What are attachment styles and how do they influence our life?
John Bowlby (1950) identified four attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and disorganised-fearful-avoidant. An individual’s childhood experience of attachment (especially with their caregivers) defines how they behave in their relationships as an adult. People who fall under insecure attachment styles (anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and disorganized-fearful avoidant) might have to put additional effort into resolving attachment disturbances to develop a secure attachment style.
Why is it important to form attachments?
Bowlby (1960) believed that everyone is born with a need to form attachments as a way of survival: infants need to have one close bond for the first two years of their life. If in any case, a child does not have a stable support person, they might become depressed, heightened aggression and difficulty showing affection as a child and later in life. Following Bowlby’s attachment theory, psychologists conducted extensive research and found out that the key in developing attachment is not feeding or changing a child but communication and playing with them.
People seek relationships, to receive support and comfort. Social psychologist Roy Baumeister, in one of the articles mentions that the ‘need to belong’ is the main force that drives individuals.
Have you ever questioned your behaviour in relationships?
Did you notice negative repeating patterns?
Do you feel insecure in your relationships?
Do you invest too much or too little?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then keep reading. Maybe your attachment style is the culprit causing you difficulties in building meaningful relationships.
What are adult attachment Styles?
- Secure attachment style:
When a child’s needs are met, they develop a secure attachment style. The caregiver responds to the Childs need in a timely manner. The child feels secure and explores the environment and trusts the caregiver to be there. This leads to the development of a secure adult attachment. Adults feel confident in relationships and willing to ask for help. They are supporting and comforting in relationships. They remain independent but are available emotionally and physically for their partners.
- Anxious-preoccupied attachment style:
The child does not believe that the caregiver is reliable. The needs are not met, and their behaviour is inconsistent. The child becomes insecure and anxious. This leads to the development of anxious-preoccupied adult attachment. The adult fears rejection and he is clingy and demanding. The relationships are driven by emotional hunger rather than real love and support.
- Dismissive-avoidant attachment styles:
if the caregiver is unresponsive and distant the child may also become emotionally distant. The child subconsciously believes that their needs will not be met. This leads to the development of a dismissive-avoidant adult attachment style. The adult seems focused and independent, however it may be an illusion, as a result of denying the importance of love and support. If their partners threaten to leave them, they do not seem to care.
Do you know your attachment style?
Take this quiz available on the “Attachment Project” website to find out. However, it should be taken into account that a person does not 100% fit into one attachment style. They may have characteristics from all four, but one being more prominent. Identifying unhelpful childhood beliefs that you carried with yourself to adulthood is the key in understanding the influence of attachment.
Now that you have understood the four attachment styles, you may have a slight idea which attachment style you lean towards? If you fall under one of the insecure attachment styles, don’t worry! An insecurely attached individual can form a strong, meaningful relationship with a securely attached adult. Contrary, a securely attached person can fall into insecure attachment behaviour after experiencing trauma.
Are you worried? There are a few things that you can engage in:
- Psychoeducation: Do your research on attachment styles and how it may be influencing your behaviour. Understand and be aware of your negative repeating patterns.
- Professional help: Counselling might help you to identify some of the causes and make a plan to change negative behaviour and thinking patterns into positive and helpful behaviour.
- Visual imagery: Be aware of your behaviour and when you suspect that you are falling in a negative pattern, think of a big red stop sign (or any other image that may help you to relax and step back!). eventually you will be able to change patterns.