What are they?
Which style am I?
Why is it important?
How does therapy help?
,Have you ever wondered why some people are insecure and anxious in relationships, whilst others are distant, cold and withdrawn?
It could be down to Attachment Styles.
Attachment Styles are patterns of behaviour that develop in childhood in response to how the child is cared for and responded to, by their parents or caregivers, as well as experiences and events throughout childhood and adolescence, including experiences at school. These patterns of behaviour continue into adulthood and can determine how we behave in intimate relationships.
Broadly speaking, in adults, there are 3 main attachment styles.
Secure Attachment Style
People who have this style are often warm and loving. They are comfortable with emotional intimacy, deal with conflict in healthy ways, without retreating or becoming destabilised. They can enjoy activities away from the relationship, feeling confident and secure in the knowledge their loved one is there for them.
Anxious Attachment Style
Individuals with this style crave emotional intimacy and are preoccupied with their relationships. They worry and fret over what their loved, or desired one, is doing, who they are with etc. Anxious individuals are often prone to jealousy and can become very angry and demanding in relationships. People with this style easily become overwhelmed and find it difficult to regulate and soothe strong emotions, often needing the presence of their loved one to calm down. Anxiously attached people are afraid of being rejected, abandoned and separated from their loved one.
Avoidant Attachment Style
People with this style of attaching see emotional intimacy as a loss of their independence. They will generally keep loved ones at a safe emotional distance. People with this style are often very self-reliant and give off the sense that they ‘don’t need anyone’. They struggle greatly with trust, finding it difficult to believe anyone could be dependable. They will often be unwilling or unable, to talk about their feelings, being somewhat cut off from them. Avoidantly attached people are often afraid of being rejected, but equally as afraid of being engulfed or intruded upon by another.
A person will usually display one dominant style, particularly in times of stress, but can often behave in one style with a certain individual and another style with another individual, depending on what may be unconsciously triggered in them.
So, you may have identified which style you might be.
How is this useful?
By understanding why we behave as we do in close relationships, as well as what our unique needs and vulnerabilities are, and how the different attachment styles can clash and cause conflict, the world of relationships can become clearer. It is possible to learn new strategies to improve those relationships that are important to us.
How Can Therapy Help?
Therapy can provide a safe and confidential space to explore these patterns of relating in more detail. Our attachment style can be modified and it is possible to work towards becoming more secure. This can be done through therapy, through seeking out helpful, supportive relationships that make us feel safe and that don’t activate our defences. We can also learn to identify and then avoid or reduce time spent on relationships that make us feel insecure, worthless or unlovable.
I have a post-graduate diploma in Attachment-Based Therapy and I offer individual face to face attachment-focused counselling in Thatcham, near Newbury, Berkshire.
Rosie Waters - Counsellor and Attachment focused therapist