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The Key Ingredient for Healthy Relationships

Balancing the needs of self and other.

Relationships can be the most satisfying, difficult, fulfilling, challenging, and wonderful parts of our lives. These extreme ends of experience reflect the dual nature of ourselves in relationship. We each have an internal drive to be both a separate self and to connect deeply with others. In fact, the more securely we are attached to others in relationship, the more we are free to be our own, autonomous self. This aspect can be seen in the development of a child. As the child experiences a secure attachment with its caregiver it develops the courage to explore the world with increasingly more independence. However, finding and maintaining a balance between being both separate and together is a lifelong task, often with significant challenges along the way.

Attachment Theory

The term attachment refers to an emotional bond with another person. The theory of attachment was developed by John Bowlby (1907 - 1990) while researching infants who had been separated from their parents. Bowlby understood their distress as signs of attempts to reestablish closeness with their missing caregiver. This behavior was understood to be an adaptive response, as infants depend on their attachment figures for survival. The ability to have this attachment need met early in life is indicative of how the child will develop the ability to be in healthy relationships. A child who has a caregiver who is responsive, attuned to their needs, and able to help regulate their emotions, will go on to form healthy relationship built on secure attachment bonds to both self and other. In contrast, a child who does not have a secure attachment base will experience anxiety and stress in relationship with themselves and others. Such children will develop attachment styles which are either insecure, avoidant, or disorganized. This foundation makes the journey to finding balance between self and other a difficult, if not impossible, goal. Research indicates approximately 60% of children are securely attached while 40% are not.

Attachment Healing Wounds

Fortunately attachment injury can be healed through psychotherapy. In this type of close relationship, old patterns of relating can be identified and worked through. The desire for an emotional connection can be met, and will not longer be threatening. At the same time, the development of a secure attachment to oneself is formed. This is good news for those who have struggled in relationship.

If you are experiencing difficulties in relationships, either with yourself or others, contact me for a free consultation to see if psychotherapy can help.


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