Navigating Relationships: Understanding Your Attachment Style
Updated: Feb 12
The first two years of life are crucial for the development of attachment, which is an emotional connection between a baby and their primary carer, usually a parent or other family member. As it offers a sense of security and comfort and affects how the child interacts with others and views themselves, this bond is essential for the child's emotional, social and psychological development. The attachment relationship serves as the model for all subsequent relationships because children internalise their interactions with attachment figures and use them as a guide.
How attachment styles are formed
Attachment styles are made up of a complex mix of nature and nurture, with early childhood experiences and relationships playing a big role. Decades of scientific research have shown that the theory of attachment is valid and important for understanding how people act and interact with each other (Bowlby, 1969).
Attachment styles are a big part of how we relate to other people and are shaped by our relationships with our primary caregivers, especially when we are young. They are like an internal map that guides our behaviour and emotional responses in close relationships.
Think of it this way: when you were a child, your primary caregivers were the first people you formed an attachment with. They were responsible for meeting your basic needs and keeping you safe. If your caregivers were warm, responsive and always there when you needed them, you probably developed a secure attachment style. This means you have a positive view of yourself, others and relationships. You believe that people are trustworthy and you are comfortable with intimacy and dependence.
On the other hand, if your primary caregivers were neglectful, abusive or inconsistent, you may have grown up with an insecure attachment style.
There are three main types of insecure attachment: anxious, avoidant and disorganised.
People with an anxious attachment style have a strong fear of abandonment and may cling to partners. They may view themselves as needy and unworthy of love. Those with avoidant attachment style, on the other hand tend to hide their feelings and stay away from close relationships. They may view themselves as self-sufficient and independent. A disorganised attachment style is a type of attachment pattern characterised by conflicting and inconsistent behaviours towards the caregiver. This type of attachment can develop when a child experiences unpredictable or frightening interactions with their primary caregiver, leading to confusion and uncertainty in their relationships. This can manifest in behaviours such as avoidance of the caregiver, indiscriminate seeking of comfort from others or acting out in aggressive or withdrawn ways.
It's important to note that attachment styles aren't set in stone and can change over time. For example, a person with an insecure attachment style may learn new relationship skills and develop a more secure style later in life - it is called an earned secure attachment style.
What is earned secure attachment?
Earned secure attachment refers to the process of developing a secure attachment style through self-reflection, healing and positive experiences in relationships.
An insecure attachment style that was developed in childhood has the potential to transform into a secure attachment style. Later in life, a person can develop a sense of earned security if they have had positive experiences in relationships with other people, made conscious changes in their thinking style and behaviour, made sense of the experiences they've had in the past and healed inner wounds.
Even if you grow up in a dysfunctional family, for example, you can still have a secure attachment style that you've earned.
Think about a child who has endured verbal or physical abuse at the hands of their caregiver. Even though they had been hurt, they may have grown close to a teacher, family member or mentor who gave them love, security and support.
This positive relationship may have helped the child learn to trust others and feel safe, which may have led to an earned, secure attachment style. This person may keep this attachment style as they get older, which could help them form loving relationships even though they had a hard childhood. It is evidence of resilience in people and the influence of healthy relationships on how we form attachments.
How to earn a secure attachment
There are several treatments and strategies for healing insecure attachment styles, including:
Psychotherapy: Long-term psychotherapy can help you understand and transform your attachment style into a more secure one. Talking therapies can also help you learn new ways to get along with other people, boost your self-esteem and address past trauma.
Self-reflection and mindfulness: Practising mindfulness and self-reflection can help you understand your patterns of behaviour in relationships and develop a greater sense of self-awareness.
Improving communication skills: Improving communication skills, such as active listening and effective assertiveness, can help you better express your needs and emotions in relationships.
Developing a support network: Building a supportive network of friends and family can provide a source of emotional stability and help us feel less dependent on our romantic partners.
Couples therapy: Couple therapy can be helpful in working through attachment-related issues within the relationship and improve the communication and relationship skills.
It's important to note that healing attachment styles takes time and effort and may involve working through past traumas and negative experiences. But with the right tools and help, our attachment style can be transformed, so we are capable of building healthier, more satisfying relationships with others and ourselves.
To sum up
Understanding our own attachment style is a crucial step in developing healthy, fulfilling relationships. Our early childhood experiences and relationships with primary caregivers shape our attachment style and influence our behaviours in future relationships.
Follow this LINK to identify your own attachment style now!
By becoming aware of our patterns and learning new relationship skills, we can work on healing our attachment style and making stronger, more secure connections with other people. Whether it's through therapy, self-reflection or personal growth activities, the path to a more secure attachment style is one of self-discovery, growth and healing.
Remember, we all have the ability to change and evolve so that we can create a brighter, more loving future for ourselves and those around us.
If you're ready to attend to your attachment wounds in a safe therapeutic space, contact me - we can book a free initial consultation to discuss details.
The best time to change your future is NOW.
Love & light,
Hypnotherapist and counsellor
Holistic Transformative Therapy
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