The Art of Attaching

Love is a big word. It conjures many images. A hug. A look. A phone call. Whatever yours, love is the essence of being human.


Philippa Richardson

Pip is a Transactional Analysis psychotherapist and creates our service. Through her training and life experience - 3 families, 3 continents, 3 careers (law, marketing, psychology) - Pip has come to see how we all write our own life story.

Love is learnt. We learn love at school – in the books we read and the behaviours that are rewarded and punished. We learn love from culture – Disney, epics, romcoms and novels. Most importantly – we learn love from our carers.

How did our parents show they cared? Did they show they cared?

Love, fundamentally, is based on our mammalian need for attachment. Humans are born utterly dependent on a carer; we are biologically programmed to attach in order to survive.

Famous researcher and psychotherapist John Bowlby (et al) recognised, through his now-legendary experiments of the 1950s, the phenomenon of attachment and its evolutionary advantage.

“The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature.”

John Bowlby

What does attachment look like? Bowlby identified four distinguishing characteristics:

1) The desire to be near the person we are attached to.

2) A safe haven: returning to that person for comfort.

3) That person becomes a secure base from which to explore.

4) Separation distress: we can feel anxious in the absence of the person to whom we're attached.

Our "attachment style" develops early in life and is generally stable over time. It’s largely formed in our first few years of childhood, based on our experience of the emotional attunement provided by our carers.

Research in this area indicates that relationship patterns established in childhood have an enduring impact on our later adult relationships.

Our ability to connect as adults and our way of relating falls broadly into four main types:

  • Secure: trusting, aware of and able to express our feelings and build deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships.

  • Anxious: longing for love and a strong fear of rejection. Jealous and clingy.

  • Avoidant: uncomfortable with emotional or physical intimacy, we struggle to build deep, meaningful relationships. The "lone wolf".

  • Disorganised: confused, fear that the people closest to us will hurt us.

These styles are deeply ingrained – yet changeable. Those of us with insecure attachment styles (at least 40% of the population) may have to put some intentional effort into resolving our attachment fears if we want to be able to more securely, and happily, bond with those we love.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

Lao Tzu

The good news is, with help, our way of attaching can be changed. In this way, we can all create more fulfilling relationships and love in all its forms truly is for everyone.