In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 4 attachment styles in relationships – secure, anxious, avoidant and ambivalent. Which one is yours?
First a quick update:
Do You Possess Emotional Intelligence?
Do you understand your feelings, express empathy for the feelings of others? Can you regulate your emotions in a way that enhances living? The ability to assess, manage and control the emotions of one’s self and of others is the key platform of emotional intelligence.
6 Different Kinds Of Love & Passion
Did you know there are 6 different kinds of love – not just the 4 Greek words for love? Did you also know that one type of love can transform into another type of love? Watch the video
Now, let’s talk about the 4 attachment styles in relationships – secure, anxious, avoidant and ambivalent.
We are biologically wired to connect with others; there is an attachment system/circuit in our brain – emotions and behaviors that ensure we stay close to our loved ones. “The need to be in a close relationship is embedded in our genes” (Dr. Amir Levine, neuroscientist.) We are all programmed to find love; we need to choose one person from the crowd and make them special and build a bond, connection and attachment. Are you still in doubt? Read on!
Attachment is the way you behave in relationships: Do you love easily – giving and receiving easily? Do you believe that you are worthy of love, capable of getting the love and support you need, and that others are reliable, willing and capable of providing love and support to you? Or, do you believe the opposite?
The science of attachment has been around since the 1950s when attachment was first studied in the relationship of mothers and babies under 2 years old (John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth.) It was only in the 1980s that attachment theory was applied to adult relationships (Cindy Hazan & Phillip Shaver.)
1. Secure Attachment Style: Autonomous & One Unit
Action: Moving towards intimacy with security
Your primary attachment figure in childhood was warm, caring, affectionate, accepting, consistent, sensitive to your needs, and tended well to your needs.
You are secure in yourself, your associations and relationships with others, and you have a positive view of yourself, your partner and your relationship. You are comfortable with intimacy and you are generally warm and loving. You believe the world is a safe place. You are altruistic and care about your partner’s needs; you are responsive to your partner’s needs.
You support your partner and allow your partner to support you; you take care of each other. As a Secure, you build an honest, open and equal relationship encouraging mutual independence and self-expression. You communicate your needs and emotions easily.
You are most likely attracted to someone who is caring, affectionate and accepting.
2. Anxious Attachment Style: Preoccupied
Action: Pulling towards intimacy with anxiety
Your primary attachment figure in childhood was inconsistent – sometimes nurturing and attentive, other times absent and inattentive or worse, was dominant, overly protective, discouraged risk-taking and independence, and was insensitive and intrusive.
You are self-critical and insecure – plagued with self-doubt. You constantly seek approval, and you fear rejection and abandonment. In relationships, you are needy, clingy, desperate and dependent on your partner for reassurances. You are hungry for relationships; you crave intimacy, and are often preoccupied with your relationships. You tend to be anxious about whether or not your partner will love you back and thus you react to minor changes in your partner’s moods or minor things that happen in the relationship. You often respond with anxiety, anger and/or melodrama when you feel that you are being ignored, rejected or not being loved back.
Unless you are consciously aware, you will find that you are subconsciously attracted to someone who is critical, inconsistent with their attention to you, or is insensitive, dominant or intrusive.
3. Avoidant Attachment Style: Dismissive & Fearful
Action: Pulling away from intimacy
Your primary attachment figure in childhood was emotionally unavailable, disengaged, deeply self-absorbed, consistently distracted, rarely responded to your needs, discouraged crying, and encouraged independence and a need for you to be strong, a little man or an adult.
You either avoid intimacy and connection or you dismiss it as unimportant – you believe in your independence and claim that you are self-reliant. The avoidant wants intimacy but is afraid of it and pulls away when he/she gets too close to someone.
The dismissive attachment style dismisses emotions and connections: you are a loner & isolate yourself because you show indifference to others, and you are reticent to connect. Thus, you focus on cerebral pursuits or possibly high achievement; you are outwardly void of deep emotions; you suppress your feelings and you distance yourself from stress. You equate intimacy with a loss of independence, and thus you like to keep your distance.
Unless you are consciously aware, you will find that you are subconsciously attracted to someone who is emotionally unavailable, rarely responds to your needs, and encourages independence.
4. Fearful-Avoidant (Anxious-Avoidant) Attachment Style: Ambivalent/Unresolved/Disorganized
Action: Pulling towards and away from intimacy
This is the blend of the Avoidant and Anxious Attachment styles.
Your primary attachment figure in childhood was either inconsistent (sometimes nurturing and attentive, other times absent and inattentive) or neglectful, abusive, cruel, frightening, or highly critical and judgmental, thus resulting in trauma. If you experienced abuse or trauma in childhood, you might be disconnected from yourself and your emotions; your way to deal with and survive the trauma was to disconnect from the pain.
You are detached from yourself and you seek out relationships until you become emotionally close at which point you run or repressed feelings surface. Emotional intimacy can easily trigger old trauma for you and you are not aware that those feelings are from the past (anger, neediness, distress, ambivalence.) You might not even be able to articulate or verbalize the rush of emotions that occur when you get close to someone, when you experience intimacy.
You recognize the need and desire of intimacy, and sometimes you pursue it fiercely, but closeness and intimacy scares you and you withdraw quickly or you reject the attention and intimacy.
You often end the relationship quickly by finding fault in the other person – that’s your protective mechanism.
If your primary caregiver/attachment figure was abusive, fearful or frightening, then you will tend to be disoriented by, fearful of, and uncertain in relationships – particularly when you get very close to another person. Accordingly, this is known as disorganized attachment and you are detached from yourself without a clear sense of self or deep connection to others.
Unless you are consciously aware, you will find that you are subconsciously attracted to someone who is inconsistent, neglectful, uncaring or abusive.
Adult relationship experiences can also affect your attachment style and attachment style can change. I have worked with clients who stayed in unhealthy, neglectful or abusive relationships for years and accordingly became avoidant in their attachment style. Dr. Stella Chess, child psychiatrist believed that temperament was critical to understanding the types of attachments that children form for the rest of their lives.
Consider also the compatibility of these attachment styles – when any of the insecure attachments (anxious, avoidant/dismissive, ambivalent) are in a relationship with each other, the results will be almost destructive, definitely not fulfilling – unless both parties work on their styles and behavior.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist