Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
First developed in the 1940s, attachment theory originally dealt with the relationship between infants and their caregivers and is one of the first attempts to integrate evolution into psychology theories. Based on the observation that the young of mammals, humans in particular, are highly unlikely to survive if they fail to establish a bond with their parents, certain predictions about infants behaviour and their reaction to separation have been made. In the Strange Situation Experiment, devised by Mary Ainsworth, toddlers’ reactions to being separated from their mothers for a brie while have been observed and the results have been organised into three overarching attachment styles: secure, anxious and avoidant. While secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and letting others into their lives, the insecure attachment types have opposite reactions to intimacy – anxious people can be clingy and worry about their partner not loving them back, they are afraid or being abandoned whereas people with an avoidant attachment style feel threatened by a loss of independence and tend to create distance between themselves and others. Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller is based on the idea that these learned behaviour patterns are just as applicable to the relations we form in adulthood, and their books seeks to guide our actions in romantic relationships – from choosing the right partner, to effective communication, and knowing when to call it quits. The neuroscientist and the social psychologist use examples, quizzes and diagrams to explain the three attachment styles and try to offer advice on how to deal with the obstacles each type might potentially face in pursuing romantic relationships.
That, however, has not been achieved successfully in my opinion. While the theory on which this book is based is interesting, some of the conclusions drawn by the authors seem questionable. The premise of the book is that every attachment style is valid and has its benefits and drawbacks, but after having read through it all it would seem that having an avoidant attachment style makes you a toxic partner, whereas those with secure attachment are flawless, incapable of making mistakes and anxious people poor souls who need saving. This normative judgement is underscored by the way in which the chapters are weighted: anxious attachment gets a lot more airtime than the avoidant counterpart. Trying to apply the theory to people I know, it made me wonder whether it is actually helpful to ascribe an attachment style to a person, rather than to a partner in a specific relationship, because surely we play different attachment roles with different partners? The part with the interesting theory was basically limited to the introductory chapter, which was then followed my endless examples of relationship situations that all seemed to follow the same storyline. Certainly designed to be of practical help for readers, the examples lack nuance and fail to cater to a broad variety of people or situations. Everything useful I took away from Attached could have been presented in one chapter, otherwise I did not get too attached to this book.