Love, attachment and intimacy. Part 1/4: avoidant or dismissive attachment

Often someone finds themself back in a familiar and distressing situation with a partner or friends, thinking ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ or ‘Why do I always end up here?’ The first step towards breaking out of unhealthy relationship patterns is to recognise the repetition, and our own part in perpetuating it, so that we have conscious choices about our own behaviour.

The attachment model for understanding relationships focuses on the nature of the bond between an infant and primary carers, usually the mother and/or father. In research, three broad categories of attachment were observed in children: avoidant, ambivalent, and secure. To this, a fourth category was later added, disorganised. Longitudinal studies have shown that, unless a positive intervention is made, the child now grown uses this primary relationship as an unconscious blueprint for their adult intimate relationships.

These four articles look at the childhood origins of each attachment style, what this looks like in adult relationships, and how counselling or psychotherapy can help change the pattern. Each article ends with an example of a popular song that encapsulates what it means to live the attachment style.

This first article describes the emotional unavailability of the avoidant or dismissive attachment style, illustrated by I Am A Rock by Paul Simon, performed by Simon and Garfunkel.

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What is this thing called love?

What is this thing called love,
This funny thing called love?
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?

~ Cole Porter, What is this thing called love?

In all its various forms, love is a frequent subject in the therapy room. As in Cole Porter’s song, some people’s experience is that loving relationships inevitably end, leaving them feeling foolish. Others experience love as a restricting prison, or as something powerfully desired but unattainable. Why is this? And how can counselling and psychotherapy help?

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