The way we relate to others has roots in our childhood, when our attachment styles are formed based on how our needs are met – or not met – by our primary caregivers. If you notice the same patterns playing out in your significant relationships, it may have something to do with your attachment style. Attachment theory was pioneered by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the 1950s. Their focus was on children and their caregivers, but research has expanded to explore adult attachment.
Your attachment style impacts the way you feel about emotional intimacy, how you communicate about your needs and feelings, how you handle conflict in relationships, how well you listen to and process the feelings of others, and your expectations of your relationships. Depending on your attachment style, you may find yourself continuing to act out destructive behavior patterns unless you take time to develop insight and create change.
Explore your attachment style through Online Counseling in New Jersey
I now also offer Online Counseling in Pennsylvania, contact me to learn more.
What are the different attachment styles?
There are four attachment styles: secure, avoidant, ambivalent/anxious, and disorganized. Below I will explore in more detail what each style looks like.
1. Secure Attachment Style. When someone is securely attached, they feel comfortable in their intimate relationships. This attachment style develops when a person has a consistent and attentive caregiver during infancy and childhood. A stable caregiver functions as a secure base for a child to experience the world. Securely attached adults are able to trust others, express their needs, and feel confident in their relationships.
2. Avoidant Attachment Style. If a child has an unavailable caregiver, someone who isn’t attentive or sensitive to their needs, they may develop an avoidant attachment style. This often results in someone who is distant in relationships and prefers independence at the expense of emotional intimacy. They may have a hard time depending on others or allowing others to depend on them.
3. Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment Style. When a caregiver is inconsistent with their child, this can create feelings of insecurity and confusion. As an adult, they feel insecure in their close relationships and may seek frequent reassurance. Their intense pursuit of closeness may end up pushing others away. Ambivalent/anxiously attached people may have unpredictable moods, be highly emotional, overly sensitive, and needy.
4. Disorganized Attachment Style. This attachment style develops when a child has an abusive caregiver, causing the child to deal with the conflicting the desire to seek safety but not being able to since their caregiver, who should represent safety to the child, is not safe. This can result in the child disassociating and blocking what is happening to them. An adult with a disorganized attachment style may experience depression, PTSD, antisocial behavior, have difficulty with emotional closeness, be unable to regulate their own emotions, and may perpetuate dysfunctional relationship patterns.
Moving toward secure attachment
Your past doesn’t have to determine your future. You can move toward a more secure attachment style by working to understand how your life experiences may be impacting your mental health and relationships. Therapy can provide a safe space to make sense of your attachment style and create change to help you improve your overall well-being.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.
Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash