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  • Writer's pictureAMP Therapy Center

From Crib To Adulthood: How Your Attachment Style Shapes Your Life

You may have heard about attachment styles, but what does it all really mean?! The early bonds we form have impacts on our development, how we handle relationships, and our ability to cope with stressors later in life. Have you ever found yourself as an adult, stuck in a pattern that leaves you feeling anxious, avoidant, or emotionally dysregulated? Do you struggle with friendships? intimate relationships? or with coworkers? Those early attachment relationships, whether with a parent, grandparent, or other guardian, deeply shape our brain development AND social development, and serve as a template for future relationships. Understanding the different attachment styles and personally identifying and owning your own story, can help you understand the foundation for your current relationships and coping skills now as an adult.


There are 4 main attachment styles, but it is important to know, your attachment style is not "fixed" or "stuck" in place, just because of your upbringing, which most likely was outside of your control. Shifts are possible to move from rigid and dysregulated attachment styles to more adaptive styles with emotional and cognitive flexibility. As you get older and move through different life experiences, learning about love and loss, these narratives can influence a shift of "security status".


Oftentimes, these shifts don't happen suddenly or without intentional, reparative work though. Attachment Informed Therapy can be an option for gently approaching any attachment wounds and workings towards healing. With the support of an attachment informed therapist, they will walk alongside you on your journey towards re-wiring any of those stuck patterns and rebuilding your ability to self-soothe that might have been missing as a child. This intentional guidance can help you to repair your core attachment styles, feeling grounded, and secure in yourself and your relationships. So let's take a look at each attachment style (insecure and secure), including the transformative 5th one!


Attachment Styles

"Perhaps there is more understanding and beauty in life when the glaring sunlight is softened by shadows." - Virginia Axline

 



 

Anxious Attachment Style

Anxious Attachment Style can often be referred to as “Preoccupied” Attachment Style. Someone who has an anxious or preoccupied attachment style, more than likely experienced instability in their relationships with their parents, caregivers, or other grown-ups in their life as a child. They couldn’t always rely on the adults in their life, or they weren't always available when the child needed them most. This can result in worry thoughts and anxiety that the people they care about might not be there for them or might suddenly be gone from their life.

 

As an adult, this can result in insecurities in yourself, but having high regard for others. You might not view yourself as worthy of love or connection with others, frequently seeking reassurance from friends or your intimate partner. You may also have a hard time feeling secure in your relationship, fearing that your partner might leave. A significant fear of abandonment. A person with this attachment style might find themselves preoccupied with their relationships, and this can sometimes get in the way of the relationship, or push people away. The opposite of what they want, and exactly what they fear!

 

The good news is, even if this describes your attachment style, you can learn tools to feel more secure in your relationships. With self-awareness and practice, you can break out of those worried thought patterns.


Avoidance Attachment Style

Avoidant Attachment Style can also be called a "Dismissive" Attachment Style. Someone with this attachment style might have had a childhood where their parents, caregivers, or grown-ups in their life were physically present, but their needs weren't being met consistently, specifically their emotional needs. This might look like a parent who is distracted, or not showing much affection to their child. Therefore, the child learns quickly how to be independent and values self-sufficiency because they had no one to depend on but themselves.


As an adult, this looks more like having a strong positive view of yourself, and more of a negative one of others. Not feeling the need for a relationship to be complete, or wanting to depend on someone, or have someone depend on you. You might even find yourself feeling uncomfortable with closeness or intimacy in your relationships. You may prefer to keep things casual and distance yourself when people try to get too close, often pulling away to protect yourself from getting hurt.


The good news is, just like with the anxious attachment style, there are ways to work through an avoidant attachment and build healthier, more fulfilling relationships. With self-reflection, learning how to understand your thoughts, and some practice, you can start to feel more secure in your current or future relationship.


Disorganized Attachment Style

This type of attachment style, Disorganized, can also be referred to as "Fearful-Avoidant" Attachment Style. As a child, there were most likely some sort of trauma experienced, specifically with the parents, caregivers, or grown-ups in their life. But, it was unpredictable. Sometimes the adults in their life were loving, caring, and attentive of their needs; while other times, they could be absent, scary, or even hurtful. This leaves the child feeling very fearful and very confused.


Now as an adult, you may also still feel that sense of fear and confusion in your relationships. One moment you want so desperately to be close to others, and the next, pulling away for fear of being hurt. You may feel unsure how to get your needs met in a relationship and how to meet the needs of others. This type of back-and-forth behavior can make it really hard to maintain healthy, stable relationships.


Of course, like the previously mentioned attachment styles, there is good news! There are ways to work through a disorganized attachment and develop more secure, fulfilling connections. With self-awareness, support, and consistent practice, you can learn healthier ways to meaningful connection with your partner.


Secure Attachment Style

A secure attachment style portrays someone who can easily and openly express their emotions in a relationship. They can depend on their partners and feel comfortable with their partner depending on them. This is a result of a child whose parents, caregivers, and grown-ups in their life, generally speaking, were there for them, met their needs consistently, and showed them love, support and affection. Someone with this attachment style views both themselves and others positively, does well in relationships, but also does not fear being alone and independent.


Now as an adult, you are able to form close bonds with others and feel secure in your relationships with them. You understand the complexities of people and how that plays a role in relationships, and you can work through any uncertainties or conflicts in a healthy way. This sense of security allows you to be your authentic self in the relationship.


Transformative Attachment Style

Now, there is a high probability that most of us don't completely resonate with secure attachment style, even if we had positive childhood relationships. We may feel some of the traits of anxious, avoidant, or fearful attachment styles, and that's normal. And as I continue to mention, even if your childhood resulted in any of the above-mentioned insecure attachment styles, there is good news! Even if you didn't develop a secure attachment as a child, it's absolutely possible to build one as an adult. With self-reflection, support, and practice, you can learn to form the healthy, fulfilling connections you deserve. This is what we call, Transformative Attachment Style, or also known as "Earned Security".


Through intentional work, increasing your self-awareness, engaging in personal development, or even starting your healing journey through therapy, you have the potential for developing a transformative attachment style. And in doing so, you will have a better understanding of your childhood and learn from your earliest experiences, so that as an adult, you can feel secure and confident in your relationships. No matter what your past looks like, just know it is possible for you too!


Summary and Next Steps:

  • Early bonds and relationships influence emotional and social development, impacting coping abilities and relational skills as an adult.

  • There are 4 main attachment styles with a transformative 5th one, followed by intentional healing: anxious, avoidant, disorganized, secure, and earned security.

  • Take the attachment style quiz to learn and understand yourself better.

  • Seek guidance from an attachment informed therapist to work towards healing of old attachment wounds, and develop earned security, feeling grounded, secure in yourself, and in your relationships!

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