In my podcast, I have often said that we cannot control someone else’s feelings. Doing so, for instance when trying to please someone, can be a recipe for suffering. We should not take responsibility to make someone feel better. This has been one of the most important lessons of my life.
There is a trap here, though. When you stop taking responsibility for others feeling, you might end up believing that everyone can independently meet their emotional needs. After all, who wants to be “needy” right?
While I still maintain that you should learn to meet your own needs, this book also taught me that being needy is normal. A lot of co-dependency literature suggests that we should take responsibility for our feelings and that taking responsibility for others feelings may lead to ‘enmeshment’. But no human is totally independent. The trick is in being skilfully dependent and to do so with a “secure” partner.
Attachment theory suggests that people fall into one of three attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant (a very small numer of people fall into a fourth category called the “anxious-avoidant”). Secure people feel secure and comfortable with intimacy. They have realistic expectations in a relationship and take ownership of their feelings. Avoidant one’s start relationships but withdraw from intimacy. Anxious one’s have no problem getting together, but are always need approval from their partner. They can’t go without it for long and feel that the relationship is at stake without it.
If you are single, then attachment theory will teach you what to screen for in a partner. Being single is better than being in a dysfunctional relationship, and attachment theory will teach you how to avoid being in one. if you are in a relationship, this book will help you identify yours and your partner’s attachment style. If you have been having conflicts in your relationship, this book might help explain why.
A lot of literature on attachment theory makes you feel that you’re doomed with your attachment style. If your parents raised you to be insecure anxious, then your adult relationships are destined to be volatile. But why I like this book is that it gives a clear message that attachment styles are plastic, and anyone can learn to be secure. The authors also offer some strategies on how to do it.
I’ve found the way to get to a secure style is mastering the assertiveness. If you can assert your needs in any situation, you are well on your way to feeling secure. My podcast episode on assertiveness might help.