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A Brief Overview of Attachment Style

You may have heard the term “Attachment Style” in therapy, or in pop culture, and wondered what it meant and why it’s important to you. It sounds like something babies and children have, but as an adult, aren’t we all just looking for relationships and trying to find people we get along with?

But try this on for size—ever been in a conversation with someone who tells you their whole life story within 5 minutes of meeting them, and you think to yourself, “Wow, this person has no filter!”. Or, ever try and make small talk with a new coworker of yours, and he dashes away as soon as the conversation gets serious? Or, are you trying to date and keep attracting the “bad boy/girl”, or a partner that you need to fix? Maybe we should take a look at attachment styles in adulthood after all. Attachment style is formed from childhood, and as adults, we subconsciously try to recreate those relationships from childhood because they feel comfortable and familiar to us.

The Basics:

There are 4 main attachment styles: Secure Attachment, Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment, Dismissive Avoidant Attachment and Fearful Avoidant Attachment.

Let’s break them down.

Secure: self-confident, ability to feel connected to partner and self, trusting, openly expressing love, and comfortable with their own independence as well as their partner’s. Ability to ask for help/support, as well as help/support their partner when needed.

Anxious-Preoccupied: often seek a partner to complete/rescue them. Seek security through a partner, often perceived as clingy, which can push people away. Independence from partner triggers fear that their partner will leave. Can “act out” to gain partner’s attention. Can go too fast in emotional connection, which can push people away.

Dismissive-Avoidant: emotionally distance themselves from their partner. Can easily detach from feelings and loved ones. Seek isolation, and if there appears to be a threat that their partner might leave them, the reaction is not caring. Extremely self-reliant and downplays the importance of relationships.

Fearful-Avoidant: fear of being too close or too distant from others. Difficulty experiencing intimacy/romantic love, while also fearing abandonment. This can look like “wanting what you can’t have”. Ex: pursuing a partner who is emotionally distant, but when that partner starts showing emotional intensity, this person now pulls away. Often emotional avoidance, which leads to emotional flooding. Can be seen as unpredictable and ambivalent.

So, what do you do once you’ve begun to identify your own attachment style? If you feel helpless, you’re not alone. But, we can take steps to move toward a Secure attachment style with the help of a counselor, self- reflection, and perseverance.

The Call to Action:

1. Identify your Attachment Style, and begin to do your own research to recognize what this style looks like in your everyday relationships. This insight is a catalyze for understanding and change.

2. Seek out people and relationships who have a Secure attachment style. Modeling your own behavior, while also observing Secure attachment at work, can be very beneficial to understanding the nuances in relationships.

3. Try things that take your out of your comfort zone. If you have an anxious-preoccupied style, the idea of giving your partner space is probably a bit uncomfortable. But with this insight, we know people, ourselves included, need independence. Lean into this uncomfortable feeling, and take a risk. Remember to do so in moderation, slowly, and with intention.

4. Watch your self-talk. Is your Inner Critic loud and out of control? How are you talking to yourself about relationships?

5. Take care of your body and mind and soul. Fuel yourself to go on this journey. This is a tough adventure, but it IS an adventure. Get yourself ready, and show yourself the love and respect you deserve. This journey is lifelong. And that’s okay. Good things don’t always come easy. And trust me, this adventure is worth it. If you would like to process attachment styles in more depth, feel free to reach out to me by phone or email.

And remember…

You Got This.

Samantha Hoover, MS, LPC

Thorn & Rose Counseling, PLLC

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