Friday, March 13, 2015

ATTACHED

Review of ATTACHED: THE NEW SCIENCE OF ADULT ATTACHMENT AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU FIND - AND KEEP - LOVE by AMIR LEVINE and RACHEL S.F. HELLER

This incredibly engaging psychology book feels far more like a friend chattering eagerly with you on a subject about which they’re extremely passionate than the dry lecture a cynic might expect. The writing’s superb in the sense that I didn’t notice it much, allowing me to give the content my exclusive attention. I tore through this book at a rate I didn’t anticipate.

ATTACHED’s premise is that there are three attachment styles: anxious, secure, and avoidant. Most people are secure, over 50%, which means most people can express affection naturally, don’t worry too much about their relationships, and both respond to their partner’s needs as well as communicate their own. Anxious people, however, are quick to read too much into small things or overact to perceived threats. When their relationship isn’t going well, they fret and obsess about it to a distractingly unhealthy degree. They're often preoccupied with the concern that their partner doesn’t return their love equally and usually interpret conflicts as a negative reflection on themselves. Meanwhile, avoidant people idolize independence and self-sufficiency and view needing others as weakness. They’re more emotionally closed off, uncomfortable with closeness, and frequently push away others.

It’s hard to read any psychology book without self-reflection. When I first read the one-word descriptions of each style - anxious, secure, avoidant - I immediately suspected I would probably be anxious, because in many ways I’m a worrier and a stress bug. However, after reading more detailed descriptions of each attachment style, I realized I actually am secure and, in fact, the authors go on to emphasize that it's not about personality. Many people have had the experience of knowing someone they think of as very strong and capable who uncharacteristically falls to pieces when their relationship turns sour. The authors point out that these people might be strong in many ways, but they have an anxious attachment style.

Lots of case studies make this book especially relatable. The authors hardly ever introduce a new point without at least one story exemplifying their claim. The book outlines the three attachment styles first, then delves into each one individually, and finally goes on to examine patterns with each combination. In every single section, new people share their stories.

In addition to the stories, the book is packed with fascinating research - like how secure people tend to balance out both anxious and avoidant. Plenty of studies have demonstrated that when someone with a non-secure attachment style dates someone with a secure attachment style, they not only gravitate more towards secure over time but will often stay more secure in their attachment style even if the current relationship ends. I also found the part about how researchers have actually linked differences in DNA to the different attachment styles particularly intriguing. 

I respect and admire the advice the authors provide. Primarily they emphasize communication repeatedly. Even in cases where expressing your feelings doesn’t lead to the reaction you wanted, it’s still a good thing you spoke up, because - by seeing how your potential partner reacted negatively - you have more information to help you decide if they’re really a good fit.

ATTACHED is a wonderful book for anyone hoping for more insight into finding a good relationship or improving their own, but it’s also more than a self-help book. It’s an accessible, absorbing read for anyone interested in psychology and especially in relationships.

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