hands against the sky holding cut out word, "love"

How Our Attachment Patterns Can Influence Self-Care

At Conscious Wellness we work with a wide spectrum of health and wellness issues. From brain health and prevention of Alzheimer’s, to postpartum and parenting support, to the psychology of eating, to nutrition education and more. The foundation of all of this is about how each and every one of us can put our own self-worth into action and move more and more deeply into wellness.

We are very aware that wellness is not something that can be prescribed. It is something that needs to be investigated. And while we are huge proponents of self-care (because what is self-care if not our own self-worth in action?), we also realize that this term has complicated roots for each individual.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/seventybox/1022893155/

Indeed, how we have been cared for in our past will strongly influence how we now, care for ourselves. If we did not receive adequate care in our infancy, childhood and youth, then caring for ourselves as adults comes with some unfortunate landmines. The tricky part is when we do not realize the intimate connection between our earlier nurturing and our present day actions (or lack of action).

The term attachment refers to the dynamic relationship we form with our primary caregivers. We can have different attachment styles with different caregivers, as the relationship of attachment is often very unique, subtle and dependent upon each person. There are different factors that go into creating attachments, as we don’t create attachments with adults who are absent, or on the periphery of our lives as infants. It is the primary, influential adults in our lives that we learn about relationship with, and we also learn about ourselves.

Because attachments begin at birth, they become the literal foundation for our reality. Attachment creates perception so that one believes one’s perception is how it has always been, and will always be. It just is. Therefore, attachment patterns are very hard to see from the inside out.

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Until we become willing to look. And that is when life can begin to unfold in such a way that new understanding is reached and the possibility of change begins to grow.

And while attachments develop in unique, specific settings (namely the environment of our early relationships), there are commonalities to our attachment styles that are worth noting. Because attachment is the underlying foundation for how we view the world, and ourselves, then taking a deeper look at this foundation is a worthy investment of time. Namely, because when we investigate these areas, we investigate our own worthiness for wellness. Inherent in wellness is the experience of healthy connection, both with ourselves (our relationship to our self, how we regard our self), and with others (how we connect, care for, and allow ourselves to be cared for). If there is any struggle for wellness, then underlying this for many of us, is a struggle for worth.

Here are some possible narratives that may indicate an attachment that is based only on survival, rather than on nurturing:

back of a lone woman sitting and facing away towards a sunset over water

by flickr user babakos

“I don’t need to do that.” Of course there is the value of discernment, and I certainly understand that we all need to be discerning of the things we need. However, this inner dialogue statement refers to a response that may occur whenever the situation advises one to seek help. It may be for counseling, or a second opinion from another doctor. It may be to ask for help from friends, neighbors, or family members during times of stress or need (such as after the birth of a baby, or death of a loved one). Is it difficult to ask for help? Is it difficult to trust another person, even a professional, to assist you and provide quality care? The inability to reach out and ask for help may indicate a type of attachment style based on a family message, I am not allowed to ask for help, or I cannot rely on anyone to truly help me, and finally, I am alone. All of these statements are variations of a foundation that can develop, quite early on, when nurturing was inadequate or not based upon the baby’s needs.

hands grasped in motion

by flickr user Claire Susan

“I MUST do that.” The flip side of resistance to asking for help, can be a rigidity to follow the rules or protocol exactly. The rigidity may be based on underlying anxiety, the drive to perform with perfection, in an attempt to find security. If attachment has been insecure, anxiety plays a role. Those of us with this inner dynamic may find we push ourselves to be a good student, patient, or client. We aim to excel and to perfect. Health issues are problems to be solved and we struggle to find the solutions so we can apply them. The inner motivation is to control oneself and one’s circumstances to create the conditions for health, harmony, and wellness. With this mindset, we may encounter many obstacles and much disappointment. We may have the tendency to blame others, or shame ourselves when perfection is not reached. In terms of health, we may eventually struggle with what and who to trust if we don’t achieve the results we anticipated.

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Attachment is a complex, nuanced process. We are always evolving and expanding upon our original foundation and there can be multiple layers to this. The mindsets highlighted above are meant only to be possible indicators for deeper investigation. If we find we are often dismissive of our own wellness needs, or frustrated after following advice after advice after advice and ending up more lost than ever, then consider exploring your approach. Allowing our past to continue undermining our present goals doesn’t support anyone. We can create a new foundation that supports our needs fully. It can take time, and its not always comfortable. Going against the grain of our own personal status quo can feel awkward and strange. However, this is also growth. When we move out of our comfort zones, and act in accordance with a new belief system, one that promotes our own innate worth for wellness, then we experience tremendous learning and healing. Consider your own health goals as deep teachers, helping to realign you with a deeper sense of security. When we make our health an inside-out kind of job, then we make headway towards that which we’ve always longed for.

 

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