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The Science of Attachment: Unraveling the Reasons Behind Our Struggle to Let Go

Human beings are wired for connection, and attachment is an essential aspect of our emotional well-being. The science of attachment offers fascinating insights into the complex world of human bonding and the challenges we face in letting go. This blog post delves deep into the psychological and biological factors that influence attachment, providing a comprehensive understanding of why we struggle to let go of relationships, objects, and habits. Discover the underlying mechanisms behind our attachment patterns and learn how to navigate them for a healthier, happier life.


The Science of Attachment: Understanding Why We Struggle to Let Go

Attachment is a fundamental concept in the field of psychology that refers to the emotional bond that forms between two individuals. It is a basic human need that starts in infancy and continues throughout our lifetime. Understanding attachment and its role in our lives can help us better understand why we struggle to let go of certain people, places, or things.

Definition of Attachment

Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. It is a relationship that is characterized by feelings of security, comfort, and trust. Attachment is not just limited to romantic relationships, but it can also exist between parents and children, siblings, friends, and even pets.

Attachment can be seen as a spectrum, ranging from insecure to secure. Secure attachment is characterized by a child who feels safe and protected by their caregiver, while insecure attachment is characterized by a child who feels anxious or uncertain about their caregiver's availability and responsiveness.

How Attachment Develops

Attachment develops through a process called "attachment theory," which proposes that infants are biologically programmed to seek proximity to a caregiver in order to gain protection and comfort. This process is facilitated by a caregiver who is responsive, consistent, and emotionally available.

As the child grows, their attachment style is influenced by a variety of factors, including their relationship with their caregiver, their temperament, and their experiences outside of the family. A child who grows up with a secure attachment style is more likely to form healthy relationships later in life, while a child with an insecure attachment style may struggle with relationships and have difficulty letting go.

A Baby Reaching For a Toy (Photo by Karolina Grabowska)

Understanding attachment is essential for understanding why we struggle to let go of certain people, places, or things. By recognizing the role that attachment plays in our lives, we can begin to develop healthier relationships and move towards a more fulfilling life.


The Science of Attachment

In our social and emotional lives, attachment refers to the strong bond we form with significant others in our lives. It can be a parent, partner, friend, or anyone we form a meaningful connection with. But why do we struggle to let go of these attachments when they end? To answer this question, we must delve into the science of attachment.

The Role of Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons in our brains. They play a crucial role in regulating our emotions and behavior, including attachment. Two of the most important neurotransmitters involved in attachment are dopamine and oxytocin.

Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward, and it is released when we experience something that feels good. When we are with someone we are attached to, dopamine is released in our brains, making us feel happy and content. This reinforces our attachment to that person and encourages us to seek out their company.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is often referred to as the "love hormone" because it is released during intimate physical contact, such as hugging or cuddling. It promotes social bonding and attachment by increasing feelings of trust and closeness between individuals.

The Impact of Childhood Experiences

Our attachment style is often shaped by our childhood experiences. If we had a secure attachment with our primary caregiver, we are more likely to develop healthy, secure attachments with others throughout our lives. However, if we experienced neglect, abuse, or inconsistent care, we may develop a more insecure attachment style.

Individuals with an insecure attachment style may struggle with trusting others, maintaining healthy relationships, and letting go of attachments that are no longer serving them. They may also be more prone to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

The Influence of Genetics

Research has also shown that genetics play a role in attachment. Studies have found that certain genes are associated with attachment style, and that these genes may also be linked to other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

However, it is important to note that genetics are not the only factor in attachment style. Environmental factors, such as childhood experiences, also play a significant role.

Understanding the science of attachment can help us better understand why we form strong bonds with others, and why it can be so difficult to let go when those bonds are broken. By understanding the role of neurotransmitters, the impact of childhood experiences, and the influence of genetics, we can begin to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships.


The Struggle to Let Go

Why is it so hard to let go of someone or something that no longer serves us? The answer lies in the science of attachment.

Fear of Abandonment

One reason we struggle to let go is because we fear being abandoned. This fear can be rooted in childhood experiences, such as a parent leaving or neglecting us. As adults, we may cling to relationships or situations that are no longer healthy because we don't want to be alone or feel abandoned.

Woman Climbing an Indoor Wall Climb (Photo by cottonbro studio)

Low Self-Esteem

Another reason we may struggle to let go is because of low self-esteem. When we don't value ourselves, we may believe that we don't deserve better than what we currently have. This can lead us to settle for less than we deserve and stay in situations that are not fulfilling.

Young beautiful female with bewitching look leaning on iron black bars and looking at camera while standing at fence on sunny day (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)


Codependency is a pattern of behavior in which we rely on others for our sense of self-worth and identity. When we are codependent, we may feel the need to control or fix others, and we may struggle to let go of relationships or situations that are not healthy because we feel responsible for the other person's well-being. This can lead to a cycle of unhealthy relationships and an inability to let go.

Person Holding String Lights Photo (Photo by David Cassolato)

By understanding the reasons why we struggle to let go, we can begin to work through these issues and move towards healthier relationships and situations.


Coping Strategies

Attachment is a natural human instinct that allows us to form deep emotional connections with others. However, when those attachments are severed, it can be difficult to let go. Coping with the pain of a broken attachment can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help.

Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

One of the most effective ways to cope with the pain of a broken attachment is by practicing mindfulness and self-awareness. This involves paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment and learning to accept them as they are.

Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your emotions and how they affect your behavior. By practicing mindfulness, you can gain a better understanding of your attachment patterns and how they impact your relationships.

Self-awareness is also important in coping with the pain of a broken attachment. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings, you can learn to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones.

Therapy and Support Groups

If you are struggling to cope with the pain of a broken attachment, therapy or support groups can be a helpful resource. Therapy can help you work through your emotions and develop coping strategies to help you move forward.

Support groups can also be beneficial, as they provide a safe space to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. This can help you feel less alone and provide you with the support you need to heal.

Building Healthy Relationships

Finally, building healthy relationships is key to coping with the pain of a broken attachment. By forming strong, healthy attachments with others, you can learn to let go of the past and move forward.

Building healthy relationships involves learning to communicate effectively, setting boundaries, and developing trust. By working on these skills, you can create positive, supportive relationships that can help you heal from the pain of a broken attachment.

A Woman Sits On A Rock Beside The Lake (Photo by Andre Furtado)

Remember, coping with the pain of a broken attachment takes time and effort. But by practicing mindfulness and self-awareness, seeking therapy or support groups, and building healthy relationships, you can begin to heal and move forward.



In essence, the science of attachment is a complex and fascinating subject. It sheds light on why humans form strong bonds and struggle to sever them. The attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby, highlights the importance of secure, healthy connections in shaping our emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships.

The brain plays a crucial role in the attachment process, with the release of oxytocin and vasopressin fostering trust, empathy, and bonding. These neurochemicals create a sense of safety and attachment, contributing to the difficulty of letting go. Additionally, the psychological concept of loss aversion further explains our innate resistance to change and reluctance to lose the connections we value.

Understanding the science of attachment provides valuable insights into our behavior and emotions when faced with the challenge of letting go. By recognizing the underlying mechanisms at play, we can better navigate our relationships and foster resilience in the face of change. Ultimately, this knowledge empowers us to foster healthier connections and personal growth throughout our lives.

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