Attachment Theory and the Concept of Commitment

What are the processes that govern relationships in human life? Do we act close and distant in our bilateral relations, or do we show a completely dependent personality and never leave the person we love, or do we always avoid people?

The concept we call attachment depends on the interaction that starts from infancy and takes place between the baby and the primary caregiver. This interaction is a process that can affect our entire lives from infancy to adulthood. The newborn is constantly dependent and needy of the mother. In this period, the baby begins to shape his future life regarding the attachment structure by taking different interactions from both the mother and the father. The foundation of Attachment Theory was laid by Bowlby. Bowlby argues that babies who are securely attached to their primary caregivers during infancy will display a healthy psychological development in adulthood, but babies with insecure attachment may experience personality problems and mental problems in adulthood (Öztürk, 2002). Bowlby argues that attachment behavior, which provides the satisfaction of instinctive needs, lays the foundation for the establishment of social relations (Bowlby, 1973, 1979).

In this period, depending on the caregiver, 3 types of attachment behaviors are observed: secure, anxious/ambivalent and avoidant. Ainsworth took the theory further and devised an experiment called the ‘alien environment’ experiment. In this experiment, the mother and child were taken to a room and after a while, the mother was asked to leave the room. The child’s reactions to the mother who came into the room after a certain period of time varied according to 3 types of different attachment patterns. Securely attached children showed signs of uneasiness when the mother was not in the room, but calmed down easily after the mother came. When they were alone in the room, they were more interested in the environment and showed signs of curiosity. Anxious/ambivalent children were not sure that their mother would respond or help when they asked. Avoidant attachment children, on the other hand, do not have any confidence that their mother will help them when they call. These children remained unresponsive to separation and did not stay close when the mother returned to the room. This attachment pattern acquired in childhood continues to be maintained when the individual steps into adolescence.

In adolescence, attachment behavior shifts from parents to peer relationships. This new attachment style established with peers is a clue that shows how the individual will behave towards his spouse and children in the future. Securely attached children establish more reliable and close relationships with their peers when they reach the adolescence stage, and they have the confidence that they can get help from their families when they want support. They are more self-confident and less likely to see criminal behavior.

Insecurely attached children, on the other hand, have difficulty in establishing close relationships in adolescence and have less skill and adaptability in their social relationships. Since their coping mechanisms are low, the incidence of substance abuse and criminal behavior is higher than their securely attached peers (Willemsen & Marcel, 1995).

Attachment behavior of an adult is directed towards his partner in this period. It was observed that babies with secure attachment developed less pathology in adulthood than babies with insecure attachment, and it was determined that they had more satisfying relationships with their spouses and children. Adults with secure attachment feel valued and believe they deserve love. They have a positive outlook and have high coping mechanisms. Help-seeking behavior is observed when they cannot cope with problems. In a conflict situation, they can control their emotions and express problems in a non-hostile way. Creative thinking and problem-solving skills have developed in confident individuals with positive emotion awareness.

Adult individuals with anxious/ambivalent attachment have less self-confidence. They also reflect their insecurity in their close relationships and display a close and distant stance. They do not consider themselves worthy of love and are far from the perception that they can be loved. The coping mechanisms are less developed and the behavior of asking for help is less. They are not able to open up about their problems easily to the person in front of them. Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders can be seen in individuals with anxious/ambivalent attachment (Kesebir, Kavzoğlu, & Üstündağ, 2011).

Adult individuals with avoidant attachment cannot establish healthy relationships in their bilateral relations. They think that they can be hurt in their close relationships and they generally display an avoidant and shy attitude. They protect themselves by displaying an avoidant attitude against threats from others and the possibility of rejection. This avoidant attitude they exhibit constitutes their basic coping mechanism. They perceive the world as bad, insecure and a source of threat. Individuals with avoidant attachment do not think that they are valuable and are far from the perception that they can be loved. Behavioral disorders and other outward pathologies can be seen in these individuals (Kesebir, Kavzoğlu, & Üstündağ, 2011).

At the same time, the most common pathologies in individuals with insecure attachment are supported by research as panic disorder, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain disorder (Mhyr, Sookman, & Pinard, 2004; Eng, Heimberg, Hart, Schneier, & Liebowitz, 2001).

The things we all own are unique and personal. Everyone is afraid of losing the things that exist in their life. While some people are more afraid of this, others can continue their lives by normalizing the loss. At this point, the basis of our fear of losing is the attachment problems that occur in childhood.

Individuals who experience the fear of losing generally have a dependent personality structure and this dependent personality does not frighten individuals. The cause of fear is precisely the existence of the fear of losing. The individual clings to the things he is attached to as if it is a part of himself. He cannot separate his identity from the qualities and characteristics of the thing he is attached to. The individual is afraid of losing the things that define him because he thinks that when those things are lost, there will be no situation that will make him meaningful. When the fear of loss arises, sentences with ‘What if…’ will begin to appear in the mind of the individual.

In such a case, first of all, the feeling that the individual experiences should be normalized by giving the perception that the fear of losing is a normal fear. Second, one should move forward in therapy with an emphasis on self-compassion. The important thing is the reasons for the addiction that underlies the fear of losing. What created addiction? In which areas did the resulting commitment affect the individual? How did it arise? These points need to be emphasized as you progress in therapy.

So what needs to be done to raise individuals with secure attachment?

Attachment is a two-way concept that develops between the child and the primary caregiver. Parental transference in attachment is one of the strongest variables affecting the child’s insecure attachment. A personality disorder or pathology in the mother also affects her approach to the child and shapes the child’s attachment bases. For this reason, it is necessary to lay the foundations firmly in childhood. For the healthy development of the individual’s self-perception, emotional, cognitive and social development in childhood should be supported by the primary caregiver. Meeting the baby’s physical needs and simultaneously meeting the need for love and attention are important for the baby to build a healthy emotional, cognitive and social structure.

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