Have you ever wondered at some of your thoughts or behaviors in relationships? Have you found yourself looking back on your actions during a conflict or intimate moment with frustration or confusion? Some of this behavior could very well be linked to your attachment style! The following is a quick start guide to attachment styles: what they are, how they come about, and how they apply to our current relationships.
The first thing that we need to know about is attachment theory. Attachment theory is the theory that the early bonds we form in childhood to our primary caregivers influence our lives and future relationships. While there are other factors that may influence our attachment style, this is generally accepted as the main factor. Primary caregivers who are responsive to their child’s needs form a sense of security in that child which allows them to then explore the world around them. On the other hand, some children learn early on that they cannot rely on others for safety, and develop behaviors to try to meet their needs.
So, what exactly are the styles? While there have been many additions and modifications to the theory over the years, there are 4 generally recognized patterns of attachment: secure, ambivalent (also referred to as anxious), avoidant, and disorganized. Fortunately, secure attachment is the most common style of attachment, meaning that most children get their basic and emotional needs met by their parents or primary caregivers. But what does it mean if we have an insecure attachment style?
Studies have shown that those who develop an anxious/ambivalent attachment style as an infant may have had an unavailable or unreliable parent, and these children display distress when the caregiver is not present. Those with an avoidant attachment style likely had an abusive or neglectful parent, and learned that they should avoid seeking help from others altogether. And those with a disorganized attachment may have grown up with a caregiver who was very inconsistent, and may have met their child’s needs sometimes, or instilled fear in that child other times. This style may also be indicative of an abusive or neglectful parent, but one who also was able to provide comfort to the child at times.
Traits and Characteristics
How do we know which style matches most closely with our experiences? If you find yourself able to easily trust others, express your emotions in relationships freely, and feel comfortable asking for help? Congratulations, you most likely have a secure attachment style. If you avoid intimacy, feel uncomfortable expressing your emotions, have a hard time trusting others, or have a fear of abandonment, you may fall into one of the other three categories making up the insecure attachments. There is plenty of research and attachment style quizzes out there to help you determine which one may be your attachment style, and your childhood and current behaviors can give you a lot of clues to point you in the right direction.
So what can we do with this information? Knowing our attachment style can help us become more aware of and better understand our own behaviors when engaging in relationships, and possibly give us the ability to steer ourselves in a healthier direction. Ultimately, regardless of what style we are, we can all work to attain a secure attachment style by working through some of the wounds that may have led to the formation of that style, examining our beliefs about relationships, and learning how to identify and express our needs. If you would like to speak to a counselor regarding your attachment style, give us a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.