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Let's all be Armadillos

20 February 2024

Let's all be Armadillos

Here’s a chance to win yourself yet another label to go with all those other personality tests, along with pithy summaries of yourself like ENFP, The Campaigner, The Socializer, Sanguine, The Promoter - but having done the Attachment Theory test I’m not going to be adding this new definition of myself to my Twitter bio (or my Tinder profile, should he actually decide he’s finally had enough). Who in the world wants to advertise themselves as Anxiously Preoccupied? Same goes for those Facebook tests Which Disney character are you? - where you end up as the Beast. Share? Not right now thanks.

To be fair, with three of the four types of attachment (Google the Attachment Theory Test to find yours, if you dare) being some version of anxious and insecure, you’re more than likely going to fall into one of them, and we all know who the ‘securely attached’ people are, don’t we? They’re the ones with the stable relationships, tip-top self-belief and minimal hang-ups. Their house is a lovely mess that nobody worries about and when they have an argument, they end up laughing or skipping merrily off to couples’ therapy.

Not the Anxiously Preoccupied. Oh no. Our houses are tidy, hang-ups plentiful, self-belief just a shiny veneer to lure in the unsuspecting romantic target. Once they are in our clutches we are programmed to systematically bulldoze any relationship we’ve managed to establish by relentlessly questioning what to the securely attached is the unquestionable.

Not the Dismissive Avoidants either. They’re busy replastering the wall they’ve built around themselves, and with good reason, given the number of anxious needies out there.

And don’t ever ask your kids to do the test because guess what - the damage that has driven one third of the world's population to be anxiously attached in some way was done by parents not meeting their children's needs in their earliest years. Without the reassurance that what we are, do and think is okay, we either retreat into an empathy-free ‘I’ll sort myself out thanks’ cocoon (the Dismissive Avoidant) or we don’t even manage that and end up flailing around in the world anchorless and incapable of rising from the quagmire of misery when shit happens. In other words, we lack the ability to 'self-soothe'.

Contrary to popular belief, this self-soothing isn’t found in alcohol, Toblerone, Netflix, shopping, sleeping, sex or smoking. Those things aren’t going to move you closer to the coveted ‘securely attached’ status at all. What you need to do is rethink your whole self as a person who is genuinely deserving of stuff. BUT - overdo that and you end up a narcissist. So how do we find the middle ground?

The answer may lie in Rudyard Kipling’s story of Painted Jaguar being instructed by his mother on how to differentiate between a tortoise and a hedgehog (bear with me – there is a connection). 'Drop Stickly Prickly into the water and he will uncurl and there’s your main course, then scoop Slow-and-solid out of his shell for pudding' she said. But don’t drop the tortoise into the water or he’ll swim away, and obviously don’t do any scooping of hedgehogs. Can’t curl, can swim, Slow-solid, that’s him. Can curl, can’t swim, Stickly Prickly that’s him.  However, (spoiler alert) Painted Jaguar is outsmarted by his clever prey, who teach each other their missing skills, and once the hedgehog can swim and the tortoise can curl up, they are unrecognisable, even to Mother Jaguar, who is all the while ‘graciously waving her tail’. And there you have the Beginning of the Armadillos, whose only predators are coyotes and bob-cats, whatever they be…

Can’t self-soothe, can relate emotionally, Anxiously Attached that’s him. Can self-soothe, can’t relate emotionally, Dismissive Avoidant, that’s him. If we reduce our vulnerabilities by pooling our skills, maybe one day our relationships can develop the armour-plated carapace of Kipling’s hero. Together we shall outwit the Painted Divorce Lawyers, graciously waving their invoices, and all we need to watch out for is a few wily coyotes.

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