Her sense is that people will say “‘I’m avoidant, guess I’m never going to have a relationship.’ ‘I’m anxious. So I’m, I’m texting him too much, and that’s why he doesn’t like me.’ Those kinds of words have power.”
Even the Author Is Surprised
Another critique is that the book flattens nuance out of some very complicated ideas, and that its success is owed to part of a larger trend of people overeager to reduce themselves or others to a single style (see: Myers-Briggs tests, Enneagram typing, Zodiac signs). They do this, goes the critique, in order to further pronounce their own identity, rather than realizing that our behavior and attachment styles (and thus, our identities) aren’t so precisely fixed, or attributable to just one single thing, goes the critique.
“There is a spectrum,” Dr. Levine said when I spoke to him in September. “But what the research finds is that there is a predominant characteristic that you can find yourself gravitating toward more. And I think that’s helpful to know.”
As for the critique of the book needing to be read in therapy? He agreed that this would be ideal, but contended that while not everyone has access to therapy, most people have access to a library, and something is better than nothing. He also agreed that the book attempts to negotiate the fine line between being a wonkish academic treatise, and being over-distilled — and it may not always succeed to people’s tastes on either side.
In our interview, given that he had just been read a series of pitches against his life’s work he’s no doubt heard time and time again, Dr. Levine was a remarkably good sport. This may have something to do with that fact that he’s not some globe-trotting, TED-talking, Oprah-approved sage-on-a-stage celebrity love guru, but instead, a sheepish, shy, sweetly enthusiastic Columbia academic, who spends most of his days seeing patients, conducting research, writing and talking about neural-developmental pathologies.
While he foresaw a rise in sales during the pandemic, Dr. Levine remains as mystified at the book’s success over the last decade as anyone else. “I don’t think I still fully realize it,” he said, laughing. And no, he knew nothing about #AttachmentStyle TikTok.