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The 4 Attachment Styles: A Close Look

Know how is an attachment style formed and if it is possible to shift to a secure one.

In the previous article “The Behavior Exhibited Within a Relationship is a result of your Attachment Style,” we have explained how human beings are made for attachment since we are biologically prepared to connect with others. We also discovered the main characteristics of each attachment style and what to expect from it.

As we mentioned before, if a parent-child relationship breaks, is disturbed, or is even unhealthy, it might have a damaging impact on future relationships. Thus, these interactions cause people to acquire one of the four attachment styles.

We are going to kick off this article with the secure attachment style. Though movies and popular culture may dismiss secure attachment as “boring” or “ordinary,” it is the foundation of strong, healthy relationships. Each partner in the relationship feels safe, cared for, and understood when they have a secure attachment. Surprisingly, attachment style is not determined by perfect parenting or even a lack of parental skills. When a caregiver is able to make a child feel safe and protected through nonverbal communication, secure attachment develops automatically. Among the factors that prevent a secure attachment from establishing are:

  • Being mistreated or abused by a caregiver
  • Only getting attention when acting out or behaving badly
  • Having your needs met infrequently or inconsistently
  • When being separated from parents during childhood.

During childhood, children who are securely bonded to their caregivers:

  • They would rather be with their parents than with others/strangers.
  • Can be separated from their parents without growing distress.
  • When kids are afraid, they should seek comfort from their parents.
  • When their parents return, they are overjoyed.

Adults who were securely bonded to their caregivers as children are more likely to enjoy long-term relationships in which they trust their partners and have a high sense of self-esteem. These people are not only comfortable communicating their feelings, hopes, and dreams with their partners, but they are also capable of seeking help when necessary. Secure people can also help and console their relationships when they are in pain. Individuals who have a secure attachment style are excellent partners.

Following by the second style, the anxious-preoccupied attachment style. If you can’t identify with the first attachment style, you most likely formed an insecure attachment style as a youngster. About 15 to 20 percent of people have an anxious attachment style, and many of them seek counseling because they are having problems establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Anxious caregivers are frequently preoccupied or otherwise unable to address their children’s demands on a constant basis. People who create this sort of attachment were not abandoned as children, and their parents usually displayed some concern and care for them; however, their inner sense of security was not fully developed as youngsters. They couldn’t rely on their parent or another caregiver because of inconsistent caretaking. This contradiction causes emotional chaos within the worried youngster that lasts throughout adulthood.

People with an anxious attachment style, like those with a secure attachment style, seek affection and companionship, but they frequently sense a lack of self-worth. Their profound insecurities may drive them to seek attention. Though they are frequently lovely, amusing, and all-around nice individuals, their clinginess, neediness, jealousy, and tendency to nag push loved ones away.

An anxious attachment type has the following characteristics:

  • Continuous demand for reassurance and approval from partners.
  • A craving for continual touch, interaction, and attention from current or potential partners.
  • Extreme highs and lows in relationships.
  • Anxiety or fear when separated from a partner (even temporarily).
  • A tendency to manipulate their partners through blame, guilt, humiliation, and other means.
  • A tendency to put off obligations because of a preoccupation with relationships or personal problems.
  • When there is a perceived threat to the connection, there is a tendency to overreact. In some circumstances, these threats may be made-up.

If the characteristics listed above describe your tendencies, you are not alone. While an anxious attachment style might make it difficult to form and sustain strong long-term relationships, it’s vital to remember that attachment types are fluid and can be changed through awareness, self-acceptance, and hard effort.

Moving to the third style, the dismissive-avoidant attachment style is the opposite of the above-mentioned ‘anxious-preoccupied attachment’ style. Though they share one trait—they are both insecure—these attachment styles could not be more divergent. Individuals with a dismissive attachment style are emotionally distant and avoidant, and they do not want affection; in fact, they run from it.

Surprisingly, many anxious attachment styles are in relationships or marriages with dismissive-avoidant partners. The more the needy partner presses for love and approval, the more the dismissive partner withdraws. Disgusted by the lack of closeness, the non-avoidant partner may threaten to terminate the relationship, which has little influence on the dismissive spouse. People with a dismissive attachment style can withdraw themselves from people, shut down totally, and spend their lives inwardly, giving off false independence that suggests they do not require a connection. Obviously, this is incorrect.

You’ve undoubtedly seen a pattern by now. Avoidance of personal connections stems from childhood experiences in which a caregiver was unable or unwilling to parent in a way that would foster a secure attachment. In some cases, parents were physically present but were unable to address their children’s emotional needs for various reasons. The child learns to ignore and suppress their feelings in this scenario.

This dysfunctional attachment pattern persists into maturity, and the mature individual denies the need for love and connection. If a person has an avoidant attachment style, they will typically exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They are anxious with profound emotions and personal situations
  • They establish strict emotional and/or physical boundaries.
  • They may conceal information from their partners.
  • They send confusing signals and disrespect the feelings of your partners
  • They are noncommittal
  • They Idealize previous connections

Though avoidant people have a strong desire for personal relationships and intimacy, they are often unable to realize these needs owing to deep-seated psychological difficulties. People with an avoidant attachment style are more prone to engage in cheating and end up divorced. They must shift to a secure attachment style in order to develop and maintain successful relationships. This transition in attachment style, like any other, is possible if guided by a mental health professional who knows the attachment process. Because avoidant personalities find it difficult to share their feelings, going to therapy can be a daunting effort, yet it’s a vital and required step toward healthy attachment.

Coming to the last attachment style, the disorganized attachment style is caused not just by negligence or distraction, but also by great terror parents of children with a chaotic attachment style are often traumatized themselves. The parent is unable to securely attach themselves to the child due to unresolved trauma, pain, or loss. This sort of connection is seen in 80% of adults who were molested as children. Adults with this attachment style have never learned to self-soothe because their primary caregiver’s conduct was frequently unpredictable and fear-driven. Because their background has been defined by suffering and loss, they may become violent, perceive the world as unsafe, and struggle socially. This attachment style is characterized by the following characteristics:

  • When it comes to relationships, you have a hot/cold attitude.
  • Lack of regret and antisocial behaviour
  • A selfish, dominating, and lack of personal responsibility.
  • In adult relationships, they are repeating harmful habits from their childhood.

Don’t be disheartened if you believe you have a disorganized attachment style. Once again, information is essential. Education, willingness, and therapy can assist you in moving toward a stable attachment type, allowing you to form strong, healthy relationships.

Now the question that remains is, and you are probably asking yourself, is it possible to change your attachment style?

The answer is yes, a person can actually change their attachment style, however, this requires extra effort, patience, and strong intention if they are willing to shift from an insecure to a secure attachment style. A person can follow a few steps to ease this transition, starting with identification of their relationship patterns, thinking about their relationship with their parents as a child, working on their self-esteem by embracing themselves first, and of course seeking therapy, as therapists are able to help diving them into their attachment styles, wounds from the past, and establishing good boundaries in order to promote a healthy relationship.