changing. Given the opportunity to experience something new and positive, it is capable of building new habits of working, which if reinforced over time lead to a more positive sense of self, which then becomes the anchor for future relationships with other people in our lives. If our self-perception is healthy and robust, we will be less likely to accept anything less than what we deserve in our friends and partners.
Because the attachment patterns we want to re-wire are stored only in the mode of right hemisphere processing, – sensations, images, including dream images, emotions – and outside of awareness – we MUST use the resonance circuits to access those old implicit memories and pair them with new, more positive experiences in a right hemisphere mode.
To do this for our clients means that we as therapists temporarily step into the role of the parent for our clients. Each one of us here has developed our style of professional practice because we do not like to see people in intra psychic pain or emotional loneliness and because we know that most people don’t need to stay stuck there. We love to be a part of helping our clients feel less alone and less unloved. What makes us unusual is that we are prepared to say that we do what we do out of love. It’s not a word you hear a Counsellor or Psychologist say often. So, yes our practice is based on science and sophisticated models of neural plasticity but the medium of our practice is love. Yes love. Call us on 0400 999 918. We can help.