According to attachment theory, our ability to create and maintain good relationships throughout our lives is shaped by the connections we make with our primary carers when we are young.
There are four types of attachment styles that can be seen in a person. They are secure attachment, anxious-preoccupied attachment, avoidant-dismissive attachment and disorganised attachment. A secure attachment is considered the healthiest and most adaptive form of attachment, whilst the other three types of attachment are thought to be unhealthy and are linked to a number of negative outcomes. Adults with insecure attachment patterns tend to have poorer self-esteem, lower levels of interpersonal trust and are generally less happy. Not only that, but they are at an increased risk of health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression. The good news is that even if you did not form a secure attachment as a child, you can still achieve earned security later on in life!
This blog will discuss the differences between continuous-secure, earned-secure and insecure attachment styles, and teach you how to build an earned secure attachment style. See my blog post from earlier this month, which discusses navigating relationships and understanding your own attachment style. It’s a fascinating read!
The definition of a secure attachment style
Individuals with a secure attachment style have a positive view of themselves and others. They possess the confidence to freely communicate their emotions and expectations. Securely attached adults feel at ease when forming emotional connections with their partners and have trust in their partner's ability to offer them support.
A secure primary attachment relationship starts at birth with nonverbal emotional interactions, such as eye contact, comforting touch and a warm tone of voice. When an infant’s caregiver consistently offers them emotional support, responsiveness and protection, secure attachment naturally develops.
The definition of an insecure attachment style
People who have an insecure attachment style, on the other hand, could have trouble establishing an emotional connection, communication and trust. Avoidant attachment, anxious and disorganised attachment are the three types of insecure attachment patterns.
People with an avoidant attachment style may feel suffocated by their partner’s need for closeness and fear getting too emotionally involved. As a result, they might make an effort to emotionally distance themselves from their partners. Typically, this attachment style develops when a primary caregiver is emotionally unavailable or indifferent.
Anxious attachers may cling to their relationships and fight jealousy and feelings of insecurity. They could look to their partner for assurance and worry about being left behind. When the primary carer is unreliable and inconsistent in their support and attentiveness, this style frequently manifests.
Those with a disorganised attachment style may struggle with emotional regulation, experience high levels of anxiety and stress and have difficulty trusting and forming healthy relationships with others. Some common characteristics of individuals with a disorganised attachment style include a tendency to swing between feelings of closeness and avoidance in their relationships, a fear of rejection or abandonment and a tendency to rely on defence mechanisms such as avoidance or aggression in response to stress or emotional triggers.
The definition of an earned secure attachment style
Earned security occurs when an individual initially develops an insecure attachment with their caregiver that transforms into a secure attachment later in life.
An earned secure attachment style can be achieved through new positive relational experiences, personal growth and reflection; often with the help of therapy. It typically begins by recognising and acknowledging past negative attachment patterns that may be interfering with the individual's ability to form healthy relationships. The individual may work with a therapist to process and work through past traumas, negative self-perceptions and unhealthy patterns of relating. It is not the same as a secure attachment type that develops in early childhood, but it is similar in many ways. People with a continuous secure attachment style and people with an earned secure attachment style are about the same when it comes to communication skills, self-esteem and emotional closeness.
How to create a secure earned attachment style
Despite the efforts that one has to make to achieve earned security, research consistently indicates that earned-secure adults can overcome their struggles, heal their inner wounds and enjoy a great quality of life. By doing so, they will also break the intergenerational cycle, so their children will most likely develop a secure attachment style.
“What happens when people open their hearts?" "They get better.” ― Haruki Murakami
According to available evidence, there are a number of steps helping to develop an earned secure attachment style. Introspection, reflecting on the past as well as changing our self-perception, behaviours and thinking patterns are all essential elements of the transformation.
The following advice will assist you in creating an earned secure connection style.
Develop a positive perception of the self
Creating an earned secure attachment style involves altering our self-perception and creating a positive self-image. By identifying and working through negative self-perceptions, individuals can learn to view themselves in a more positive and compassionate light, leading to a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.
Make intentional changes in your thought patterns and behaviours
To earn security, It's crucial that we make intentional changes to our behaviour and cognitive habits, i.e. unhelpful ideas, beliefs and judgements. This involves identifying negative patterns that may be interfering with our ability to form healthy relationships and replacing them with healthier alternatives. For example, if someone struggles with trust issues due to past negative experiences, they may need to consciously work on developing trust in their relationships, such as through open and honest communication with their partner. This may also involve setting boundaries, learning to express emotions in a healthy way and recognizing and challenging negative thought patterns that may be hindering their ability to form secure attachments.
Reflect on early life experiences
When it comes to creating a secure earned attachment style, reflecting on our childhood and processing emotions attached to difficult experiences, such as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), is an essential step. Understanding the impact of childhood experiences on our adult life and reprocessing difficult emotions from the past are key to healing our attachment wounds. By working through negative self-perceptions, unresolved emotions and unhealthy patterns of behaviour, we can develop a greater sense of self-awareness, self-worth and emotional maturity. Through this process of reflection and growth, one can learn healthier ways to interact with others, develop effective communication skills and form fulfilling relationships.
Take a look at your previous relationships
Consider your previous relationships, taking into account your attachment style there. What trends did you discover? Did you have a tendency to cling to your companions or keep your distance? What caused these patterns in the first place? You may move forward and make adjustments by determining the underlying cause of these behaviours.
Prioritise developing trusting relationships
In other words - be selective about the people you surround yourself with and nurture these relationships. Creating an earned sense of security requires building trust, mutual respect and emotional closeness with people that are important in your life.
Exercise emotional control
People who have a secure attachment type are good at controlling their emotions. They possess the capacity to understand and manage their emotions without being overstimulated. You can feel more in control and secure in your relationships by working on emotional regulation.
Develop effective communication techniques
Any healthy partnership needs to have good communication. You can have better, more meaningful relationships with people if you can talk about your needs and feelings in an open and effective way. Feeling safe enough with your partner to communicate your fears, needs and expectations is essential for building trust and forming a healthy relationship. When you can be vulnerable and honest with your partner, it creates a sense of intimacy and connection that can strengthen your bond and help you both grow together.
Excellent communication requires:
Active listening: This involves giving our full attention to what the other person is saying, being present in the moment, and responding in a way that shows we understand and care.
Nonverbal communication: This includes facial expressions, tone of voice and body language, which can often convey more meaning than words.
Empathy: This involves putting ourselves in the other person's shoes and understanding their perspective, thoughts and feelings.
Clarity and honesty: It's important to express our thoughts and feelings clearly and honestly without being hurtful or defensive.
Seek out therapy
Your attachment style's underlying reasons can be found and addressed by working with a psychotherapist or counsellor (for example through ‘limited reparenting’). They can also advise you on creating a more secure attachment style.
Embarking on a journey to create an earned secure attachment style using therapy is a powerful and transformative experience that can bring about significant positive changes in your life. Through this process, you can learn to rework negative attachment patterns and replace them with healthier ones that allow you to form secure and fulfilling relationships.
The benefits of creating an earned secure attachment style can extend beyond just your relationships. It can positively impact your mental and physical health, leading to a greater sense of well-being, enhanced self-awareness and fulfilment. As you learn to communicate more effectively, set boundaries and handle conflicts in a healthy manner, you can experience a newfound sense of control over your life. This can lead to improvements in other areas of your life, such as increased productivity and success in your career, improved finances and a greater sense of direction and purpose in your life!
To sum up
Attachment styles are deeply ingrained in our psyches and can impact our relationships for years to come. However, it's important to remember that our attachment style is not set in stone. We can develop an earned secure attachment style through intentional work on ourselves and our relationships.
By reflecting on our past, practising emotional regulation, developing effective communication skills, seeking therapy and focusing on building supportive relationships, we can move towards earned security that will enable us to form and maintain healthy, fulfilling relationships. Moreover, cultivating a secure attachment style can have other positive effects, such as forming close friendships, boosting confidence, improving mental and physical health, and increasing overall life satisfaction!
It takes time and conscious effort to heal attachment wounds and achieve true security within our relationships. It can also be a daunting and overwhelming endeavour to start with. Therapy is a perfect place to begin this journey. Your therapist will be there for you as you explore your childhood narrative in a safe, nurturing environment. They will also teach you concrete tools and practices to challenge unhelpful thoughts and a hostile inner voice that fuel insecurity.
We all deserve to feel loved, safe and truly fulfilled in our relationships.
If you're ready to transform your insecure attachment style into a secure one, or wish to explore how attachment theory impacts your life, get in touch with me - I’ll be honoured to help!
Love & light,
Hypnotherapist and counsellor
Holistic Transformative Therapy
Get in touch with me!
mobile: 07849 580021
Facebook: Holistic Transformative Therapy