Wednesday, March 10, 2010

F(physical proximity)=emotional closeness

Basic attachment theory suggests three basic styles of attachment - secure, avoidant, and anxious-ambivalent. Secure is the healthiest and I think pretty apparent; avoidant is characterized by distance from others and a cynical view of others as untrustworthy and undependable; anxious-ambivalent is characterized by a strong desire to be close to others, combined with a fear that others will not respond to this desire.

When people find out that I'm a psychology graduate student they always have the same reaction - so are you analyzing me right now? What am I thinking? Other crap like that. What am I supposed to say to that? So are you saying that when you meet someone you aren't automatically formulating your own opinion of that person also? Doesn't everyone do that to some extent? That's my typical thought process when that comes up. But then there are other times when I'm learning about something in one of my classes and my focus will be directed on certain topics, and then yes, I am, in fact, analyzing you the through the lens of a particular theory.

I have been thinking about this idea for the last few weeks to varying degrees - closeness to people. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who is in the Marriage and Family Therapy program, and she mentioned how one of the first things that she looks for as a therapist when working with couples is just how close they sit next to one another when they come in for counseling. Even before talking with this friend, I had been noticing it a lot with all of the people that I hang out with. I guess there are some cultural and personal preferences that people have that make them react differently, but it's a pretty safe assumption that when someone is feeling emotionally close with you, he/she will want to be physically close to you also.

I kind of think that this is a rule that generally applies across the board. It's easy to say that some people just aren't built that way, but of the people I can think of that don't exhibit that tendency, I would also characterize their relationships as being more distant than others. It's easy to see this in people that you're dating or in a relationship with, and I can also see how it is exhibited in friendships and other loose associations. With girls, it's super easy to tell when they are feeling close to me because it's pretty acceptable for them to sit right next to me, sometimes touching to a certain degree. Even with my closest guy friends, we'll sit right next to each other without any kind of awkwardness about it. With some people I know, it's a dead giveaway. And in a way, I'm really grateful for it because it's something that's so easy to read. When so and so sits right next to me, I know that things are just fine between us because this person is right here with me. I think my attachment style is pretty secure because I feel like I'm always craving closeness with the people around me, in one form or another.

I think the causal arrow probably only goes in the direction of emotional closeness leading to physical closeness. There are no broader implications or insights with this post. It's just an observation.

1 comment:

Charlotte Lundell said...

Just because I sat on a different couch on the other side of the room for the WHOLE movie doesn't mean I don't feel emotionally close to you, mmkay? Sheesh