What are Attachment Styles?

Attachment Theory was first introduced in the 1950's by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, John Bolby and developed further in the 1960's and 70's by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth. Essentially, attachment styles are the ways in which we learned to respond and relate to our caregiver(s) in childhood. These relational bonds are an intrinsic part of childhood development and learning how to navigate the world and our relationship to self, others, and the world. According to Ainsworth children need a "secure base" from which to start exploring the world. A parental figure that is attentive and responsive to the infant's needs. In an ideal world the child is tended to in a healthy, consistent way. If this is the case, a Secure Attachment style will be formed. If this is not the case, then an insecure attachment style will be formed. The three Insecure Attachment Styles are Anxious Preoccupied, Dismissive Avoidant, and Fearful Avoidant (AKA Disorganized).

 

The attachment style we developed in childhood will typically be the one we carry into our adult relationships, so if we have an insecure attachment style, the patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with that particular style will be unconsciously running the show. Luckily, we can reprogram all unhealthy attachment patterns and move towards the golden goose of Securely Attached. Becoming conscious of our primary Attachment Style is the first step. 

 

Here are the three Insecure Attachment Styles and some common patterns associated with them. If you recognize yourself in any of them, please have the utmost compassion for yourself. These emotional tendencies and coping behaviors were developed from birth to 8-10 years old and used as a way of creating safety in your world when perhaps there was very little to be found. Violence, addiction, inconsistent attention, or the loss of a parent all contribute to our styles, among many other factors. Traumatic events in adulthood can also shift our attachment style.

Anxious Preoccupied:

 

  • Constantly desire more and more connection

  • Likely to form a fantasy bond in relationships

  • Willing to self-abandon in order to connect with others

  • Cling to their partner as an attempt to derive safety

  • Deeply fear abandonment and often avoid spending time alone

  • People-pleasing

  • Out of touch with own feelings and needs

Dismissive Avoidant:

  • Desire to maintain distance from partner and avoid vulnerability

  • Self-oriented perspective, believing that everyone is completely responsible for self and shouldn't rely on others (Independence vs. Interdependence)

  • Gets needs met from creature comforts and fear relying on others

  • Out of touch with own emotions

  • Able to compartmentalize and internalize feelings for prolonged periods of time

  • May flaw-find as a strategy for self-protection

Fearful Avoidant:

  • Afraid of abandonment while also fearing too much closeness in relationships

  • Swing between fear of abandonment and fear of needing to rely on others in an ambivalent manner

  • Can be overwhelmed by their own emotions and express volatility in relationships

  • Will often feel confused and exhausted by relationships, as relationships bring many of their triggers and fears to light

  • Crave for depth of connection and fear/distrust it simultaneously

  • Many highs and lows in relationships

This is what we want to move towards:

Secure:

  • Satisfied in relationships

  • Feels safe and connected to adult partner

  • Feels safe to rely on others and comfortable with others relying on them (in an interdependent manner)

  • Can offer support and love to one another

  • Safe to be intimate and open with a partner (emotionally, mentally, and physically)

  • Trust, harmony, and an ability to work through conflict in a constructive manner (i.e. healthy conflict resolution)

Each person and each insecure attachment style has unique aspects to consider when reprogramming towards Secure. Let me help you discover your personal attachment style and how to pinpoint and shift your limiting beliefs, teach you how to meet your unmet needs from childhood, speak you needs, thoughts, and feelings in a way that gets you seen, heard, and understood, learn to set and maintain healthy boundaries, and effective conflict resolution.