In case you missed it, part 1 of my Attachment Styles series can be found here, which explains the basics of what Attachment Theory is, and the four Attachment Styles – make sure you check it out if you’re not already familiar with Attachment Theory and where you might currently sit!
If you’re here because you want a little more detail about how and why you think and behave the way you do (especially in relationships/romantic partnerships), let’s break it down a little further!
Secure Attachment Style
If you’ve got a secure attachment style, you’re naturally warm and loving, tend to be more assertive, are confident your needs will be met, and are happy to ask for help. With your generally positive view of yourself, you don’t experience much avoidance or anxiety in your relationships, feeling content with closeness but also enjoying independence.
What the secure attachment style looks like at:
Work/School – You may notice you are quite focused, a good communicator, and less likely to be involved in drama.
Relationships – You’re more likely confident enough to make the first move, don’t play games, and are respectful of boundaries. This attachment type tends to be more satisfied with relationships, feeling secure and connected, but not particularly clingy, as you’re less likely to fear rejection/abandonment. You value honesty, support, and deep emotional connections, but appreciate your independence at the same time.
Times of crisis – You don’t like conflict but are able to manage emotions, keep cool, and help smooth things over in stressful times. You don’t shy away from asking for help, or helping others when needed.
Early life – As an infant, it’s likely you showed distress upon separation from parents/caregivers, but sought comfort, and were easily comforted when your parents/caregivers returned. Your caregivers were most likely fast to respond to signs of distress, acting positively to your needs, and being emotionally available by engaging in warm and responsive interactions.
Sense of Self – You tend to see yourself as worthy of respect, see others as supportive and helpful, and are resilient, trusting, and great at seeing the perspective of others. As you have higher self-esteem in comparison to other attachment styles, you tend to accept criticism without taking it personally or becoming defensive. People who are more secure often report greater satisfaction within relationships compared to individuals with other attachment styles.
Anxious – Preoccupied/Ambivalent
If this if you, you’ll find yourself alternating between being super clingy (most of the time), but then switching to rejecting others before they can reject you. You probably have a negative view of yourself, but a positive view of others. This leads to doubt about your self-worth and blaming yourself for your partner’s lack of responsiveness. You probably feel insecure a lot, and have trouble navigating unknown situations.
What the Anxious attachment style looks like at:
Work/School – You may appear stressed/pre-occupied/anxious to others. You’ll find yourself needing more reassurance than others that you’re doing well or making the right decisions and seeking feedback regularly.
Relationships – You may be labelled as “sensitive” or anxious, particularly around fears of rejection. You notice yourself acting clingy, but also capable of rejecting a potential partner before they can reject you. You might even come across as desperate for love or affection, and seek support from your partner to “complete” you and fix your problems. Ultimately, you long for security and crave closeness, but may sometimes display behaviours that push your partner away, such as not respecting your partners independence/ boundaries, taking others’ behaviours personally, requiring constant reassurance, and/or being demanding, jealous, or easily upset. One trait you may have noticed in yourself is that you sometimes give up your own needs to accommodate/please your partner, but when your needs aren’t met in return (particularly if paired with a dismissive/avoidant partner) you become unhappy, and may resort to playing games/manipulation in order to get attention/reassurance.
Times of crisis – You tend to “stir the pot” during arguments, and often need a lot of reassurance/advice during stressful situations, seeking advice/help from others.
Early life – As an infant, there may have been a greater level of distress/prolonged separation, and when your parents/caregivers came back, you both sought comfort, but also may have attempted to punish your parents for leaving by acting out. OR, you may have had one particularly responsive parent, and one who was more avoidant/less attentive, creating a sense of inconsistency – you might find you then adopt this same inconsistency with your own children.
The opposite of Dismissive/Avoidant, those with Anxious-Preoccupied attachment lack self confidence and rely more on primary caregivers during younger years. You may display exaggerated emotional reactions (hot and cold) and are likely to be more argumentative, impulsive, and sometimes moody, connecting with others through conflict. Ultimately, you crave intimacy and security, but often tend to doubt your self-worth or blame yourself for other peoples’ lack of responsiveness/affection.
If this is your attachment style, you’ll tend towards being withdrawn, and highly independent. You don’t really believe other people can and will meet your needs, and therefore tend not to ask for help. You generally have a positive view of yourself, but are more negative towards others, fearing they’re untrustworthy. You likely value independence over closeness, and feel uncomfortable with emotional intimacy. You don’t like sharing your feelings – or even admitting you have feelings at all a lot of the time.
What the Anxious attachment style looks like at:
Work/School – You may have difficulty making close friendships, and are content with being a lone wolf, focusing on the work itself more than social aspects – you are less likely to seek the validation of “fitting in”.
Relationships – You may have problems identifying/talking about feelings, but you do enjoy talking about more intellectual topics. If issues arise, you’re more likely to say “nothing is wrong” and bottle things up, acting emotionally distant, but potentially exploding later. You don’t feel you NEED human connection to survive or thrive, so you’re very independent and don’t like your partners to be too clingy – you feel perfectly comfortable without emotionally close relationships. You may manage rejection (or fears of rejection) by distancing yourself from that person, and can be dismissive and distant in relationships, often resulting in your partner craving more closeness (those with this attachment style often attract a partner who is anxious-preoccupied).
Times of crisis – You prefer to avoid emotional situations – objective thinking helps you take charge. However, if you do find yourself in a potentially hurtful scenario, you tend to shut down emotionally, like when you find yourself in serious arguments with your partner, or potential breakup discussions.
Early life – As an infant, you showed no/minimal stress upon separation from your parents/caregivers, and would often ignore or avoid them upon return. Your parents/caregivers may have been unresponsive or dismissive, and not particularly soothing. As a parent yourself, you may be emotionally unavailable, which means your child/children are more likely to grow up with an avoidant attachment style too.
Those with Dismissive/Avoidant attachment style tend to withdraw and retreat during stressful situations. You often resist seeking help, relying on, or emotionally investing in others, so you may have difficulty forming close bonds with other people, particularly in relationships. At times you may be emotionally distant, and display antisocial behaviour, as well as having difficulty depending on others, or letting others depend on you.
Disorganised/Fearful – Avoidant
If you have the disorganised/fearful-avoidant attachment style, you tend to be seeking to heal old situations from the past (trauma). You’re more likely to experience a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. You have an increased chance of relying on drugs/alcohol as a coping mechanism.
What the Anxious attachment style looks like at:
Work/School – You LOVE to test boundaries. You’re charismatic, but may display “mean girl”/bullying type behaviours at school or the workplace.
Relationships – At times, you can be aggressive, abusive, or manipulative. You tend to avoid having/acknowledging feelings because you fear being hurt by a romantic partner. You can be unpredictable – simultaneously being drawn to a potential partner, but fearful of getting “too close”.
Times of crisis – You may feel as if you’re re-living prior trauma, and can be easily triggered, so in critical situations you may become overwhelmed, or volatile.
Early life – As an infant, there was no particular predictable pattern of attachment behaviour. Often, your parents/caregivers showed unpredictable patterns themselves, and may have been abusive or neglectful, acting in a way that created fear for you.
Those with Disorganised attachment style don’t cope well with distress, and may display more aggressive and disruptive behaviours during childhood and beyond. You usually see others as threats or competition rather than sources of support, and may alternate between social withdrawal, and defensively aggressive behaviour. You likely have difficulty regulating your emotions, and feel uncomfortable with close relationships – even though it’s something you want deep down.
Want to know more about how to become more securely attached, and work through your current attachment style to better communicate with others, develop stronger connections, and improve your sense of self? Click below to book a 1:1 counselling session, coaching call or free consultation!