Understanding the necessity of attachment in your life is fundamental to thriving. The basic psycho-emotional-physiological attachment bond with others is part of what keeps you balanced and feeling whole. Unfortunately it is not always so easy to discern a healthy attachment bond from co-dependence.
I know I have felt torn, feeling the natural impulse to create a deep bond with my partner, while at the same worrying about losing myself and being co-dependent.
The trick is making it a conscious decision. Choosing to enter into an attachment bond with someone means trusting your heart and vulnerability to their caretaking while maintaining your own sense of self-responsibility and choice.
Suffering from poor attachment with my parents, I am still learning how to create healthy attachment in relationships. I spent many years in desperate and hurt feelings as the people I dated and befriended weren't able to respond in the way I needed. In one failed relationship after another I unconsciously lunged towards those that I thought might be able to fulfill this longing. In the face of such a powerful drive, I had no access to wise discernment. But slowly over time, with much suffering, reflection, and support the pattern has begun to reveal itself.
There are many resources on attachment, so I won't get into the theory of that here. I have included some resources at the end of the article, if you would like to learn more.
What I want to emphasize here is an affirmation of your drive toward bonding deeply with another in a conscious mindful way. Choosing to bond with another is a choice you make again and again, moment after moment. It's not about jumping into the deep end and hoping she or he will catch you. It's about allowing another to know you deeply and hold you with care from his or her own conscious choosing to do so.
If you have a sense that a healthy attachment bond is missing in your life, you can begin to explore this by taking little steps with people you trust and with whom you have consistent in person contact. Mentors, therapists, spiritual teachers, and partners are all likely candidates.
Start to notice how you block the bond and how you let it grow. For myself, one way I notice that I habitually block a bond is by creating a rigidity in my torso, I sit too straight. I then move my attention away from feeling and into analysis or subtle, but removed, observation. While I can sometimes gain insight from this maneuver, I do it at cost to the potential bond with the person present.
In addition to your own thoughts, energy, and body, you might also reflect on your use of technology like facebook, twitter, email, movies, and blogs as possible blocks to bonding. Technology provides channels for information and entertainment. It may even serve as a periphery support to a real connection, but it can never replace in person human contact.
Take a moment now and choose one relationship in which you would like to be especially mindful about this week. Pay close attention to how you hold back and how you let this other person see you and hold you.
Resources on Attachment Theory & Practice
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
Attached by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.