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October 18, 2022

Attachment Styles - What are they?

We begin to understand attachment styles when we know a little about Attachment Theory…

The psychological theory of attachment

Psychoanalyst John Bowlby was the first to research and described the effects of separation between infants and their parents. He went on to develop the theory of attachment further with Mary Ainsworth, a developmental psychologist.

Parents / guardians significantly influence our attachment styles

Fundamentally, attachment style is shaped and developed in early childhood and in response to our relationships with our earliest caregivers. Beliefs around our own self-worth and how much we can depend on others to meet our needs are formed in these early years.

Essentially, our adult attachment style is thought to mirror the dynamics we had with our caregivers as infants and children. Bowlby believed that - particularly during times of stress - how we’re treated by significant others shapes the expectations, attitudes, and beliefs we have about future partners and relationships

What is an attachment style?

An attachment style is a specific way of relating to others in relationships. It involves how we respond emotionally, our behaviours and interactions.

There are four main attachment styles:

  • Secure
  • Anxious (labelled as preoccupied in adults)
  • Avoidant (labelled as dismissive in adults)
  • Disordered (labelled as fearful in adults)

Adults tend to display one of these predominantly, but can show different attachment styles with friends than with colleagues or with colleagues than in a romantic relationship

People do not fit into boxes, but this theory like so many is a uselful way of identifying and categorising behaviours

Attachment styles are not fixed in stone and do change during the course of a lifetime, sometimes due to life experiences, the people we meet, the partner(s) we have

If you want to be proactive in changing your style you can do it with

  • therapy
  • personal development
  • building and strenthening your self esteem
  • expressing your emotions healthily
  • removing yourself from toxic and negative relationships
  • surrounding yourself with people who rate you

Earned secure attachment

This can be seen in those who have experienced dysfunctional parenting and gone on to develop secure relationships patterns. It really does what it says on the tin, through self-awareness and healing we can (L)earn security for ourselves.

If you want to learn more about attachment theory and how it plays out in your relaionships there is a very good book called Attached by Amir Levine M.D, and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A.

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Please note I am not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose physical or mental health conditions. Neither can I prescribe or advise on medication.
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