Polysecure Buchzusammenfassung - das Wichtigste aus Polysecure
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Zusammenfassung von Polysecure

Jessica Fern

Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy

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18 Min.

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    Attachment theory links how people are in relationships to their personal histories – especially early childhood.

    Before we get to polyamory, let’s talk about attachment – because the attachment theory model of looking at relationships is going to affect how we talk about nonmonogamy.

    Attachment theory was developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby, and – just as the name suggests – it explains the different types of attachments that people form. But, in fact, it was an experiment by another psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, that best illustrates those different types.

    In her “Strange Situation Procedure” experiment, Ainsworth placed a young child and their parent in a playroom – and then got the parent to leave for a short while. She looked in particular at how the child’s mood changed when the parent left and then came back, and how much they explored the room and played with toys.

    Plenty of the children were essentially fine. They were comfortable exploring the room at first, somewhat distressed when the parent left, and relieved when they returned. Those children showed what attachment theory calls a secure attachment style.

    Other children demonstrated one of the several insecure styles instead.

    Some showed the avoidant style – called the dismissive style in adults. They explored the room independently – whether or not their parent was there – and their mood barely changed when the adult left and came back.

    Children showing the anxious style, meanwhile, which in adults is called the preoccupied style, often explored the room very little – initially staying close to their parent, and then, when the parent left, showing a lot of distress.

    The final style wasn’t categorized at the time, but it’s now known as the disorganized style, or in adults fearful-avoidant. It’s harder to identify initially, as people with this style can vacillate unpredictably between dismissiveness and preoccupation.

    OK, so those are the four styles. As you’ve probably already worked out, which style a child has depends to a great extent on their experiences: if a parent is often absent or disengaged, a child might become dismissive as they realize they need to fend for themselves. If a parent is overly present, on the other hand, or themselves show signs of anxiety, the child might become overly dependent and hence preoccupied. Fearful-avoidant style often (not always!) develops in children who’ve had particularly difficult parental experiences, because there are trust issues.

    This is where the issue of trauma comes in. Trauma can actually be defined more simply than you may realize: it is simply any experience of broken connection. That can range from a scarring one-off incident all the way through to a recurrent problem in childhood, like having to move house frequently. The traumas that we all experience play a big role in the attachment styles we develop.

    Another thing you’ve probably worked out already is that early attachment styles map onto our adult selves. The way we act in adult relationships is affected by the attachments we had with the most important people in our early lives – parents. So people who were anxious as children may well go on to be preoccupied in adult relationships – and so on.

    But – and this is important to bear in mind – your attachment style isn’t fixed. No one’s is! Other aspects of your life besides your parents, including relationships, can influence your attachments; plus, you can work to develop healthier habits. If you want to develop a secure attachment style – a pretty sensible aim – it’s within your power to do so. Whatever you do, don’t box yourself in to your attachment style, or use it to excuse patterns of behavior. Don’t say, “My attachment style made me do it.” You can work to change.

    Rather than thinking of the four styles as completely separate, it’s helpful to think of them as the four quadrants on a graph, with one axis charting high to low avoidance levels, and the other axis high to low anxiety. If you have a secure attachment style, you’re in the quadrant with low avoidance and low anxiety; if you’re fearful-avoidant, you’re high in both. People with the preoccupied style have high anxiety but low avoidance, and those who are more dismissive have high avoidance but lower anxiety.

    Charting it on a graph is a useful reminder that it’s a spectrum – people can be more or less extreme along each axis, and not every person with a particular attachment style is the same. And what’s more, there are positive aspects to different positions on the grid. People with a less extreme dismissive style, for instance, are more focused on positive traits like self-sufficiency, and don’t become overwhelmed by emotions. And people with the preoccupied style tend to be especially attuned to other people’s feelings – potentially a very valuable skill when it comes to adult relationships.

    All of that said, everyone benefits from having a secure attachment style, whatever sort of relationship you’re in. And as you’ll hear next, in the context of nonmonogamy, secure attachment becomes especially important.

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    Worum geht es in Polysecure?

    Polysecure (2020) unites attachment theory, which explains the different types of attachment people form with each other, with consensual nonmonogamy – the increasingly popular practice of having multiple romantic partners. By learning more about your attachment style, you can develop healthy relationship habits, even in nonmonogamy.

    Wer Polysecure lesen sollte

    • Relationship geeks looking to learn about attachment theory
    • Couples considering opening up their relationships
    • Nonmonogamous folks who want to do it right

    Über den Autor

    Jessica Fern is a psychotherapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma and relationships, especially nonmonogamy. Polysecure is her first book.

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