God designed us to be securely attached in relationships. With Him and others. When our relationships go well, we do well in life. When our relationships are not doing well, our lives can be thrown into anguish and we start swirling.
Understanding Attachment Patterns can give us insight into what is behind the quality of our relationships. And it can open up avenues for us to practically work on ways to grow in secure attachments.
Let’s look first at some examples in my current life of how these life patterns play out in every day interactions. First let me give a backdrop.
My home has been in a state of organized chaos the past several months. A dripping of water in my sunroom led to the discovery of a hole in the wall that encases my fireplace. An unwelcome guest of a possum breaking into my bathroom at midnight led animal control to an additional hole under my deck. Which led to removing shingles on the house, exposing a wall covered in black mold with white spores. This discovery necessitated the wall being replaced. While these problems were being addressed, water kept showing up on the sunroom floor. Another discovery happened of how when it was built, the internal part of the wall was made of particle board rather than wood. The flashings were put in upside down and caulking was missing. For the past 15 + years, rain had slowly been seeping inside and now the walls are disintegrating. Throughout the ordeal, our God has made His footprints very obvious! His Interactive Presence has put wind under my wings and brings me back to the stability of the foundation within me.
This ordeal has brought me into a full realm of relational interactions impacted by the different attachment patterns. Let me bring you into a few conversations.
Interaction #1 [Dismissive Attachment Pattern at work]
In response to a text, I wrote in part, “The work is not finished yet. The first day they were supposed to be working, the main guy had to go care for his 83-year-old mother who was stuck by the side of the road in another town. And then yesterday his mother ended up in the hospital with serious breathing issues and he spent the night with her and is still there now. He thus had not been able to work on the outside wall that is open/ exposed. Still have furniture in the middle of the living room…it is livable but certainly not my preference!”
The response: (in reference to a mutual friend whose home is unlivable due to hurricane Florence) “Betty would gladly exchange places with you and have construction done on her place.”
Woah! I felt my life challenges being minimized and dismissed! My desire to share my soul and life with this individual is also minimized! It will not be easy for me to give access to the vulnerable parts of my life and soul much in the future!
Interaction #2 [Anxious Attachment Pattern at work}
I shared something similar to the summary above with a person who lives across the country, who loves me dearly. The response went something like the following:
“Oh, how horrid! What are you going to do? Will you be ok? I’ll get lots of people to start praying. Shall I fly over and help you? I could help with the cooking and cleaning. You know I ‘m good at those kind of things…”
Woah! While aware and grateful of her love for me, I felt overwhelmed with her heightened anxiety. I now had another ‘task’ on my schedule to help her get back to a place of calm and not own the job of taking care of me. I remain hesitant to share what happens in my life because I do not want to add more conversations that will require my energy to calm this friend down.
Interaction #3 [A Disorganizing Attachment Pattern at work]
I was sharing a little bit with a precious woman who is barely staying afloat with the impact of an overwhelming past and current trauma in her life.
Her response to knowing of my situation went something as follows.
“What you are going through is so much worse than what is happening with me. I will take a break from our time together for a while so you can get your house back. I’ll be ok. I’m used to being on my own when I go through hard times…”
My interaction with her had me aware of how she is caught in a multiple bind of wanting to care for me, take care of me, and heightened fear of the loss of our important connection. She is attempting to minimize her situation while also sending emotional messages of her terror of losing me. I experience the push and pull outwardly that she is experiencing inwardly.
She is needing to experience that I am stable and able to keep walking with her. She needs for me to continue to be able to enter into her angst, see the repercussions of the harshness in life and so she is attempting to create an environment in which I can get ‘ok’ again for her. Also, she is keeping herself at bay from me so as to not have her fear realized, of my backing out on her.
Interaction #4 [A Secure Attachment Pattern at work]
A friend has been keeping up with my ongoing saga, along with some other challenging aspects of my life. She wrote me a note which included… “My heart is concerned for you! The news Monday was not encouraging, and your interactions with the new contractor and insurance company was not leading to clear, good answers. Has anything shifted? Has more HARD piled on? What would help?
I know you have sweet friends in your life, but wonder if you have the solid care and support you need right now? I want to be one of your friends that you can trust with the good, the bad and the ugly and I don’t want you to feel alone in this hard place.”
Wow! My soul took a deep breath and settled into a space of calm and gratitude. She is keeping up with me, staying attuned to how I might be impacted, caring and willing to join me as I need and want and what she is available for.
Our internal survival mechanisms, wrapped up in Attachment Patterns, impact every interaction we have to different degrees. Each of us will have a mixture of patterns and nuances that shift based on the present situation at hand and what our mind decides will be the best approach to make life feel secure.
In the following weeks I will share more on the different Attachment Patterns, giving descriptions and examples of how it plays out in life. I will also write in the upcoming weeks some thoughts regarding how we can intentionally focus on healing from each pattern, growing into secure attachments with our God and others, offering secure bonds to those in our world.