What Does Your Attachment Style Say About You?
“Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space”
Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969.
There are 4 main types of attachment styles studied by psychologists; these describe the ways through which we tend to relate to one another...
Understanding the choices we make in our relationships reveals to us why we experience certain patterns in our social lives.
This ranges from depth of emotional intimacy and closeness; ability to effectively communicate emotional needs and listen to the needs of others; how we respond to conflict and set boundaries and our expectations of the relationships we form a part of.
These patterns are established in our childhoods, mainly developing up to the age of 5, and govern many of our reactions and problem-solving techniques in adult life.
We can learn a lot about our failed relationships through understanding our attachment style: how we attach meaning to people, our needs and our idea of ‘love’ are the best indicators for the type of self-work that we need to focus on.
Attachment styles and patterns are layered by three primary factors that include: the extent to which we feel comfortable with emotional closeness and intimacy, depending on others and having others depend on us and concern or worry associated with abandonment and rejection.
Before identifying your own attachment style, let’s start to get to know what the four patterns are…
A secure attachment style is the healthiest way to exercise emotional maturity in our personal relationships. This is due to avoidance and anxiety being low because we are just comfortable with intimacy. There is little worry or concern about rejection or preoccupation with the relationship.
A secure person is trusting, forgiving and empathic. They grapple with differences well through the balance of responding to the needs of others without sacrificing their own. They are emotionally mature; they do not engage in emotional outbursts or avoid confrontational conflicts and issues.
“I am able to achieve closeness with others with ease, I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I am not worried about being abandoned or having someone get too close to me”.
Anxious – Preoccupied
This pattern is low on avoidance but high on anxiety due to a deep desire for closeness and intimacy. This style tends to exacerbate insecurities in relationships through clingy tendencies.
This person tends to be needy, requiring consistent reassurance, overly-sensitive and highly emotionally reactive.
This means that they can be argumentative and controlling because of their own undefined personal boundaries - so they tend to overstep others'. Poor communication skills mean that they lack self-awareness and refuse to take accountability by projecting and blaming others. Their unpredictable mood swings create inconsistencies, their relationships tend to be very ‘hot-and-cold’ and ‘up-and-down’.
“I feel the need to be extremely close to those that matter to me, although I am usually met with reluctance in return. I often worry about if I am truly loved or valued. I am scared people will abandon me; I tend to scare people away with my excessive need for closeness.”
Dismissive – Avoidant
This style is uncomfortable with closeness and values their independence and freedom greatly, usually at the cost of emotional intimacy in their relationships. By rejecting closeness and intimacy in a relationship, this person can be emotionally distant.
They shut down to the needs and feelings of others and equate intimacy with compromising their independence. They prefer autonomy and intellectual conversation over emotional conversation, which in turn narrows their emotional range through their compulsive need for self-reliance.
“I don’t particularly enjoy being too close to others. I find it hard to trust and depend on other people and prefer that they do not depend on me. My independence is very important to me, I value self-sufficiency more than I want intimacy.”
Fearful – Avoidant/Disorganised
This attachment style is deemed the unhealthiest of all. High on both avoidance and anxiety, this translates to uncomfortability with intimacy and concern for other’s true commitment and intentions.
This unresolved mindset is influenced by trauma and fear from past experiences. Intolerance for emotional closeness makes this person very argumentative, unpredictable, abusive and highly dysfunctional. Their triggers lead them to dissociate themselves from their trauma to avoid feeling pain fully.
This is usually displayed through anti-social behaviour, lack of empathy and remorse, narcissism, substance abuse or criminality.
“I do not like getting close to others and I struggle trusting and depending on other people. I worry a lot about being hurt if I get too close to people.”
Our attachment patterns are often taught from one generation to the next (the way children learn to connect to parents and caregivers)...
This is why our attachment history is vital in determining how we relate in our adult relationships, whether it is romantic, platonic or familial.
Once we learn to understand the how and whys, we can overcome our toxic traits by developing new styles of attachment to sustain healthier and more satisfying relationships.
Find out your attachment style through the following online tests: