Your Attachment Style
Believe it or not, the way your parents interacted with you created your interpersonal style. In fact, it created your entire way of interacting with the world. You now have an “attachment style,” that came directly from your early relationships. The science is clear, and there is no question about it. Personality is primarily shaped by relationship experiences, not genetics. The single most important factor in the development of your mind and brain, like all mammals, was your relationship with your caregivers.
As a child, you needed to feel safe, soothed, attuned to, and secure. If this happened, you have an attachment style that is called “secure.” If it didn’t, you can have one of three other styles of attachment: anxious/ambivalent, avoidant or disorganized.
Types of Attachment Styles
Secure Attachment Style
If you have a “secure” attachment style, you expect that your needs will be known and met, that you will be emotionally attuned to and that you will have help regulating your feelings when you need it. You do not feel conflicted about your needs or your emotions. You feel happy and satisfied with your life, despite any ups and downs. You are flexible, adaptive, energetic and emotionally stable. Your caregivers were attuned to you and helped you feel safe, soothed and secure. Your intimate relationships (including those with your children) are vibrant, interesting and satisfying.
Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment Style
With an anxious/ambivalent attachment style, you easily get anxious, clingy and demanding, even if you’ve learned to hide these traits most of the time. You “over-activate” your attachment behaviors until you collapse, often seething with anger, from the exhaustion of trying so hard to stay connected. Your overarching experience with your caregiver was that they were inconsistently available, and pre-occupied or un-attuned when available. People you become involved with will feel an urgency for connection from you. This urgency often pushes them away from you, creating the very isolation you fear.
Avoidant Attachment Style
An avoidant style of attachment generally appears as an overall denial of a need for deep connection and repression of emotions across the board. You are quintessentially “independent.” You grew up with caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, imperceptive, unresponsive, and rejecting. You might have had a caregiver who was responsive in many non-emotional interactions, but who was very dismissive and non-responsive when you were emotionally needy, frustrated, or angry. People who are in a relationship with you will likely experience loneliness and emotional distance, even when they are with you.
Disorganized Attachment Style
When you have a disorganized attachment style, you grew up with caregivers who created alarm and terror for you. They were either psychologically disturbed, were substance abusers, and/or abused you either physically, emotionally or sexually. You were afraid of the very people who were supposed to attune to your needs and keep you safe, soothed and secure. Most of the time, you feel a profound sense of disconnection from others and even from yourself. You are likely to have a sense of being unreal or of being in pieces inside. Your relationships are generally characterized by chaos or a rigid inflexibility.
As you read these descriptions, you may have recognized aspects of your own style in more than one type. If that is the case, it is because different caregivers have different styles, and you probably adapted to interacting with more than one caregiver. Your caregivers might also have been dealing with different stresses during various parts of your childhood and provided you with varying feedback.
You will engage with people based on these styles, and the styles they present to you. It will happen at an unconscious level based on eye contact, facial expression, posture, gesture, tone of voice, timing of speech, and intensity of emotion. It will happen in milliseconds, and you will have no control over it.
How to change your attachment style
What if you want to change it, you ask. Well, you can change your style, but not with will power. Your attachment style was created in relationship. To change it, you must be in a relationship. One designed specifically to help you is the surest way it will be one with your goal in mind.
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