We feel a host of emotions as human beings. Emotions like fear are said to be wired into us in order to cope with negative situations, and activate our fight and flight responses. These are experienced during stressful situations and often lead us to narrow down the scope of our thoughts and actions to focus on the stressful situation at hand, and deal with it effectively.
While certain emotions are triggered in times of stress or need, others are triggered during more fulfilling, positive experiences. These include love, gratitude, and happiness, among others. While emotions like fear and anger go towards narrowing down our thoughts in order to have more focus, those like love and gratitude trigger a response that broadens our scope for thought and action. Thus, as posited by the Broaden and Build Theory which was conceptualized by Alice Isen, it is clear that it becomes possible to diversify our experiences and add variety to them by being mindful about our emotions and the perceptions that we form of phenomena around us. This theory forms a part of the theoretical frameworks within Positive Psychology.
Positive Psychology focuses on how we lead a fulfilling life by understanding our emotions better. We often say that emotions like joy and happiness are deeply associated with love. Emotions that we frame as positive are indeed, a part of healthy relationships, but they do not decide the level to which they succeed. Love is an emotion that is often felt in conjunction with other emotions regarded as positive. It enables us to broaden the capability for us to explore and savor new experiences with individuals that we feel positive regard for. From these arguments, it becomes clear that the ability to experience different emotions is genetically coded into the human mind.
Attachment, or the way we manifest our relationships with other people often decide the emotions we choose to display as a part of the connections we form. There are several types of attachment, and these can be viewed from the perspective of a child interacting with a parent or primary caregiver, or even two partners in a relationship involving mutual trust. There are essentially 4 types of attachment, and these are: Secure, Anxious or Preoccupied, Dismissive Avoidant, and Fearful Avoidant.
Those showing a secure attachment pattern often have productive and mutually prolific relationships with their caregivers and their loved ones.For children, secure attachment is characterized by a perception of the caregiver as the ultimate source of trust and nourishment. In a romantic relationship, this translates into unrequited love, mutual trust and respect, and a higher sense of autonomy within the relationship.
An Anxious or Preoccupied form of attachment is characterized by a constant desire for validation or attention from one’s partner or caregiver. If one has an Anxious pattern of attachment they often show an emotional hunger for time from their partner. Even though their emotions may symbolize an unwavering trust for their partner, they perform actions that may displease or scare a partner away, thus potentially disturbing the stability of the relationship. On the other hand is the Dismissive or Avoidant form of attachment, which is characterized by a need for distance from the partner to have more ‘personal space’. This often gives these individuals a feeling of pseudo-independence, which is obviously an illusion.
The Fearful Avoidant form is the last possible type of attachment that can be shown by an individual. Those deploying this kind of an attachment pattern are often in a limbo about expressing themselves. Sometimes, they feel the need to say something, but often become afraid to do so, thus leading to possible emotional outbursts and turbulence at a later stage.
It isn’t necessary that a child’s attachment style spills over into adulthood. Attachment does, however, play an important role in the way we interact with other people. It all depends on the experiences that one has with social interaction, as well as what individuals seek for in their acquaintances and prospective lovers. It isn’t always true that one’s parental bond dictates one’s future. It does, however, help us understand the reasons that we treat certain people in a particular way. We need to understand that our role in a relationship depends on us! We often feel that relationships are permanent.
The idea of finding a fulfilling relationship is not characterized by ‘fitting in’ with one another perfectly and never changing. Our experiences are so dynamic that what we desire constantly changes as we grow. When we learn to accept the changes that other people make to their lives and try to understand why, it often makes relationships more fulfilling.
An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.