As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have become quite interested in how attachment styles impact current functioning and relationships. (As a reminder, an attachment style is that pattern of relating learned in our earliest bonding relationship with our parents.) As I go through transitions in my life and partner with clients in their own transitions, I continue to return to one phrase: how we attach is how we terminate. This phrase tends to ring true for people, especially when endings, transitions, and changes emerge in adulthood. And it’s reverse is equally true: how we terminate is how we attach.
For example, when transitioning out of a job, one can ask “how do I want to leave?” If your response is to detract others’ appreciative comments for your hard work, sneak out the door wearing your invisibility cloak, and skip out on your goodbye party, this could be an indication of a more avoidant attachment style. And, if this is you, it is also likely that you transitioned into this job by tentatively observing, being slow to form relationships, and displaying a high degree of autonomy. How we terminate is how we attach.
Or on the other hand, when dealing with a friend moving away, if you find yourself wanting to spend as much time as possible with this person, processing their move ad nauseum, jumping into their moving van or perhaps cutting off a finger so they will always keep a part of you close to their heart, perhaps you tend toward a move ambivalent attachment style. It is also likely that when meeting this friend, you instantly felt close to them, as if you had been friends forever, felt comfortable sharing intimate information with them quickly, and perhaps (maybe) became a bit obsessed with spending time with them initially. How we terminate is how we attach.
So What to Do?
When considering change in relationships, employment, residence, or lifestyle, keeping this concept in mind can help us:
- honor ways that transitions are difficult for us by practicing self-care throughout these times without damaging relationships or ourselves,
- honor others’ boundaries by finding compromise with how we can best meet our own needs as well as others’, and
- honor the information our nervous systems are providing us and find ways to perhaps try something new or different that challenges an old pattern that is no longer needed or effective.
If you find yourself relating to any of these tendencies, or wanting to try a new way of responding to endings, transitions or changes, I encourage you to talk to your therapist or a trusted friend to enhance your attachment style as you seek to terminate and transition well.
~ Meghan Vosloo, LCSW