Ego Attachment vs. Attachment Theory

©2019 by Briana MacWilliam Inc.

  • Briana MacWilliam

Ego Attachment vs. Attachment Theory

Dearest Subscriber,

If you are deep into self help and personal development, you have probably come across some ideas about the role of "the ego" and how "ego attachments" impact your ability to step into a state of self awareness, and create consciousness around your felt experiences.

But what does this type of attachment have to do with what psychologists call "attachment theory?" And how does that apply in your intimate relationships?

Attachment theory is founded upon the idea that as young children, we seek close proximity to a caregiver in order to get our survival needs met. The way we learn to relate to that person, becomes a blueprint for how we come to understand love and bonding as adults.

Over time, this blueprint evolves into an “attachment style.”

Your attachment style often encompases your beliefs about what is possible for you in life and in love, because we only saw evidence to support a particular way of predicting behavior and response, as children.

In other words, to function in a dysfunctional system, you have to adopt certain beliefs and attitudes to survive. In those dysfunctional systems, those beliefs and attitudes ARE functional, because they are helping you to survive! But as an adult, it's likely you are going to want to experience something different, and so those old beliefs and attitudes become dysfunctional.

As children, we are helpless and dependent, so we cannot just say, “Screw this, mom and dad, you clearly don’t have the tools but that doesn’t mean other people don’t. So, I am going to take my backpack and my blankie, and go live down the block with the Smith Family, instead.”

If we have developed an insecure attachment style, it can wreak havoc on our relationships, because we are basically trying to navigate new terrain, with an old map.

If we cling hard and fast to the nuances of the old blueprint, we are not only operating under the attachment style informed by a biological imperative to survive, but now you have constructed beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and behaviors, around how to do that.

And then we judge our worthiness based upon how well we implement those beliefs and attitudes; but often, we are doing this in a context that no longer applies.

“When he asks for space, I am convinced he is going to leave me, just like my father did.”

But he’s not your father. They are totally different people. And you are lovers, not parent and child. And you have so many more resources at your disposal, now!

You are not helpless and dependent on your partner. You are not a burden, and your feelings are not “too intense.”

Knowing and trusting this about yourself will allow you to say what you are really feeling, as opposed to defensively expressing yourself with fear-based complaints or criticisms. And this allows a partner to move closer, rather than run from the hills.

“When she says she needs more from me, I can hear the criticism in her voice, like I am failing her because she isn’t happy. And it makes me think of my mother, who said I could never do anything right; sometimes she does it with just a look or a sigh. Drives me crazy, and I don’t want to be around it.”

But she’s not your mother. They are totally different people. And you are lovers, not parent and child. And you have so many more resources at your disposal, now!

Your partner’s happiness is not a determinant of your success or failure. And you have every right to choose what you will and will not contribute, in the relationship.

The more you realize you have this freedom of choice, the easier it will be for you to open up and express what you are feeling and experience the joy of emotional reciprocation, without needing to run away, because there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever take that kind of freedom away from you.

Now, let’s say, on the surface, you find yourself repeatedly in romantic scenarios in which the drama of your adult relationships mirrors your childhood experience; it's likely we are attracted to similar scenarios, because that is simply the only way we know how to be.

This is now evidence of an ego attachment.

And so, if you are to experience real shifts in your romantic experiences, you have to address both your “biological” attachment, and your ego attachments.

Watch this 5-min video to find out more.

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In love and abundance,


Briana MacWilliam ATR-BC, LCAT

Licensed and Board Certified Creative Arts Therapist

Author, Educator and Reiki Practitioner

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