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  • Sonya Deol

What Is Your Attachment Style?

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What is attachment?


As humans, we relate to the world around us in unique ways and strive to find meaning in our relationships. Often, the way we relate is in the way we attach to something or someone. We can attach ourselves to a place, a person, a pet, an experience, a memory, an object, nature, etc. because they have a certain meaning for us. And if we lose something we are attached to, we grieve it and what it meant to us. For example, moving from one place to another can bring about a sense of loss because maybe the first place represented safety, familiarity, or community.


An attachment style, though, is about how we attach to the people in our lives. Attachment styles are usually developed early on in life – how we attached to our primary caregivers becomes our natural way of attaching to our adult relationships. Attachment styles are how we adapt in response to how we are treated.


a grandmother and granddaughter smiling together

There are different styles of attachment, but it’s important to note that you don’t have to fall into one category alone. Most people identify with a main category but can also identify with aspects of another.


Attachment styles


Secure attachment


Imagine a baby who cries and is attended to quickly and consistently. The baby learns to feel safe and secure knowing that someone will respond to it. The adult and child in this scenario are attuned to one another. Over time, this infant develops into a child who begins to explore and practice independence because there is always a safe “home base” to come back to.


Individuals with secure attachment styles grow up to believe that their close relationships are trustworthy and stable.


a little girl laughing and hugging a tree

Aspects of secure attachment:

  • Good communication

  • Ability to handle and resolve conflict

  • Ability to express needs and understand partner’s/other’s needs

  • Committed to relationship, but independent

  • Attentive, affectionate, and accepting

  • Feels compassion for themselves and others

  • Have a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence

 

Anxious attachment


In this case, a baby cries but isn’t attended to right away so it cries louder until someone comes. The caregiver might respond with love sometimes but other times may be distracted or annoyed. The inconsistency in how they respond to the infant’s needs leads to feelings of unpredictability. The infant might grow into a child who learns to put their needs aside and focus on getting their caregiver’s attention.


With an anxious attachment style, individuals become adults who feel insecure in their relationships.


a man looking anxious

Aspects of anxious attachment:

  • Fear of abandonment, rejection, and conflict

  • Sensitive of criticism and need for approval

  • Struggle with jealousy

  • Wanting to be constantly close to partner/others

  • Feeling anxious if the other person is not around

  • Difficulty with giving too much and then feeling resentful

  • Lower self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Feeling unlovable or undeserving of love

 

Avoidant attachment


Here, a baby cries out but the caregiver either ignores it, doesn’t hear it, or is absorbed by something else. The infant learns to self-soothe or ignore their own need for comfort. This child’s caregiver is generally absent, unavailable, physically or mentally ill, or unable to meet their needs on some level.


An individual with an avoidant attachment style becomes overly self-reliant and believe they are “on their own”. They tend to seem independent as a need to avoid rejection or neglect.


a woman sitting on the floor on her laptop

Aspects of avoidant attachment:

  • Overly rigid, guarded, and distant

  • Uncomfortable with emotions and conflict

  • Difficulty expressing needs and wants

  • Avoids intimacy, vulnerability, and commitment

  • Need for companionship, but fear of being hurt

  • Over-analyzing relationships or self-sabotaging

  • Choosing another insecurely attached person in a relationship

 

Disorganized attachment


This could be the most complex attachment style because it swings between being anxious and avoidant. The caregiver in this case seems scary, threatening, or unsafe to the infant. A baby cries, but rather than comfort, the person who is meant to comfort them harms them. For example, by yelling, by being critical, or by physically hurting them. The infant becomes a child who is in a no-win situation because their source of safety is also dangerous.


An adult with a disorganized attachment style feels that their relationships are risky, confusing, and fear-based.


an abstract painting showing chaos

Aspects of disorganized attachment:

  • Tendency towards emotional extremes

  • Difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries

  • Prone to high-conflict relationships

  • Inconsistent behaviour

  • Strong need to be in control

  • May have flashbacks or revisit traumatic memories

  • Lack of presence in relationships

  • Desires and distrusts intimacy

 

Healing insecure attachment


If you’ve read through the attachment styles and connect your experiences to an insecure attachment, do not despair. While learning about your attachment style can bring up many different feelings, healing towards secure attachment is possible. Our brains have the capability to relearn and rewire – a term called “neuroplasticity”. We cannot change past experiences, but we can learn secure attachment skills that move us in the direction of feeling more secure.


Tips on building secure attachment:


  • Become familiar with your own attachment style and relationship patterns

  • Consider what is true in your relationships and abandon outdate, unhelpful beliefs

  • If you have an anxious attachment style, practice being independent

  • If you have an avoidant attachment style, practice letting your guard down

  • Learn to express and tolerate your emotions

  • Communicate openly and respectfully to each other

  • Observe how people think and behave in healthy relationships around you

  • Commit to self-care, minimize stress, and address conflict before it escalates

  • Focus on the needs of the relationship rather than only the needs of “I” or “me”

  • Learn to ask for help and accept it

  • Seek out individual or couples’ therapy

  • Engage in activities that include your partner/others

 

a group of people sitting and smiling

Taking small steps can increase awareness and help you create secure attachment in your relationships. Think of it has a practice that requires patience and persistence, like with any form of healing. Progress isn’t linear and it’s possible that old habits might show up again, that’s okay. Let go of unrealistic expectations and commit to yourself during this journey.

 

 

 

 

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