As you know from my previous blog, I am sharing with you some of the content from our last two Codependence Camps on understanding the deeper roots of our codependent behaviors. Attachment theory provides some useful information that can help us to understand our vulnerability to codependency.
Attachment theory in psychology originates with the seminal work of John Bowlby (1958). In the 1930’s John Bowlby worked as a psychiatrist in a Child Guidance Clinic in London, where he treated many emotionally disturbed children. This experience led Bowlby to consider the importance of the child’s relationship with their mother in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development. Specifically, it shaped his belief about the link between early infant separations with the mother and later maladjustment, and led Bowlby to formulate his attachment theory.
Attachment theory is interested in whether an individual has developed secure or insecure attachments to others as a result of the way they were treated by their primary caregiver. The caregiver’s responsiveness and consistency in their relationship with the child are of particular importance.
Secure attachment develops in a child when they are responded to in a consistent and responsive way by their primary caregiver.
Insecure attachments develop from non-responsiveness and inconsistencies in parenting and present themselves in several ways: Insecure – Anxious can come from inconsistent parenting where the child can not trust that their primary caregiver will be there to meet their needs on a predictable basis. Insecure – Avoidant can come from non-responsive parenting where for the most part the parent does not notice and respond effectively to the needs of the child. In such cases, the child may become dismissive or fearful in their relationships with others.
The field of attachment theory is rich in research and applications of the theory. This is a very simple introduction to you about this material with the suggestions that our attachment styles likely influence our codependent behaviors. If my style is insecure-anxious, I am likely to seek reassurances and do things to try to insure that the object of my affection is not going to leave me. If my style is to be insecure-avoidant, I may well try to be self-contained and operate in rigid, controlling ways which may keep others at an unnecessary distance – a distance I may not really want.
All of this is about our sense of self, in this case our secure vs. insecure self. Recovery from codependency is about understanding our insecure self and fostering its growth into security and strength. Ideas on ways to do this will appear in future blogs.
our “Deeper Roots.”