You’ve heard the phrase, the apple never falls far from the tree but do you know why and how? As an ‘apple’ you inherited characteristics from both your parents. You learned how to behave by imitating and mimicking your parents.
You don’t have control over the tree you came from, but if you learned certain behaviors from your parents perhaps you can learn new ones too.
As a child you were a sponge, your nervous system and your brain developed rapidly. You learned what love is and how to love from your parents.
This may be good or bad news to you depending on the quality of your relationship with your parents.
Regardless, it is important to understand your roots. Once you understand how you learned to love you can be less defensive and more accepting.
The best theory to describe how this happens is the Attachment Theory.
Attachment TheorYJohn Bowlby the founder of Attachment Theory determined that the first two years of an infant’s life were crucial in setting the tone for all subsequent relationships.
Dr. Bowlby postulated that children learn who to trust and how to calm down based on having a secure or insecure attachment to their parents. For a secure relationship to develop, parents must be attentive, responsive and consistent. If a child’s parents show consistent loving behaviors their child learns that they will be nurtured and loved. If the parents are not attentive, are preoccupied or inconsistent a child develops an insecure attachment style which will lead to insecure adult attachments.
There are four attachment styles:
- insecure-ambivalent or anxious,
While no one wants to consider themselves ‘insecure’, being insecure is more common than you might think. The two main insecure types are either anxious or avoidant. The disorganized child is most often the victim of abuse in the home, which is, fortunately, less common. All three of the last types are ‘insecure.’ The insecure person has a highly sensitive nervous system. They also tend to think of things in emotional or negative ways.
the all-important mother
A child is most likely to mimic the attachment style of their mothers. If a mother has an anxious or ambivalent style the child is 80% more likely to have the same attachment style, the other 20 percent seems to be genetically-driven in terms of temperament.
If you are struggling in your relationships, it might be easy to blame your parents. According to attachment theory, these patterns are passed on through multiple generations. So better to blame your grandparents, particularly if they are deceased. All joking aside, the tendency to repeat those things we observe is easy to do.
To no fault of your own, you may have an insecure style. What this means is you may have trouble trusting that anyone will be there for you or will be consistent.
Is it possible however to learn new behaviors? The answer is YES, Dr. Bowlby concluded that while a person may be wounded in their early relationships, they can also be healed as an adult, it’s called Earned Attachment. This means that you earn a secure attachment style later in life.
Healing rarely happens without another person. You don’t go off and learn how to be better in relationships and heal old wounds spending more time by yourself. Instead, what is necessary is a good partner who can correct or change your perception of relationships. If you are with a partner who is attentive and consistent, over time, your body and your mind learn to relax. With a new secure base, you learn to trust, to calm down and to rewire your brain, hence you become secure.
two ways to become Secure
You can become secure in one of two ways. One way is to be in a loving relationship that helps you relax, calm down and to get your needs met. A second way is in a good therapeutic relationship where you learn the skills and then apply them to yourself.
In order to become SECURE, it will take effort and time to change. You must learn how to relax your nervous system and to think in less reactive and more rational ways. You can learn to meditate and to change the way you think. If you learned to be over or under expressive, you can improve your communication skills. Be kind and gentle with yourself, work to accept who you are, but also push yourself to do things differently. Growth takes time but is also worth the effort.
Find a therapist who has knowledge of Attachment theory. Generally, a therapist familiar with this theory can help you to understand your style and also understand what you need to do in order to become more secure. They can help challenge your ideas of what a healthy relationship is if you never had good role models or don’t know what a good relationship looks like up close.
It doesn’t matter what tree you fell from. You can change your attachment style and become secure.