Tag Archives: phenomenology

What does “Secure Attachment” feel like?

[Copied over from a Facebook post of mine]

“Huh. I’ve read about this being a thing Secure-Attached people do, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it, and wasn’t sure I really believed it until now.” ~my partner

A lot of people have asked me what I think of Attachment Theory, and my basic answer is “seems useful as a frame, and also seems mostly to track true things.” But a lot of people have also boggled at the concept of what having “secure attachment” in relationships might be like, so let’s talk a bit about what it’s like to be Secure-Attached from the inside.

1) Feelings for others are almost entirely legible and entangled with specific events. That doesn’t mean they’re always explicit, but I can’t actually remember the last time I couldn’t verbalize and point to something like 90% of why I feel the way I do about someone.

2) Feelings for others are consistent and calibrated. That doesn’t mean they’re predictive, but it does mean my feelings for people don’t change unless something specific happens that I then verify the meaning of. My regard for others isn’t affected by lack of interaction.

(Unless that lack of interaction is purposeful, hence calibrated; if someone doesn’t return my call, I don’t get upset or like them less, I assume they were busy. If they do something I don’t understand that feels hurtful, I don’t update on them until I verify if it was intended.)

3) I don’t experience “need” for anyone. I want people in my life because they bring me joy, sometimes so much that their absence is painful, but I always know deep down that I’ll be OK. Maybe not “maximally flourishing,” but still OK. Strong desire is felt, but without anything like desperation.

4) I always feel happy to share how I feel; if I don’t offer my feelings, it’s because I don’t feel a need to, or I think I have signs to justifiably worry how they will impact others. I have so little shame for what I feel / think that I don’t remember what having any is like.

(This doesn’t mean I’m always right about not needing to share my feelings or having justified signs that I shouldn’t. I can still misread others, misjudge what they want, or update too much on past experiences. But if I don’t share a feeling, it’s never because it’s internally blocked in some way.)

5) I feel only positive regard for all of my exes. This keeps surprising people, and I don’t know if it’s across the board for all Secure-Attached or exclusive to them, I might also be lucky. Still, I haven’t had any bad relationships and I’m still friends with them all.

6) For me at least, security doesn’t come from family. My brother was physically abusive, my mom tried hard but was largely absent, and my dad was both physically and emotionally absent. Relationships in general are not obligatory; what I look for are those of voluntary, mutual happiness.

I might add more later but that’s what comes to mind right now. I hope it’s useful to others to know that yes, this is really a way that some people exist, and to have a bit more detail what this feels like; it can cause a bit of culture-shock, so to speak, in both directions.