The ability to create a massive impact in the world outside our relationships often stems from the knowledge that there is someone beside us whom we can count on in both the good and bad times.
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1. This counterintuitive discovery was made in an experiment designed by the mother of attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth. In the “strange situation” experiment, Mary noticed that a child’s exploratory drive – their ability to play and learn – could be either aroused or stifled by their mother’s presence or departure.
Having someone’s presence to seek out in the case of a threatening situation is known as a secure base. It is the comfort that you have someone you can depend on and who is supportive in times of need. A secure base is a prerequisite for a child’s ability to explore, develop, and learn.
Once something bad happens, the secure base becomes a safe haven to reduce stress in the case of a bad event, which ultimately supports exploration after the stress is gone. This programming doesn’t change too much in adulthood either. – Ainsworth, M. D. & Bell, S. M. (1970), Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Development, 41:49-67
2. Book: Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachement and How it Can Help You Find – and Keep- Love by Amir Levine
3. Our beliefs cultivated from our unique life experiences form the expectations of what we fear may happen. Jessica left Jake because her prior husband left her shortly after he became a major success in the consulting business. She never communicated this with Jake, and her invulnerability destroyed the very support Jake needed. It kept her from opening up her fears so they could come together as a couple and overcome them.
4. Amy is an Avoidant according to Attachment Theory Avoidant individuals are likely to give and receive less availability from their spouses because they communicate a lack of a need or desire for it. In fact, Avoidant individuals admit that they use exploration activities such as work to avoid social interactions.
Both insecure strategies (Avoidant and Anxious), confirm their beliefs about how relationship partners are expected to behave. This behavior forms a self-fulfilling prophecy that is likely to play a role in perpetuating these expectations.
5. Our partners are not the only person who affects our emotional states. Any person in our inner circle influences our emotional states, our desires to achieve our goals and offer support during hardships.
6. Intrusive behavior: “when spouses interfere during an exploration activity – partners performed more poorly, persisted less at the activity, expressed less enthusiasm for the activity and expressed greater negativity/hostility toward the spouse.” Citation: Feeney, B. C., & Thrush, R. L. (2010). Relationship influences on exploration in adulthood: The characteristics and function of a secure base. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology,98(1), 57-76.
7. Adults are secure bases for their romantic partners when they 1) encourage their partner to accept challenges, 2) show interest in personal goals, plans, and dreams, 3) don’t interfere or intrude in the partner’s explorations 4) support their partner’s goals, and 5) balance an acceptance of the partner’s need for self-growth, along with the availability of emotional and physical comfort in times of need.
8. The Circle of Security is an Attachment Theory Concept that I found in this Case Study: Feeney, B. C. (2004). A Secure Base: Responsive Support of Goal Strivings and Exploration in Adult Intimate Relationships. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 87(5), 631-648.
Written by Kyle Benson
Originally appeared in Kyle Benson