Attachment Styles and Emotional Memory

Attachment styles and emotional memory have a direct relationship. In this way, having had a traumatic or careless attachment figure will cause our present to be mediated by those painful memories from the past.

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Attachment styles and emotional memory make up a meaningful relationship. Thus, for example, it is known that people with an anxious style put their focus on the most painful memories of their past. They focus on the wounds of yesterday, unable to overcome the anger or despair that generated an attachment figure, who failed to meet their emotional needs.

The attachment theory of John Bowlby continues to this day. Thanks to it, we understand much better human behavior, personality styles and, above all, the lower or higher quality of our interpersonal relationships. Now, something that is not talked about so often is how attachment styles and emotional memory are linked.

Let’s think about it. Much of what we are today depends on our past experiences. Yesterday and the interactions lived with our family and other close people have sculpted a large part of the anatomy of our personality. Whether we want it or not, we are small ships that advance daily through the sea of ​​emotional memory.

Having a border of good memories makes us more free in our trip. It gives us the impetus to move where we want to feel safe. On the contrary, the creation of painful, cold or absent relationships creates a burden. It is impossible to move forward because our gaze is always on that islet of yesterday where frustration, suffering and unresolved issues loom.

“I do not speak of revenge or forgiveness, forgetfulness is the only revenge and the only forgiveness.”

-J.L Borges-

Attachment styles and emotional memory: types and characteristics

There are many people who are shaped by the tyranny of their own memories. Yesterday marks us out, there is no doubt, but what we must never allow is to be permanent prisoners of suffering. Victims of a yesterday where to lose the present.

Attachment styles and emotional memory present a direct link because the quality of the first determines, in large part, our psychological well-being. Thus, studies like the one carried out in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, of the University of California, points out the following.

The different types of attachment can mediate even in the quality of our memory. Thus, and depending on each of them, we can suffer even gaps and loss of many memories. In other cases, the person lives focused on certain images of his past.

Therefore, let’s look at the characteristics of each attachment style and its relation to emotional memory.

Secure attachment

Secure attachment is where the child knows that his parents will offer him what he needs. Trust them because they know they are accessible, that when they feel fear they will be taken care of. Also, if there is something that defines this style of healthy attachment is that the child feels safe to explore the world.

Something like that generates without doubt a chest of memory full of happy experiences. It is that substratum that shapes a nutritive and uplifting emotional memory where the child will give way to a mature adult, independent and sure of himself, capable of freely creating his own present.

The anxious style

In this case, we have a child who learns early that he can not trust his parents. When you need something, those attachment figures are not always available. Sometimes, they show a certain affection, others are cold and distant.

They are fathers and mothers who oscillate between times of abandonment or neglect and instants of severity and control. All this generates ambivalent situations in which the child lives in a state of constant anxiety and insecurity. He has little or no control over what happens, so he does not know what to expect; an uncertainty that does not know how to manage and that only generates insecurity.

The styles of attachment and emotional memory tell us that the person, in this case, ends up focusing on certain past events. For example, the adult will remember those moments of the past when he needed support or help and did not receive it, moments when he felt lonely, scared…

It creates, therefore, an “attachment” to those unresolved and painful issues, from which, somehow, it feeds even more the anger and frustration. They are emotions that tend to block the person, which is why it is often difficult for them to release every memory, every painful experience.

Avoidant attachment

In this case, the avoidant attachment appears when a child assimilates, although not consciously, that his need for care will be answered with indifference, if not with contempt. This means that, on average, these children try to become emotionally self-sufficient.

Thus, in order not to experience again more damage, emptiness or suffering, they choose to give shape to an emotional detachment that will characterize a large part of their relationships.

Studies, like the aforementioned, point out that in these cases it is common for gaps to appear, unconnected or fragmented memories. Many episodes of childhood are forgotten or remembered inaccurately, blurred.

Interestingly, people also characterized with an avoidant attachment style in their affective relationships also show memory problems.

Forgetfulness probably facilitates their emotional disengagement from the people around them. As a hypothesis, we can think that it is a defense mechanism that ends up generating the brain itself to lower the intensity of suffering at the expense of raising the threshold of sensitivity.


As we see attachment styles and emotional memory share a direct link. The quality of our early relationships mediates the quality of our emotional lives. Thus, in the event that behind the door of our present a past of traumatic experiences is hidden, it is necessary to cross that threshold to solve and heal that universe.

Let us learn to free the tyranny of those painful emotions that imprint our memory.