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What are Attachment Styles?

In the past few posts, we have been discussing personality traits that are more nature, than nurture. In other words, we have been primarily discussing personality traits we are born with, as opposed to having been influenced by our environment.

Today, we are talking about Attachment Styles which is a theory based on the belief that much of who we are especially in relationships, both strengths and challenges, we have as adults can be connected back to some aspect of our childhood.

“Attachment” refers to the specific way in which we relate to other people.

Attachment Styles are based on research that have shown that the type of relationship we had with our caretakers or primary adult influencers as children have a very strong effect on the kinds of connections and relationships we have adults.

How Can Understanding Your Attachment Style Help You?

Understanding your attachment style is helpful because it can offer insights into why you feel how you feel in relationships now, based on how you felt and developed during your childhood.

It can help you to understand where your emotionally limitations may be and what can be changed to improve all kinds of relationships, including romantic relationships, relationships with friends, children, family, authority figures and so on.

An individual’s attachment style can also be closely connected to self-esteem. Using what you can understand from your attachment style, it’s possible to address certain deficits which can also help with a better sense of self confidence overall.

What are the Main Attachment Styles?

I consider the main four Attachment Styles to be: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Disorganized.

• Secure attachment (approximately 60% of the population) is connected to feeling confident and generally have healthy, close relationships.

Anxious attachment (approximately 15%) may be the source of the need to people-please and at times, being too possessive.

Avoidant attachment (approximately 20%) is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant.

Disorganized attachment (approximately 5%) is associated with being detached and conflicted in relationships, often as a result of having traumatic experiences during childhood.

What Tendencies are Associated with Each Attachment Style?

If you suspect that you might have some anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment tendencies, some difficulties you might encounter are:

Someone with anxious attachment tendencies can be known to have a Preoccupied Personality. Where they can be insecure and critical of themselves, often looking for approval from others. These individuals often are worried that they will ultimately rejected, so even when receiving reassurance, there can still be a deep lack of trust of others.

Those who are avoidant can have dismissive patterns in relationships as adults. They tend to be loners and might consider emotions and relationships to not be as important. They can also be more cognitively-dominant and suppress feelings.

Individuals with disorganized attachment may exhibit tendencies of what’s described as a Fearful-Avoidant Personality. Those with disorganized attachment may have disconnected from their feelings as children, and have likely continued to do the same as adults. It can be a challenge for these individuals to feel a sense of balance within themselves and likely also have difficulty having close and trusting relationship with others.

What can be Done to Develop a More Secure Attachment Style?

As I often say, self-knowledge can be empowering and provide you with a starting point so that you can make better sense of what’s possible for self-improvement.

Moving toward more of a secure attachment style, can not only enhance your romantic relationship, you may also get along better with friends, family, and those you work with.

Some things to keep in mind:

Conduct an inventory. Do you avoid getting close to people? Do you worry about being left out? Most of us have an intuitive sense of areas where we can improve, but it can also be helpful to take a test like the one available on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s website, she is an attachment and trauma expert.

It’s possible to move toward having a more Secure Attachment style.

While adjusting your attachment style will require some effort, it can be helpful to intentionally make sense of your childhood experiences to be able to rewire your brain to feel more secure with yourself and others.

Books that are helpful resources include: Daniel Siegel’s Mindsight or Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

Counselling or therapy with a psychodynamic (a style of therapy where childhood experiences are included in the therapeutic process) therapist can also be helpful if you see troubling patterns in your relationships or you have childhood issues that you want to sort out.

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