Although it was published over a decade ago, “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love” is #4 on the best-selling book list. of social sciences from Amazon.
That’s partly because the book gained traction on TikTok, where the hashtag #attachmentstyles has 91.7 million views and #attachmenttheory has 142.4 million views.
In the book, author Dr. Amir Levine posits that childhood attachment styles, first pioneered by John Bowlby in the 1950s, can be applied to romantic relationships between adults.
The three attachment styles, as defined in Levine’s book, are:
- Secured people feel comfortable with intimacy and are generally warm and loving
- Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back
- avoiding people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness
“For a very long time, I didn’t even know ‘Attached’ was so popular on TikTok,” Levine said.
The book’s enduring appeal, he says, may be because the world looks so much scarier than it did 10 years ago. An isolating pandemic and deteriorating planet has caused people to focus more on themselves and their relationships. He also hopes people will just find it a good, useful read.
“Seismic shifts” have occurred in many relationships
The popularity of the book and the renewed interest in attachment theory are due to the confluence of two factors: people feel less safe and are more online.
“A very important principle in the science of attachment is that times of threat or heightened danger can lead to activation of the attachment system,” Levine explains. “It causes our focus to shift more to relationships.”
Since early 2020, Covid-19 has been that threat. It’s understandable that being cooped up at home – with a phone as your only window to the outside, as a mysterious deadly virus ravaged the world – changed people’s lives dramatically.
“There’s a lot less you can tolerate when you’re facing imminent danger than when the world generally feels safe,” Levine says. “Earthquake changes have happened to many people in their relationships during the pandemic. Some close relationships, whether in friendships or romantic ties, or in the workplace, have dissolved and new loved ones have come together. are formed.”
Levine would go so far as to say that climate change has also played a role in his book’s increased sales over the past two years.
“I think because of climate change, we find ourselves in an increasingly dangerous world, which means that close relationships become even more paramount and we will focus more on them,” he says.
The book’s teachings are also “non-binary and gender-neutral”, he says, meaning they can appeal to more people.
Ultimately, he hopes the book’s resurgence is because people find its contents as revealing as he did when he first learned of it. “From the moment I found out about this information, it changed my life and the way I interacted with people for the better,” he says.
Many therapists, some of whom follow TikTok, feel the same and use it with their patients.
“The book was so easy to read”
Pamela Larkin, a dating and relationship therapist, read the book four years ago before starting her own private practice in Chicago. “Learning about attachment theory was an eye opener for me,” she says. “It was a different way of understanding people’s needs and hurts.”
For her, the popularity of the book is partly due to its content but also to its accessibility. “This book was so easy to read,” she says. “It was really well written.”
However, she could see people using the knowledge they gleaned from the book in ways that weren’t entirely helpful to them or their relationships.
Although Larkin is a fan of the book, she says people should “approach it with a critical eye.”
How to apply the lessons of “Attached” to your life
Assign an attachment style only to yourself. “You want to approach it with curiosity about yourself, not curiosity about others,” she says. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply your findings about your attachment style to your relationships, though.
“If you want to think about a specific relationship, look more at the dynamics you see playing out that might reflect some of these attachment styles, but not attribute their attachment style to another person,” she says.
Use it to improve your own communication. In addition to knowing your attachment style, ask yourself, “How is my way of communicating getting in the way of getting what I want or need.”
The book explores effective communication strategies based on attachment types, Larkin says. It’s not about avoiding people with certain attachment styles, it’s about learning to communicate with them in a way that strengthens the relationship.
Remember that your attachment style can change. “Like with any other personality test I struggle with when people get stuck and rigid in that style,” she says.
You will likely oscillate between two different styles throughout your life as you accumulate new experiences. But Larkin urges readers of the book to keep in mind that “it doesn’t completely define who you are.”
“We don’t talk about health and disease”
Levine agrees that the book should not be used to “pathologize other people”.
For example, he says, those with anxious or avoidant attachment styles don’t have a disease and shouldn’t be treated like them.
“We don’t talk about health and disease,” he says. “We’re talking about a different way of relating.”
It compares attachment styles to a physical trait. One is not better than the other.
“Just like some people have blue eyes and some brown, we are all different,” he says. “But I wouldn’t say a blue-eyed person is sick just because they have blue eyes. There are benefits to having insecure attachment styles [anxious or avoidant] in certain circumstances. I don’t think people with an insecure attachment style should get a bad rap.”
Whether people use the book in a healthy way is not up to him, he says, but he hopes for the best.
“Once you write something and release it to the world, you have no control over it and how people might use it or even abuse it,” he says. “You just have to accept that part, it’s not always easy.”
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