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Health and Wellbeing

11 Jul 2019

What’s your attachment style?

There are four primary attachment styles that can influence everything from your romantic relationships and friendships, to how you interact with your boss or lead a team.

Research on adult attachment is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children is responsible for the bond that develops in adult relationships.

The four key attachment styles

Secure Attachment

Securely attached people tend to agree with the following statements: “It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or others not accepting me”. They have internalised a strong sense of self-esteem and tend to be independent, self-reliant, easy-going, and curious adults.

Insecure attachment

The other three types of attachment styles fall under the umbrella of “insecure” attachments, which are categorised by an underlying belief that others are unreliable.

Anxious-preoccupied

People with this attachment type tend to agree with the following statements: “I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like”, and “I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them”. Essentially, people with this attachment style deeply fear rejection and worry they’re not valued.

Dismissive-avoidant

People with this style tend to agree with these statements: “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships” and “It is important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient”. Essentially, they have trouble getting close in relationships and friendships and may struggle to build strong bonds with co-workers and friends.

Fearful or disorganised

People with this style tend to agree with the following statements: “I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to completely trust others, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to other people.”

Essentially, they see the world as a dangerous place and that people are inconsistent and even frightening.

Altering your attachment style

Research tells us that attachment style stays relatively stable over time, which means it isn’t really changeable. With this said, however, you can alter your attachment style in the following ways:

  1. Start by making sense of your past through the process of writing a coherent narrative (and/or seeing a therapist), to understand how you were nurtured, what your early childhood experiences with your caregivers was like, and what you were like with your caregivers, siblings and close family/friends as a child.
  2. Identify the source of your critical inner voice: Negative self-talk often stems from internalising the words of harsh caregivers or other important figures in your life (an ex, a judgmental friend or a bullying boss). Start to question whether your automatic assumptions are factually true.
  3. Find a partner and friendships who have secure attachment styles and disconnect yourself from toxic relationships and workplaces.
  4. Learn to identify your emotions and express your needs. Skills like emotional labelling can help you process your emotional reactions instead of feeling ordered around by them. It’s also crucial to reframe conflict as a necessary part of any relationship, not a sign of danger or rejection. 

Do you have any questions or comments for Rajna? Email her: bogdanovicrajna@gmail.com

Rajna Bogdanovic - clinical psychologist

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