Sitting with uncertainty

Sitting with uncertainty: How your attachment style affects the way you cope with turbulent times 

Human beings don’t like uncertainty. We create narratives and call them reality (even if they’re not) because we like a sense of certitude. When we create our narratives and restore certainty in our minds, it creates a chemical change in our bodies and we feel soothed.

Certainty is an illusion – nothing in life is certain – but the stories we tell ourselves serve as a useful tool. They help us feel okay, so we can continue living in our bubble of illusion.

The Covid pandemic burst this bubble for many of us. It made us face the reality of uncertainty in our lives. It has been an unsettling time and the easing and tightening of guidelines has made the situation worse for many.

People’s external environment keeps changing and many don’t have access to their usual coping strategies and support networks.

Times of upheaval are particularly tough for people whose needs were not met as children. These people may have Avoidant, Anxious or Disorganised styles of attachment, and therefore lack a core sense of self.

Those who grew up with attentive parents are more likely to have formed secure attachments with their caregivers and therefore with other people throughout their lives.

Secure attachment means a secure core sense of self. People with a greater sense of self find it easier to deal with turbulent times – because their sense of security is internal, not external.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment is the way in which you relate to other people. Psychologists have determined that your style of attachment is formed in the first two years of your life and goes on to affect all future relationships.

If a young child forms an attachment with an adult who is attuned to them, they are more likely to form a secure attachment.

Dr. Dan Siegel says the child must feel safe, seen and soothed in order to form a secure attachment.

According to John Bowlby, attachment is a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. The four types of attachment identified by Bowlby are:

  1. Secure – autonomous
  2. Avoidant – dismissing
  3. Anxious – preoccupied
  4. Disorganised – unresolved

Adults with the differing attachments styles deal with closeness and emotional intimacy in different ways.

People with secure attachment styles are able to fully let people in. They are comfortable with intimacy and it is easy for them to get close to others.

Those with avoidant attachment find intimacy uncomfortable and may avoid being close with others, while those with anxious attachment crave intimacy but are insecure in relationships.

Disorganised attachment is the most extreme of the insecure attachment styles. It is often a result of abuse and/or trauma in the early years.

People with this attachment style often report feeling lonely because they crave close relationships, but they suffer high anxiety around intimacy and often push people away. They tend to have a very negative self image and drive away potential connection as a way of protecting themselves.

Secure attachment helps build a core sense of self and so people with this style of attachment cope better with upheaval and change.

How can we learn to sit with uncertainty?

It’s best to focus on things you can control, rather than things you can’t. Maintain a daily routine and make sure you eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water.

Regular exercise is helpful, especially if it is outside in nature. Mindful practises like yoga and meditation can help you learn to sit with your feelings.

Remember it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling and expressing your emotions can also be extremely beneficial.

Reach out to other people, whether through text, phone call, letter etc. Peer support networks like Mind’s online community can also provide safe spaces to talk through your feelings.

words: Laura Nikita Mitchell

The Link Centre

Interested in learning more about attachment styles and other TA Theory? The Link Centre offers everything from a two-day Introduction to Transactional Analysis (TA101) to an accredited Diploma in Counselling.

We are also running a series of by-donation online workshops on different topics bi-weekly until Christmas 2020. For more information please visit or email [email protected]

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