Do you ever wonder how your attachment style was formed? If so, I’m here to give you some deeper insights!
Attachment styles come from the “Attachment Theory”, which is a psychological and evolutionary approach formulated by psychologist John Bowlby in 1969 to explain relationships and bonds between people. By closely studying the interactions between young children and their primary caregivers, Bowlby noted distinct behaviors that each child exhibited depending on the attachment to their parent, those 4 Attachment Styles being Anxious, Fearful Avoidant, Dismissive Avoidant and Secure Attachment. These specific attachment styles get passed down to us from our primary caregivers and become our personal ways of experiencing love.
It’s important to note that all of us humans are wired for attachment, it’s a part of our physiological make-up. And depending on your specific attachment style, it can highly impact your feelings of insecurity, anxiety, fear, avoidance, and satisfaction in your closest relationships and on life in general. But not to worry! Just as you’ve learned these ways of experiencing love, you can learn healthier ways of relating, however it’s vital to know the root cause to your experienced difficulties so you can change them.
The 4 Attachment Styles we’ll be diving into are Anxious Attachment, Fearful Avoidant (Anxious-Avoidant), Dismissive Avoidant and Secure Attachment.
Anxious Attached individuals had 1 or 2 caregivers that met their emotional, mental and physical needs, however it was inconsistent or too over bearing.
- Sometimes your parent(s) were very attentive, loving and supportive and other times they weren’t (i.e. distracted by work, personal life, health, other children, etc.)
- One parent is more emotionally available and the other is cold or absent.
- Parent(s) are too over protective/over-bearing and do not give you room to explore your own individuality, limits or ways of meeting your own needs. This can cause you to become overly dependent or in some cases, wanting distance.
In adulthood, these individuals react and behave from a deep rooted fear of abandonment. This subconscious belief leads people with anxious attachment to constantly strive to people please or over compensate for their perceived “deficits” in order to keep others around and satisfy their unmet childhood needs. They tend to be overly dependent, needy and clingy which can negatively impact their relationships to family, friends and partners.
Dismissive Avoidant individuals had 1 or 2 caregivers that didn’t meet their emotional, mental and/or physical needs. Therefore they equate uncomfortable emotions with pain and will avoid it at all costs, not because they’re heartless, but because they never learned to properly relate to or process their feelings.
- You didn’t feel seen or heard as a child.
- Your emotional needs were rarely, if ever met. Perhaps your parent(s) were physically present but emotionally distant or unavailable. (i.e. overly consumed in work or in their personal lives/problems and didn’t spend that quality time with you).
- You were taught that emotions are bad or weak and to “toughen up” or “suck it up”.
- You were given too much independence/freedom. Which explains your natural need for space in relationships as an adult.
In adulthood, these conditioned responses get translated into pushing people away that they care about, avoiding commitment, avoiding conversations that involve talking about feelings, not being able to handle criticism, needing a lot of space/freedom and being too cold or distant. These behaviors can be really hurtful to friends, family and partners.
Fearful Avoidant (aka, Anxious-Avoidant or Disorganized) Attachment comes from an emotionally unstable, sometimes turbulent household.
- You received love as a child, but it was very inconsistent and/or unstable. Perhaps parent(s) were addicts, had mental disorders or were emotionally/mentally/or physically abusive. You therefore internalized these experiences as “I can’t trust anyone”, “People will betray me”, “I’m the problem”, “Love is painful”.
- Love was given on a conditional basis. So rather than having your needs acknowledged or met, you felt more obligated to meet your caregivers needs (i.e get good grades, clean the house, take care of the siblings, be mom or dad’s support system or punching bag)—You therefore internalized these experiences as “My needs are unimportant”, “I am unworthy”, “I’m not good enough”, “I have to be something other than myself to receive the love I want”, “Love is difficult”, “Love takes hard work”.
In adulthood, these conditioned responses get translated into never wanting to be too far or too close with people you care about, hypervigilance (aka being uber aware of people’s expressions, tonality, behaviors) in order to protect yourself from potential threat, highly suspicious of people, tendency of assuming rather than communicating, fear of vulnerability/being truly seen, defensive and overly protective of your independence, explosive and sometimes abusive.
Secure Attached individuals had parent(s) who met their emotional, mental and physical needs.
- Parental figures gave you consistent attention, care, love & support, so you were able to naturally connect with others in a healthy and balanced way.
- You felt heard and seen by your caregiver(s), therefore you feel worthy and confident in who you are now as an adult.
- Parents taught you communication skills, self-soothing skills and how to meet your own needs.
- Parents gave you autonomy to explore your own individuality, so therefore you developed positive self-esteem and independence.
In adulthood, you view relationships in a positive light and are able to maintain them in a healthy way. You know your boundaries and are able to communicate them. You can self-soothe and meet your own needs and therefore able to support your partners emotional, physical and/or mental needs as well. As a secure attached individual, you are also able to help your insecure partner become more secure.
It’s important to note that our Attachment Style can change throughout our life due to people we date, significant life events, traumas and healings we experience. So even though you may have an insecure attachment style now, you can learn to become more secure by implementing new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
To learn how 1:1 coaching can help become more secure, book a free Clarity Call with me HERE.