For those who ever found themselves repeating the same unhealthy patterns in all of their relationships, each time hoping for different results; you’re not alone.
As habit-driven beings, when it comes to relationships, whether it’s dating the “wrong” person (again and again), or engaging in relationship-sabotaging behaviors, change just seem to be impossible (most of the time) no matter how hard we try. Why?
This can be understood when looked through the lens of Attachment Theory
. Psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby first proposed that attachment styles are one of our most basic safety nets from childhood that we carry over to our adult relationships.
“From an evolutionary standpoint, the system is designed to promote survival by maintaining proximity between [caregivers and children]. From a psychological standpoint, proximity reduces fear, anxiety, and related forms of distress, allowing individuals to engage in other life tasks.”
When something’s wrong, infants’ natural instinct is to cry out with the hope to receive comfort. The degree to which these needs are met can shape our attachment styles which can, in turn, affect our future interpersonal attachments. This can establish our expectation for significant others (or even just people around us) and our belief about our worth to the world (our partners, friends and the like).
If the sense of security is established during infancy, maintained throughout the developmental stages, it can be carried into future relationships thus, forming a secure attachment style. But if the cry of distress gone unanswered, it can result to avoidant attachment styles that can manifest as fear of commitment and intimacy and/or avoidance of dependency.
Lastly, inconsistent, unresponsive, or rejecting caretakers can lead to the development of anxious attachment styles, on which the person often fears being abandoned.
These, however, are not black and white but rather fall on a continuum and are actually circumstance-dependent. Rest assured that we are not fated to keep repeating any negative relational patterns just because we have learned them during infancy. So, if you find yourself stuck in a "toxic" loop, you might want take time, introspect and understand that you have the power to change this situation.