Defining Attachment Styles

      Our caregivers are the first people to help in developing us mentally and emotionally. They are the first relationship we experience and many of us aren’t aware, but they also play a major role in our lives that shape the future relationships we have with ourselves and others. We develop “attachment styles” with caregivers when we are younger, and it remains constant. There are 3 major attachment styles that I will be discussing in this blog and continued series: anxious, avoidant, and secure.  

Anxious Attachment Style  

People who have anxious attachment have a difficult time feeling secure in relationships. They seek close relationships but are unsure if others want the same, emotionally. Anxiously attached people have constant worries which can result in them being unhappy with themselves and others.  

Romantically, someone who has this attachment style place a lot of high expectations on their partner and relationship. They become so tied up into the relationship for the hopes that it will define and complete them; they also tend to become codependent because of that reason. An anxiously attached person also is, of course, anxious throughout the relationship. For example: If an anxious person sees that their partner is pushing away, instead of giving their partner proper space it can make them clingy, obsessive and possessive. Their fear of abandonment runs at an all-time high and causes them to be overwhelmed by their thoughts of being too much or not being good enough for someone. The anxiously attached might also sabotage their relationships in attempts to prove their overwhelming thoughts correct and will play games such as acting out, ignoring their partner, constantly arguing and threatening to break up or leave their partner. 

A person with an anxious attachment style also needs constant reassurance and affection from their partner. It can also be hard for them to be alone or single. 

Where does this attachment come from? 

This attachment style usually develops when caregivers have inconsistent parenting. The caregivers might be loving and nurturing at times but are insensitive and emotionally unavailable at other times. This makes the child confused, anxious, and insecure. For their needs to be met, the child might act out and become clingy towards their parent.  

Avoidant Attachment 

This attachment style is separated into two categories: dismissive and fearful.  

Dismissive Avoidant

A person who is dismissive-avoidant seeks out different relationships but avoids being too emotionally close to people. This causes them to distance themselves from others. 

Romantically, a person who has an avoidant attachment style avoids intimacy and vulnerability towards their partner. They still enjoy time with their partner but can become uncomfortable if their partner expresses a desire to be emotionally close. These individuals like to remain independent and not feel like they are being controlled. They have a need for feeling free emotionally and physically and will also push away those who get too close.  Many people who have dismissive-avoidant, have a difficult time at commitment and intimate relationships. They only have a few people they are close to and can easily dismiss the feelings of their loved ones. For example: If a dismissive person gets into an argument with someone, they are good at shutting down their emotions and response may fall along the lines of, “I don’t care”. 

Where does this attachment come from? 

Caregivers who are emotionally unavailable most of the time can develop a child who is dismissive-avoidant. They become overwhelmed with their child’s emotional needs for connection and will close themselves off, emotionally. These caregivers can also be neglectful. They discourage emotion as well as emotional expressions such as crying and might tell the child to stop or to grow tougher skin. This teaches the child to minimize the importance of emotions.

Fearful Avoidant  

People who have a fearful-avoidant attachment, desire connections, and close relationships, but have a difficult time trusting others. They suffer from abandonment issues and much inner conflict not knowing if they should get close to others or push them away.  

Romantically, fearful avoidants have a negative view of themselves and others. These individuals may feel that they are unworthy or undeserving of love and will also feel that others do not deserve their love over the fear of being hurt. This is one of the most difficult attachment styles because although fearful avoidants still seek close relationships if there is too much close involvement these individuals might withdraw from the relationship entirely.  

     Fearful avoidants are similar to the dismissive attachment style since they avoid attachments. They also resemble the anxious attachment style because once involved in a romantic relationship they are highly anxious through it and can have rocky emotions. People with fearful attachment might find themselves insecure and being more involved in the relationships than their partner is. They become dependent on their partner for validation and a positive view of self. A person that has a fearful-avoidant attachment style usually, fearfully and emotionally avoids intimate relationships with others.  

Where does this attachment style come from? 

Fearful avoidant can develop when the caregiver responds to their child’s needs in a threatening way or was unable to care and comfort the child. This causes the child to seek comfort elsewhere; knowing they cannot trust their caregiver to do so.  

In adulthood, this turns into wanting close relationships, but also fearing them as well and wanting to escape it.  

Secure Attachment styles  

Secure attachment is the ideal attachment style. According to research, 50% of the population have secure attachment styles. These individuals are comfortable themselves. They have no problem showing interest and displaying affection towards others. They can prioritize their different relationships and aren’t afraid to set boundaries and stick to them. They also make good romantic partners. They are confident in themselves and are able to take rejection and move past it. They don’t have much issue with trusting others and they are very trustworthy themselves. 

Where does this attachment style come from? 

Caregivers who are responsive to their child’s needs and create a safe haven usually develop a child who has a secure attachment style. The child values their caregiver’s presence and is not afraid when separated from them and has a positive attitude when they return. These caregivers are openly affectionate and can comfort the child in times of need.  

It’s important to know of our attachments styles; although they do not define who we are, they do define certain patterns we repeat in our lives that could be helping us strive or possibly damaging us.

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