I’m back on track, ladies and gentlemen, and here to give you some of my thoughts on the book Attached by Levine and Heller. This will be a longer post, but I hope you’ll stick with me. There was so much I wanted to say, and I cut it down A LOT. Yes, it was that good! And these are just MY personal takeaways. The book is so much more.
Applause! Applause! I have conquered the day. That ugly, procrastination self-talk has lost the battle, but the war does still rage on. I’m feeling confident today, not because I’m a bad ass, but because my husband loved on me yesterday when I was feeling low. Get your mind out of the gutter and I’ll tell you the story.
Remember that focus issue I brought up (again) yesterday? Well, it got worse. My husband was working on a project out in the garage, and I thought, “It’s Thursday! I’ll take the trash down for him!” I got the recycle out, then thought, “Hold on. I’ll get this dinner started and THEN take the trash out because then I won’t have food scraps in the trash overnight.”
I started the potatoes, turned on the radio and then started washing the dishes, forgetting all about the trash. That’s when my husband came in the from the garage and started taking out the trash, thanking me for helping with the recycle.
And I started raving and crying because I realized at that moment that I had forgotten…again.
That’s when he did something amazing. He stopped, pulled me to him and held me while I cried. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Yes, I’m dramatic. Get used to it.
A minute later, I was safe again. I finished the dishes. He took the trash cans down to the road. We had dinner together. I had one of his delicious new beers. And we watched a new TV show, which I highly suggest you see, “Minx.” Yes, there’s nudity! There’s nothing wrong with naked people! Trust me. This is good stuff.
How does this relate to the book Attached? Well, this is what a secure person can do for an anxious one if they’re both interested in walking this path of life together. Through books like this, we’ve learned more effective communication skills that have saved our relationship more than once.
Let’s get into that book a bit, shall we?
“Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.”
“…we live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence.”
Like I said in my first post about this book, I discovered this paradox when my children were very small and fought with my culture while I raised them quite differently. This attachment is biological and starts from infancy. This book moves on to apply it to any intimate/close relationship. The principles have changed my parenting, family, and married life for the better.
“Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.”
“Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference.”
When I feel the threat of detachment, I feel physically ill. My head and hands ache as if they are filling with blood. My heart races, my breathing shallows. I feel like throwing up. But one text from my loved one, a quick note, a hug, or a squeeze of my hand, and my anxiety eases. Oxytocin win!
Humans have evolved depending on each other for safety, security, and happiness. Our survival has depended on it. Yes, we have a better chance at staying alive independently in modern times, but our biology does not know the difference. Besides, why do we want to get rid of a bonding/attachment system that can bring so much joy?
“…when our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.”
There you go. We can be the rock under each other’s feet, that secure base to jump from. It’s a mutual dependence that gives us the courage to be out in the world doing big (and small) things independently.
“Chapter 5: Living with a Sixth Sense for Danger: The Anxious Attachment Style”
This is where we will dwell…because it’s about me. I know it best.
“…you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened. Even a slight hint that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system, and once it’s activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she is truly there for you and that the relationship is safe.”
Do you have any idea how good it feels to hear “You have a super-power!” instead of “Here’s your problem!”? The best part of this book is that it shows you how to USE your super-power for good!
“The study showed that people with an anxious attachment style tend to jump to conclusions very quickly, and when they do, they tend to misinterpret people’s emotional state.”
“If you just wait a little longer before reacting and jumping to conclusions, you will have an uncanny ability to decipher the world around you and use it to your advantage.”
What study? One that asked people to push a button when they started to see a change in a facial expression on video. Anxious types (like me) saw it a fraction of a second earlier than others. We see it and then rush to identify the emotion, often incorrectly. When they changed the test so that we had to wait a moment longer before responding, we were able to identify the emotion more correctly.
Another hint to stay aware, learn to breathe and pause, before reacting to the world around you, my anxious friend. Not everything is a threat to your survival.
“…the brains of people with an anxious attachment style react more strongly to thoughts of loss and at the same time under-recruit regions normally used to down-regulate negative emotions.”
…sigh… Validation. Do you feel it?
I just need to be more aware of my style and adjust my communication skills. There’s nothing wrong with me. I have a superpower I need to learn to use correctly. Remember “Frozen?” Nothing made my heart smile more than when my son stopped the movie and said, “So…they found out she had a power and locked her away by herself instead of teaching her to use it? Oh, yeah, that will be great. Nothing bad can happen here.”
“Expressing your needs and expectations to your partner in a direct, nonaccusatory manner is an incredibly powerful tool.”
“Nooooo! It’s too hard! Too dangerous!” were my notes in the margin. First of all, you have to know what your needs ARE. Then you have to become vulnerable to express then. What if they say no and you have to leave the relationship? What if they accuse you of being silly, over-thinking, over-communicating, reading into a situation, etc.?
So what?! Do we really want to stay in a relationship like that and not even try to repair it? Life alone isn’t that dangerous anymore, not so much that we need to wrap ourselves around anyone that will stick with us a while.
“Often, insecure people cannot get in touch with what is really bothering them. They get overwhelmed by emotions and lash out.”
One thing I have learned lately is to simply admit that I’m feeling yuck and I’m not sure why or where it’s coming from. Instead of scrambling to find any source of pain and eradicate it quickly (like the study I mentioned above), I sit in that feeling and allow it some space to move around. Buddhism and meditation, non-doing and trust, are helping in that pursuit.
I’m printing out these two lists and putting them on the fridge!
The Five Principles of Effective Communication
Wear You Heart on Your Sleeve
Focus on Your Needs
Be assertive and nonapologetic
Five Secure Principles for Resolving Conflict
Show basic concern for the other person’s well-being.
Maintain focus on the problem at hand.
Refrain from generalizing the conflict.
Be willing to engage.
Effectively communicate feelings and needs.
One more word: Oxytocin! “The next time you decide to skip the Sunday morning cuddle in bed for a chance to catch up on work – think again. This small act might be enough to immunize your relationship against conflict for the next few days.”
We (our culture) do not spend enough time in close physical contact with each other. Don’t say COVID, because it started LONG before that. Oxytocin (the love and bonding chemical) is created when we touch. Feeling low? Ask for a hug! In fact, I think I’ll start asking my friends and family if I can hug them more often!
And there you have it. Attached by Levine and Heller…in a nutshell!
What’s next? I was going to jump into an intriguing (but silly) novel but a friend is reading Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson and I cannot skip over the chance to do a read along!