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What are attachment styles, and why you should learn yours.

Understanding Attachment Styles: A Guide to Healthy Relationships

In the world of psychology and relationships, attachment styles play a significant role in how we interact with others and form connections. Developed through early experiences with caregivers, attachment styles influence our beliefs about ourselves and others, as well as our behaviors in relationships. By understanding these attachment styles, we can gain valuable insights into our own patterns of relating and enhance our interpersonal dynamics.

If you read the earlier blog that explains a little of where I (Kierra) came from, it’ll be no surprise to any of you who already understand attachment styles to learn that mine is the ‘Disorganised’ which is known as the most difficult to navigate when it comes to a healthy relationship (yay me!). And if I’m being totally honest, my dating history is basically hard proof of this. However, I’ve been doing LOTS of work, therapy, learning and self reflection over the past few years to take control of these thoughts and behaviours. After all, I wasn’t born this way (and neither were you), we simply learned this way of being for survival and protection, but just because something has served us in the past, doesn’t mean the same thing will continue to do so moving forward!

Okay, let's explore the four main attachment styles…

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment style typically had caregivers who were responsive, consistent, and emotionally available during childhood. As a result, they develop a positive view of themselves and others. In relationships, they feel comfortable expressing emotions, trust their partners, and seek support when needed. Securely attached individuals tend to have fulfilling and lasting relationships built on mutual respect and understanding.

Anxious Attachment

Those with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style often experienced inconsistent caregiving during childhood. They may have felt uncertain about their caregivers' availability, leading to anxiety and a fear of abandonment. In relationships, they crave closeness and reassurance, sometimes becoming overly dependent on their partners for validation. They may worry about rejection and constantly seek reassurance, which can create tension in their relationships.

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style may have had caregivers who were emotionally distant or unavailable during childhood. As a result, they learned to suppress their emotions and rely on themselves for comfort and support. In relationships, they value independence and may struggle with intimacy and vulnerability. They may avoid closeness and intimacy, fearing that they will lose their autonomy or be hurt by others.

Disorganized Attachment

Those with a disorganized attachment style often experienced traumatic or abusive caregiving during childhood. They may have had caregivers who were unpredictable or frightening, leading to confusion and fear in their attachment behaviors. In relationships, they may exhibit a mix of anxious and avoidant tendencies, struggling with both the desire for closeness and the fear of being hurt. They may have difficulty trusting others and forming stable, healthy relationships.

Understanding Your Attachment Style

Identifying your attachment style can be a valuable step in improving your relationships and emotional well-being. By recognizing your patterns of relating, you can work towards developing more secure and fulfilling connections with others. Counselling and other therapies can be beneficial in exploring and addressing attachment issues, helping you cultivate healthier relationship dynamics and greater self-awareness.

Identifying if you have an unhealthy attachment style involves recognising certain patterns and behaviours in your relationships. Usually this is where self reflection comes in… do you find that you are having the same issues with multiple partners, maybe choosing the same partner over and over in different people, feeling like you just have bad luck or ‘taste’? Here are some signs that may indicate an unhealthy attachment style:

1. Fear of Abandonment: Constantly worrying about being rejected or abandoned by your partner, and feeling insecure in the relationship even when there's no evidence to support these fears.

2. Overdependence or Avoidance: Oscillating between being overly dependent on your partner for validation, reassurance, and emotional support, and avoiding intimacy or pushing your partner away to maintain emotional distance.

3. Difficulty Trusting: Having difficulty trusting your partner or others, even when they've shown themselves to be trustworthy. This may stem from past experiences of betrayal or abandonment.

4. Poor Communication: Struggling to communicate your needs, emotions, and boundaries effectively in relationships, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, or feeling unheard.

5. Low Self-Esteem: Feeling unworthy of love or believing that you're not good enough for your partner, which can lead to seeking constant validation and approval from them.

6. Jealousy and Insecurity: Feeling jealous or threatened by your partner's interactions with others, and constantly seeking reassurance to alleviate feelings of insecurity.

7. Emotional Reactivity: Reacting strongly to perceived threats to the relationship, such as minor disagreements or changes in your partner's behavior, with intense emotional reactions like anger, panic, or despair.

8. Difficulty Letting Go: Holding onto past hurts, resentments, or grievances in relationships, and struggling to forgive or move past conflicts, which can create a cycle of negative patterns.

If you recognise any of these signs in your own behaviour, it may indicate that you have an unhealthy attachment style. However, it's important to remember that attachment styles can be fluid and change over time with self-awareness, introspection, and therapy or counselling. Recognising these patterns is the first step towards building healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

To wrap it up…

Attachment styles are deeply ingrained patterns of relating that shape our behaviours and beliefs in relationships. By understanding these styles and their origins, we can gain insight into our own attachment patterns and work towards developing more secure and satisfying connections with others. Whether through self-reflection, therapy, or couples counselling (all of which you can find here with us!), exploring attachment styles can pave the way for healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Lastly, I want you to remember that there is nothing wrong with you, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. You simply learned certain ways of interacting with others for your own perceived (or very real) safety and survival. But just as we have learned in the past, we can unlearn and relearn which gives us the opportunity to grow and evolve.

For any of you wanting to find out your attachment style, reach out to us in any way you prefer (email, text, chat box) and i’ll send through my favourite quiz to use!

Thanks for reading xx

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