Today I have been studying Mary Ainsworth and her contributions to Attachment Theory. I am really interested in her work, probably because I can relate to it and understand aspects of myself better as a result.
Mary Ainsworth identified 3 main attachment styles (a further 4th one has been more recently added):
- Secure (type B)
- Insecure-avoidant (type A)
- Insecure-resistant (type C)
- Disorganised (type D)
In knowing myself and reading the literature, it is clear that according to Attachment Theory, my style is insecure-resistant.
The insecure-resistant style of attachment usually occurs as a result of mothering which is inconsistent; whereby the child is unsure whether or not they can rely on her for comfort during times of distress. The not-knowing-what-to-expect was something I related to hugely as a kid.
Insecure-resistant children tend to be needy and clingy even before the attachment system is activated. If and when the mother does leave them, they exhibit pronounced displays of distress; more so than children from any other attachment-style category.
Interestingly, their overly activated attachment systems mean that even when the mother returns, attempts to soothe the child are met with resistance, anger and confusion, even when it’s clear that comforting is what is needed. The child is confused and unable to trust the relationship or let themselves be soothed even though that’s all they may desire. Even if they approach the mother as they often do, it is likely they will also resist contact or even try and push her away.
Sometimes the child will be clingy and dependent towards the mother. Other times they will be resistant and rejecting. It’s possible to be both at the same time, as described above.
The “I love you, don’t leave me. I hate you, fuck off” pattern.
This is also exactly what I am like with my therapist now, despite being 21 years old. It also played out with my first love, in the exact same way. It is both fascinating and terrifying seeing the interactions playing out like this, again and again.
I wish I was securely attached. My life would be so much less painful. I’m guessing that most Borderlines are insecurely attached, considering BPD is seen as a disorder of attachment by so many clinicians now, and considering the main pain I’ve heard Borderlines talk about has come from struggles relating to interpersonal interactions and relationships – or a lack thereof.