I’m the type of person who gives five stars for everything in every feedback form at a restaurant or a customer service call. (I’d rather give stars than money. Joking. I’m pretty lenient, especially when someone’s wage depends on my humble opinion.)
Attached by Amir Levine & Rachel S. F. Heller (Review)
Then, I read somewhere that an average human can only read a few hundred books in their lifetime. With social media, visual entertainment, and several other things to keep us occupied, perhaps even less than a hundred really good books in a lifetime.
That’s a life-changing thought. It made me rethink several things. Using social media to feed people useless content about my burned dosa to the availability of blogging platforms makes a poor writer out of us, to the several rubbish books I read because it was free on Kindle. So, I’ve decided that one has to be more thoughtful about giving stars to books since we’ve concluded only to read a few hundred books in a lifetime, it has to be somewhat telling if I gave a book five stars.
In my opinion, a four-star book significantly changed what I think or had huge takeaways from. A five-star book is one that both significantly changed how I think, and I also recommend others to read it. It has to be one of those few hundred books you read in your lifetime.
“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love” by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller is one five-star book I read recently. It touches the tip of the iceberg that is attachment theory, which I wish I had learned sooner. It tells that attachment is normal; it’s doesn’t deserve a perverse connotation as “clingy.” We, humans, are all only as attached as our unmet needs. Which means we are not clingy if our attachment needs are met. There are broadly four kinds of attachment styles, and not all types fit each other. Knowing what type of other people can help us have a fair idea of whether they will meet our attachment needs.
It normalizes the need for attachment. The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become. A supportive partner/parent/guardian can provide a secure base for adult relationships. Dependency is a fact about all humans and not a choice made by a few. In short, it tells you to be with people who validate you, don’t call your need for affection as complaints, don’t think of your dependency as demands, and are willing to provide attachment. (It tells you to avoid “avoidants” because they will avoid being attached to you and not reciprocate your needs – too wordy?)
This is relieving to know. None of us are flawed, we are different, and it helps to know-how. I spent some time reflecting on people I knew and made sense of my equations with them. This was the takeaway for me from this book. There were parts of the book I found myself disagreeing with, but I can disagree with books I like, too, right?"My relationship with my colleague or parent may be secure, but with someone new, it could be anxious and with relatives – avoidant." Do you agree?
Firstly, the psychology world loves labeling people. People change; their labels don’t last. The book could have been more reflective is how everybody has varying levels of attachment towards different people. Attachment style is a label on a relationship and not a person. My relationship with my colleague or parent may be secure, but with someone new, it could be anxious and with relatives – avoidant. While we all have certain dominant traits, we are not the same person to everyone. That is not just a function of our personality alone, but also of the relationship and situation. And our attachment styles evolve with time, even with the same person.
Secondly, the conclusion that some people just don’t get along and probably avoid each other defeats the purpose of the study. Tony Robbin’s DISC methodology gives a framework on how to talk to people with a different dominant style. I found myself applying it at work and choosing how to communicate with different people. I expected a similar outcome from this book. Trying to understand attachment styles and how to make it work with all types effectively.
The book serves those seeking to understand adult monogamous relationships but not on how to connect with other people in our lives. A lot of the advice is on how to avoid/disconnect with avoidants. It doesn’t talk about how to accommodate avoidants / disorganized attachment styles in our lives. Most people aren’t perfect human beings with secure attachment styles. We’re all going to have our share of insecure people, how do we have them then avoid them.
Thirdly, another idea that didn’t sit well with me is the emphasis on attachment styles being defined by one’s equation with their mother during early childhood. The basis of attachment theory is that humans, like most mammals, have evolved to provide for prolonged infant dependence. Much of our attachment styles as an adult are formed the basis of our relationship with our primary caregivers in childhood, particularly the mother. (Sounds like average Indian Mom looking for her replacement in a Bahu.)
I find this arguable for various reasons – it takes a village to raise a child. The emphasis on the mother being completely responsible for a child’s behavior is flawed. A person having a secure relationship with the mother but an abusive sibling equation or abusive grandparents can still turn out to be an adult with anxious/avoidant traits.
It also blames insecure attachment styles, entirely on mothers. I believe attachment styles are formed in early childhood only to an extent; they’re subsequently altered through schooling, childhood bullying, teenage, and early adult relationships. Nevertheless, this book led me to read more on the subject of attachment theory. I found myself highlighting the book a lot. It may be psychobabble for intellectuals, but for me, it felt like a long helpful chat with a friend. I reflected on people from my life and found myself able to understand my equation with them or lack it.
In all, it’s just enough to get started about attachment theory. It’s an idea worth knowing. Possibly life-changing. So it gets five stars and my recommendation.