Attachment theory is a psychological model that was developed in the late 1950s by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. It’s been widely used to study child development, but only recently has it begun to be applied to adult relationships. “About time”, I hear you say. Yes!!
The idea of attachment theory is simple enough – all mammals form bonds with close caregivers during infancy and childhood. And these early relationships have long-term effects on personality, mental health, social skills, and romantic partnerships later in life.
We do, though, need to be careful applying attachment theory to adult relationships in too much of a hurry. It can be tricky. Mostly because there are so many variables involved (e.g., how an individual’s past experiences influence their current behaviour).
So – we need to start somewhere, and this is a great place to start to get the basics.
We’ll explore some common misconceptions about attachment styles as well as offer a teeny bit of advice for improving your relationships based on the four major types of attachment style. If you can, grab a copy of the book, “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You.” by Dr. Amir Levine & Rachel Heller.
What is an attachment style?
An attachment style is how an individual feels about the people they love.
People with a secure attachment style are confident and comfortable around their loved ones. While people who have insecure attachments may feel anxious or ashamed when interacting with loved ones. This is because of a fear that these relationships will be taken away from them at any moment.
Let’s check out the 4 attachment styles:
The Secure Attachment Style is the most common way of forming an emotional bond with others. People who have a Secure Attachment Style tend to feel comfortable needing their loved ones and trust them implicitly. This leads to healthy relationships where both parties can support each other’s needs. BOOM.
The best type of relationship is one that has a deep sense of security, understanding, and love for your partner. These types of bonds make us happier than any other kind because it means we’re not just relying solely on ourselves when times get tough – there will always be someone else in our corner rooting for us! Or as I say to my clients, “A soft place to fall.”
The Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment Style is characterized by a person experiencing anxiety, anger, and sadness when their partner isn’t or can’t be available to them.
The Anxious Ambivalent Attachment Style typically manifests as feelings of frustration or agitation with someone who’s left their orbit – even just for a little while. Going to work. Going out with friends. Going shopping.
The separation causes an emotional instability which can manifest in negative thoughts such as “Why did they have to go?” “Why did they leave me?”.
An Avoidant Attachment Style shows up when someone wants to keep their distance from other people to protect themselves.
An Avoidant Attachment Style means that the person wants as little contact with others as possible and feels uncomfortable around them, which can lead to feelings of insecurity or depression if they don’t have a large support network outside of family members.
The Disorganized Attachment Style is an insecure emotional state usually found in children who’ve been raised by erratic or neglectful caregivers, can lead to development problems both as adults and when they become parents themselves.
Disorganised Attachment Style is a form of insecure attachment. Children with this type are really unlikely to develop healthy interpersonal relationships and may never learn skills to help them cope in difficult situations.
Common misconceptions about attachment styles.
Attachment styles are often misunderstood because they do not always manifest themselves in the same way.
An individual’s attachment style can change over time. But, there is a particular type of attachment that will generally remain constant throughout their life – secure attachments.
A person with an insecure or ambivalent-resistant pattern may have a sense of tension around intimacy and closeness. Even when it feels good to be close. So, you should take care before assuming your loved one just needs more affection from you. If this is what might be going on for them, more attention might not be better.
On the other hand, someone who has experienced consistent responsiveness through early childhood development may grow up feeling safe enough to go after opportunities without fear. This should allow them to function as an adult, securely attached while avoiding any prolonged clinging.
Why it’s important to know your own attachment style:
Your attachment style can help you understand your relationships with others, and how to cope in interpersonal situations.
Your attachment style tells a lot about who you are as an individual. It gives insight into the type of people that make up your inner circle. It helps you discover whether or not being alone is comfortable for you and what sorts of social activities bring you joy.
If you know your attachment style, it can help you to understand the way that relationships work for you.
It’s important to be aware of your attachment style because this knowledge will allow all of us a better understanding of how we form close bonds with others and what types of relationships are best suited for our needs.
• Knowing your attachment style can help you find kindness and compassion in relationships
• It’s important to learn how past experiences shape the way we interact with others
• You’ll be more able to see when people are genuinely trying to connect with you
• It will help you create a healthier relationship
• You’ll know what your needs are in a romantic relationship
• Your relationships will change with your knowledge of attachment style
• It’s not about carrying the right gene; it’s about how you behave and how you react to people.
• There is always room for personal growth.
• It gives you insight on how to improve relationships
• It helps you understand your own needs better
• It ultimately helps you find relationship security.
That’ll do for now.
Again – I’d highly recommend the book “Attached” if you want to explore this fascinating subject further.
I’ll add some much more detailed articles on the attachment styles just in case you can’t get hold of the book.
In the meantime.