(Adapted from Gordon Neufeld, PhD)
This is a tool that I provide for my clients to assist them in developing the ability to trust after trust has been broken. Trusting someone does not need to be a blind leap of faith, it is a calculated risk. These levels of attachment are ranked from the easiest to attain to the most difficult, the least risk to the most risk, and the least meaningful to the most meaningful. The levels are not as categorical as they appear, meaning that we fade from one into the next. We don’t snap from one level to one above or below, nor are these levels static. We are constantly moving up or down the ladder at all times, with everyone in our lives. In order to consistently move up the ladder, we must make an effort. Doing nothing does not result in staying where we are; it results in sliding down the ladder.
The following is a brief description of each level. It is not an exhaustive or exclusive description. Use it as a guideline to determine where you are at with the people in your life.
Simply put, this refers to physical closeness. Do you occupy the same space as the other person? Are you around each other? Do you feel safe in their presence? Do you want to be around them?
Do you have much in common with the other person? This does not necessarily refer to hobbies and interests but that doesn’t hurt. It refers more to values, behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes.
Does this person support you when you need it? Do they talk about you behind your back or deceive you in any way? Do they gossip about others? Can you trust them to act in your best interests?
Are you important to this person? Do they consider you even when you are absent? Do they wait for you to ask for help or do they anticipate your needs and help proactively? Are you an afterthought in their life or a vital part?
Are you free to express your feelings with this person? Do they respond in kind? Do you know how they feel? Do you feel like you need to put on a brave face around this person or push them away when they get too close?
6. Being fully known
Is there anything that you can’t tell this person? Fully known refers not only to sharing feelings but the reasons underlying those feelings. In this way, it is incumbent upon us to know ourselves before we can be known by another. This level of attachment allows us to stand emotionally naked before the other person, unafraid of our vulnerability
Using this understanding of the levels of attachment, take an inventory of your life and determine who fits where on your attachment ladder. Be strict in your criteria. For each level, quality of match is more important that quantity of names.