Attachment figures play an important role in Attachment Theory. In the original research, a child’s mother filled that role. However, if we are talking adult romantic relationships, clearly we are talking about someone or something else. What or who is an attachment figure? In our latest podcast, Rebecca and I discuss this question with Dr. Phil Shaver,  ”the father of adult attachment theory.”

 

 

If the player does not show, you can click here to listen: 004 - Attachment Figure Defined .

 

Transcript

(Please note: The audio is transcribed “as is,” spoken grammar glitches and all.)

Welcome to Wefulness where we talk about the science of profound connection.  I’m Wefulness co-editor Gregory Blake.  Today we are talking with relationship expert Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen and adult attachment researcher, Dr. Phil Shaver.

G:  Hi Becca.

R:  Hey Greg!

G:  Today’s section of the Shaver interview involves who, or I guess even what, can be an attachment figure.  I was wondering if you could give us a brief intro to that before we go to the actual piece with Phil.

R:  Well we think of attachment figures and we’re talking about adult romantic relationships. Generally, that’s what we’re talking about.  That’s what I usually talk about.  But when we think about attachment figures it can be a variety of people:  friends, close relatives, parents, spouses would be in our romantic lives, our romantic relationship.  Some single people are even what we’d consider attached, closely bonded to, closely connected, have feelings of warmth and depend on, say, their pets.  We see that a lot in the singles scene.  Where we… It’s really, who do we go to?  Where do we go for comfort, for a sense of belonging, for feeling accepted?  Where do we turn when we need some sort of safely?   Those would be the things that we would be thinking about.  Some, you know, we all have attachment figures, but some people also use what I call counterfeit attachments, which is another whole discussion, turning to objects, turning away from people to maybe addictions or that sort of thing to try to get attachment needs met, it is a counterfeit sort of an attachment.  But, basically we are thinking about attachment figures who are people that we feel connected to that we turn to for acceptance, belonging, comfort and safety.  Those are the things I think of when I think of attachment:  acceptance, belonging, comfort and safety.

G:  Awesome. Okay, let’s hear the next part of our interview with Dr. Shaver.

R:  OK, here we go.

G:  I would love a good definition of an attachment figure.  Because, again, there’s the mother/child – that’s what everyone knows.  What else?

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My shoulder was made to hold your head, my hand to hold yours by Katie Tegtmeyer, on FlickrToday’s “Relationship Reading” is from chapter 20, page 441, of the Handbook of Attachment.

Debra Zeifman & Cindy Hazan note:

“Cuddling, or contact comfort, as demonstrated by Harlow (1958), is crucial for the establishment of emotional bonds.”

This quote resonated with me for a number of reasons:

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You Are Not Listening by {studiobeerhorst}-bbmarie via Flikr.com“Avoidant” partners often attempt to protect the relationship during conflict by pulling away. This is ironic given that Dr. John Gottman has identified stonewalling - emotional withdrawal from interaction – one of the four best predictors of divorce.

Obviously, reducing conflict is one way to avoid triggering this response, however, conflict in our dance with our closest relations is inevitable. So how exactly does one have a fair fight with an “avoidant” without destroying the relationship? Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen and I explore this subject in our latest podcast.

 

If the player does not show, you can click here to listen: 006 – How to Have an Argument with an Avoidant Partner.

Transcript

Welcome to Wefulness where we discuss the science of profound connection.  I’m Wefulness co-editor Gregory Blake.  Today we are talking with relationship expert Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen.

G:  Hi Becca.

R:  Hey Greg.

G:  I have a question that’s been in my mind for a while now.  With so much of the avoidants’ behavior being pulling away, I wonder how do you have a fair argument with someone who is avoidant?  If you can’t talk to them or that is sort of my impression so I need some clarification on it.  How do we actually have disagreements?  Cause disagreements happen in all relationships, so I’m curious.

R:  Okay, well that’s a great question, first off.  None of us really like to have arguments, but we know invariably that they’re going to happen when we are walking in close proximity to someone, we end up stepping on each other’s toes.  Or the analogy that Sue Johnson would use, we’re dancing with someone in a close relationship; we’ll end up tripping up on each other, stepping on each other’s toes.  At those times, that’s when we’re really talking about.  What happens then if the person that you are dancing with is avoidant?  And when you get tripped up, what they want to do is get off the dance floor.  That’s kind of the question, right? Continue Reading…

RR06 - "We don't think; we feel, we act."Today’s “Relationship Reading” is another quote from page 30 of the “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson.

In this section of the book, Dr. Johnson is discussing “primal panic” set off by attachment distress. “We don’t think; we feel, we act.” – is the outcome when the brain’s amygdala takes over if an attachment figure is all of a sudden unavailable or unresponsive. Continue Reading…

FriendshipI admit that I am an anomaly. I was married at 19 and we have been together for 29 years now.

I also, for as long as I remember, have had a woman as my best friend. I do have guy friends who I appreciate, but when it comes down to “who would I turn to” for support in a time of distress (in addition to my “better-than-a-best-friend” wife, of course) there are at least four women ahead of the first guy on that list.

There are many ways life has conspired to make this a reality in my life, not the least of which is that I work in a profession dominated by women. When work is stressing me out, the ladies understand the context. I also was never the “let’s get drunk and do stupid things” type… which, when I was a teen, most of the guys in my small town were. I also like to talk about the world around me in a way that most of my guy Continue Reading…

Today’s “Reading that Resonates” (or maybe I should rename these Relationship Readings?) is from page 30 of the “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson.

RR05 - What is at the root of relationship distress?

“Underneath all the distress, partners are asking each other: Can I count on you, depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need, when I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, rely on me? The anger, the criticism, the demands, are really cries to their lovers, calls to stir their hearts, to draw their mates back in emotionally and reestablish a sense of safe connection.” ~ Dr. Sue Johnson

I went back to look this up again today because: Continue Reading…