16Nov

Attachment Styles

Have you ever sat down and thought about the significant relationships in your life? Not just the romantic ones, the ones with your parents, siblings, friends, other family members and others who have touched our lives. Have you ever wondered if you are getting everything out of the relationship? Do you feel secure? Do you feel safe? Do you feel it will last? What made one relationship feel secure while another one, you felt anxious and out of control?

As you think about your relationships, you will have some fond memories, happy memories and for others you will probably have some regrets. The regrets can be from mistakes you made or maybe someone betrayed your trust so that you no longer felt safe. We can’t change the past, however we can see the patterns we have made in previous relationships. Once you see the patterns you can then start to make the changes in your behaviors.

One of the first things I do when working with clients who want to learn about what type of attachment style they have is give them an attachment style quiz. After this, we discuss the results together and they get their style of attachment. There are three types: anxious, avoidant and secure. Many people are a combination of a couple. You can even have one type of attachment style in a romantic relationship and a different attachment style in say a family relationship.

If you score high in the area of an anxious attachment style it can be harder for you to feel consistently safe and trusting in your close relationships. You will also be impacted more negatively by your behavior patterns.

If you have an anxious attachment style…

  • You can be incredibly generous and attentive to those you care about.
  • You are sensitive to what you perceive as abandonment.
  • You tend to blame your feelings on others. For example “you made me feel…”
  • You will tell someone how you feel.

The biggest fear of an anxious attachment style is abandonment. When the fear of being abandoned is activated people can panic. They can express their need for support with communication, but the communication can have a negative impact on the person they are communicating with. They end up pushing away the people they most need the support from with their behaviors. They tend to feel hopeless and feel that their need is urgent and needs to be solved now. This can be off putting to those around them.

An example of this is a client whose husband was a first responder. She would become anxious when he was on duty. She would text or try to call him during his shift to make sure that he was okay. If he would not respond to her immediately, she would become increasingly anxious. She became so anxious during one of his shifts, when he didn’t respond that she had to be rushed to the emergency room for a panic attack.

If you have an anxious attachment style it feels good to have someone to call your own. It feels right about having a partner to share things with, support, confide in and be supported by. You want to have your partner to understand you. Trouble tends to start when the newness of a relationship starts to wane slightly and you aren’t getting as much attention as previously. Your romantic script you had going on in your head doesn’t match the reality of the relationship. You will start to become anxious due to the relationship no longer feeling “perfect”. You will act out when you feel activated, you don’t do it on purpose, it’s a fear response of being abandoned. You might tend to blame, get angry, guilt or nag your partner to get your needs met.

If you have an avoidant attachment style…

  • You are self-reliant, you deal with situations head on and on your own.
  • You don’t complain. You will show that your upset with behaviors not words.
  • You will talk about anything but yourself and your feelings.
  • Prefer to deal with conflict quickly.

Avoidance attachment people tend to outright ignore conflict, deny what happened, or escape discomfort through drugs and alcohol. They might be a people-pleaser to avoid conflict. They focus on others so much that they neglect themselves.

Example of avoidance attachment is a child who has been the family peacemaker. They will do everything that appears to be right. They don’t act out, they never complain. People might even describe them as perfect due to their never wanting to have conflict.

Avoidant attachment people are proud of their self-reliance. They don’t talk about themselves much, if at all. They don’t like being the center of attention. They are uncomfortable with their feelings. They put themselves last. They will look for a partner that is easy going, doesn’t get overly emotional, doesn’t nag and doesn’t ask too much from them emotionally. If they have people around them who are needy and ask too much of them they will get stressed and anxious.

If you have a secure attachment style…

  • You easily adapt to change.
  • You are hopeful about your relationships and put them first.
  • You want to repair a rupture in a relationship.
  • You are comfortable with differences and can handle problems with confidence.

If you have a secure attachment, you are able to process your emotions in a healthy way even when you are in conflict. You don’t get stressed out when you get close to people, or when you express your own emotions. You are sensitive to others needs as well as your own. You know what your wants and needs are and are able to express that to the other person confidently. If you hurt someone else you try to repair the hurt.

Please contact our Winter Garden office if you would like to take the attachment style quiz to figure out which attachment style you are and learn more about how to navigate your attachment style. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors. We look forward to helping you learn to accept your attachment style and to change any negative behaviors into positive ones.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Hedrick