This book is GOLD. It changed how I work, live and relate...

The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships by Diane Poole Heller, PhD

When I learned that the way I am in my relationships is because that’s what my nervous system, body and brain learned how to do when I was little, it both felt freeing and daunting.  What I didn’t realize when I first started learning about this was how true it was and how deep it went. How it truly impacted most interactions in my life and for so long, completely unconsciously.

I’d be just starting to date someone - or really - just start flirting with someone - and a chain reaction of events would fire through me as a massive (and sometimes debilitating) storm.  My whole system would speed up - I’d become anxious and in my head constantly - trying to predict and control the events of the future with this person I just barely knew. While at the same time having the impulse to run and shut down and fade away so as to never let my true self be known by this new person.  

I’d be fueled by longing, desire and the fantasies of the perfect partner (while also being the perfect partner) and want to run together as fast as we could and fast forward our relationship to be guaranteed I’d be loved and be held forever.  While also having an internal terror that I’d be stuck with this person without them ever truly knowing me or honoring me in a way that I needed. I was in a bind. Constantly. And in between those two places was a void.

That void was FEELING.  Was regulating. Was co-regulating.  Being able to tolerate presence and vulnerability and genuine connection with myself and another.  To be able to be with, and feel my feelings in a gentle and slow way where I could embrace them and care about them.  I was so far outside myself that I couldn’t find myself anywhere. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I LEARNED HOW TO DO. To attune to others needs and wants so I could stay protected, loved and with some sense of belonging.  To abandon myself at all costs.

My story was one of a lot of inconsistency.  Abandonment. Rejection. And not being believed or protected.  And not ever feeling like anyone had my back or truly wanted to take the time to know me and be with me on a deep level without trying to change me or make me wrong. Things were constantly changing at home(s) and totally unpredictable.  I didn’t know what to expect or who I could trust would be there with a legitimate sense of presence. The kind of presence I needed.

Some of it was because of my primary caregiver’s own unconscious unresolved trauma (actually likely a lot of it), and some of it was because no parent can offer the kind of presence each unique child needs 100% of the time.  There were many reasons. But what I internalized was a mess of complicated emotions, sensations, beliefs and worldviews that left me internally overwhelmed in a major state of freeze and collapse. One foot on the gas and one foot on the break at all times on the inside while on the outside looking like a pretty kind and sweet-ish girl.

It wasn’t until I began to understand Attachment and actively participate in attachment based trauma resolution therapy that I was able to regulate my own nervous system and begin to relate to others in a way that felt less complicated and more relaxing.  I have to say… it’s still a journey and I’m aware of it so much of the time but it has been so worth the journey. It’s not a quick fix but it’s a real fix and the rewards are great. I feel like I’ve gotten my life back, my clarity back and most of all have began to cultivate a genuinely steady and loving relationship with myself where I feel more present and clear boundaried and hopeful about things on a more consistent and regular basis.

I recently read Diane Poole Heller’s book “The Power of Attachment”.  She talks about so many things people need in order to become more securely attached and what hit me most was this idea about “Contingency”.  It was a huge “aha” for me and a “yes this is it, this is what I keep wishing people could offer me but never do!” (because I tend to seek out partners and friends that mirror the patterns I grew up in where Contingency wasn’t a thing).  

She describes contingency as “a relational experience in which you feel understood by another person.  You have a felt sense that this person is attuned to you, that they resonate with who you are. You feel they “get” you.  You get gotten and feel felt, so to speak.  When you tell them a story or something about an experience you’ve had, you feel they meet you in an emotional and even spiritual way.  It’s a deep sense of connection.”

She describes how people can create contingency like “ask clarifying questions when others are speaking to you.  Relevant questions show that we’re really listening and care to comprehend the other person thoroughly.” This concept really resonates for me in that it can help contribute to feeling like we really matter as unique beings with our own experiences and worldviews and people care enough to take the time to really listen and understand.  

So many people ask me about books and resources I’d recommend to understand Attachment and I’ve had a few to recommend but this book is by far my favorite.  It’s free of all the clinical jargon and really gets to the heart of the matter in a simple yet in depth way.

If you don’t know what Attachment is, it’s the way we show up in the world and in our relationships according to how we learned how to relate from our primary caregivers when we were little.  Primary caregivers are the people who we were closest to and who were supposed to be caring for us and keeping us safe when we were children. Could be your mom and dad or your aunts or uncles or grandparents.  Foster parents or even sisters, brothers or nannies.

The way we are cared for and protected and taught how to relate gets embedded at an incredibly early age and then throughout life, we relate to others in very similar ways.  For example, if you had a father who was absent yet often gave you hope about him being there, you may have a habit of choosing intimate partners with a similar pattern - unavailable and inconsistent.  Where you’re left feeling similarly to how you did in relationship to your father (I wouldn’t know anything about that particular pattern, lol).

Or if you had a mom who meant incredibly well but carried a lot of fear or anxiety or unresolved trauma of her own and therefore was unable to help you regulate your nervous system to be able to feel truly safe and relaxed while in connection, you may find yourself in friendships where it’s really hard to let yourself relax and rest because you may subtly (or not so subtly) feel that sense of fear or anxiety that you picked up inadvertently because that’s what you learned how to do.  (I also wouldn’t know much about that either, ;-)

Attachment theory helps us understand why we relate the ways we do and THIS book helps us understand how to heal it and move more towards how we would like to relate to others.  

In my work, I have to say, Attachment Theory is the foundation which everything lies on top of.  I am always thinking about Attachment Styles in the back of my head when working with someone and helping them learn how to relate with themselves and others in a way that truly feels safe, loving and with a sense of belonging so that they can regulate their nervous systems and feel present and resilient whether they’re in the presence of others or on their own.

Diane Poole Heller does a beautiful job of giving hope to those who feel shaky in their attachment and lays out simple and easy ways to begin to feel more secure, stable and able to tolerate and enjoy intimacy in its many forms.  

I read this book in 3 days - I just couldn’t put it down.  It’s the first book on Attachment that I’ve read that breaks down the 4 types of attachment in a way that does them each justice where I feel anyone could walk away really understand how to recognize and perceive each kind: Secure, Ambivalent, Avoidant/Dismissive and Disorganized.

HERE’s the link to the book.  

I also really recommend it on audio book as well. The Audible version is called 'Healing Your Attachment Wounds - how to create deep and lasting intimate relationships'.

After you’ve read it, write me and let me know what you learned and how you’re implementing it into your life.