Avoidant Attachment Styles in Relationships
Perspectives from Buddhist Psychology
Buddhist psychology offers practical tools that can help you lead a harmonious life. This framework is grounded in several practices that can be applied daily to promote healthy relationships and general well-being. According to Buddhist psychology, well-being is not something that can be earned, but rather a quality that can emerge from dedicated practice. Some of these practices include:
Contemplation and implementation of these concepts may help you reduce anxiety, communicate more effectively, and improve relationships by fostering greater empathy and self-awareness. By integrating these concepts and practices into daily life, you may experience greater overall well-being and fulfillment.
Love & Non-Attachment
The concept of non-attachment in Buddhism can be a constructive approach to relationships. From this perspective, attachment refers to the attempt to control things that are outside of our control, which can lead to suffering for both ourselves and the other person. In order to truly love someone, we need to let go of the need to control them. Non-attachment can help us cultivate a sense of independence, interdependence, and authentic love. It is not about detachment or isolation but finding peace through release. By letting go, we can improve the quality of our relationships and experience greater fulfillment in our lives.
To clarify, here, attachment style refers to an individual's pattern of bonding which affects how they communicate, share intimacy, connect with, and separate from others. This style begins to develop from prenatal stages and continues to develop through childhood, and early attachment experiences can shape adult relationships. It is important to recognize attachment styles and their potential impact on adult relationships to work towards building healthy and fulfilling connections with others.
A consistently positive bonding experience with primary caregivers in childhood often leads to a secure attachment style, which can create feelings of safety and stability in relationships. However, when there are disruptions in early attachment, it can have a negative impact on an individual's sense of self, safety, and survival in the world.
An individual who experienced abandonment or neglect as a child may have an anxious attachment style that can make them more susceptible to codependent tendencies and preoccupation with fears of abandonment.
Read more: Explore the anatomy of the anxious attachment style and how to cultivate healing.
Experiencing abuse, engulfment, or other boundary violations in childhood can lead to the development of an avoidant attachment style. This style is characterized by a fear of being controlled by others and a desire to keep people at a distance in order to control the intimacy of relationships. Individuals with an avoidant attachment style may appear emotionally unavailable, distant, busy, and uninterested in developing intimate connections. Their distancing behaviors can manifest in harmful ways such as substance abuse or being workaholics, and they may sabotage relationships that are going well.
Love + Non-Attachment vs. Avoidance
From a Buddhist psychology perspective, non-attachment involves being open and receptive to experiences and people without trying to control them. Instead of resorting to avoidance behaviors, which are usually motivated by emotional wounds, the fear of being controlled, and a need for control, a more beneficial approach is to cultivate non-attachment, openness, and receptivity. This can enable individuals to love themselves and others in a healthy and fulfilling way, free from the constraints of fear and control.
Read more: Codependency is incredibly common. Learn more about symptoms of codependence, where they come from, and how to overcome them.
How to Impact Your Relationship Attachment Style
Although our attachment styles are somewhat ingrained, they can change depending on our environment, relationships, and formative experiences. Most people have a primary attachment style, but it's possible to move through the entire attachment spectrum. Spending time with supportive and emotionally available people can influence our attachment patterns positively over time.
Similarly, daily practices like mindfulness, gratitude, and diaphragmatic breathing can help rewire the brain and allow us to respond differently to triggers, ultimately improving our attachment patterns. You may have noticed how different parts of your personality emerge depending on the company you keep, so choosing your relationships wisely is essential for personal growth and change.
5-Step Daily Non-Attachment Practice in the Service of Healthy Relationships
1. Mindful Awareness. Take note of moments when you feel anxious, insecure, or distant in your relationships. Acknowledge your initial impulse to avoid intimacy, but pause and take a deep breath before acting on it. By doing this, you gain greater command over your automatic behaviors.
2. Cultivate an Inner Sense of Safety. Remind yourself that the present moment is safe and free from past attachment experiences that may be triggering you. Empower your adult self to help calm the triggered inner child by thinking the following: “I am supported, I am safe, I am cared for, I have agency, I have a voice, and I have choices, and I am free.”
3. Regulate Your Nervous System. When you are feeling anxious or avoidant, take five long and slow breaths into your diaphragm to interrupt your body’s stress signals. As you exhale, release tension from your body and soften your muscles. Practice the open-palm hand positions to symbolize the act of letting go. Breathe in compassion and exhale peace and appreciation.
Read more: Explore these simple and powerful 5-minute breathing practices to help calm your body and mind.
4. Practice Grounding and Embodiment. If you are triggered or feeling disembodied, focus on the stability of the earth or structure beneath you by pressing your feet onto the ground. Take a deep breath into the lower half of your body and repeat "I am stable and supported" as a mantra to yourself.
5. Engage in Grateful Thoughts and Feelings. Use the power of your mind to harmonize your brain and heart waves. Imagine something or someone you are thankful for. Breathe deeply through your heart center, visualizing a liberating cleansing effect on your lungs and heart, expanding your capacity to love.
Read more: Learn about the science of gratitude and how gratitude practices can impact your mind and body.
Consistently practicing mindfulness and self-regulation practices can help heal attachment wounds and create new neural pathways in the brain, leading to greater balance and less fear in personal relationships over time.