Getting to Know Your Attachment Style & How it Shows Up in Your Relationships
Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get over a breakup while others can move on quickly and with “no issues”? Or maybe you have a hard time expressing your feelings to someone you love so you find yourself pulling them close and pushing them away. All of this has so much to do with attachment styles which are informed by the things you experienced during your childhood.
John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth spent years developing attachment theory by watching caregivers interact with children. They found that the developmental and emotional dynamic we have with our parents/caregivers affect how we connect and form relationships as adults. In essence, the connections we have with our caregivers between our toddler years and teen years of life creates the prototype for how we will create and attend to the relationships with our partners. Although everyone is different, we fall into one of four attachment styles and some of us are a mixture of the four kinds of attachment that Bowlby and Ainsworth identified.
The Four Major Attachment Styles
There’s a great deal of cliché about going to therapy to talk about your mom or dad but the truth is that our parents set the stage for how we understand ourselves, others, and the world around us and how we fit into it. The early interactions we have with them determines which skills and coping methods we use to express our needs and how we go about getting them met. Here is a brief break down of each attachment style and the behavior that goes with them:
This is the most ideal form of attachment, it’s the one we all hope our future children will have. People who are securely attached are able to operate interpersonally accessing trust, empathy, and forgiveness as key foundations. Adults who are securely attached tend to manage their emotions well. able to be They are very interactive, work well with others, and have good self-esteem while remaining grounded in who they are. Though they are not perfect, because really, no one is, their relationships tend to be healthy and loving.
These folks often operate in survival mode and can be emotionally distant. During their childhood, they were let down or left to fend for themselves in ways that taught them that they could not trust their caregivers, this distrust in their parents generalized out to others at large. They feel that they have to maintain a fierce independence in order to feel safe but this makes it difficult for them to reach out for help when they need it most. It is easy for avoidantly attached people to detach from their interpersonal relationships. They may deny the importance of the connections they have, including those with their significant others.
Needy, insecure, and highly emotional; these characteristics describe people with and anxious attachment style. The parents or caregivers of these people were inconsistent in how they showed up for and interacted with their child causing confusion about what to expect. They often lack a solid sense of self and may rely on others to feel a sense of security in themselves. People who have an anxious attachment style can also be described as jealous, hopeless romantics, and having low self-esteem. They constantly need reassurance from their partner although when assurance is provided, it may still not be enough for them to feel good about themselves and the value they bring to the partnership.
Disorganized (Fearful Avoidant):
Those with this attachment style often come from abusive environments where the caregivers behavior makes them a figure of fear. As you can imagine, having a caregiver who is in charge of your safety but is also the cause of fear can be quite harmful. This shows up in adulthood as a desire for closeness that is matched with a fear of intimacy as well as a fear of showing too much or too little emotion. These adults are constantly worried about being abandoned or harmed. With unpredictable moods, these folks tend to find themselves in unstable relationships with frequent ups and downs. They may try to hide their feelings but end up unable to control their own emotions.
Attachment styles are often generational in a way; we learn them from our parents and without healing, we may then engage with our children in similar ways and pass it down. Becoming more aware of your insecure attachment style can aid in breaking toxic dynamics and cycles.
Going to therapy is a great way to challenge our attachment styles in order to change them. The therapeutic relationship is a unique one where trust, stability and safety can be accessed in a consistent way. Given a safe space to engage in self-reflection also helps us recognize our unconscious beliefs (informed by the experiences of our childhood) and then change those beliefs that no longer serve us. Therapy and our relationship with our therapist serves as a guide on how to interact with others in a healthy way and have positive results thereafter. When we feel safe, and healthy ways to interact, our relationships improve.
We are launching therapy groups that attend to educating about and healing attachment styles. If you’re interested in finding out more about your attachment style or growing beyond what was initiated for you in childhood, give us a call to register today!