Before I knew what it was, anxiety was normal–that unscratchable itch rising in my brain till it exploded. Just an ordinary way of being. Didn’t everybody have trouble concentrating? Didn’t everybody run scenarios over and over in their heads, practicing how to escape their car if it went off a bridge into water? Didn’t everybody worry about being LOST FOREVER??
According to Psychology Today,
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is both a mental and physical state of negative expectation. Mentally it is characterized by increased arousal and apprehension tortured into distressing worry, and physically by unpleasant activation of multiple body systems—all to facilitate response to an unknown danger, whether real or imagined.
There’s an actual point to anxiety–the physical sensations are meant to alert you, to say “Pay attention!” So like many other things, anxiety exists on a spectrum. You can experience anxiety at a job interview. In a large group of people when you’re more introverted than extroverted. Or you can experience it every freaking minute to the point of being too overwhelmed to make a move.
Anybody who has read more than one of my posts knows I’ve long been fascinated with psychology, the what and why of the human condition. What can make one person more prone to anxiety (and depression) than another? What makes me more prone to it, to accepting chaos as a normal thing and forgetting to be fussed about Covid-19?
One thing that has helped me understand myself and work on my own growth is Attachment Style.
What is the attachment bond?
The mother-child bond is the primary force in infant development, according to the attachment bond theory pioneered by English psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth. The theory has gained strength through worldwide scientific studies and the use of brain imaging technology.
The attachment bond theory states that the relationship between infants and primary caretakers is responsible for:
shaping all of our future relationshipsHelpguide.org
strengthening or damaging our abilities to focus, be conscious of our feelings, and calm ourselves
the ability to bounce back from misfortune
I was three or four years old. Standing by my mother in line at the grocery store I look up at her in her summer dress and say “I love you!” She looks back at me and says nothing.
I was a young adult. My mother has just told me that because of the fact that she was forced to chew ice during the unbearably hot summer in Portland that she was pregnant with me, that’s why she had to get false teeth. I’m dumbstruck, ashamed, and confused. I’m the reason she had to get her teeth pulled? I carried that shame until many, many years later when I realized how absurd it was to be blamed for an event that occured while I was still in-utero.
Peruse the quote about attachment bonds and guess where I landed on the ability to calm myself or bounce back from misfortune.
Those weren’t isolated instances with my “primary caregiver”. The message throughout my chaotic childhood was basically “every man for himself!” If I was 5 or 8 or 15 and didn’t understand what was happening, why the adults who should be taking care of me were pushing each other and yelling, I hid. I shut down. If I didn’t know how to deal with the police showing up at the door after one of my parents’ fights I simply “forgot” it, shoved it in some deep recess of my brain where I didn’t need to try to make sense of the senseless.
I talk about these things to show that we can use the knowledge of our past to explore ways to heal those broken places in us. Therapy + knowledge + practice practice practice = healing. Maybe not perfectly as if life never happened to us. We can do away with the gaping, weeping wound, leaving ourselves with only a doable scar.
I’m working my way from a primarily disorganized style to a more secure style…that’s the goal anyway…and I do see growth.
How the Attachment Bond Shapes Adult Relationships: this is a great overview of the way we were made to bond, and what the results are when we don’t. How bonding affects an infant’s brain, how the ways we bonded with our caregivers affects our adult relationships. Good info.
Which of These Four Attachment Styles Is Yours? A lesson on attachment styles using the characters in How I Met Your Mother.
Remembering Our Belonging Part 1, Tara Brach ties in well with the topic. The way we bonded (or not) in our infancy and childhood has a great bearing on how we feel about our place in the world. Tara is one of my current heroes, pointing the way to kindness and acceptance of ourselves.
And always fun, a free quiz! Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s Attachment Styles Test. A good way to find out how messed up you are. Enjoy!
The Bring Your Own Beverage convo: Take the above test and share your attachment style, and where you see it affect your past and current relationships. What do you think caused your style?