Each of us has a predominant way of connecting with others, which relationship scientists call our attachment style. It’s exactly what it sounds like—our habitual way of relating to people. Some of us seem to have an easy time in relationships, enjoying connecting to the people around us, while others are wary of getting too close, even to romantic partners. Still others have a hard time feeling secure in their relationships, always craving a closer connection and worrying that they’ll be abandoned. Maybe you identify with one of these patterns.
In my conversation this week with psychiatrist Dr. Ben Hunter, we discuss the different attachment styles and where they come from. Attachment is a pretty simple idea but it has powerful implications for understanding our relationships, from our very earliest with our mothers and fathers, through dating and committed relationships, as well as other kinds of connections.
Ben and I discuss many issues related to attachment, including:
- The original research that revealed attachment style
- The contribution of nature and nurture
- The consistency in attachment from childhood through adulthood
- Interactions between attachment styles
- The possibility of changing attachment style
- The intersection of attachment style and social media
- Attachment style in psychotherapy
I always enjoy thinking about attachment because it can open our eyes to patterns in the ways we relate to others that we might easily miss, because we’re so used to them. For example, we might notice that we instinctively withdraw from relationships that feel too close, and perhaps recognize experiences from our early life that explain our current reactions. By learning to recognize these kinds of patterns, we can start to make more deliberate choices about how we connect to those around us. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Dr. Ben Hunter is the Medical Director of Outpatient Services at Skyland Trail, a residential treatment center in Atlanta, GA. He was an All-American pitcher on Wake Forest University’s baseball team, and was selected in the Major League Baseball draft but ultimately decided he was called to medicine. Ben completed his medical training at Emory University followed by a psychiatric residency at Penn, which is where I met him when I was his cognitive behavioral therapy supervisor for a year. He was named chief resident during his final year. Ben’s work has been recognized with the University of Pennsylvania’s Laughlin Foundation Award for outstanding professional achievement as well as the Kenneth D. Cohen Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Award.