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Have you ever wondered why some of us are clingy in our relationships while some others are completely detached? It has to do with our attachment style. Attachment styles are our specific ways of interacting and behaving with others and are formed during our early childhood. The interactions we have with our parents and key people in our life plays a crucial role in the kind of attachment style we develop. This psychological connectedness with others is necessary for a healthy social life, emotional stability as well as helps forge strong and healthy relationships. It helps to understand the kind of attachment we have and if required, work towards changing it to a healthy and productive style.
Types of attachment styles
The patterns of interaction with the key people in our infancy and childhood determine our attachments in later relationships. If as a child, we had safe, comforting, and trusting relationships with caregivers, then as an adult we will be confident, trusting, and find it easier to handle conflicts in adult relationships. On the other hand, if we had experienced confusing, inconsistent, or frightening emotional connections in our childhood, then during adulthood we are bound to have emotional instability, self-destructive behavior, and trust issues which may severely affect our key relationships. To understand our attachment styles better, here are the different types and their characteristics:
1. Secure attachment style: People with this attachment style are empathetic, trusting, and aware of boundaries in a relationship. They are capable of forming stable relationships wherein they understand their self-worth and know how to clearly express their needs and feelings. They seek social support and at the same time are comfortable being by themselves too. They readily adapt to changes in life and are often resilient during setbacks. They are optimistic, believe in themselves to overcome difficulties, and are emotionally balanced.
2. Insecure attachment style: People with this style often have both relationship and emotional issues. This can take on the following forms of attachments:
3. Anxious attachment style: People with this style are often anxious and clingy in relationships. They crave closeness yet do not trust people and often worry about not being loved. There is a constant need for attention and validation from others. Most often they emotionally overinvest in relationships to the point that the person takes over their life and all their focus. When relationships end, they easily break down.
4. Avoidant attachment style: People with this style are wary of forming close adult romantic relationships. They avoid emotional closeness, are content with themselves, and are detached. They often disregard others’ feelings, are uncomfortable with emotions, and are often intolerant. They prefer casual relationships over long-term ones and prefer partners who are similar to them with regard to maintaining an emotional distance.
5. Disorganized or fearful-avoidant attachment style: This kind of style is often a result of childhood trauma caused by abuse or neglect. People tend to fear emotional closeness, often find relationships confusing, and are insensitive towards others. They tend to have a love-hate relationship with their partner and their extreme mood swings make them unpredictable. Though they may crave stable relationships, their fear of getting hurt makes them terrified of trusting or getting close to their partner. They are also prone to get addicted to alcohol or drugs to manage their emotions.
Causes of developing an Insecure attachment style
Insecure attachment often creates instability in relationships and negative emotions. The following are the factors contributing to the development of insecure attachments in our later years:
· Traumatic situations in childhood like sexual abuse, separation, serious illness, death, or accident of primary caregiver.
· Inconsistent parenting, where parents act as figures of comfort as well as induce fear thus creating confusion in the child.
· Emotional neglect and mistreatment by parents where the needs of the child were ignored.
· Mental health issues in caregivers like depression, addictions, psychosis, etc.
How to develop a secure attachment style!
To heal our pattern of insecure attachments in relationships, it helps to work on these lines:
1. Build self-awareness: Identify the attachment style present in us. For this, we need to look at how we relate to people, how they affect us, our thoughts about the behaviors and actions of others. Understand why it has developed, connect it with childhood memories and its impact on our present relationships.
2. Look for healthy and supportive relationships: Seek out emotionally stable people. A positive experience with these people will make us feel safe to work on and resolve our issues. It is necessary to improve trust and communication in relationships and for our partners to also be respectful and mindful of our feelings.
3. Develop healthy coping strategies: It helps to channelize unhelpful emotions through healthy pursuits like exercise, creativity, hobbies, writing, etc. Regulating our own emotions would help us behave rationally in relationships.
4. Come to terms: It is important to address our difficult memories and identify the impact it has had on current decisions and thoughts. Only then will we be able to reconcile ourselves and find ways to prevent it from controlling our insecurities in the present. Our emotions and behaviors in the present are in our control, hence we need to accept this reality and work on changing our behaviors which are maintaining the negative patterns. Usually, this process can be quickened by talking to a counselor or a psychotherapist who would help us join the dots and make us aware of the connections between our emotional patterns and unhealthy behaviors.
5. Journaling: Writing down our story and painful experiences often bring about a shift within us where we can identify patterns in our behaviors and emotions. Expressive writing has been proven to be therapeutic and often brings about positive changes in us.
6. Reach out to a therapist: Psychotherapy helps people understand the underlying factors contributing to an insecure style of attachment as well as be mindful of the role played by our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists can help one develop a secure attachment style by being non-judgmental and help us develop a positive view of self and future. They also teach emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills which are necessary for relationship stability.
If you or someone you know are experiencing difficulties in relationships and are struggling with anxiety, commitment, intimacy, and trust issues, reach out to us at Cadabams. We have a team of psychotherapists who can assist those who are willing to let go of their insecurities and move on to secure and stable relationships.
Can attachment styles change?
YES! Despite our childhood playing an important role in the way we emotionally connect to others, change is possible. We can work on challenging and letting go of our insecurities to build stronger and stable connections with others. This requires a conscious effort and a willingness to introspect on our part to understand the role of past experiences as well as ourselves in causing issues in the present.
How to tell if someone has a secure attachment style?
This attachment type is characterized by empathy, trust, and awareness of relationship limits. They are capable of building solid relationships in which they are aware of their own worth and are able to express their wants and feelings clearly. They seek out social support while yet being at ease in their own company. They are quick to adjust to changes in their lives and are often resilient in the face of adversity. They are upbeat, confident in their ability to conquer obstacles, and emotionally balanced.