Have you heard of the term ‘attachment styles’ in the context of intimate relationships? The Attachment Theory was formulated by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, John Bowlby. Based on his theory, there are four adult attachment styles that are formed when we are young. These attachment styles are commonly known as Anxious, Avoidant-Dismissive, Fearful-Avoidant and Secure.
Let’s break these down:
People with an anxious (sometimes called “preoccupied’) attachment style often struggle with self-doubt, codependency and a persistent need for reassurance. They may have underlying fears of abandonment and constantly seek validation, attention and reassurance from their partner. This may come across like clinginess, possessiveness, and emotional volatility. These people are hypersensitive to everything their partner does, and over analyse their partners words and actions in fear of rejection, leading to their anxiety heightening. People with anxious attachment sometimes overwhelm their partners or love interests.
People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style have learned to suppress their emotions and maintain emotional distance as a coping mechanism. They can be very self reliant, independent and sometimes self isolating. Dismissive-avoidant partners tend to value autonomy and self-sufficiency over emotional intimacy, though this is usually self protection. They may struggle with expressing their own emotions and may also dismiss the emotional needs of their partners.
The fearful-avoidant attachment style (also known as “disorganised attachment”), is characterised by an internal conflict between the desire for connection and a fear of rejection. These people may have patterns of pushing their partners away while simultaneously yearning for closeness. Fearful-avoidant people often struggle with self-esteem and may show intense emotional highs and lows, making it hard to establish and maintain stable and secure relationships.
The secure attachment style is what we are all aiming for when it comes to healthy, intimate relationships. People with this attachment style tend to have a positive view of themselves and others. They have a solid level of self worth and understand healthy boundaries. They are able to trust others and can feel secure in their intimate relationships. Securely attached people are emotionally available, have effective communication skills and a willingness to be vulnerable. Relationships with secure attachments are harmonious, supportive and deeply emotionally intimate.
After reading the attachment styles, I’m sure you were able to find yourself in one of these four styles. When working with clients who are experiencing issues in their relationships, I will always get curious around their childhood and relationships with their parents. John Bowlby’s research shows these connections/attachments begin as early as infancy. Our connections to our parents are the first attachments and relationships we know. When we want to create healing and harmony within our intimate relationships, it’s always a good idea to heal the inner child wounds we have towards our parents. Here are some examples below of childhood experiences that may create tricky attachment styles:
Jane’s anxious attachment style can be traced back to her unpredictable childhood. One of her parents was in and out of her life and she moved around a lot. The inconsistency and unpredictability in her home life and routines left Jane’s nervous system constantly in flight/fawn/freeze mode.
Matthew’s dismissive-avoidant attachment style began when he learned to suppress his emotions. His solo caregiver was an addict. When he would show big emotions or display “difficult” behaviour, this parent could not cope, and would abuse substances. The unavailability of this parent led Matthew to learn to rely on himself.
Sarah’s fearful-avoidant attachment style began with one of her parents’ mental health struggles. This parent would have extreme mood swings, one day be able to cope, and then not cope the next. The inconsistency in the love and connection Sarah received led to confusion around her worth, her place, and led her to question if it was her “fault” that one day she was loved and the next she wasn’t.
Now there are many many different scenarios that could lead to an individual to take upon a particular attachment style. You may have two caregivers in your life who give you very different connections. In your emotional wellness session, we are looking to clear the pain, isolation, disconnection or trauma that you may have experienced from your childhood. With this old pain cleared, you are able to begin the path of reparenting yourself. When healing our inner child we are able to find a deep worth of self, clearly communicate our feelings and boundaries, and cultivate strong self respect. All of this inner healing creates beautiful ground for a solid relationship to build upon.
If you are looking to heal your relationship issues and work with your inner child, get in touch with the reception team to find the right emotional wellness practitioner for you.