50 pages 1 hour read

Amir Levine, Rachel S.F. Heller

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Attached (2010) by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller explores the origins and application of attachment theory to facilitating adult relationships. It is a collaboration between psychiatrist and neuroscientist Levine and writer and psychologist Heller. Interspersed with interactive exercises for the reader, Attached explores the importance of identifying one’s attachment style and the ability to transform into a more secure partner.

Attached maintains a high ranking on Amazon and has been translated into 20 languages. More than a decade after its publication, its influence continues to expand in popular culture as rates of readership continue to rise. Its popularity can be partially attributed to critical acclaim from fellow therapists and social scientists. Some attribute the book’s continued success in recent years to the advent of TikTok, a popular social media platform where users frequently share recommendations. Videos using the hashtag #AttachmentStyle to refer to the book have amassed over 189 million views. Despite the book’s popularity, some therapists believe the discussions featured in the book lack nuance; they warn clients to use the text as a broad tool and engage with it in collaboration with a therapist.  

This guide was written using the TarcherPerigee eBook edition of Attached

Summary

Attached begins with an introduction that outlines the authors’ goals and the process that led to the creation of the book. Levine and Heller explain Levine’s history with attachment theory, which explores relationships and their psychological significance, as a resident at Columbia University. Inspired by his work with mothers and children in attachment therapy, Levine recruited Heller to join him in creating a practical guide for adult relationships through the lens of attachment theory.

Levine and Heller define the three types of attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Individuals with a secure attachment style navigate relationships with ease and welcome intimacy while individuals with an anxious attachment style struggle to overcome their insecurities and fear the loss of intimacy. Individuals with an avoidant attachment style shun intimacy and strive to maintain their independence.

Levine and Heller introduce the biological aspects of attachment, which include an evolutionary function for each attachment style. The secure, anxious, and avoidant attachment styles provided humans throughout history the with ability to employ varied attachment styles to survive the unstable world they inhabited. Levine and Heller also describe a biological mechanism called the attachment system that creates and regulates connections between parents, children, and intimate partners. They conclude Chapter 1 with hopes that Attached will provide readers a guide to understanding themselves and their partners.

In Chapter 2, Levine and Heller argue against modern dating advice’s criticism of codependency. They describe the dependency paradox, which demonstrates that dependency in a secure relationship offers partners the ability to build more autonomy. In defense of dependency, the authors cite the work of American Canadian psychologist Mary Ainsworth and British psychologist John Bowlby, pioneers of attachment theory who examined the attachment between children and caretakers. Levine and Heller cite other research from prominent social scientists who prove that intimacy between partners can mitigate physical and emotional distress.

Part 1 introduces two questionnaires to help readers determine their own attachment style and a partner’s attachment style. Levine and Heller insert multiple explanations and visual guides to help readers through this process. At the end of Chapter 4, they include an interactive exercise that asks readers to determine the attachment style of six individuals.

In Part 2, the authors dedicate one chapter to each attachment style. Chapter 5 investigates the anxious attachment style. Levine and Heller use personal examples of friends and acquaintances to provide real-life examples of each attachment style’s characteristics. The authors detail how individuals with an anxious attachment style rely on activating strategies, or thoughts or feelings seeking to reestablish a lost connection, in intimate relationships. Through their use of multiple examples, Levine and Heller describe the harmful effects of activating strategies.

Chapter 6 discusses the avoidant attachment style and highlights the tactics avoidants use to stop intimacy in relationships. In contrast to activating strategies, these deactivating strategies seek to disrupt intimacy. In this chapter, Levine and Heller include an exercise that outlines various ways avoidants can begin to change and implement more secure tactics. Part 2 ends with Chapter 7’s glimpse into secure partnerships. Levine and Heller note the higher rates of satisfaction in relationships with securely attached partners, highlighting the effective communication skills and supportive nature of secure partners.

Levine and Heller focus on the clash between anxious and avoidant attachment styles in Part 3. Discussing the innate attraction between anxious and avoidant partners, the authors present illustrations to visualize the harmful cycle of activation and deactivation that characterize these partnerships. Levine and Heller list the warning signs of an anxious-avoidant pairing, which include the prevalence of conflict and lack of stability. Chapter 9 offers partners in an anxious-avoidant pairing instructions on how to find greater security in their relationship. Levine and Heller invite these partners to complete a relationship inventory that analyzes patterns of behavior in relationships. Chapter 10 centers around anxious-avoidant relationships that lack the capacity for reform. The authors explain the process of disengaging from these turbulent relationships.

In Part 4, Levine and Heller analyze individuals with a secure attachment style. Chapter 11 focuses on the effective communication skills of secure partners. The authors offer specific advice for anxious and avoidant partners, respectively, on how to improve communication. Attached ends with an exploration of the ways secure partners navigate conflict in relationships. Levine and Heller underscore the ways secure partners maintain a focus on their partners’ well-being and engage in open dialogue. The end of Chapter 12 includes an interactive exercise that requests that readers determine the insecure and secure tactics used in various scenarios.

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