Buddhist Psychology, Love, & The Avoidant Attachment Style
Buddhist psychology is a helpful framework with practical tools that you can apply on a daily basis to lead a harmonious life. This framework is grounded in the following practices:
Contemplation and implementation of these concepts can help you to reduce anxiety, communicate effectively, and improve your relationships.
Love & Non-Attachment
The Buddhist concept of non-attachment is a constructive way to approach relationships. Here, attachment refers to an attempt to control things that you can’t control. When you try to grasp or control something outside of yourself, this causes suffering for yourself and the other person. You cannot truly love someone by attempting to control them. For this reason, the practice of letting go is essential to the quality of your relationships.
Non-attachment is in the service of independence, interdependence, and authentic love. The goal is not detachment or isolation, but peace through release.
Non-attachment vs. Avoidant Attachment
To clarify, attachment style refers to your bonding pattern. It’s the way you communicate, share intimacy, connect with and separate from others. Your attachment style begins to take shape in utero and continues to develop through childhood. Early attachment experiences can set the template for your adult relationships.
If you had a consistently positive bonding experience with your primary caregivers in childhood, you’re more likely to have a secure attachment style, which enables you to feel safe and stable in your relationships. Unfortunately, when early attachment is disrupted, this can have a negative impact on your sense of self, safety, and survival in the world.
Thus, if you experienced abandonment or neglect as a child, you might have an anxious attachment style which makes you prone to codependent tendencies and preoccupation with fears of abandonment.
Read more: Explore the anatomy of the anxious attachment style and how to cultivate healing.
On the other hand, if you experienced abuse or any other type of boundary violation as a child, you are more likely to have an avoidant attachment style. People with an avoidant attachment style tend to have a fear of engulfment and worry about being controlled by someone else. Therefore, they attempt to control the intimacy of a relationship by keeping people at an arm's length. They come off as being armored, emotionally unavailable, distant, or chronically busy. Their distancing behaviors can manifest as substance abuse, workaholism, developing physical or emotional intimacy outside of the relationship, shutting down, dampening joyful moments, and sabotaging relationships when things are going well.
Clearly, this is not the goal of non-attachment from a Buddhist psychology perspective. A combination of non-attachment, openness, and receptivity will allow you to love yourself and other people while removing control from the equation.
Read more: Codependency is incredibly common. Learn more about symptoms of codependence, where they come from, and how to overcome it.
Improving Your Relationship Attachment Style
While our attachment styles are hardwired to some extent, they aren't set in stone. Most people have one primary attachment style with the potential to move through the entire attachment spectrum, depending on the situation. Your environment, the people with whom you spend the most time, and formative relationships in adulthood can reinforce or shift your attachment patterns. You may have noticed how different parts of your personality emerge depending on the company you keep. Spending time with compassionate, emotionally stable and available people can help you to uplevel your attachment style over time.
Additionally, lifestyle choices and daily practices such as mindfulness, gratitude, and slow diaphragmatic breathing can help you to reconfigure your brain and your attachment patterns so you can respond differently to triggers.
5-Step Daily Non-Attachment Practice
1. Mindful Awareness. Pay attention to moments when you feel anxious, insecure, or distant in your relationships. Notice your initial impulse, whether it's to numb out or act out in some way. Take a deep breath and pause. By delaying the impulse you are gaining more command over your automatic behaviors.
2. Cultivate and Inner Sense of Safety. Bring your awareness to the safety of the present moment. Remind yourself that your inner child is triggered because of your past attachment experiences but you are not in the past, you are here in this moment. Reframe this as an opportunity for your empowered adult self to help calm the inner child. Repeat this phrase silently or out loud: “In this moment, I am safe, I am supported, I am free, I am cared for.”
3. Regulate Your Nervous System. Take five slow breaths into your diaphragm to interrupt the stress signal in your body. Soften your muscles and release tension from your body each time you exhale. Open the palms of your hands to embody the practice of letting go. Breathe in compassion, breathe out to release. Breathe in appreciation, breathe out peace.
Read more: Explore these simple and powerful 5-minute breathing practices to help calm your body and mind.
4. Practice Grounding and Embodiment. Press your feet into the ground and notice the stability of the earth or structure underneath you. Focus on this mantra: “I am stable and supported.”
5. Engage in Grateful Thoughts and Feelings. Use the power of your mind to harmonize your heart and brain waves. Visualize something or someone you are grateful for. Breathe into the center of your heart and imagine that gratitude is expanding your capacity to love. Imagine that every breath has a refreshing cleansing effect on your heart and lungs.
Read more: Learn about the science of gratitude and how gratitude practices can impact your mind and body.
Being consistent with these practices will enable you to heal your attachment wounds while also creating new neural pathways in your brain. Over time, this will allow you to approach your relationship to yourself and other people with greater balance and less fear.
If you’d like to discuss this further or would like to get support to address your attachment patterns, feel free to send me a direct message. Thanks for reading!